I was asked to write about wood, or more specifically, the way wood is cut. This opens up a whole bunch of doors, but for the purposes of this blog, we’re only talking about the way our lumber is cut for our uses.
There is a much better description of the way wood is cut in an article I was reading, so rather than bore you with my description, check it out. I will explain the basics here.
Plain sawn lumber is just as it sounds. It is cut flatly from the log, and is the most common way wood is cut. The net effect is a “cathedral” type grain pattern that is very pleasing aesthetically. Our cherry, red oak, birch, maple, walnut, and mahogany are all plain sawn.
Quarter sawn lumber is wood that has been taken from the tree very differently. The tree is first quartered, or cut into four sections. The boards are then taken from the tree in one of several different ways. The net effect is a straight grain, often times creating interesting patterns known as ray flecks.
There are two basic reasons why wood would be quartered, either for stability or looks. When you quarter lumber, it becomes more stable than plain sawn wood. It will expand and contract primarily the thickness of the board, not the width like plain sawn. The look of quartered lumber, or specifically the ray flecks, is the desired effect. It gives the lumber depth and interest in a different way.
The reason we carry quarter sawn white oak and plain sawn red oak is largely based on history. Quartered white oak would have been the wood of choice during the arts and crafts movement, the original one, a hundred years ago. As a result, many of our customers own antiques that they want to match or compliment in some way, and the quartered white oak just foots the bill. Red oak has traditionally been plain sawn with large, dramatic cathedrals in the grain patterns, so much like the expectations surrounding white oak, there are similar demands for plain sawn red oak instead of quartered.
You can get any log quartered if you like. I have worked with quartered cherry, maple, sycamore, red oak, white oak, and several others. Some types of wood have more drama in them when they are quartered than some others.
What is the best wood for you? I get asked this a lot. I get asked a lot of questions. What most people mean is “This is how I live, how many kids I have, how often I move, and what I want the piece for. Which wood is best here?” The answer is always the same within the varieties of the hardwoods we offer, the durability, longevity, soundness of each wood is comparable, so……………..the best wood for you is the one you like, the one that makes you happy. This sounds too easy!
I was drawn to the idea because the program benefits others in need, but it also gives the used furniture a new life, new chance, much like its new owners. Seems apropos if you ask me.
The dump has a “trash to treasure” location. It is very popular. Drop off something that is no longer wanted or needed, and there is someone there who scoops it up, generally before you can even get it out of your truck. Erika and I have come to refer to these individuals affectionately as “lot lizards”. They will hang out all day, picking through the trash to treasure stuff, or just sit and wait for the next resident to pull up and give up their valuables. I used to really not like this. I felt I was being assaulted. It was a bit unsettling, and the idea that these lot lizards are probably profiting from my generosity did not sit well with me.
Now, I have come to believe that these people are in need, and they just need to make some money by selling these things to someone who will happily use it. So it’s charity along with a reasonable assurance that the thing I’m discarding will find a new life with someone else. This makes me feel good about myself. Give something away today and see how you feel. Just try it.
As an aside, I came across a very interesting article on “how to recycle anything.” This is from the September and October issues of Real Simple magazine.
I’m sure that several of you have wanted to know, and have probably lost sleep being so concerned about the welfare of the tractor. Here is an update for you.
After about $260 and six hours of time, old Betsy is back up and running, better than before. I got the new tires put on the rims, but before mounting them, I got in the “well, while I’m doing this, I may as well…….” So, I lubed the whole tractor – a job I hate. It seems I always sheer off a grease fitting, and end up wearing more grease than the tractor. Sure enough, I broke one grease fitting and had to repair that, and by the time I was done, I had to throw the shirt I was wearing away.
I Cleaned the engine, filters, etc. Scraped the mud off the underside before the wheels went back on – You know, while I’m at it!
Alas, Mudville is a happy little town once again!
Learning is painful!
Have you ever felt that you’re a kid in a grown up world? If you “fake it” long enough you might actually catch up with the rest? How did you possibly end up with all this responsibility, given how poorly your projects are going? Sometimes I think I’m brilliant, and other times I feel I’m the last dog in the pack, with the view that never changes.
Yesterday was one of those days. The Linnaea collection cases we are building seem to be kicking and fighting me the whole way. I’ve managed to destroy the side of one case, a dovetailed blade in another, and cause myself physical injury in the process of taking a mis-machined divider back out of a cabinet.
Somehow, I managed to find my way back into the shop today and give it another try. Things are going a bit better, and I see the cases developing, and this is what keeps me going forward. If it weren’t for this, I might just lose interest in the whole thing and give up.
