A Sooke couple has combined woodworking and computer science to carve wooden topographical maps of anywhere in the world.
Ty Lindenthaler and Shae Brown had wanted to start a business together for a while but had struggled to find an idea that worked. The pair lived in the U.S. but returned to live in Saseenos about a year ago.
On the drive back home, they were listening to business audiobooks, and Brown saw people were making contour maps – maps that look they have circles on them that indicate elevation levels, but nobody was making topographical maps – a physical representation of a landmass without any markings. Brown, a software engineer, helped configure a software program to run a computerized numerical control machine, which used publicly available mapping data to make a 3D model. This device can then engrave into wood.
“Lots of people that we know and live around are so passionate about the beautiful place we live in and love the outdoors and hiking. So we thought it’d be something that people would be interested in having,” said Brown.
Multiple prototypes were used before they could get the process running smoothly. Lindenthaler said the first CNC machine they bought was more for hobbyists and would break down and damage carvings. Once they got a second, higher-end machine and configured it, everything started running well.
Once the map has been carved, Lindenthaler builds a wooden frame for the map and pours epoxy – a coloured resin that solidifies – to colour the water. The pair cut their first map in May last year and started Linden Tree Designs. They have carved 52 more since then, shipping them across the country and are slowly starting to expand internationally. Their website allows people to choose the specific area where they want a map. One map was of Munich, one was of Latvia, but many of them are of Powell River – where the pair grew up – or Vancouver Island.
“Honestly, the British Columbia maps are my favourite because they’re so mountainous, they’re home,” said Lindenthaler.
Lindenthaler is working on turning his second hobbyist CNC machine into a laser cutting machine, which will allow the maps to have roads, trails, landmarks or personal messages carved into them. He hopes to move the machines out of the shed and into a complete workshop and be able to run two devices at the same time to make the process more efficient.
“It’s all in the marketing now. I think the process has it down to pretty good science. Anything’s possible at this point.”
Social media has been their main avenue so far. Using TikTok and other platforms, they have been able to drum up some business. But Lindenthaler said he’s excited with public events opening up to go to markets and show people the maps in person.