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Mill Men - Local Duo Offer Woodworking Artistry
Behind the old-fashioned sliding wooden door, tucked away off a small street in Escalon, two local craftsmen are turning out unique, one of a kind masterpieces.

Randy Schmidt and Jan Ehde have joined forces in the mill behind Escalon Lumber and Hardware, owned by Schmidt's family, and are producing custom pieces of furniture, cabinetry, doors, entertainment centers and more.

On one table, Ehde works on a walnut and maple inlay cabinet while elsewhere, Schmidt is busy putting some finishing touches on a bar top that has wine barrels as its base, with doors and shelves added to the barrels for storage.

The expansive mill is jammed with in-process projects and the two have many customers throughout the area.

"I would say most of them are repeat customers, we do something for them and then they decide they want more," said Schmidt, who spends much of his workday in the mill as opposed to the lumberyard and hardware store.

Customers will often bring in the wood to be fashioned into something unique and Schmidt said they often just have an idea of what they want, leaving it up to the two craftsmen to put their heads together and develop a working design.

"We take our customers' ideas, visions and dreams and transform them into beautiful realities," Schmidt said.

Among his favorite projects have been creating bar stools with gun stocks as the legs and another stool in which he used a tractor seat as a model and made the seats out of wood. The gun stock stools were roughly a two-year project, going through a number of design ideas before finally settling on one and fashioning multiple stools for the order.

Other projects are held together simply with the wood itself, the two making intricate cuts so that the wooden pegs serve as the securing devices, eliminating the need for nails, glue or screws.

Ehde said when he is working on a project, such as custom cabinetry, he takes care to match the grain on the wood so it is a smooth transition from piece to piece, not a disjointed appearance.

"Right now I am working on a home theater system," he explained of the large project that will see virtually one full wall of a home taken up by the custom built entertainment center.

Projects are billed for materials and the hours spent, said Schmidt, with the cost depending on the size and scope of the work.

"I'm an architectural buff, have been for years," added Ehde, who classified himself as a woodworking craftsman. "I've had my own contractors' license since 1986."

An upcoming project for him is laying a hickory wood floor with inlays at a business in Riverbank.

Both Schmidt and Ehde said they enjoy focusing on aesthetics and take pride in creating pieces that customers will be proud to have in their homes. There always seems to be several projects in the works, said Schmidt, with everything from buzz saws to sanders to the lathe going on any given day. And from creating a Dutch-themed wooden artwork kitchen to designing and crafting a special Baptismal font, the limits for the two seem endless.

"It's old world craftsmanship," Ehde said.

The two first collaborated several years ago on a cabinet job and discovered they worked well together, able to bounce ideas off each other and between them, come up with designs that worked and addressed any production issues that surfaced during the project.

"We figure between the two of us, we have 70 years of knowledge and woodworking craftsmanship," Schmidt said. "We came from two different fields, I came from building in the shop, he came from doing finishing work in the field, and both of us, working together, just make each other incredibly better."