Thursday, November 29, 2012

collecting customer information

I just had an experience at Walgreens that disturbed me. I bought two items for $4.32 that would have cost me $7.52 if I had not signed up for their member program. This included giving them personal information like address and phone number so they can track every purchase I ever make in the future at any Walgreens. I realize that governments and retailers are collecting and storing all sorts of personal information "to serve us better", but really now, do I need anything more than inventory in place when I want an extension cord?

I will pass on the extended rant - I doubt it would change the world - but I want you to know one thing: Lumber Logs will NOT be asking for your social security number, income tax bracket, or if you have any outstanding parking tickets when you buy lumber from us. The only questions we do ask are things like "what are you building?" or "have you tried persimmon for that use?" - you know, things that are relevant to getting what you really want. Plus, we will charge you the same price per board foot whether you buy 3' or 300'.

This isn't just because I think "1984" is one of the scariest books ever written. It's also because loading your mailbox with coupons for extension cords does not strike me as useful to either of us. Plus, if you have met either Joe or Tom, it may not surprise you that neither is the sort to keep track of this kind of detail. Heck, I once had email addresses for hundreds of lumber buyers but effectively lost them in the email hack episode a while back. It's nice when following the Golden Rule is easier.


Timber frame update: no news really. We cut some 6x6 white oak and have it air drying a bit before we work it into the log rack. Perhaps this winter will see some progress, but if it proceeds like this blog, don't hold your breath!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Timber frame log rack

Up to now, Joe has scanned logs for metal primarily on our lot. There might be a preliminary scan at pickup if conditions allow, but the full thorough scan happens in our yard. Since the scanner picks up metal in the parking surface, he piles logs up high and and walks on the piles to scan them. This is not the safest thing he does every day because log piles can and do shift around at times. It is time to improve the method.

We need a platform to rest large logs on that is 5' above the lot surface. The rack cannot have any metal in it, so this is the chance to build something sort of timber framey I have been hankering for. Nothing fancy beyond large pinned mortise and tenons will be needed, but working with 6x6 fresh cut white oak should offer some interesting challenges. The rack will be 16' wide and 8' long. There will be three 16' sections to build and then join together. Joe has the cut list (which I have not seen yet) and just picked up some 16' long 6x6s. I spent today turning some 7" long 7/8" black locust dowels for pinning the joints.

This should be a fun and interesting project and we will follow it right here.

EDIT: This never happens.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Spalted wood

The weather has been very solar kiln friendly, so we are already on our third kiln load. We have pulled out white and red oak (quartersawn and other cuts) and those bins are now bursting with awesome material. Now in the kiln is some 12/4 cherry, 4/4 cherry and spalted birch. I mentioned the spalted birch a while back and it should be ready in a couple weeks. There is slightly less of the most awesome stuff than I remembered, so if this is the kind of stuff that you like I suggest pouncing in June. We will price it coming out of the kiln; the best boards will be at a premium over our normal birch price.

I personally find this kind of material to be rare and prized when found. Spalted wood is not always the easiest wood to work into a successful design, but when it is done right, it says One of a Kind right there for everyone to see. A couple pieces are likely to end up in Tom's Private Stash. We have 4/4 and 8/4.

Speaking of spalted wood, here are a couple of maple root pieces we have for sale:

How to build a lumber rack

Why does it always seem that when you venture into building something you have never built before, it takes two or three or more attempts to get the design just right? We built two large lumber racks in the old building and moved them into the new. Moving them exposed some structural weaknesses on top of the design flaws that we hoped to improve as we built out a couple new sections.

And so Tom and Joe, using only a chainsaw, nail gun, some 16' 3x3s, and some 8' and 10' 1x3s, in 3 hours built the best lumber rack we have, able to store and display some 4-5,000 bf of lumber. The bins are now wider and shallower, so you can see more boards and dig down more easily to that perfect board. Plus, there are now TWO bins at eye level, not just one. This is what we wish we had done from the beginning!

It is sort of a mixed feeling when you realize how stupid you once were by finally doing something smart.

Friday, April 27, 2012

email hack

Just a quick note to let you know that I did NOT suddenly travel to the Philippines and need you to send any money to me. My primary email was hacked and taken over for about 24 hours, but that is all behind me now and I can receive any form of communication you care to send me.

