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.