Wednesday, December 14, 2011

New pictures and move news

I posted a number of new and old pictures of projects made with our wood in the new "Gallery 2010" page. There is some incredible stuff there. Enjoy!

We received our building permit and things finally seem to be moving on the building front. Concrete contractor is getting the utilities marked out and I'll bet they break ground next week.

Our existing building was broken into again today and a few small items not nailed down were taken. One of the benefits of the new location will be that we can finally secure the entire property in a way that makes theft very very difficult. The truckers we now share a lot with never even close the gate much less lock it. Fortunately thieves do not care about wood and cannot move the bandsaw.

You've seen our bandsaw haven't you? This early picture shows it before the upper wheel was installed. It is a heavily modified 38" Clement saw probably from ~1890s:

The band we use is a 2" carbide tooth that cost more than the saw. When finally tuned (we have had issues with the upper wheel) we will use it to trim boards and make more turning blanks and crotch pieces. 

The upper wheel was originally made of laminated oak on cast spokes. I am not sure why and the helpful folks on were unable to reach a consensus as to why some wheels were made this way. I cleverly made a new wheel using honey locust segments - not laminations - that ended up too big in diameter by about 3/8". This kept the band from fitting the guide you see hanging in the picture above and using the saw seemed more dangerous as a result. So we have torn off the new tire and I reduced the diameter with a belt sander. That honey locust is one tough wood! 

Joe dislikes extra projects like this so when we decided to get a radial arm saw for crosscutting, he made sure it was ready to go right away. I see his point.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

We win an award!

The Missouri Coalition for the Environment selected Lumber Logs, LLC to receive their Ralph Wafer Environmentally Sustainable Business Award for 2011. This award is not given every year, so we are doubly honored to be recognized by such an organization as the Missouri Coalition for the Environment. I have followed the Coalition's efforts on a number of local environmental issues and they always seem to have a keen focus on issues of importance to our community. 

Joe and I recently went with our wives to the award dinner at Lemp Mansion, had some quality cold refreshments and fine food (not always the case at things like this, is it?), listened to a couple brief speeches and received the nice piece of hardware you see below (with Ralph Wafer, Joe and yours truly).

Okay, that's enough about us. My next blogging task is to get the gallery loaded back up. I may have lost some photos permanently, but it was unintentional and if it was yours I lost, please resend it.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Move news

Yes I know it has been awhile since the last blog posting. And no, it isn't because nothing is happening worth mentioning. I think the real reason is because the one thing I had hoped to be mentioning - specifically, our move and the related construction - is mired in all sorts of red tape.

Joe and I kind of spoiled ourselves for a while by flying this business by the seat of our pants, which took us mostly under the radar so to speak. Who knew we needed an occupancy permit? It honestly never occurred to either of us, and even now I am not sure if it is my problem or the landlord's. Either way, building a building in the city ends all the free-ride feeling. Want to stack logs on a lot with Unrestricted Zoning? Need a variance. Ours is pending*. Want to build a building? Permit required. (Okay, this one was not a surprise). Want a sign on the building? Permit. Want to build without gutters (like the building we are already in)? Waiver needed. And so on and so on. So while the building and move issues grind on, we pick up logs and sell lumber.

* The interesting thing about the zoning variance was the hearing. I went to City Hall (what a magnificent building! Too long since I'd been there) to speak to some Zoning People. Others had the same assignment for their tavern/child care center/counseling business. They call your address and you approach a podium with The Government on the other side of a very long desk-high partition. You stand, they sit. You introduce yourself, they just write it down. They ask relevant questions so they can understand what it is you want and why. This was how I found out about the sign permit. It goes well and businesslike and Lumber Logs was the only applicant to submit letters of support from neighbors and environmental bigwigs. I was told it was almost mandatory to have support from your Alderman and I suppose we could get it if he returned emails or phone messages. They will let us know. Being new to the whole process introduces stress into these known and unknown Unknowns. I dislike stress. It puts me off my blogging.