We do not have much in the way of lumber news. The kiln is still working on its first load of white oak (mostly spoken for) and we will get another in it as soon as some sunny warm weather helps us dry the first load. We are still building out the new lumber racks. The big bandsaw continues to disappoint.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

antique hand hewn timbers

Probably for one time only, we took in some hand hewn timbers from a barn in Kentucky. The barn owner stated that the barn had been moved to its former location about 150 years ago, so we all agreed the timbers were old. Up to 20' long, with occasional newer wood attached or nails and spikes protruding. There are some really nice pieces for a mantle or interior work, along with some pieces that barely survived a quick culling. We have not priced any of them yet, but they will likely go by the linear foot.

Here are a couple quick photos to give you a hint of what they are like.

EDIT: These are gone. We carry domestic hardwoods from the St. Louis forest exclusively.

another look at the move

Nothing says it like photos:

The racks on the left are mostly full, except for the section where no rack exists yet (above). The back  part of the right side has two rack sections in place with nothing in them yet (below). You can see the center aisle!

This photo shows the air dry section less than full. That has now been fixed.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

working notes: sycamore

Back when we first started this exploration of domestic hardwoods, my experience did not go much beyond the oak, maple, walnut, and cherry that can be found at any dealer. I am still discovering aspects of the domestics that we carry and I want to share what I learn with you here when I can.

Very early on I discovered two domestics that deserved way more attention: sycamore and osage orange. I will discuss osage another time; today we are looking into sycamore.

We always quarter saw sycamore for two reasons:

1) It is incredibly unstable when drying and can warp huge amounts. (Sycamore is a bottomland tree and holds large amounts of water). Quartersawn wood dries with less degrade. I have not noticed any movement problems once dry, especially with the QS stuff.

2) One look at the medullary ray pattern on QS sycamore will convince you that you are looking at one handsome domestic hardwood. Lacewood and leopard wood, to mention two much more expensive exotics coveted for their grain figuring, have nothing on QS Sycamore. Here is a glimpse of the grain I am referring to:

An image search will show you much better examples of sycamore's beauty. What I really want to discuss today is how sycamore works. The 2x4 above is made from some 8/4 sycamore that came to us plain sawn (which is why the quarter sawn face is on the edge of the board) which we had used in the rough for the old vertical storage racks. Here I am shaping a piece with a router pass and a large rasp for rounding over the tenons to fit my mortiser's holes. This will become a much nicer vertical board storage rack, along with some oak for the posts. Sycamore's grain is very interlocked, so it is very strong wood for its weight and does not split readily. In fact, of all the stickers we have cut to use air drying wood, the ones we cut from sycamore have held up the best, better than oak. The interwoven grain can be a small problem if your router pass goes against it as it almost inevitably will because the grain reverses itself frequently. But the tear out is small bits, not like the huge hunks that can come out with stringier wood. This means tear-out is an easy fix and thus not really a problem. Another benefit of the strongly woven grain structure is that I do not worry at all about the integrity of the tenon after I peg the joint. I will NOT be blowing out a section of tenon with a firmly wedged in peg. This is good.

The wood shapes beautifully with a rasp, a characteristic I enjoy a lot when I find it. Persimmon is like this: almost no discernible grain direction means it just melts away under a rasp in any direction. Persimmon is much harder and takes a very high polish; sycamore is soft enough to dent from a wooden mallet blow and will always have a matte finish unless you bury it under some shiny film finish.

One other notable trait: the dust sycamore produces is fine and powdery. You can see this in the rasp photo above. I have not experienced any allergic reaction to the dust like I have to the powdery stuff from padouk.

The plain sawn face of sycamore is not unattractive on its own. The color of the heartwood is a soft pink that turns to tan over time and any cut veering towards rift sawn will show tiny hints of that spectacular quarter sawn look.

Beautiful. Strong. Easy to work. And cheap. Try it, you'll like it.

We are plugged in

It was a big week for our urban logging operation. We finished moving OUT of our old building and began reassembling our stuff in the new one. The satisfaction of having total control over every aspect of our location is especially sweet since we had to tolerate a number of things in the old place that we are glad to be rid of. First and foremost was security; the truckers who shared our old lot never locked the gate and since they arrived there five years ago, we have had recurring problems with theft. We left very few valuables in that building but even a Craftsman handsaw has metal and thieves apparently love recycling.

