From Trunks To Trays LLC is a family owned business that sells handmade, hand chiseled wooden bowls and trays. Cindy Lawrimore, part owner along with her husband Carroll, completes the finishing work on the products. Carroll is the designer and carver. The two have been married for 39 years and share a love for family and family history. Original dough or bread bowls were a crucial part of family food preparation and it was a common practice for a future husband to carve a wooden dough bowl for his bride as a wedding gift. Today Cindy and Carroll have been able to carry on history by creating beautiful, individually-unique bowls and trays for a variety of modern day purposes.
The idea for the business sparked after they received a family dough bowl that was passed down from three generations. The old bowl had a hole in it and Carroll wanted to find someone to help him fix it. After Carroll began researching the history of the bowls, he set out to find a teacher and mentor when he discovered Mr. Buddy Davis of Stuckey, SC. “Mr. Buddy” has been creating bowls for over 25 years and is still active in the trade. Mr. Buddy explained that Carroll wouldn’t be able to fix that bowl, but he could teach him how to build a new one. Carroll spent much time with Mr. Buddy learning the basics and absorbing as much information as possible. Mr. Buddy helped Carroll carve his first bowl/tray in August of 2015.
While the bowls and trays are still used for dough making, the variety of shapes and sizes that From Trunks To Trays creates makes them a popular option for serving BBQ, ribs, low country boils, salads, and hors d’oeurves. Additionally, many people simply enjoy the pieces as home décor. They also make wood serving charcuterie trays for meats, cheeses, and fruits.
The pieces are made from a variety of wood such as tupelo, ash, elm, black walnut, cherry, chinaberry, maple, pecan, poplar, and sycamore. Because they are hand-carved and not turned on a lathe, no two pieces look alike. “We love the natural flaws and imperfections,” says Carroll. “It really is the wood that makes the piece. It’s all about the wood.” The majority of the wood is from trees that are damaged from natural disaster, with most being from the Hemingway area. For certain pieces they either saw entire trees or they just use remnants of tree trunks. The trees are usually sawed right on their property using a portable saw mill. Once the wood cures, they use a variety of saws to remove bark and unwanted excess. Carroll then lets the pieces help him decide what shape they will take on. A pattern is hand-drawn on the wood, the wood is scored and hand-chiseled for removal of the center part of the piece, then Carroll passes the pieces off to Cindy for several rounds of additional sanding. The final sanding and oiling are done by hand with multiple applications of food-safe mineral oil to cure the wood. A top coat of Bees Oil (a mixture of bees wax and mineral oil) is added to give the pieces a more durable, water-resistant finish. “We choose mineral oil maintenance as it is easy and inexpensive for our customers to use as they maintain their pieces,” explains Cindy. “We also use this finish to maintain the natural beauty of the wood. All of our products are food safe.”
Learning a new skill takes time, patience and a lot of practice. Carroll says he has yet to “master” the skill and continues to learn something new each day. He shares, “Some pieces turn out exactly like you envision them and others make it to the scrap pile. It’s hard to predict what the final product will look like as the individual characteristics of the wood can’t be anticipated. This is what we love about the process.” Areas in the wood that may seem like a flaw or blemish actually give a piece the most beautiful character. Learning the finishing skill came from hours of reading, research, and a lot of trial and error. “If you want to learn this wonderful craft, find a good teacher and mentor,” suggests Carroll. “Be patient, as finding the right wood can be time-consuming. Also, waiting for your perfect piece of wood to cure takes months-often a couple of years.”