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: