Interview With Eric Gellerman Of The Wooden Duck About Memorial Stadium's Bleachers

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Today, we are talking with Eric Gellerman of the Wooden Duck! Why, you ask? Well, because the Wooden Duck, a woodshop in Berkeley, bought the bleachers from old Memorial. So, if you want to have a table or a chair or anything else wood-related that was outside for 80 years and several generations of people stood/sat on, he is your man and Wooden Duck is your store! Mr. Gellerman was nice enough to answer a bunch of questions about the wood. His answers are after the jump. He also provided a lot of photos and a video of the wood! GO BEARS! Here is more information from Mr. Gellerman himself:

Eric Gellerman is the co-founder of the Wooden Duck, a furniture company in West Berkeley that has purchased the old wooden bleacher seats from Cal Memorial Stadium. Since 1995, the company has made furniture almost exclusively from reclaimed lumber and recycled wood in the US and abroad. While the majority of their customers are families looking for solid wood items, the small factory is increasingly becoming known for building out restaurants, wineries, and commercial spaces.

Check out videos and pictures and ask questions HERE
or visit:
The Wooden Duck
1823 Eastshore Hwy
Berkeley, CA 94710
(the frontage road between University and Gilman)
510-848-3575
www.thewoodenduck.com


1. Help us understand the quantity here: how many of these bleachers did you buy?

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We got most of the stadium. 64 bundles that have about 98 boards each 20ft long or 7000 lbs per bundle.. About 120,000 linear feet of wood or about 24 double flat bed trucks.

2. What do you plan to do with these benches?

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Most of the wood will be made into indoor and outdoor tables and benches for customers. Some of the wood will be made into restaurant tables and bars and large outdoor planter boxes for commercial spaces. All of the end cuts with numbers we've been selling as sovenuirs for $20 each. Some people are buying the non-numbered wood to make outdoor decks. At the end of the project, we'll cut blanks for people to make pens etc. Nothing will go to waste.

3. What kind of licensing rights did you get from Cal along with this stuff? ( example, do you get to make Cal logo stuff out these benches?)

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We bought the wood from the demolition company so we don't really plan on putting Cal logos on the tables. We just aim to show the seat numbers. There are shops around Berkeley that can laser engrave the wood with whatever people want. Some of the first people who bought "chunks" of the Cal stadium from us for $20 took them to the laser engraver and had their messages burned into them for presents. It only costs about $15. We sell cuttings without the seat numbers for as little as $5. You can own a piece of the stadium for as little as a double latte!

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4. Will you custom make furniture or is it all pre designed?

We make whatever people pay us to make! Most people will make outdoor garden benches or dining tables but we're already making a Cal Bed with the numbers showing for a guy. We're making a number of "wall slabs" that people can hang on their wall. The Cal Coat Hanger seems to be popular! The possibilities are endless!

5. Why did you decide to buy the bleachers?

We have done a number of large scale "historic wood" projects so it was a no brainer. The wood (for the most part) is Port Orford cedar which is highly desirable so we especially wanted the Cal stadium. I tried for about 2 years to get the wood with no success.

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6. What previous experience do you have with stadium benches?

The most notable stadium project we've done was Kezar Stadium in 1999. By the time the word leaked to the press the wood was gone so it was sort of a double edged sword. We got a lot of attention but there were a lot of people who read about it too late and were disappointed that they did not get to have something made. The last piece of furniture we made from Kezar was a small bench for a man who used to work in the stands as a peanut vendor in the early 30's. He and his family cried when they picked it up from the store when we were done.

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7. Be honest, if this wood didn't have historical significance, would you even take it? How many splinters did you get just moving it to your facility?

Old growth Port Orford cedar is something you just cannot buy any more so we would have jumped at the opportunity. It's actually in the Cypress family and super durable but threatened. How else can it last outside at Memorial Stadium for 90 years? I've only ever gotten it in quantity from some of the building demolition around the Presidio. It's not too common. Kezar was high grade vertical grain Douglas Fir. The Cal stadium is much better wood but has been outside longer so it's in a little rougher shape (Kezar was built at the same time as Memorial Stadium but was demolished in 1989 after the earthquake).

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8. Do you have to rent more warehouse space to store all this lumber?

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We made a deal with a lumber dealer to help up store it for the time being. There's no way we could fit it in our warehouses.

9. How did you end up getting this wood? Did you contact Cal initially or did they contact you? How did it all work out?

The University had nothing to do with it. I tried to contact them but Ironically it was this article in the Chronicle about how I missed out on getting the wood that got us the wood from the wrecking company. Initially we only bought 20,000 linear feet but then the lease on the warehouse where the wood was being stored was not renewed and we were able to make a deal that saved the rest of the wood from being shipped to Mexico to make horse corrals! We didn't make the first piece of furniture from Kezar until a full 11 years after demolition. We just got the wood from SF State (indoor) gym that was removed in 1972. Sometime people "hoard" the wood for years before we get our hands on it.

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10. Do you have plans to purchase other stadium wood in the near future?

If anyone knows of anything cool you know where to find me! It might be a conflict of interest if the Stanford wood ever re-surfaced. For the time being, I think we have enough wood!

11. Did you need to make any basic changes to the wood to make it saleable? If so, can you take us through the process of taking this wood from its original state to something saleable?

Yes. The wood has to be surfaced and sanded. We straight line the wood (take off ¼" off each bleacher) to get a clean edge to use a biscuit router to put the tops together like a puzzle. In the end some people opt to have it stained and coated with poly to preserve it. It it's outdoor furniture we build tables with a small gap in between the bleachers to allow for expansion and contraction. We'll probably use penetrating oils for the outdoor applications to protect them.

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12. What else do you want to tell us about the Memorial Stadium wood? What else should we know?

I gave a little piece as a present to a woman who graduated from Cal 40 years ago and she started crying and hugged me and proceeded to introduce me to every person at her work while "clutching" this piece of wood. Another woman sobbing to thank me because her son gave a chunk for Mother's Day. That pretty much says it all. If they only knew it was 48 hours from being shipped out of the country. I'm glad it all worked out.

13. How much Memorial Stadium furniture would they have to sell before they changed their name to The Wooden Bear?

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The Wooden Duck name started as a joke when I "accidently" purchased 700 hand carved wooden ducks so luckily it has nothing do with Oregon. We started in 1995 in Berkeley so I think the Bear fans can rest assured that the wood is in good hands.

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Check out videos and pictures and ask questions HERE
or visit:
The Wooden Duck
1823 Eastshore Hwy
Berkeley, CA 94710
(the frontage road between University and Gilman)
510-848-3575
www.thewoodenduck.com

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