Thursday, December 29, 2011

Log sets and a couple of small slabs, organic wood

I have had some questions about log sets. So I thought the best way is to blog about it and take some pictures.

Log sets are what I get when I can sort out the lumber and get all the boards from 1 tree in a group. Its easier said then done. I can't ask the mill to sort it, they are way too busy. Besides, sorting 10 boards from several thousand is not their business. But it is mine. Years ago, I never paid much mind to sorting boards except for some bookmatches. I was using plain cherry, walnut and ash, oak, etc. Doing a kitchen, it never made much to do about grain matching or color matching.

As I grew into more and better furniture building, it made sense to look for , say , cherry that was all the same color. Made it much easier to color and finish. When I started to get into building figured wood, I was so excited to find it, I didn't care if it was from 1 tree or ten thousand. I took what I could find. Got some great stuff and some not so great. As I get smarter{I hope} I look for the best and what makes it that way. Its how I meet Charles Neil years ago. I had bought trees before meeting him and knew about matching lumber. What I didn't know was how much better any piece is because of log sets. Especially in figured woods. Now I still buy lots of wood and I don't get a lot of matched sets. But I do try and pull what I can when I do find them.

Yesterday, I was bringing lumber into the shop and needed a set of hard tiger maple for an upcoming piece. I pulled out a set I had put aside this fall.
Notice how is it all nice bright white? I have trimmed the ends, so I can't show you that. But the ends are the best way to pull a log set for me. I look for the same cut on one end, then look for any knots, bark ect. that all comes in the same spot. Its pretty neat when you get all the boards pulled and you can see how they all show the same quality and figure and color.

When you see figure this nice in rough lumber, you know it is going to be great. The boards run from 4" wide up to 11" wide. All are eight feet long. Stock like this is not inexpensive. The going rate I sell it for starts at 10$ per board foot and goes up. This is hard curly maple , which is much more scarce the soft curly maple. I can buy 500 feet of soft curly, or more for every foot of hard curly I find. And  most hard curly does not have this intense figure. I have never found any hardwood grading rules for figure, except from the musical instrument industry. They give A ratings . I am not sure how that works, but after looking at many sites and wood pictures this is as good as I have ever seen. Tight consistant and goes all across the width of the boards. This will make a spectacular piece.

The last piece I did with a matched set was this step back cupboard.
Yes the lid lifts and it is a secret space. But the grain showed up from 50 feet away. This was soft curly maple. The customer really liked it.

Here is a shot of the end of a board that I cut off the log set above. It's how I ask loggers to look for figure in the log.

See the ripples? That is how the curl looks under the bark.

Now about the slabs. I did a few benches/ tables out of some black ash and hard maple. I get these small slabs and they make nice small benches and coffee tables/end tables.

This is a slab of red oak with a nice limb section in it. The bark comes off real nice. I also brought down a couple hard maple ones that are a book match.

These will be cut in half so they are about 48" long. The bark will be taken off and then the edges and ends treated like this.
It makes  for a better sell to the customer.

I think that is all for now. Email me. Let me know if you have any questions. Thanks, bob


  1. You got access to some pretty awesome wood.

    Is there an easy way to identify a tree from being hard maple or soft. I have always struggled with this...I know hard is more dense..but by just looking alone can you tell?

  2. Hi Jason. I am always amazed that loggers can tell which tree is which before cutting. They go by the bark. I can't tell except for the leaves. Once it is cut, it is easier for me. Weight is a big clue. Hard maple is heavier by far, although I have had some very heavy red maple, that it was hard to tell the difference. Soft red maple[which is what I buy] has a somewhat grey cast to the wood when dry. Hard maple is generally much whiter colored. The heartwood in a soft maple can be very dark ,in a hard maple it is reddish. The mill sorts most of it before I pick it up. That is the easiest way to get it right! ;>) bob

  3. I have purchased a lot of wood from Bob this past year. Never seen quality like this ever.

    Thanks again for the wood education!


  4. really good looking material Bob, will be looking for the truck to arrive any day, :) send it on down,