Jim Bloom likes to wonder about the background or story of each piece of wood that he fashions into a one-of-a-kind piece table, chair, headboard or cross. That comes instinctively for someone trained as a detective. But highly intricate, delicate “live edge” woodworking – named for preserving the shape of wood from the outer, live edge of trees – has become the passion of the Colonel at the Collier County Sheriff ’s Office.
“It’s sort of the nerdy side of me,” says Bloom, a 27-year CCSO veteran and leader of 1,400 men and women. “I don’t tell a lot of people about it. It’s a way for me to relax and relieve stress.”
“I’m not an artsy person,” he goes on. “But now I see wood and I think of art.”
History is also in the mix, as his pieces can last for generations. Bloom is a prime example of how infectious live edge can be for hobbyists, professionals, interior decorators and customers eager to pay top dollar for items that showcase rather than slash trees to manufacture conventional lumber.
The rough-hewn, rustic look can make a powerful impact on a home with a single piece or complete motif.
Bloom says he got hooked on live edge as a hobby when he built a home for his parents four years ago. He had a hard time finding someone to build specialty wood window sills, so he learned how to do it himself. He buys wood from loggers in North Carolina, trimming only sparingly. Carefully applying coats of epoxy, which he calls “the magic button,” brings out subtle colors and adds a protective, brilliant shine to each piece, while other crafts people prefer to rub in oils.
His parents’ home is now brimming with live edge furnishings, and he makes more for family and friends. All are labors of love, not for sale, though some could fetch five figures if sold at retail.
Visitors may be surprised his own CCSO office is devoid of live edge, in favor of souvenirs of career benchmarks, of which there have been many. He has worked for the CCSO in corrections, road patrol and SWAT. He served as commander of an experimental boot camp, known as The DRILL Academy, for juvenile repeat offenders.
In addition to undercover work on drug traffic, Bloom has led youth relation s deputies and the CCSO’s response to COVID-19.
All of those roles testedhis training with the FBI, Central Michigan University and the Naval Postgraduate Center for Homeland Defense and Security.
Civically he is active with the Leadership Collier Foundation, Kiwanis and Make A Wish Foundation.
Before all of that, Bloom’s life journey started on a farm in Pennsylvania, where he was always outdoors and surrounded by hundreds of acres of trees, which have now taken on an added interest for Bloom and many others.
“Live edge is hot right now,” confirms Ian Orlikoff, proprietor of Naples Live Edge Wood on Mercantile Avenue. His showroom/workspace features local specimens (such as mahogany, rosewood, cypress, cedar, pine, oak and even some coconut palm) that he sells raw or turns into customized furniture. He is an arborist who had his own tree service for 20 years; tree cutters now bring him pieces worth saving.
Orlikoff is a kindred spirit of Bloom. “Every piece is different, unique” Orlikoff says. “I never get tired looking at it.”