Friday, September 4, 2015

What I see when I look at rough sawn lumber

I have been asked many many times how I pick the lumber I do. I guess I have looked at so much over the years I think I know what will be good or not. Its not a perfect system by any means. The mill is the first ones to pull the wood. I have met with the owners and have also taken time to meet with the graders and sawyers.Believe me when I say, its all about trust and communications.

I take time to educate everyone that will be picking wood for me. Its only in their and my best interests to be forthright and honest. Once we are on the same page, it goes very smooth. You get some hiccups once in a while, but nothing that can't be worked out.

I go by the National hardwood graders rules on all my lumber. They are well explained and there are sources on the web to read them. I am not a certified grader. I go by what they tell me is what I am wanting. I usually don't mind color on 1 side of a board. By color, I mean heartwood or mineral streak. I can pull all white if the client wants that. Its just adds to the cost. On many of the pieces i have built over the last 35 years, I rarely needed both sides of a piece to show. And with using dyes to color the wood, it barely ever makes any difference. 

Instrument makers are the hardest to work with. I do sell to a few. Many are just asking for the moon and then do not want to pay the cost. I will work with anyone and try and be honest and fair. But you can't ask to buy the cream of the crop and then complain about the cost. The very top 10% of the wood is the easiest to sell. It is also the most expensive. 25$ to 50$ foot is not hard to get at all.
Whats hard is selling bulk. I get , what I consider , to be some very high grade material. It is easy to say I sell only the very best, but I do get a lot of wood and there is stuff that does not make the highest grade. By that, I mean some curly maple has some heartwood, or some birdseye has some color or wane [barky edges]. Never has it stopped me from using it in my work. But some folks are under the impression that God only makes pure white, heavy eye birdseye and they want 30" wide boards 5 feet long and all clear. For 17$....I have had that question asked, more then once. I guess what I am saying is , the wood is all cut to my specs at the mills. I have had very few issues with bad material. 

I try and sell only what will work for a project to folks. I ask questions about what they are building. Its a whole lot easier to help if I know what you are going to be cutting the boards into. I know in many of my pieces, I rarely use boards more then 4 or 5 feet long. Many times is 18 inches to 36 inches long. I never worry much about cup and twist in figured woods. It happens and always will. I wish I could dry it all in a vacuum kiln. But I can't afford to buy one. My wood is done the old fashion way. Air dried , then in a dehumidification kiln. It works well. But the figured woods all tend to twist and cup and God knows what. The wood is all sawn to inch and one either for 4/4 stock. I can cut the material I need and by jointing 1 side flat and then planing it, I still can get 7/8" to 13/16" for the pieces. If you think you can by 1 inch stock and resaw it to get two 1/2" pieces, it will not happen. At best you may get two pieces that are 3/8".

A piece of really heavy figured curl or birdseye can be dead flat or it can be twisted like a pretzel. I just have to figure out how to use it the best way. I will not toss and badly twisted piece. I'll figure out something can be made from it. its up to me to figure out.

I probably shouldn't say this, but for the pieces I have made in my home, I used the worst stuff no one would buy. It all worked.

Here are some pictures of wood in the rough and then some of it planed. I see the figure in the rough. Its the one way I tell the mills what I want. If I can't see the figure in the rough, I don't want the wood. The figure is not heavy enough. Many of my clients will say, "you just pick it out, because I know, you know what it will look like."I hope that folks will trust me to always give them great material. My word means something and if you don't like what I have picked, I will gladly take it back. The only way I
can't is if you have colored it or chopped into small pieces. In all the years selling wood, I only had 1 order refunded. Being a 1 person business, I am trying hard to gain and keep my customers.

 hard curly maple before and after planing

 Flame birch before planing
 after planing

 Weird figure maple before planing
bark pocket maple after planing
Birdseye maple after planing
Birdseye maple before planing

I hope this helps show what I see. Any questions, please email me or call. Hope you all have a great Labor Day weekend.