I do have a couple of other news items that deserve their own post, so let me make this one short and sweet so I am not intimidated to return with another sooner than three months later.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Looking for help this weekend

A number of you have graciously volunteered to help with aspects of our move. Thank you all for the kind offers. It is now time to step up and earn some wood!

We need just a couple of people this Saturday for the glamorous task of painting fence posts. We have had to move the ~200' long chain link fence along one edge of our lot (we gained 7'!) and it makes sense to paint the rusty parts before reattaching the chain link. We will provide paint and brushes and pay $10 of wood per hour for your help. We will be open for retail beginning at 9 am and to be honest I do not expect more than a few manhours to complete the task. You will have your pick of any wood we offer as reward for your help.

First two people to email me at lumberlogsllc AT will be accepted for duty this Saturday at 9 or so. Thanks all!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Update on the move

Just a quick update on the upcoming move from where we are now to 300' south.

We have engaged an architect, decided on a building design and a builder, and now we await their coordinated effort. The City required the architect for a site plan and to make sure we are informed about whatever details goes with that sort of thing. We clearly will not have the building up and ready for the move by the end of July when our lease expires, so my expectations are now to move the last week or two of August, assuming it is ready by then.

We will be interested in a limited amount of help, for which we are willing to exchange wood. Too many helpers might be chaos, but we will need people at each end unloading inventory and reloading it into the new building. I will post here with details on dates, times, numbers needed and so on. My thinking is that we will be doing much of this on a weekend or two. If you can help us for a day, let me know when I post here about dates.

Fortunately, we acquired a forklift that will greatly aid the move. Stay tuned for more info!

One thing you can be sure of: we will be taking our precious pair of number one priorities. Note that correct grammer is not one of them.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

curly white oak!

The first kiln load is finally out and on the racks. We loaded it last fall and waited much longer than usual for the sun to come out and help us dry it. So long, in fact, that I had completely forgotten that a large percentage of the plain and rift and quarter sawn wood in there was the curliest oak we have ever had. I naturally forgot to take my camera, so pictures will have to wait. But if you have a Craftsman era piece on your list and you want some special wood for it, come take a look.

We threw all cuts into one bin and will have a completely new price schedule for the curly stuff. I am trying to resist under-pricing the rare awesome stuff like I have so many times in the past, so the prices will seem high when compared to our regular $2-4 range for white oak, but when you compare it to all the other curly white oak prices you have seen... oh wait, maybe you never really see it. I haven't, and I look at wood everywhere I go. (I know, I know, I need to get out more).

Here they are:

PS $4.75/bf
RS $5.75/bf
QS $6.75/bf

Technically, this curly wood is from a burr oak log (Quercus macrocarpa), not white oak (Q. alba). All oak lumber is either white or red in the trade even though only two of the many species are Q. alba or Q rubra. So while burr (or bur) oak is a white oak, it is slightly different than the Q. alba we always use for our other white oak inventory. One difference I have noted is that in the QS cut, the medullary rays of burr oak tend to be thinner than the fat rays of Q. alba. They are just as long and make a striking look, slightly less wild looking.

If this curly stuff is like other curly oak I have tried to work, there will be tearout issues when jointing and planing, especially with deep cuts and dull blades.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

storm damage

Normally the yield of lumber worthy logs from storms is less than you'd think. Yes, plenty of trees get damaged and ultimately removed, but many seem to get totally destroyed when falling or land on a house and need to come out in small pieces. Neither situation yields anything a sawmill would be interested in. There are plenty of situations like this today from the tornado that touched down recently. But the damage path is so long that there is lots of good recyclable material too. The number of tree removals will be huge this year. Spring is normally a busy season for urban log recycling since homeowners finally come out and look around outside and notice that something is wrong with the tree. So Joe is working long days now since he is getting a load or two of logs per day from the storm on top of his regular supply.

