Got Questions?

Part of starting a new business is finding customers and finding out what they need. As such, there is a long period of questions and answers which can lead to to a better direction for the business and better service to the customer. So hopefully these questions never stop. Believe it or not, my business revolves around the weather, lots of milling in the spring when it’s not raining, mixed days of milling and working in the shop during the summer months (milling until it gets to hot, then shop work) and running around getting logs or whatever else comes up. Firewood cutting and winter prep in the spring/summer/fall, followed by shop work, feeding the woodstove, and other stuff during the winter. It is not a strict schedule and I do a lot of things out of turn (milling in deep winter or such) as requirements demand, but it is easier to work with the weather than against it. All the while there is firewood to make because the shop and our home is heated with it, so I have to put up 10 cords a year just to keep up. That takes a lot of time and sweat. So I put effort into this website when weather permits, or suggests it. When the weather allows I need to get in labor hours on the logs, mill, drying racks, shop projects and other task as the season allows. So I handle questions as they come in, and move on all the while knowing it would be best if I wrote them down for others to see because a lot of folks do not like to ask questions. As it happens, I wrote this post while I was sidelined with a crippling yet temporary back injury. So it appeared I have been ‘given’ some time at the computer to work on that very thing. So here are some of the questions that have come my way in the past year along with the best answers I can render at this point.

What do you do?

Well, I can do a lot of things but in this case I collect logs, either bought or donated, I make lumber from those logs, I also make furniture and other items from that lumber. I have a small bare bones wood shop with basic hand and power tools that get me through most stuff. I am not a cabinet maker, so don’t look for those fine furniture products here. I try to keep harder to find logs (hardwoods mostly) in stock for milling to order. I can cut your logs if you can get them here, call ahead and we’ll talk. I can help you look at your land and figure out what to do with it and how to make it healthier. I can make some furniture to order if it’s within my skills. I can’t do fine furniture. All my pieces are unique, hopefully to your tastes. I can help you manage your little piece of earth and advise you. In some cases I can even do the work if it does not require big equipment, but these are on a job by job basis. (Click on the ‘Services’ button above for more detailed information.)

What DON’T you do?

I don’t do production milling of lumber. My mill is manual, meaning there are no hydraulic assists to help me handle logs, in fact, I don’t even have a machine to get the logs onto the mill. This is all good old fashioned manual labor. I am not a stocking ‘lumber yard’. This means I don’t really cut on speculation of what folks MIGHT need and hope it sells. That would require acres of storage space, a hydraulic mill and lots of logs, plus a kiln to dry the lumber and hired help. I don’t cut trees either, although I may do some cutting to retrieve donated logs. If you need trees dropped and cleaned up, that is not me. (The exception here is helping friends and family, I do have the tools and skills). However, I can hook you up with some folks to do that.

Can I pick up lumber for a project I want to build this weekend?

Well, I am all about helping you get your project done, but the short answer here is no, and yes. It depends on what you need and you should think about that before you call me because I have found that with few exceptions EVERYONE changes their mind about what they want for their project after they talk to me, get prices, ask about wood behavior and characteristics, etc. Do some research to figure out what you really need, and or want. Of course I can answer many questions to help you figure that out, but again, I am not a cabinet maker or a proper carpenter. Now when you call with a good idea of what you need I can check and see what I have on the drying rack. I rarely have exactly what you need but I often have something I can re-cut to the size you want. If not, I am happy to take your order and let you know when I can cut it, if I have the logs, or how long it might take me to get those logs. (see below also about wood dryness) Keep in mind also that I rarely mill lumber in framing sizes (2×4, 2×8, etc) except for my own build projects. This is mostly because folks need larger quantities when they are framing out a room or a building and I can’t handle the high quantities yet. Many times i can throw up a log and cut exactly what you want, but I need a little time to do that (a few days to a couple of weeks depending on demand, weather and logs). I can cut any size you want, and if you need a small quantity for a workbench project or something like that, it is right up my alley. Decks builds and new construction, not so much.

What is the difference between your wood and the stuff I buy at the lumber yard?

The lumber I produce is called ‘rough cut’ or ‘mill lumber’ and is just that. It comes off the saw and goes on the rack with stickers to air dry. Depending on the time it has spent on the rack, it may be between 12 and 30% Moisture Content (MC). That’s what you get. At the lumber yard the wood you buy has been milled, then edged, then air dried for months before being put in a kiln to be final dried down to about 9%MC and sterilized. There may be other processes applied also. It is planed and sometimes sanded, then flat stacked (no stickers), banded and shipped to your local supplier. This wood is usually fairly stable and good for building, but you get what you pay for.

