Todd Langford found his passion for woodworking when he was living on an Iowa farm at age 8.
“There were Amish sawmills everywhere where I grew up,” Langford said. “I didn’t like working at the farm, so I spent a lot my time at the sawmills. I loved being in that environment.”
Roughly 40 years later, Langford opened Chequest Millworks in Peoria and, unlike other woodworking companies, he gets his materials from trees knocked down during the monsoon season.
“We do dining room tables, some mantle pieces, some kitchen counter tops and conference tables,” Langford said.
Langford joined the military after he graduated high school in 1989 and retired from Luke Air Force Base in 2015. He was committed to the Air Force but felt a strong connection to woodworking.
“I really got the bug again when I was in Alaska seeing the saw mills — especially the ones along the beach,” Langford said.
As Langford prepared to retire, the Small Business Administration sponsored a week-long class during which he had the opportunity to present his business plan. To prepare, Langford researched monsoons and their damage.
“We got with 18 different tree service companies across the Valley and looked through their records over the last 24 months,” Langford said. “Just across these 18 tree service companies, there was over $1 million worth of hardwoods a week that had gone to a landfill.”
When Langford realized the potential, he said he felt excited to take advantage of the resources. It took him roughly eight years to gather the materials to be fully operational.
Chequest Millworks does not focus on mass producing items, but rather on producing unique “heirlooms,” Langford said. Because the pieces are bigger, Langford said Chequest Millworks allows customer input.
“We choose a log and we set up a time for the family to come here,” he said. “We put it on the sawmill and the whole family gets to run the sawmill together to mill out the material for their heirloom table. Family is the most important thing here.”
Langford said many people think the company’s logo, “CM,” stands for “Chequest Millworks.” But it’s in honor of “Caroline McComb,” his granddaughter who suffered from cancer at age 6.
“She went through hell on earth and we thought we were going to lose her,” Langford said. “We did not anticipate she was going to survive after she got down to 41 pounds, but kids are tough and she’s in perfect health now.”
Langford is meticulous in his work, and customers must be prepared, he said. Rather than building something that is easy to produce, Chequest Millworks aims to provide its customers with a unique piece.
“If you’re willing to wait a year and you’re willing to work with us and accept that mother nature is in charge, odds are it’ll turn out beautiful, but they have to change their mindset,” Langford said.