I doubt any municipality is really prepared for the scale of damage they are now dealing with. Certainly the smaller ones with a couple guys that cut grass all summer are not. So when Joe showed up on a street full of work trucks and sees two guys standing around a log and another downed tree, he asked if he could help. He made short work of the log, loading it in minutes. The crane is an awesome and fun power tool. "What about that other one?" Joe asks. "Well, maybe you could help," came the reply. "Do you have a saw?"

Does Joe have a chain saw? HA! That is like asking a gunfighter if he carries bullets. So Joe says nothing, calmly opens the tool box on the truck, pulls out the Stihl 260, sets it down, pulls out the Stihl 460, sets it down, reaches in and pulls out the Stihl 660 with 36 inch bar, fires it up, cuts off the root ball, removes the top and any branches and tries not to notice the reverent gaze and slack jaws on the others. "Yeah, it looks like you can help us." Two business cards and a short speech later and now we are getting calls from another group glad they do not have to chunk up perfectly good logs with dinky Homelite saws.

NOTE ABOUT THE GALLERY: I know it is missing. I went to add some more pictures of projects made from our wood and clicked "save as a draft" not knowing that the button really meant "Bwa ha ha ha. Gotcha!" The gallery immediately reverted to an ancient version and my efforts to figure out what how who soon lead to it disappearing altogether. I still do not know what or how, but I think I know who. If I can work it out, it will return. Not as a draft though.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

We need to move

It appears that we will have to move this summer. Not far, but still a major task.

Our landlord thinks commercial rents have gone up 120%+ in the last five years. We disagree. We can go to the parking lot adjacent to where we are now (access from Farlin, not Brown), but it has no building. So we need to build a structure and move the log and lumber inventory and solar kiln during our busiest season for log hauling. Oh what joy.

There are numerous details to work out, and it is probable we could use your help. Watch this space for detailed notices, but we will probably be willing to trade lumber for labor. Certainly when it comes to pulling wood from the bins and the dismantling and reassembly of the bins themselves. That part will probably occur in July, assuming we tackle big hurdles like erecting a new structure etc. It seems  silly to move out of one shabby shed, go 300' away and move into a freshly erected shabby shed, but that is what it looks like is going to happen.

If you have city construction expertise or know people that erect metal buildings, please respond here or shoot me an email. We are gathering information and are all ears right now.

The good news is that, in a way, we get to start from scratch knowing what we now know. So hopefully things will be better than ever once we settle in.

Stay tuned. This will likely be a major blog focus for the next 6 months.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

some new wood in

Joe picked up two trailer loads of freshly cut lumber from our guy in Illinois this week. Poplar is not very photogenic, but persimmon looks better fresh cut than it does dry. So here is a shot of some persimmon:

The true color is the dry patch in the upper left. The black bits will all be checks and of course when dry it might look more like a pretzel.

We set aside a birch log last spring to spalt. Our track record on purposely spalting wood is not perfect, but this baby came out just fine thanks. I managed to sneak a picture before more got stacked on top of it:

The spalting goes the full length and we will have a number of these in 4/4 and 8/4 when dry. Joe even scavenged a few offcuts that the sawyer would normally not bother keeping for us:

It will be late fall or next year before this stuff is dry and in the bins for sale. But it is okay to start dreaming now.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

more new photos

Check out our gallery for new pictures. Note that I do not make any comments about the work since it would sound too much like an overly proud parent; it is amazing to see what you make from our wood.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Weather and the typical day

I wanted this blog to give you a better feel for what this urban logging thing actually is like on a day to day basis, yet I have clearly dragged my feet on writing up any particulars. The problem is partly because I figure words without pictures bore most people and taking pictures of a typical day for Joe (he is the one out there every day picking up logs) is a problem for me since I have a day job too. Partly because I must be lazy.

