Zeit Woodworks; Finding Time for What You Love
Stephan and Sophie run a small, family business selling handmade furniture and a variety of wood-turned serving dishes and décor out of their acreage in Québec. Stephan also offers milling services with his HM126 and sells hand-sewn lumber to anyone who needs it. His passion for woodworking is hard to miss and his positivity is contagious to all those around him.
When Sophie was 3 months into her maternity leave with their youngest child, Stephan found himself on a break from work because of the Covid–19 pandemic. He used this unexpected time off as an opportunity to get back into woodworking, something he had enjoyed since childhood, and began making furniture as well as unique cutting and charcuterie boards. It wasn’t long before Sophie suggested that they turn it into a business to make some extra income. They began selling Sophie’s hand-crafted items and Stephan’s creations over Instagram under the business name “Zeit Woodworks”. “Zeit” is a German word meaning “time,” which is incredibly appropriate given Stephan and Sophie’s belief that you have to find time to do what you love.
Back then, Stephan was using his Alaskan-style sawmill to cut the lumber for his projects. It worked for a while but wasn’t as effective or precise as he would have liked. With lumber prices skyrocketing, lots of trees on his property, and a steady stream of free logs from local arborists, he needed a quicker way to mill lumber. The $5000 quote to hire a local sawyer was the deciding factor - it was time to go sawmill shopping.
Stephan wanted something local and affordable. After a little online searching, he found what he was looking for at Woodland Mills. The HM126 seemed perfect for his purposes and the price point was fantastic. With good reviews to boot, he ordered one to be delivered in the spring.
Growing the Business
Stephan and Sophie love their HM126. The ability to mill their own lumber has made the business much more affordable. They have even been able to add milling services that they couldn’t offer before. The two added a Woodlander ™ trailer allowing them to easily move the mill around their property or be driven to others for milling jobs. Stephan’s buddy has a 72” mill and will frequently ask if Stephan can bring his HM126 over to cut some of the smaller logs.
Milling is only part of what Zeit Woodworks offers. Stephan and Sophie are talented wood-turners and their Instagram is filled with photos of the beautiful items they’ve created. Each bowl, vase, and kitchen utensil that they create are completely unique. Stephan loves slicing into a log and not knowing exactly what he’s going to find. He sees beauty, even in imperfections.
The business grew quickly out of necessity. When the lumber prices rose during the pandemic, local sawyers became busy with milling requests and Stephan was no exception. He is sure that if he turned it into a full-time business and got another mill and worker, he would still be swamped with orders.
Stephan doesn’t mind being busy. In fact, he finds missing a single day leaves him longing to get back to milling. He has lots of fun milling logs and has been at it enough that he has not had to go to the gym since he bought the HM126. His loved ones say that they have never seen Stephan happier or in better shape.
Stephan used to be quite high-strung but milling helped him slow down. He has learned the importance of patience because if he tries to go faster than the mill wants to – BANG – he might just hit a log dog. Like a true professional, he learns from each mistake and is better for it.
Connecting With the Community
Working with locals and spending weekends selling products at farmers' markets has helped Stephan feel closer to his community. He meets people from all walks of life through his work and has made many good friends along the way. Stephan’s enthusiasm and excitement for milling are captivating. He loves to show others how to use the mill to get them more involved in the experience.
Sometimes a log is more than just a log. A particularly special moment for Stephan was when he drove to Ottawa with his HM126 in tow to help two sisters with a tree that had fallen at their cottage. This was a cherry tree that their late father had planted in the early 1940s when he built the cottage and they wanted to make it into a table. When Stephan was nearing the end of the log, he called one of the sisters over and put her hand on the throttle. He told her that this was the last cut for her table. It meant a lot to her, and she teared up while guiding the blade through the log. That table will be a family heirloom that her family will sit around and make memories at for the next hundred years.
The pandemic was not easy on anyone, and Stephan is always looking for ways to help out and give back to his community. When a couple could not find anyone to do the siding of their cottage because of Covid-19, Stephan agreed even though it meant a 7-hour trip with his sawmill and the use of a 4-wheeler and some winches to get the lumber up the steep cliff to the cabin. When approached with a dilemma he doesn’t like to say no because he knows there is likely a solution and it only takes one positive person in a sea of negative to get something done. Those are often the most rewarding projects. He gets a lot of logs for free, so he pays it forward if he can. He has even traded cutting boards for logs or just waved the cost altogether. He keeps about three quarters of what he mills and the rest he gives away or sells at a reasonable price.
The only problem that Stephan does have is too much lumber. Since he never has to worry about lumber prices, he is free to be creative and try new things. Stephan and Sophie are very supportive of each other and love working together. They constantly inspire one another to come up with fun creations for their shop. Sophie makes the most beautiful jewelry boxes and wood-wick candles that crackle when lit and Stephan has been working on some children’s toy ideas. They both love wood turning and have been turning wood burls into amazing bowls and vases. Admittedly not all of the vases that they make end up at the market because they love them too much.
What Comes Next?
Sophie continues to run Zeit Woodworks while Stephan works for the city and helps with the company during his off hours. Stephan encourages those around him not to be intimidated; anyone can learn how to mill. When people see how much fun he has and how affordable it is, especially with financing available, it is hard to argue. Rain or shine, it is always a good day when you are milling.
Stephan is grateful that he had the option of buying a reliable and affordable product. His HM126 changed his life for the better and gave him and Sophie the opportunity to work together. They have some big plans, and they know that they can figure them out as a team. The couple want to show their two daughters how rewarding it is to put energy and time into their passions. Stephan and Sophie’s journey just keeps getting better and they can’t wait to see where it all leads.