Anyone who has visited probably noticed that the building was dilapidated (understatement). Joe had made a big effort to reinforce and repair that structure over the years and literally two days after we moved everything out the big wind we had blew apart two wall sections. It really is a wreck. Not to mention it leaked and deep puddles formed after every rain. Dry will be better.

Here is where the move now stands: Ameren installed a pole and hooked us up with juice just as the electrician finished installing everything. We have electricity. We are placing lumber rack sections along one wall so we can load it with the lumber now in the building. Once that is done, we will reassemble the other sections along the other wall and build out a few more bins for dry wood. We are going to have a more extensive display for shorts, crotch boards, turning and carving blanks plus other special pieces. We are making an effort to cut more natural edge planks, mantle pieces, and other large and unique items so the tilt we already have away from commodity wood and towards unique stuff will become even more pronounced. That's always been the fun side of wandering around Lumber Logs anyway, right?

Once again, the view as you drive up:

Standing at the overhead door entrance and looking left is the one row of racks, not completely reassembled here:

Walking on in and turning back towards the entrance you see Joe's work area on the right and the big bandsaw just to the left of the overhead door:

That place on the left is where the radial arm saw and vertical displays will be. We still have a lot of work ahead, but we are over the hump and it tastes pretty good. The bandsaw has even been tweaked and is fully functional. With the blade guide in operation for the first time, we can actually make straight cuts. We expect to be trimming any board needing it before reloading the bins, so the board quality ought to rise a bit.

It will take a few weeks to sort all of this out, so the shopping experience will be a bit adventurous for a while, but everyone who visited this past Saturday found what they were looking for, and it should only get easier.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Moving the lumber racks

The part of the move that we most dreaded is upon us. Even though the electrician is not finished installing our lights and power, if we are to be out of the old building by month end (and we must be), we had to begin dismantling and moving the huge lumber racks. The means cutting them into pieces and forklifting a section at a time from the old into the new. Our first section came apart before arrival, the result of some rot and wobbliness from not being built to move. We fired up the nail gun and reinforced every joint that time had loosened and got the rest of the largest rack entirely moved. Tomorrow we tackle the smaller rack. Here's Joe cutting a section off like a slice of bologna (if you sliced bologna with a chainsaw). Do you think the chainsaw makes Joe's butt look big?

Once moved, the racks will need to have sections repaired and then we can reload them with salable lumber. We also hope to provide some improved displays (which still need building) for shorts, crotch boards and turning and carving blanks. It is enough that I can confidently say it will not all be done by March 3rd, our next open-for-retail date. Please pardon the inconvenience this will cause. I'll keep you posted on our progress right here!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Our new building looks like this:

We chose green because Joe's preference (Barbi pink) was unavailable.

These pictures are before the 14' overhead door was installed. The height will let Joe back the truck into the building for the occasional welding repair. As mentioned before, air drying will occur under the lean-to section and dry lumber for sale will be inside the building.

Electrical work is being installed over the next few days and Joe and I are focussed on getting EVERYTHING OUT of our old building and off that lot. Moving IN has not really started yet.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

about this weekend

Since this coming weekend includes the third Saturday in February, we will technically be open for lumber buying. But realistically it will be much more difficult to find what you want than normal since we are now 70% moved OUT of our old location and 0% moved IN to the new one 200' south.

The building structure is complete. Electrical work begins this week. If you can lend a hand this weekend and want $15 of lumber per hour of help, please call Tom 314-570-1175. It's like those free tickets on the radio: first two callers wins!

Photos coming soon.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

need 2 for Saturday

Joe and I could use two helpers this Saturday from 9 am until maybe noon. Please call Tom 314-570-1175 (between 9 am and 9 pm only please) to volunteer. We will exchange $10 of lumber of your choice for each hour you work. If you own and can bring a portable table saw, you will immediately go to the top of the list and become a true hero. We plan on screwing some boards from the outside of the new structure (photos coming soon) at the bottom of the walls where the sheet steel does not quite reach the ground. No critters will be welcome inside. We will certainly have a few other tasks, including moving the bandsaw.

The structure is complete except for the big overhead door and electricity. Until the electric work is done we will not be moving large piles of wood inside.

