Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Picking for Wood

At trade shows, festivals, and events, I get asked quite a few questions throughout the day. One of the most asked questions is where I get my wood from. Having about 70 species of wood from all corners of the world grabs people’s attention and they wonder how on earth I came to get the wood.

A little less than half think that I travel to different countries to get the wood. I just smile and say “I wish”.  Perhaps in the future but for now, international travel is on the to do list. I’d really enjoy visiting all the regions where the different wood species grow.

Online stores are the most common guess. While I have thought about ordering some wood online and very well might in the future, I have not done this for a few reasons. First off, the prices are almost always sky high, especially so with exotic wood species. Wood is not the easiest and cheapest thing to ship either. Second, you have no clue what you will get. Not to discredit online wood sellers but wood is extremely variable in color and grain texture. I’m the sort of person that likes to pick up the wood in my hands and inspect it thoroughly before making a purchase. There is nothing more discouraging that buying a piece of cherry expecting a nice reddish color and getting something that is just as white as maple.

So where do I get my wood from? My answer to inquirers is everywhere. I am always on the search and never know when I might run into that perfect piece of wood. I’ve found some wood in surprising places. One time I was camping in western North Carolina and found a stunning piece of cherry half burned in a fire pit. A little touch up work with the sander and it was perfectly useable.  Instead of adding to the pile of ashes in the pit it found a new life as this koala puzzle.

I have several contacts with contractors, flooring companies, and other woodworkers where I buy wood that is generally too small for them to use. I keep an eye out in newspaper and local online classifieds for sellers. For custom requests or hard to find woods, I pay a visit to some local exotic wood dealers. Most wood dealers also have scrap bins where you can find small pieces of wood for a fraction of the market value.
This method of obtaining wood is an adventure in itself. It reminds me of the American Pickers tv show. I’ve literally crawled through half standing barns and dug through piles of construction debris to find some amazing pieces of wood. I once found a large 14 inch wide piece of Genuine mahogany that someone was using to prop open a barn door. It was so weathered and covered in mud you couldn’t even tell its real color. Once it was surface planned and sanded, I made 4 different puzzles out of it including this greenman puzzle. I have even dismantled broken furniture and made things from the usable parts. 

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