Patience is the most valuable quality I possess. It’s getting a little thin these days, and I need to find a way of slowing down a bit and letting the design create itself for a while. This is something Greg (our founder) taught me. The answers come sooner or later, so be patient, stop faking it, and toughen up!
Without pushing it, the cases seemed to evolve better today. I think I’ve been trying too hard to get a “win.” So what is your most valuable quality? You know, the one that you think makes you special, but also is a bit of a demon for you.
So, I was in the shop most of the day Friday. I’m trying to push the Linnaea cabinets along, so I sanded all the parts to the first piece, a small credenza. I then applied the oil finish to all these pieces. I figured that I’d assemble the unit today.
Jason gave me a call to tell me the drawings I did were not accurate, and the case got made 1” too small. Oops. Crap. After several minutes of “what if we….”, he is re-making the case–the life of a prototype. It’s not so bad though, because we had already noticed a few things we needed to change.
Remember, I’m a professional. Don’t try this at home!
Now we’re in for two weeks of bumping around with the pedestal. I had thought we’d be further along. Honestly, I haven’t given Jason the help he needs to get the cases done in a timely fashion.
Creating something new isn’t just about design, prototypes, and re-makes. It’s time……lots of time. When someone asks me to do something custom, or different, they are paying a custom fee for time, not the wood. Custom is not all that different from creating new designs. You need to work all the bugs out before the first board is pulled, otherwise, it may end up 1” too small.
I’ve been sick most of the week. I caught the flu, from the Atlanta trip I think. It has really kicked me in the head. Unfortunately, I had committed to being the only owner on duty on Monday, Labor Day, so I had no choice but to show up.
It’s sort of funny how people react when I get sick. Seldom am I sick, and I try not to make a big deal of it, even though I am a guy and it’s in our nature to seek nurture. People think I’m being “noble” or needing to prove I’m “indispensable”. It is not that I think the thing can’t run without me. Rather, I made a promise to a partner that I needed to keep. In my mind I’m just doing what I need to do. Literally, there was no one else to do it, and it needed to be done. This is an owner’s perspective.
Not feeling well gave me the opportunity to go through the coral I picked up on the beach at Khao Lak in Thailand. Doing this was so nice. It was like the smells of Thanksgiving, or the memory of that special ornament on the Christmas tree. I remember the beach so clearly just by holding a shell in my hand. I started feeling better.
Always being in charge of something, and feeling that things need to be done regardless of the circumstances, has made it more difficult for me to give myself permission to reflect and just do nothing. Seems that I need to get sick more often.
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Friday was the usual walking around for 8 or 9 hours, and then meeting in the lounge to discuss the day and the next plan of action. I specifically went to the third building of three, the hardware building, looking for very specific things like leveling feet and lighting and knobs and touch-up kits. Not all real exciting stuff, but hard to find, even for us.
I was so excited to find exactly what I had come for – a new lighting supplier. The guy makes solid metal casings with the new LED lamps, and will custom-make the wiring harnesses to our specifications!! These lamps were really, really nice stuff– expensive, but nice. Best of all, it is all made in the US, in Miami, Florida no less. So, after finding this guy and spending an hour with him, I felt like I could just enjoy the show, which I did.
Another thing that I pursued was finding college contacts. At the IWF, they will often times have student furniture on display. Assorted colleges will have booths set up. This is sort of a recruiting practice. I met up with the Virginia Tech Wood program. We sponsored a student this summer from Tech, and it worked out well. He was a delight to have here. My hope is I can find the “next generation” craftsman to take over this thing in 20 years.
Friday night was a surreal adventure. I found myself at a Mai Tai restaurant with my partners and I being served smoked steak. And yes, back to the cot roll-away bed! Saturday was a follow up day, which it always has been. I took all my partners to show them the lighting find. We all agreed this was the thing……..winner, winner, chicken dinner! I was shown three specific machines that they were considering, and an AutoCAD based drawing program that we are considering implementing on the sales floors.
Out of time and out of energy, back to the airport we go. During our lunch/dinner, as a group we sorted out and designed a new dining chair to go with the new Linnaea collection. There is something bigger and almost magical about the trips my partners and I have taken over the years. Call it synergy, call it cohesiveness, I call it the cumulative brain power of 150 years of experience. This is what ultimately makes these trips worth doing for me.
This is work. While it’s interesting, I will be walking around, sort of getting tugged in different directions for about 10 hours a day in Atlanta. It’s exhausting……and exciting. We have plans to pick up several machines and hand tools at this show, but you never really know what you’ll find. For Hardwood Artisans, we are sort of the biggest of the small fish in a really big pond. It is difficult to find the correct size and priced machines that work for us.
