In a recent collaborative project with Canadian clothing manufacturer, Ransom Holding Co., we chose to work with a unique Canadian Oak that was sourced at The Century Mill, located outside the metro Toronto area. With the Mill dating back over 150 years, we were curious to gain some insight into the history of the place and the people that were tying this project together. Ransom got a chance to sit down with the some of the Mill employees and ask a few questions…
How long has the mill been around?
The land was purchased in 1848 and the mill itself was established in 1851.
Describe the family history and how the mill has remained a constant.
Established by William & Sarah Ratcliff from Essex, England. They started as a farm operation and set up a milling operation (both lumber and grist to start) on the present location using the power from the headwaters of the Rouge River which runs through the property. The business has changed names throughout the generations but has been passed down and is now run by the fifth generation, under the watchful eye of 90 year old Howard Ratcliff (4’th generation). Howard keeps us honest and has passed down a strong work ethic to not only the family but all of our employees.
How important is keeping the business family-run?
Good for the next in line in the family!!! (Nobody else cares that much.) It is good to maintain the family run operation, we stand behind our products and work, and take pride in running our business with old fashioned values.
It is good to maintain the family run operation, we stand behind our products and work, and take pride in running our business with old fashioned values.
Run us through a typical day on the mill.
In 1982 the water powered mill was destroyed by lightning. Fortunately the saws, pulleys and other equipment had been removed and donated to the Markham Museum the year before. They can still be viewed there and are still operational on occasion throughout events in the summer.
We still mill alot of lumber here at Century Mill but we are more of a re-saw, remanufacturing and milling operation now. Equipment has obviously been upgraded (though we still have some old machines and employees that work great!) and we now spend more time as a retail and wholesale yard in both domestic and foreign woods.
Canadian Oak was used for this this project, any unique attributes of this wood? Where did it originate from?
Oak from the northern and northeastern region of North America is well known for its consistency in colour, stability in movement and availability of good quality, kiln dried material. Northern Red Oak is a slower growing tree than its southern cousin and therefore is a harder, heavier timber. Red Oak can be milled, stained and polished to an excellent finish. Most (but not all) of our oak comes from Ontario, Quebec and NY State.