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‘Rothrock Wood Project’ Turns Wood Into Unique Pieces One Fallen Tree At A Time

Scott Hildebrand is transforming fallen trees into sentimental pieces one charcuterie board at a time through the Rothrock Wood Project.

Hildebrand has always been an avid trail runner and mountain biker. His initial idea for the Rothrock Wood Project came in 2018 after Hildebrand had spent years adventuring through the 215,000-acre Rothrock State Forest.

“I noticed so many trees just being laid there to rot, so I thought ‘why not put them to use,'” Hildebrand said. “People have walked their dogs and ridden their bikes past these trees. They have stood witness to so many different things. So, I thought I would repurpose them into something that means something to other people.”

As a 1998 Penn State alum, Hildebrand says one of his favorite parts of school was, of course, the social atmosphere. But, he also took advantage of the proximity of Rothrock State Forest for hiking and mountain biking.

Hildebrand graduated with a degree in rehabilitation education. However, he only used his degree for about two years before breaking into sales and becoming a manufacturer representative for over 20 years.

What started as a side hustle turned into a full-time job for Hildebrand during the COVID-19 pandemic. He quickly realized he was able to do what he loved and operate the Rothrock Wood Project full-time, so he quit his previous job.

Over time, he noticed that getting permission to take fallen trees from Rothrock State Forest was logistically tough to do. However, neighbors took an interest in his work and he was able to get the fallen trees from friends’ yards.

“I learned that it wasn’t that important that it came from Rothrock State Forest,” Hildebrand said. “It was more important that people had a story behind it that they could relate to and talk about.”

As the sole owner and operator of the business, Hildebrand creates all of his items on his own, with the occasional help of a friend in the store on Mondays and Fridays. The process of making some of his items can take quite a while to put together.

For simple and popular items, such as the charcuterie board, he creates them in his idle time. For a piece as big as a conference table, there’s an entire process behind it.

It starts with milling the tree into slabs, which essentially cuts the tree up. These slabs air dry for one to three years. The wood then gets kiln-dried and from there gets flattened and joined together to create a table — some of which can reach 10 feet.

To add a more personal touch to the items, Hildebrand lasers the GPS coordinates of the original standing tree into each table he makes. On the charcuterie boards, he includes the GPS coordinates along with the type of wood and where it came from on the hang tags of the handle. 

Many trees were the former home to insects and animals. The voids in those trees allow Hildebrand to bring color to his work, using various shades of resin to make each piece truly unique.

Courtesy of Scott Hildebrand

Customers can reach out through Instagram, Facebook, and email, or stop by the shop at 243 S. Potter St. in Bellefonte to purchase a piece.

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About the Author

Emily Grill

Emily is a third-year broadcast journalism student from New Jersey. She likes to think that being Italian and 5 feet tall are her biggest personality traits. You can probably catch her at Chick-fil-A at least two or three days out of the week. Feel free to contact her by emailing [email protected]

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