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The wood shop has been busy these past few weeks with magazine articles and private wood working classes to new projects, designs and commissions on the rise. I just picked up some lumber on Saturday morning out at A & M Wood Specialty in Cambridge, Ontario.

Aromatic cedar, black cherry and curly maple…

I should actually say I  only picked up ‘half’ of my wood order on Saturday- it’s funny, I’ve been purchasing large quantities of lumber for years now and every new project that came and went I always transported my stock on the roof of my SUV. I drive a Nissan, Xterra which has a heavy duty roof rack and I’ve never had a problem with putting 100 or so board feet of lumber up there. This time however was strange and I don’t know what I was thinking but I took the hour drive out to Cambridge to get my materials and I could only fit half of what I needed on the roof! I guess I didn’t realise how much lumber I was planning on getting for the new projects on the rise.

As a side note, while I was there loading the materials I noticed a little puddle of oil forming under the Xterra. Seems I have a hole in my oil pan so I haven’t made it back out to Cambridge yet to get the other half of the cut list. The truck is in the garage and will be ready for pick up this afternoon so it’ll be Thursday before I get back out to A & M. I was getting a little stressed because I had originally hoped to have the wood here in my shop two weeks ago but with the mill closing over the holidays they’re experiencing a bit of a back log and took two full weeks to get my lumber together.
Now this combined with my vehicle problems I’ll be having to make up some lost time to get things done on schedule. Still not too worried because I was happy to find the wood is really dry.
The first thing I do when I bring wood into the shop is check the moisture content. This can usually range from a very low 8% up to sometimes 20% depending on where the wood came from, how long ago it was cut and how it was dried.
I was happy to find this stock is just a hair over 8% for the most part with a couple of sticks of cherry closer to 12%. This is perfect for my work and I’ll be starting to rough out the components on the weekend. This wood is for two commissions so what I did to save myself some time and actually try to make a few dollars is have the mill send the stock through a thickness planer and edge joint everything before I pick it up. It would take me the better part of two weeks to dimension all of this stock by hand and I wouldn’t be able to make any profit at all so paying a little extra for materials is well worth the time saved. That’s a trade secret I suppose and I get asked alot about how I make a living at building furniture using only hand tools.
When I’m building projects for myself or have clients with open ended time lines then I actually enjoy bringing in rough lumber or even reclaimed or salvaged stock and working it all down with hand planes and hand saws- these projects don’t have that kind of time line so having the mill get it close to finished thickness  is a necessity.

I don’t have anything cut to length or width yet and that will all be done with hand saws, but having the lumber already milled close to final thickness is a great alternative for hand tool users trying to make a go at it. Now I should clarify that even though the material has been surface planned at the mill, I still need to hand plane each and every surface again to smooth, finish and sometimes square up the stock. These fine machines are wonderful but expecting to take a plank of curly maple out of it and the stock being flat and free of any ‘wind’ or ‘twist’  just isn’t a reality. Once I get all of my components rough sawn to length and width, I’ll start the jointing process where necessary and move into the hand plane work. That’s really the best part and I love the time it takes me.

The species I’m using for the  projects are black cherry for the carcasses, door frames and any face frames; some incredible curly maple for the drawer fronts and door panels- with aromatic cedar for the drawer bottoms and cabinet backs. This is the first time using aromatic cedar (which actually isn’t a true cedar at all) Juniperus virginiana is a species of Juniper and I’m not sure when along the lines it became known as a ‘cedar’. Not that it matters either way, I’m happy with the species and my shop is full of the fragrant aroma. It’s much more purple in tone than I thought and the stock is fairly wide without alot of the large, burly knots usually associated with the species. I’ll fill you in on the specific designs in a later post but Nissan just phoned and my truck is ready for pick up so I’d better run up to the garage and get on with the rest of my day!