We will be open for sales Saturday the 18th but it will be difficult to sort through the piles to find what you want. If you can wait until the first Saturday of March it will be easier to locate what you want.

Friday, February 3, 2012

More building news

Here is a picture that tells you where we are moving to relative to where we are. Stand at our current entrance and walk 200 feet south:

(I just realized how difficult it is going to be to improve on the first impression our entrance now makes).

The steel started up this week:

Above you see the four 20' bays of the building that will house dry lumber. Also note the columns for the lean-to that goes the whole length of this side; it is where we will air dry our lumber before we run it through the kiln. This should be slower than before so we can dry thicker oak. We already have some of that cut.

Here is the view from our new entrance on Farlin Ave:

Joe has already moved all the air drying wood to the new lot:

The building crew should be working through mid next week.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

update on new building and the big move

We decided to move last spring and it has taken a long time to get things lined up to where they are now. We have our building permit, footings have been poured, and the metal building erection people expect to show up next week for their two week job. Because of friction with our existing landlord, the move may happen before we even have electricity in the building.

Here are some pictures of the concrete work. The structural engineer designed humongous footings that look huge on paper and in person.

The building will be 40' x 80' with a 25' lean-to along the 80' wall. This gives us slightly more square footage than our existing 40 x 140 space, with the "outdoor" space for air drying wood. Air drying will take longer since it won't cook wood in the summer like our building now does, but this will allow us to saw thicker oak (which needs to dry slowly).

Each footing is on its own for resisting the forces on it since there is no concrete floor connecting everything into one solid mass.  This is why they are so big:

As for the move, once the building is constructed (a quick process), we may need to put on a big burst of activity and get everything out of where we are now. The only real challenge is the lumber racks, which will need to be unloaded by hand and dismantled and reassembled and then loaded by hand. This is where we could use some help. We are willing to trade lumber for labor and will be asking for specific numbers of people to help on specific dates, probably very early in February. I will be providing details in this space, so if getting wood for some time appeals to you, watch this space closely beginning now.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Working notes: black locust

One of the  things I'd hoped to discuss here is some of the lesser known or less frequently found woods we carry. We have come across decent logs of different species that we have sawn into lumber or turning blanks that simply are not commercially known or found in the commodity channels. Your only other chance at finding some of these woods is the rural sawyer who does just what we do: saws the good ones of whatever comes in. Every species has some use.

Black locust is easily pigeonholed because of its extraordinary rot resistance. I think the only domestics in the same league are osage orange and mesquite. All get used for fence posts. Like osage and mesquite though, locust has enough strength and visual appeal to be more than fence posts. (Mesquite does not grow in this area).

I recently found myself working some black locust for an outdoor trellis and thought I'd share what I have been dealing with. I almost wrote "struggling with". Black Locust is no beginner wood; it is difficult to work with in several ways: it is extremely hard, so your tools had better be sharp. It seems to wear tool edges fairly quickly too. It is prone to tear-out if you ever go against the grain. Frankly, my experience is that these same problems are common with hard maple and oak or hickory, but maybe the locust seems worse because it is harder and more dense than any of those. (It is harder when green than oak or hickory is when dry). Fortunately, these issues are not critical for outdoor trellises. And like most any difficult wood, proper care and attention can get you around these challenges. It glues and takes screws just fine.

Black locust also scores high on Tom's Blood List; I seem to have left more DNA on this project than I have on any walnut or cherry job. Those sharp edges simply slice open my knuckles when Mr. Clumsy whacks his hand into an edge.

Okay, so it has issues. But even aside from its rot resistance, I could see preferring it, even on indoor furniture. I do not make many chairs, but I think this wood has everything a chair demands of a wood: strength with beauty. The greenish tinge of the wood can be considered attractive or colored a bit. Outdoors it turns the silvery gray many woods turn.

Our sample:

Like osage and mesquite, black locust logs of quality are rare. The tree seems to grow with internal checks that can spoil an otherwise clear board. So if the project is a chair, expect some waste. We do not see many decent logs, but we always seem to have a hundred board feet or more in the bin in 4/4 through 8/4.

If you like working a more challenging wood for the rewards that come with successfully doing so, consider black locust. It has the kind of hard density that takes a fine polish, and few things say " fine work" like a tough-as-nails shiny finish. Or, just use it out of doors.

Here is a nice board I found from the web: