'It's the neatest thing': Ames craftsman makes products out of wood that has a history

Ronna Faaborg
Ames Tribune
Erik Granseth of Ames is the owner of Fat Cat Custom Woodworking, where he creates products using a variety of wood species, like this live-edged tray that incorporates honeylocust, hard maple, walnut and African padauk.

When Erik Granseth of Ames learned about a tree that had fallen on Waveland Golf Course in Des Moines, he knew he wanted the wood from that walnut.

“I grew up in Des Moines, and I grew up playing on that course,” he said. “I said, ‘Find that! I’m buying it.’ I’m going to make a computer desk out of it for my wife, Molly.”

Using Iowa wood — especially when it has a unique history — is key to the products Granseth creates at his home-based business, Fat Cat Custom Woodworking. Customers like knowing the stories behind their purchases.

Much of the lumber, like that Waveland walnut, comes from Iowa Home Crafters in Ames, which gets logs from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and other agencies, Granseth said.

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A tray created by Erik Granseth uses four different types of wood and has a live edge.

“It’s all local wood, and they have their own kiln and sawmill, and they do it all there,” he said. “They record where each tree came from. They keep a logbook of the logs.”

Because of this, Granseth is able to look up where his materials originated and can tell a customer the origin story of the products they buy.

“I just think it’s the neatest thing,” he said.

Granseth’s custom woodworking pieces are veritable works of art, and some of his creations are available at the Octagon Center for the Arts in downtown Ames.

Using a variety of wood species, like hard maple, honey locust, African padauk and walnut, Fat Cat offers home products — charcuterie boards, serving trays, cutting boards, wine glass holders.

Several of Granseth’s pieces have either an inlay or a seamless stack of different woods.

One recent customer requested a butcher block counter with their favorite NFL team's colors incorporated in an elegant way.

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Erik Granseth, owner of Fat Cat Custom Woodworking in Ames, shows a serving try that used three kinds of wood and incorporates an inlay design.

“They are super big Browns fans,” Granseth said. “She said it was the only way it was going to be allowed in her kitchen.”

The Fat Cat logo, with its sawblade body, is added to the back of products with a branding iron.

“Molly and I each had a giant fat cat when we got together,” Granseth said. “Mine was Chub Chub. She was a beast of a cat.”

When Granseth adopted Chub Chub from the Ames Animal Shelter, she was placed in a cat box so he could take her home, and she broke through the bottom.

Fat Cat's Wood Butter is a combination of food-grade mineral oil and beeswax. It can be used to keep wood products in good condition.

Cats are still an integral part of Erik and Molly’s life, with custom cat art gracing their living room and with Beef and Chicken — who are cats but are not fat — living in their home.

Granseth started Fat Cat Custom Woodworking about four years ago.

He sold his beloved motorcycle, a 2000 Kawasaki W650, so he could buy a CNC router for his shop.

“He was pretty heartbroken,” Molly Granseth said. “But he was really dedicated to getting the business started.”

Erik Granseth used his CNC router to carve this family tree, which was a gift for his wife Molly.

Fat Cat also offers its own Wood Butter, which is made with food-grade ingredients, to help protect wood products.

“I tell people when they get done using a butcher block or something, and they rinse it off, it’s good to apply Wood Butter,” Granseth said. “It keeps the wood moist with mineral oil and the beeswax helps repel liquid.”

Fat Cat’s custom orders can be placed through the company’s Facebook page, “Fat Cat Custom Woodworking.”