One of my favorite Christmas presents this year was a bumper sticker that said, “Wood is Good”, which I placed on the rear bumper of my truck! I’ve been around wood for 37 years now and I’m still amazed by the many pieces of wood that we make things from and the unique history of each piece of wood. Sometimes the story is special because of how nature has shaped those pieces of wood; once in a while the history of it’s first use connects with our own lives in some positive or quirky way; and other times, we can see the work of the craftsman’s hands who shaped those pieces of wood into useful objects. I was walking around the shop last week and it occurred to me that we were privileged to share with our clients in the creation of new uses for these special materials.
It didn’t take long to see a huge (55″) live edge Douglas fir slab made into a conference table. (see Image 1) This piece of wood came from standing dead old growth snag that was left over from initial cuttings on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. The 6′ diameter tree wasn’t harvested initially because it’s not always easy to deal with a 6′ diameter tree in difficult locations…felling, skidding, hauling, sawing, drying, flattening, filling, finishing, and shipping…but here its final form reminds us that it is a complete slice of a once incredible tree!
In another corner of the woodworking shop, Scott had just finished an exterior door for a residential house project. This door was built with hand hewn oak skins that were laminated onto plywood cores. (see Image 2) The highlight of this door is the hewn texture that was initially done by a carpenter on the timbers of a southwestern Ohio barn in the late 1800′s. If one has ever swung a broad axe, you learn that it is hard work and takes some skill. Could you imagine the surprise of that carpenter if he learned that his 19th century axe work would be highlighted on a door project in Montana in the 21st century! When he visited last fall, we purchased some live edge cherry boards that came from an overgrown fencerow bordering a new development in Collegeville, PA. We were able to highlight their natural form and beautiful grain pattern in a simple but elegant bookshelf. (see Image 4) Chances are good that these overgrown trees would have become ornamental firewood for some highly inefficient fireplace in some unremarkable house if not for David’s resourcefulness and perseverance!
The sawdust has been flying in the timber shop as our timber framers scribe and fit the cedar snags (standing dead) that we purchased in SE Alaska to the reclaimed Douglas fir timbers that came from a number of sources, including: a Newark, NJ warehouse, a railroad roundhouse in Duluth, MN, a Sunkist packing shed in C, a Brunswick bowling factory in Muskegon, MI. (see Image 3) You can read about my blog post about the adventure of buying cedar logs in SE Alaska at http://bigtimberworks.com/road-trip-for-an-old-snag-3/. The most noticeable thing about these cedar snags is how they have been shaped by nature after standing dead for so many years in a temperate rain forest climate. The reclaimed fir timbers will retain their aged patina that was gained from the many years of service they provided in their respective industrial structures.
The last little project that i’ll mention has a good wood story as well. Our friend and former employee, Dave Sheldon, has a mobile milling business in PA where he finds harvested urban and suburban trees (mainly in the Philadelphia area) and turns them into valuable commodities for folks like us.
You can see that we greatly appreciate the good wood stories of our wood. We’re glad that we have connections with history, nature and the humans who have created things we can reuse.