It sounds like you lumber is not as good as what I can get at a lumber yard, why should I buy yours?

A fair and important question to understand. If you go up to a store (whose name rhymes with ‘toes’) and purchase a red oak board of 1”x6”x8’, it will cost you $32.48 and it should be a very nice piece of lumber. Now keep in mind that this 1×6 actually measures 3/4” x 5.5” and if you calculate the price per Board Foot (BF) which is the way the lumber world works. That comes out to $24.98/BF. The charge is based on nominal size (1×6) not actual size. I don’t know why, but this is how it is done.
Now if you buy a 1x6x8 from me (or any other sawmill) it will measure 1” x 6” x8’+ and my price would be around $3.50 (give or take some pennies). That is about $2.70/BF. So look at those numbers again, I assure you I did not have the decimal point in the wrong place. Of course with the wood you get from me, you will be doing the planeing, drying, etc. My prices will vary depending on what I pay for the logs and all the other market variations, but so will everyone else’s.
Add to that the fact that I can cut ANY size you want and cut it the WAY you want and you can see value. There is also the issue of species. You can buy Maple, Oak, and Cherry and maybe a couple of other species in those stores, but that is about it and be prepared for some serious sticker shock when you tally the prices for species like white cedar. (more on species below.)

Can you do any other processes like Planeing or Joining?

Yes, I can. I have a 12″ planer, 6″ joiner, and several different saws for width sizing, BUT quantities are not something I am good at. If you are making a chest, bookshelves, boxes, or things that are small I sure can make what you want. I will say that hardwoods come out looking mighty good after planeing and joining. This adds to the cost of the and I charge roughly $1.00/BF per face for planeing and joining (so $4.00/BF if you want all 4 faces done). I can also do shiplap material in smaller quantities. All of these would be on a ‘by order’ basis but I am always happy to hear what you are building and see how I can help. Just give me a call. Also, keep in mind that spending a few bucks for the added processes saves you a LOT of time when you start building your project and the end result can be a ‘night and day’ difference. Also, if you look at the previous example above, I would be charging $6.70 a BF, verses the $29.50 you would pay in a local store for finished on all sides (FAS). So do your math and decide what works best for you.

Do you sell live edged slabs?

YUP! Just tell me what you are looking for, I would love to supply you with either a rough cut slab that you can sand and finish as you like, or I can do part or all of the finishing work for you to your specifications. They make great tables, bars, coffee tables, etc. I can finish them so that they can be left outside with only minimal maintenance or I can tell you how to do it. No secrets here and I am happy to share knowledge with paying customers. You can see examples in my Furniture Gallery. (Link above.)

Do you have any finished pieces for sale?

Yes, I do! (click the “Furnishings Gallery” button at the top of the page.) Between all the other work, and through the winter I make things in the shop I THINK folks might like. But often it turns out to be not quite what they wanted and they custom order something more to their needs. Because storage is an issue here, I can’t make a lot of stuff unless it sells. I do usually have some small benches ( I have 6 in work right now), drink tables, coffee tables, and odds and ends available but it varies over time. Call or send me a message and ask. I can send you photos, or you can drop by to get a good look. Almost everything you have seen here or on the FB page is available for sale.

If I custom order a piece, how long will it take to get made?

Well, I get that everybody is in a hurry. We live in a ‘buy it now, get it delivered today’ society. That isn’t going to happen here [insert mild chuckle]. If I have something suitable, you can come and pick it up for sure. But if you order ‘a corner table that will be of a similar design to the one I have from my grandmothers house’, be prepared to wait. I have to find the right wood, mill it to the right sizes, allow time for it to dry (how long? a long time), then plane it to size before I even start making it. The build can take anywhere from a day or two to a week or two, and then finishing which can take 2 weeks to add coats and re-sand between coats. I won’t sugar coat this or deceive you, it takes time. You are ordering a custom built piece. Now if I already have the wood, it moves a lot faster, but a month would likely be the absolute minimum. A simple bar top for instance can require several hours of sanding if I cannot plane it just to get started. If it requires epoxy fills, add another week at least. Each project has details that cannot be ignored.

So what kind of wood species do you work with?

Pretty much anything I can get my hands on, but the difficulty varies with the wood and I still have a lot to learn about some species. I prefer hardwoods because when you are done making something with them you have very nice grain and details. I had avoided pine (lots of sap and related sap issues), but now that I see it is popular, I am cutting more of that and even have a current custom order for a nice kitchen bench made from pine. {update 3/21 I have learned I am allergic to the sap in pine, so I am minimizing work with this, especially extra process like planeing, joining and sanding. But I will still work with it I just have to take a lot of precautions and suffer accordingly for weeks after.]
I work with the basic local woods: Ash (when I can get it), Maple, Red Oak, White Oak (when I can get it), Cherry, and Hemlock. When specialty woods, like Basswood become available, I work with that too. There are many I have yet to mill because I have not had the opportunity, but there is no species yet that I will not mill.

