| 3 min read | by Lonnie Huhman, |

For Chelsea resident John Tripolsky, it’s all in the roots when he and a small group of other hobbyists work together to reclaim old barn materials and make something new and cool.

From fireplace mantels, shelving to furniture, the group that goes by the name Roots & Iron do their best to find, reclaim and re-home a variety of materials and products.

The majority of what they use comes from salvage barns, from wood beams to old tin cans. Tripolsky said they have found new lives for many items found in barns around the area and state.


Some of the barns date back to the mid 1800s.

“It’s a hobby, but really, I like to call it a passion project,” said Tripolsky.

He is originally from Clinton Township.

The passion project took root when he and his wife looked to move back to Michigan after living in South Carolina. They found a home in Chelsea that had a lot of potential for those who enjoy do-it-yourself projects. One project had Tripolsky hunting for a barn beam and in the process ended up finding a ton of 15 foot white oak hand-hewn barn beams.

Tripolsky grew up helping and working in his family’s fish and tackle shop, which he described as basically being a woodshop. He said he became a “lumber nerd” early on in life and it’s stuck with him since. He and his wife’s new home projects turned into more and more outside of the home, and in time saw Tripolsky looking to team up with three other like-minded guys.

They’re now a team with the jobs of milling, finishing and installation.

Another reason it’s truly a passion project is that it’s a side thing for Tripolsky and the crew, who all have day jobs.  

However, as they created more, Tripolsky said it grew its own legs and the obvious next step was to create a Facebook page for those interested in their woodworking hobby.

Custom-made shelves by Roots & Iron

They have customers from the Washtenaw County area and elsewhere in the state. They’ve even shipped an order to Missouri. They get a lot of visitors to Chelsea in the process of creating products for customers, which Tripolsky said is a cool thing because it’s bringing visitors to town that typically will do other things like find a place to eat.

Tripolsky said they really work to make a good connection with their customers in order to build trust as they work from creating an item to installing it, and in the end hopefully making someone happy.

He said they’ve had a good response, which is really appreciated.

“It’s been fun,” Tripolsky said of the project. “I’m enjoying the hell out of it. Probably the best thing about it is the people meet we’ve met, tons of fantastic conversations.”

An example of work they do had them taking old dairy barn floor joists and making shelves. They’ve had customers ask for things like mantles and shelving to gift at Christmas or Valentine’s Day, or for an engagement.

Custom milled shelves from old dairy barn floor joints from a barn in the Grand Rapids area.

The fun and interesting experiences have also led Roots & Iron looking into to doing more with what they find and to team up with other local craftspeople. They are doing things like taking the vintage tin cans they find and pairing them with Green Gate Soy Candles or using the barn wood scraps to help the Chelsea Pen Company make handcrafted pens.

Roots & Iron is not quite a company, which Tripolsky said he and the crew like it like that way because in the end they love that organic, passionate feeling that’s been so motivating.

“We love it,” he said.

To learn more about this passion project, call 734-315-0330 or check out their Facebook page @RootsAndIron.

A salvaged can made into a soy candle.