Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Open Jan. 1

Just a quick note to let you know that we WILL be open this coming Saturday January 1. Normal hours 9 - 11 am.

We are sticking to our whopping four hours per month for retail - first and third Saturdays rain or shine, holiday or not. Partly because it works for most people, including us. Partly because once we committed to it publicly, I am not sure how we can turn it off.

Anyway, if your New Years Eve isn't too hard or too late, come on down and look at wood. What better way to start the year?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Hard maple price increase

Just a quick note that since we see very few quality hard maple logs and the lumber seems to fly off the shelf faster than we can stock it, I have concluded that $2.50/bf is too low for the good stuff. This is the approach to pricing we have always taken and, yes, it works in reverse too. Most of our initial prices were too low, especially for extraordinary material, but our prices for lower grade stuff have drifted even lower. This explains why you can buy cherry from us for $2.50 or $4.95 or $7. Not counting the sappy stuff for $1/bf.

I have not picked a new price yet. It will go into effect after our next retail session. We now have 8/4 and a few 4x4 pieces.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

the solar kiln

Here is a quick look at our solar kiln and how it works. First, it sits at the south end of the building with the sloping roof facing south.

That roof is two layers of polycarbonate. The second layer provides a little insulation; the walls and floor are heavily insulated to keep heat in. Opening the door,

you can see that about six inches below the polycarbonate is the heat absorption panel of plywood painted black. The sun heats this airspace which triggers three attic fans at the peak. These blow the warmed air down and through the stack of wood(red arrows). This warmer air draws moisture from the wood and recirculates back up (blue arrows) to be reheated. Vents on the back of the kiln allow moisture exchange with the outdoor air. We can dry a full load from 12%MC to 7%MC in just a week or two. 

We help steer the air through the stack with wind proof fabric carefully draped. This stack of white oak has a few more rows to go until it reaches the height of that reddish horizontal 2x4 on the left.

Well, that's it. Plans from Woodweb . Our only innovation was the fabric, which works great.

Free wood!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Monday, September 27, 2010

QS osage orange

Quick note: We have had a few instrument makers ask us for quarter sawn osage. Osage twists so much in growth that it is difficult to get a nice long QS piece. However, with our last log, we gave it a try by cutting some 3" slabs and I think there are at least a couple guitar necks in these billets. Not dry, but air drying osage is easy: very little movement. The best pieces will probably be A+ priced, which is $7/bf.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Restoring the white oak lumber inventory

We have used a number of sawyers over the years. Our favorite one has a day job as a carpenter and has been getting lots of overtime, so he basically stopped sawing. We finally found someone to cut some wood, but they refused to quarter saw, even at higher rates (which is the norm for the extra effort and waste in quarter sawing). Logs, like produce, do not get better with time, so we were happy to finally convince one of the commercial mills that buys our logs to custom saw some oak in a way they said would yield at least 25% quarter sawn lumber. Easy enough for them to accomplish and better than the 0% we had been getting. Oak takes a long time to dry and we had no quarter sawn white oak air drying. So Joe took an entire truck load of oak logs - over 2000 board feet - and another load of other species to them to cut.

Here is the first load back:

The truck crane is built for loading and hauling logs; pallets of lumber aren't really what it does best.  So Joe fabricated the heavy steel tube thing you see on the ground underneath the crane jaws and he uses it with heavy chains to lift these stacks off the truck. I work the camera. Life would be easier with a forklift of some kind, but we cannot afford to own one. So that ~8 tons of wet wood will be stacked inside the building with stickers by hand. Looking closely at the load, you can see 8/4 walnut on top of 4/4 white oak in front, and some cherry and maple on top of another huge stack of white oak. There are another two piles on the other side, with some 3 1/2" thick basswood peeking over the walnut on top.

Wet lumber is heavy. We spent all morning moving water with important bits of cellulose. First priority was to stack some white oak in the kiln. The rest goes into the half of the building that is we use for air drying. We have had a couple of summer heat waves get the inside of the building hot enough to get the wood down to 6-8% moisture content: dry. But usually we need to send stuff through the solar kiln to get the moisture from air dry 12% to really dry 7%. If you have visited us, you recognize the air drying section:

We have had this entire half of the building full and crowded with pallets of air drying wood, so you can see that going without a sawyer for nearly a year has given us room. We expect to fill it this winter.

So how did the white oak look? Grade was excellent; very few B boards. Not much quarter sawn, but our carpenter guy is coming back for small amounts of quarter sawing. We will have plenty of quarter sawn inventory by June 2011. The high point of the day: the burr oak log we sent with all the Quercus alba came back full of curl. I have never seen oak this curly in person before. It will be segregated when dry and it is mostly plain sawn and rift sawn. It's awesome. Sorry I did not take a picture but we were in full stacking mode and things needed to get done.

We stacked some very nice 4/4 hard maple and our 8/4 walnut bin will be an embarrassment of riches when that wood is dry. The thick basswood will need trimming, but there will be nice carving blanks from it. It will take a while to dry that 3 1/2" thick stuff though.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

our other web presence

The link below is our Woodfinder page, which has a map to our location, prices of all the wood we carry, and other details like when we are open.

Here is the link:  Our Woodfinder page

Hey look! At the Gallery tab above we now have a gallery of projects from Lumber Logs' wood! Shoot me a picture of stuff you made to achieve your share of internet immortality.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Our origins, our mission

Urban logging is rare and varied enough that most people ask how Lumber Logs began. Our approach to it is (I think) unique, so here is a brief overview of how Joe and I started this endeavor.

As a woodworker, I found myself getting closer to wood sources to find interesting and unique material. I learned that most trees dropped in St. Louis ended up as landfill material. While huge amounts of wood were wasted, logging regularly occurred in nearby rural areas. I mentioned my interest in the subject to Joe at a party and he volunteered to help me find a solution. We originally thought we needed to own a sawmill since it seemed most urban loggers approach the problem this way. But most urban loggers also merely gleam the best lumber worthy cherry and walnuts, capturing the higher margin end of the business but not really addressing the volume of waste. Shortening a much longer story, we figured out that all lumber-worthy logs had some value at the sawmill, which made our task simply getting them delivered. The problem was really one of aggregation: even a fat walnut on a someone's front lawn was a liability, a disposal problem, when compared with the cost of getting it where it could have value. However, a truck load of pallet logs could be worth enough to make the trip.

We did not need a mill. Our mission of reducing log waste could be met by picking up logs for free from those who fell them (saving them disposal time and money) and getting them where they could be useful.  Currently tree services, municipalities, golf courses, cemeteries and individual homeowners use us to save them time and money and also help recycle logs. We pick up any species (current exception: pine) because if they are sound and without metal, they are at least good for pallets or railroad ties. Frankly, the margins on this portion of our business qualify it as a "loss leader". (Hey, maybe this is why nobody else does this...) But we save suppliers enough they happily give us logs of higher value too. Maybe 3% of our volume we set aside to have sawn for us by local portable band mill owners. This becomes the hardwood lumber we sell.

We are clearly meeting our first goal, the environmental one, having recycled millions of board feet of logs since our beginning in 2005. Our secondary goal of improving my wood stash was easily overcome too. Coupled with my pathetic productivity in the shop and growing interest in smaller work, it will take me years to dent the pile. It has not stopped the quest for unique material though.

I am aware of few other urban log operations that take in all species, and know of none that do so without owning a saw mill. We appreciate our supplier partners who "get it" and also our sawmill buyers who understand what we do. The metal issue is a constant problem - no high speed saw wants to hit a hidden bolt - but one that any modern sawmill must confront, even if they only take forest grown logs. Mankind's penchant for driving nails into trees is apparently widespread. We scan each log multiple times but still miss an occasional nail inside a 4' diameter pin oak.

I will take some pictures of what we evolved into. The words above describe what we do pretty well, but nothing conveys the glamour of urban logging better than a picture of a pile 'o logs. ;-)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Plain Sawn, Rift Sawn, and Quarter Sawn illustrated

This is an article I wrote a while back which illustrates how grain selection affects the visual look of frame and panel construction. It got lots of positive feedback and is an important concept when buying lumber and building with it.  It explains why we segregate our oak inventory into those three cuts.

Click here for the article on Woodcentral

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Here we go!

I think this will be a good way let lumber buyers and those interested in how we recycle urban logs here in St. Louis what's up with us. I am new to this process, so let's see what this looks like and I will add more later.