I have a tree that blew down in my backyard. My Grandfather planted that tree and I climbed it as a kid. Can you make something from the wood to keep in the family? Also my friend has some logs he would like to make into lumber, can you help him?

My goodness, YES! I love these projects because they are so important. I can make any usable logs into lumber for you to use, or I can build something for you if you like. You need to get the logs to me, but I may be able to help with this either with advice, references, or actual help. It all depends on the particulars. Give me a call and I can come take a look at what you have. If you have a pile of logs, I can refer you to a portable mill that can come and make your lumber on your site. Please don’t let anyone hack it into short pieces until we talk.

Are there any specialties you do?

Yes and these grow all the time as I get new requests from folks with needs I had not considered. I cut some wood for Luthiers (instrument makers), woodcarvers, bowl turners and the like. These folks know exactly what they want, and don’t want, so most of that work is done strictly to order. Quarter sawing certain species takes a lot more time and has more waste, but most Luthiers only want quarter sawn woods. If you have a particular need, give me a call and we can discuss it. If I can’t do it, I won’t waste your time, I will tell you, but I also might know some body that can fill your need. In addition I may not have the wood you need, but I can put the word out and keep my eye out for it and the same goes for processes. It never hurts to contact me and ask.

Where do you get your wood?

Another important question. I ‘collect’ wood from anywhere i can find it and move it, or get it moved. Sometimes I skid logs directly from the woods around my home, on neighbor’s properties or across town. Sometimes I get it delivered or a logger will have something and drop it off. ALL of my wood is local, meaning the Catskill and Hudson Valley region and NONE of my wood is cut for the purpose of supplying my mill. It is all cut for another reason such as land clearing, dead or diseased trees, storm damage, timber stand improvement thinning cuts, etc. I consider myself a recycler of this wood and the conservation (continued purposeful usage) of this wood is very important to me. I work with land owners and loggers as the opportunity arises. A good proportion if not all of the wood I use is either undersized or too damaged for commercial sale and would wind up either as pulp or firewood. Some are just logs that there is no market for. I recently finished a lamp table that came from a black, rotten, moss encrusted Red Oak log that had been left to rot where it fell 15 years ago. the rot on the outside was 2 inches deep. (That table is in the Gallery.)

What the heck is a ‘Board Foot’?

HA! I get this one a lot, so it should be included here. A board foot (BF) is the standard unit of measure in the wood industry and it is defined as one cubic foot of wood. A 1”x 12”x 12”piece of wood is 144 cubic inches, which is one Board Foot (there are 12 board feet in a cubic foot.). To figure out how many board feet you simply multiply the thickness by the width by the length (all in inches) and divide that by 144. So, (TxWxL)/144 gives you the board footage in any piece. For example, a 2”x4”x12’ board would be 2(T) x 4 (W) x 144 (L in inches)= 1152 (cubic inches)which is divided by 144 to give you board feet, which comes to 8 BF. Now if you supplier tells you they charge $2.00/BF you can easily figure each 2x4x12 will cost you $8.00. Most mills charge for value added processes based on BF such as planing, joining, drying, etc. It’s a handy thing to understand so that you are and educated buyer and you can easily understand the charges for different wood or processes you may be considering.

What is the biggest log you can mill? (added 7/30/20)

Ah, the question I get most of all. My mill will take a log up to 28” diameter and the bed is 24 feet long. This means I can cut about 21 feet in length. There are ways to do longer and bigger logs, but the time required goes way up and there is a lot of finagling plus increased chance of making a mess out of the whole log with a single mistake or slipped clamp. Handling very big stuff is a challenge for me with no skid steer or lifting devices. A 16’ red oak 28” diameter at the butt weighs 3700 pounds, so just think about how you would move and turn that log on the mill (alone) by hand with no machines for a minute. 🙂 I have done it though! (By the way, the second most popular question I get from visitors when they see my log pile is : “How on EARTH do you get those logs off the pile, down to the mill, and up on it to cut them?” ‘You see any tractors or skid steers around?’, I ask. “By HAND?!”)

Have a question? Use the contact page and send it along, or you can use the comment section below to ask it here. I’d be happy to answer it and maybe add it to this list. Or just drop me an email.

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