Tom Thorson has always been captivated by the natural beauty of real wood.
“I remember taking wood class in junior high and high school, and I was always intrigued by it,” he explains. “To see the grain in the wood, to see what comes forward when you finish it, that’s something I enjoy very much. The simple grain, the color in the grain, makes it come to life.”
Anyone can enjoy a little window into that same sense of wonder by admiring the handmade cutting boards Tom sells at Ranch Foods Direct. Each one expresses the profound respect and affinity he has for the rare wood that goes into it. (That’s Tom, at left, with his wife Lorraine, slicing elk carpaccio on a special wooden cutting board he custom-designed for his own kitchen.)
“I make custom cabinets and vanities, and so I have all of these different woods that I just love. But what do I do with the scraps? You can burn them in a fire pit, you can throw them in the trash, but hardwoods are hard to come by these days, and expensive, and I just hate to throw them away. I prefer to make something out of them that maybe somebody else will find useful. So I take the leftover pieces and put them together, by cutting them to different sizes and thicknesses, and sanding and finishing them, and I turn them into cutting boards.”
“I’m a symmetrical person, meaning I have a tendency to make things symmetrical rather than abstract, so I’ll match up different woods and put them opposite of each other in the pattern, glue it all together in very big slabs and then sand the imperfections out of it,” he describes.
The resulting pieces gleam with common and not-so-common woods, including domestics like walnut, cherry, and maple as well as exotics like purple heart and Brazilian cherry.
Tom operates an eclectic business that includes a mix of carpentry, landscaping and more. He and his wife Lorraine shop at Ranch Foods Direct, but on a somewhat limited basis. The reason? Most of the meat they eat – and they eat a considerable amount of it – he hunts himself. “Four days out of seven we are eating wild game of some sort,” he says.
His favorite game is elk; his wife likes antelope. “A lot of hunters think that’s the worst, but it’s all about harvesting the game cleanly and taking care of it once it’s on the ground, cooling it down and preparing it correctly,” he says. “People who say they don’t like it, to me it’s because they’ve missed some of the steps. Do everything right and you’ll have wonderful table fare.”
Hunting wild game to supply the dinner table is a huge undertaking. It involves hiking out to a campsite in the woods, patiently stalking the animals and packing out hundreds of pounds of deboned meat with the help of llamas. “It’s not an easy task whatsoever,” Tom admits. But that doesn’t discourage him: it’s all part of a deliberately chosen lifestyle that reflects his deep reverence for nature’s gifts.
Take a moment to examine the natural wood grain of Tom’s exquisite handmade cutting boards, on display in the store. (Various sizes and prices are available for sale.)