I am specifically going to the show to find a new lighting and electrical supplier. Now, this might not sound exciting to you, but for me, this is big fun. The lighting industry has gone through a lot of changes in the past few years, and in an effort to improve our product, I need better solutions. LED lights are becoming standard, power supplies with USB ports, and even very clever florescent lamps are evolving as the preferred solutions to the consumers needs.
The vendors take the time to hire all sorts of people to gain your attention. I’ve seen hired pool sharks, jugglers, impersonators, and actors at these events. Even Norm Abrams has been hired to sit and sign autographs and do picture op’s with the guests. What a freak show, not that I’m calling Norm a freak…..he’s our idol. I’ll let you know next week what happened at the show.
My wife thinks that “being green” is nothing more than living life like her grandparents did. Nothing gets wasted. Things get used and reused until there’s nothing left. Recycle, reuse and reduce, right? In the past few years, our county (Fauquier) has gotten very proactive in the recycling game. They actually are trying out some cutting edge programs, like using the methane gas in the landfill to create energy, and recently buying a construction debris separater. This has made me want to try to do more in the recycling arena personally. Effort fuels interest.
I own a weed eater. Actually, I own two or three, but that’s another story. Weed eaters are something that I find to be a good idea gone badly. They have become a disposable thing. You can buy one for less than you can fix one, or so I’ve been told. I have refused to accept this disposable attitude, and have “humpty dumptied” my weed eater back together for four years in a row now. It has nothing to do with the money – it has everything to do with the fact that the motor runs perfectly, but the spool keeps breaking. I hate waste, and for about $20 and an hour of my time, I can mount a new spool on the weed eater, which lasts for about 9 months. I figure this is better than filling the land fill/scrap metal bin with four partially operational weed eaters.
I have a neighbor, Karl. He’s from Buffalo, NY, and his upbringing was absolutely nothing like mine. I grew up in Great Falls, VA in a bit of a privileged upbringing, playing tennis and football and working at the country club. Karl regales me with stories of ice hockey and his time spent working in a meat processing plant. You know, hooves and snouts and all that stuff we prefer not to think about. Somehow, however, we are very similar in that we were taught how to do and fix things by our elders and friends.
Karl is the kind of guy who will create something great out of what appears to be nothing. He made a pantry door from old 2 x 4’s and hinges he stripped off an old garage door. He is an amazing fellow, really. We share a log splitter, and the motor burned up on it. We took an old, unused lawn mower motor and retro-fit the motor to the log splitter. I think it took Karl and me two days time to fix. The question becomes “what is your time worth”. Well, it was a $1000 log splitter, and it is 500 pounds of metal that would be tossed in the scrap metal pile, verses putting a twenty pound mower frame in the pile. When I’m at work, I try to remember I’m very expensive (wink, wink). At home I try to remember I’m not. I’m not saying that I’m so crazy that I’ll straighten out and reuse old nails, like an old friend I once had (Pops). I don’t have that kind of time.
What I am saying is that I think we could solve this recycling problem if we could make things less costly to fix (expertise), or more expensive to buy (better quality), or if we could stop thinking our time is so expensive (worth of time), and just fix it ourselves. I think I will do my part to save the planet one weed eater at a time.
I bought a Toyota Yaris two door hatch back a year and a half ago. We named it “the clown car”, or “clowny” for short. You know, like when it pulls up, you think 23 clowns are going to come out of this teeny weenie thing. I love this car. It has tons of space, lots of cup holders, and it rides very well. It also gets 40mpg any day of the week.
About the same time I bought clowny, I placed an order for a Smart Car. I became very interested in this vehicle, and the $99 reservation fee was fully refundable, so I thought I’ve got nothing to lose. Well, the car showed up two weeks ago, and I went to look at it. Now, it doesn’t have the room of clowny; it only has two seats and a tiny space behind them. It doesn’t have the pick up; it is a three cylinder engine that is hidden under a steel trap door behind the driver seat. It doesn’t get that much better gas mileage; about 5 mpg, or 45mpg. Top speed is about 85mph. I’ve had clowny up to 95 without even knowing it. None the less, I bought the Smart Car. I felt I needed to, like this little thing had somehow grabbed me in a way I did not understand. I think I get it now.
Today, getting from here to there is on everyone’s mind. With gas over $4.00 a gallon, the thought of alternatives is everywhere. I think the Smart Car is a stepping stone to that end. I think it’s important for me to show support for this sort of thing, instead of just talking about it. I think that I’m doing the right thing when children see me in the car and smile in a reflective way, like they are seeing their future. I think it makes me happy to see a change in attitude from the people I touch by owning this funny little car. I think this is a good thing for me to be doing. I think I’ll name it Bumble Bee……or Smarty……..or something.