Friday, August 13

Tray Tables: Pulling Lumber

Dawn breaks with a grayish pallor, the air is heavy with mist; not quite a fog yet. Later, as the clouds that spent the night resting in the valley below awaken, stretching and yawning, and begin to drift toward their posts in the sky we may see fog, but only for a while as they climb the mountain to leap skyward from it's peak. I dress and walk over to the workshop. We received an order yesterday; a set of cherry tray tables and I want to pull the lumber before it gets hot. It has been unusually warm here lately; mid to high 90 degrees for the past few weeks, heat indices of 100°+. With no air conditioning, the inside of the shop becomes oven-like in the still, humid, hot mid-day air. Unusual weather for our mountains; normally 85° is considered an unusually warm summer day. Upper 70's would be normal. But, very little is normal any more. We are getting low on cherry. I’ve had a request in with Tommy, my lumber broker, for over two years, but no one is selling good cherry trees. Cherry and walnut are both getting quite scarce… and expensive. When what I have on hand is gone, my prices on these woods will at least double as I have to go back to buying dressed and dried lumber from a mill. I pull enough lumber to build two, maybe three sets of tables. I won’t get that many. There will be a large amount of waste in these boards as I cut around defects to use only the choicest bits. This lumber pile has been picked through many times now, pulling the best boards for the project at hand, the rest put back for consideration another time. Kind of like choosing teams for dodge ball when I was in school. Eventually someone would have to choose even the least desirable kids. Tray tables are a good project for using up some of the less desirable boards; the parts are small and reasonably short. They can be cut from less than perfect boards. When I was building Norene’s King Size Cherry Bed, I was searching for long, wide, perfect boards for some of the large pieces it required. I unstacked and restacked most of this pile for that project! Buying log-run lumber means Tommy buys a standing tree that is about to be removed. Tommy fells the tree, strips the log and cuts it into lengths. A portable log mill is brought in to cut the logs into lumber on-site and the fresh sawn lumber is brought to me. I sticker-stack the lumber and allow it to air dry for two years. When Tommy delivers the lumber to me, we cull out the unusable boards as we tally up what I owe him, but the rest is a combination of mostly good boards with a few excellent boards and a few not-so-good boards mixed in. Log run lumber is a mixed bag, take what you get, but it’s a lot cheaper than buying rough, dry lumber from a mill. And I get to dry it myself, making sure it’s done right. If they do it, especially if it’s kiln dried, the end result can be disappointing – and costly. The cherry lumber is now inside where, should the 20% chance of thunderstorms today bear fruit, I can work in the dry. But for now I need some breakfast.

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