So rather than never providing the inside story, here is a glimpse without pictures. Joe is usually at work before my dog wakes me for his morning walk. He may trim a few logs from yesterday's loads and scan them for metal and pile them in one of three sawmill piles. He loves starting his day with the soothing sound of a chain saw. Different strokes and all. In the busier months, his calendar for pickups can go out 2 or 3 days. Tree services, municipalities, cemeteries, golf courses, and others call him when they remove trees and need the logs removed. Tree services that specialize in removals have learned fairly quickly that not needing to cut a stout log into chunks and hauling those chunks to the dump and paying to grow a landfill is a valuable time and money saving step. We haul for free. Even a home owner with one fat walnut log soon learns that free removal is cheaper than trying to get that log to a mill where it can be converted to cash. Aggregation is the only economic answer. We are aggregation. Still, to be honest, there is not enough money in log hauling for free to cover a big truck and a driver.

Removals generate more waste than just logs. Grinders take care of the smaller branches (some grind up to 18" material!), but occasionally we are asked to haul material that is not sawmill worthy and for this we charge a fee. Again, it can be a huge time and money saver for those who keep their business focussed. I have mentioned this before, but a key part of the economic equation for us is the lumber sales end.

Anyway, back to Joe's day. He may pick up a load or two of logs, haul some chunk wood, and then come back to the lot and load David's truck for a trip to a sawmill. David is an independent trucker who might haul ice cream one day and logs the next. Different trailers. He is reliable and seems fond of Christmas cards with sparkly snowmen on them. While our truck can haul ~2000 board feet of logs, his 18 wheeler can haul twice that. Plus, since most of the 3 or 4 mills we use are at least a 3 hour round trip, Joe simply does not have the time make these runs himself. So David is a big help even though it is relatively expensive to haul low value material. More than 90% of the log volume is simply undesirable grade and/or species that becomes nothing more than blocking or pallet. This is what a "loss leader"
business is all about. Suppliers have little reason to just give us the best 5% if we don't take it all. Still, I can clearly see why most urban loggers try to find a way to only work the good stuff.

Anyway, you can see that all of this is pretty darn weather dependent and that is why this is a slow time for Joe. When temperatures are below 15 or 20 degrees F, the hydraulics on the truck tend to balk or not work at all. Anyone know how they get hydraulics to work up north? When days are long and every chain saw in town is dropping trees, he has some pretty long days. He drank an awful lot of water this past summer.

My typical day is different. Once a week I make a trip to the PO box, write a few checks and make a bank deposit. Then I head to my desk job and wrestle a mouse. Not very weather dependent.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Shipping to Anchorage

We are truly spoiled living in the heart of hardwood country here in St. Louis. I often wonder what being a woodworker in Phoenix or Anchorage would be like. Sourcing material, especially unique character wood, would be a huge challenge. Expensive too.

One way to save is finding a reliable supplier and having it shipped two or three or four hundred board feet at a time. I am biased, but I think we could be that for more people than we are. We have sent wood to Florida, Texas, New Jersey and several points in between. And now Anchorage.

I exchanged a few emails and had a telephone conversation with Sean in Anchorage, and now he is getting some beautiful honeylocust and awesome cherry., which I had recommended to him (arranging shipping is the buyer's responsibility) gave him quotes all over $1000, nearly $3/bf. Then he spoke to his employer, who has a trucking relationship, and got a price of ~$600. So for about $1.50/bf, he is having wood trucked from St. Louis to Auburn WA, barged to Alaska, and then (as he put it), "trucked to the North Pole." That makes his cherry cost a total of $6.50/bf, a deal lots of west coasters should like.

Sure, someone else picked out the boards, but that is what the phone call can help clarify. With our minimal sapwood, there is little waste in the "A" cherry. It seems to me that if you have any kind of "in" with a trucking relationship, then midwestern domestic hardwoods can be yours at a very competitive price.

Remember we have a $500 minimum order to ship. We just are not geared for sending one or two pieces at the prices we charge.