Three Trees Workshop

About the Finishes

All the finishes we use are completely non-toxic when dry. The finish on toys is certified food-contact-safe oil so it's safe for your little ones to put their mouths on them. Games and boxes are finished in a next generation water-based lacquer that gives a very durable, beautiful finish and is much easier on the environment than traditional solvent-based lacquers. The finish on cutting boards is a blend of oils and waxes that meets FDA regulations for direct and indirect food contact. 

About the Wood

We use local Missouri-grown wood as much as possible, and for accents on some pieces we use a bit of exotic wood. 

Black walnut is native to eastern North America and prevalent in Missouri. A species of flowering tree, it grows to 100-130 feet tall. Flowers in the spring are followed by formation of the familiar nuts in the fall. Walnut has been highly prized for centuries for its beautiful color, durability, and dimensional stability. Early colonists exported the wood to England from Virginia as early as 1610. The deep chocolate brown walnut wood was used in all sorts of furniture, as well as for flooring and gunstocks. The popularity of walnut as a fine furniture wood exploded from 1830-1860.


Black cherry is native to the eastern half of North America. The tree grows 60-80 feet tall and is related to the smaller sweet cherry, flowers, producing a tart fruit that is a favorite in pies and other culinary delights. The tight grained wood has been used in fine furniture, toys, tools, and household articles for centuries. When first cut, the wood is a light pink to red brown color but with time and exposure to light, the color deepens to a beautiful rich, slightly reddish brown. Cherry cabinets are sometimes dyed or stained to achieve the darker color sooner, but that prevents the natural deep richness from developing. 


There are a variety of maple trees used in woodworking. They have a light color and fine grain, although the grain pattern varies between species. They range from the northeastern part of the US down into the plains. Many maples are known for their colorful autumn leaves and whirlybird seeds, and some are used for collecting sap for making syrup. Some maple is also used for tonewood in musical instruments. Sugar maple, or hard maple, is a very dense and strong wood. Curly maple is a softer variety, and spalted maple is a special condition that can occur in any maple. Spalting is caused by certain fungi in the tree and produces a decorative looking pattern in the wood.

Catalpa is medium-sized tree with large, heart shaped leaves.Catalpa trees produce 2-inch white trumpet shaped flowers and large bean pods. Originally native to the Ohio River Valley and Mississippi River Valley, farmers spread the tree for windbreaks and fence posts, as the wood is strong and rot resistant. It has a light, golden brown wood with pronounced grain. The tree is the sole food source of the Catalpa Sphinx Moth.

Sycamore trees are large, growing up to 120 feet tall. They have large leaves and a very distinctive white bark on the upper trunk and branches. They're often found along rivers or low areas and are also planted in urban areas due to their impressive stature, white bark, and fast growth. Great blue herons almost always nest in these trees. The sycamore that Zacchaeus climbed in the Bible is a different species of tree, a type of fig.The wood is a light tan color with interesting ray flecks which lead some people to even call it "lacewood."

Caring For Your Wood Product

Most of our products need minimal care. Just keep them clean with a soft cloth, which may be slightly dampened with water. Furniture cleaners or waxes can also be used, but not on toys that might be mouthed or on cutting boards. 

Wooden cutting boards do require occasional TLC to give a long life and nicer appearance. Besides cleaning the board with a little soap and water after use, apply a product made for cutting boards whenever the wood starts to look a little "dry", at least monthly, or depending on use. These products are readily available at department stores and hardware stores. Products that contain waxes like beeswax or carnauba may last a little longer than plain mineral oil, and we use one of these products to season our cutting boards prior to sending them to you. However, plain mineral oil or even coconut oil will work fine. 

Wooden toys will last for many years, even generations, if some simple steps are followed to care for them, and especially if kids are involved in the care. Keep them clean with a cloth or soft brush either dry or dampened with some mild soap and water or a vinegar solution. Vinegar has mild disinfectant properties. Wipe dry and don't immerse in water. Avoid bleach, abrasive cleaners, detergents, or abrasive pads, which will damage and weaken the wood. If you wish, you can use a natural oil or wax on them. It's best to use food grade oil or wax like you use on cutting boards, and not furniture polish which might contain things that aren't good for a kid.