After Cal St. Peter was laid off from his job at a Plum Creek Timber Company mill in 2016, he started woodworking in his Kalispell shop, a hobby he had long forgotten since he was in high school.
He started experimenting with local wood from Douglas fir and larch trees to make wooden cups. His hobby eventually evolved into a business, and he and his wife, Michelle, started Mug Man Woodworking in 2018, making mugs, tankards, tumblers, shot glasses and even walking canes.
“It started as a hobby,” Cal said. “I always hoped some day we would make something that we could sell. We brought something back out of history where the common medium that man had to work with was wood.”
To advertise their products, Cal started taking the vessels into local breweries and bars to show them off to both business owners and customers. Now, Sacred Waters Brewing Company, SunRift Beer Company, Bias Brewing, Backslope Brewing, Glacier Distilling Company, Glacier Brewing Company, Tailing Loop Winery and Casey’s all sell the mugs.
“People started buying them,” Cal said. “Our pieces have evolved and they’ve gotten better. We’ve been able to be as creative as we can dream to be because when you turn on the lathe, there are no rules … Every piece of wood is different and it keeps both of our interest in what we do because we make 100 pieces and no two pieces are the same.”
With local woods and cedar and blue pine from the West Coast, Cal starts the process by splitting a block down to a size that will fit on the lathe and breaks it down to a round cylinder. He then bores out the inside, sands, shapes and sands the wood again. Cal draws on his years at Plum Creek and uses the same type of grinder he used at the mill to sand down the wood.
Once he’s finished sanding, he sends the wood piece to Michelle, who designs and attaches the handles and applies a coat of finish. It then goes back to Cal for another sand and returns to Michelle for another finish coat to ensure it’s perfect.
“It brings out all the grain in the wood and it changes colors in the sunlight,” Michelle said.
Michelle transformed their back bathroom into the finish room since it’s the only room with no dust, but they hope to build a larger shop one day.
Cal says the finish takes the most time, but their friend, Tawnia Jones, helps in that department.
“I come over on my days off,” Jones said. “It’s my getaway and it’s my relaxing time when I come over here.”
They also collaborate with their neighbor, who does laser engraving, and the St. Peters say they’ve received requests ranging from military logos to tractors on customers’ mugs.
The St. Peters still treasure that first cup that they ever made, which Cal promises will never be sold. Once it was finished, Cal believed he was meant to continue woodworking.
“When you make something and you do it with your own hands, it means something,” Cal said. “And people see a part of you goes into what you make.”
“You’ve just got to watch your fingers and watch what you’re doing,” Michelle added.
Mug Man Woodworking is located at 2003 Bluestone Dr. in Kalispell. For more information, visit Mug Man Woodworking on Facebook.
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