Wood choice

From Wayne's Dusty Box of Words

In period, some furniture was made with sawn and dried wood, some with green, riven wood. Some with a mixture of both. It's basically impossible to tell which without examining the piece carefully. Occasionally we'll get some good inside or back pictures that give us some clues. There are also some vernacular forms that were pretty much always made green. High-status items were usually made with the best materials available.

Check out my Green vs. Dried Wood article for more details on the difference.

Almost all of my furniture projects are made with air-dried or kiln-dried sawn lumber. This is for two reasons: 1) I live in suburbia and obtaining a good green log is problematic and 2) my shop time is highly variable.

A log suitable for riving needs to be pretty large. Your largest board will be about 40% of the diameter of the log it's split from. So, it needs to be roughly 20"-24" in diameter to give you reasonable size boards. Secondly, it has to be really straight with no branches. Otherwise, it will be hard to split and the resulting boards will be very twisty and require you to plane away a lot of material getting something you can use. These trees grow in a real forest, not someone's yard.

Yard trees are notorious for their defects. In addition to nails and other metal objects potentially embedded in them, they are subject to a lot of stress from the wind and grow more open due to the available sunlight. So it grows broadly, gets blown around a lot and may have BBs, nails, etc. This makes crappy boards.

It's not uncommon for months to go by between projects so unless some green wood becomes available at just the right time, it will dry out too much before I can work it.

I am much more interested in a quality item than a slavish period production process, so I use dried wood. When I retire and move to the country green woodworking will become a viable option.

My lumber is sourced from two places:

  • Auctions - I attend personal property auctions in the nearby rural areas to buy tools for my tool business, sometimes these include rough lumber as well. If it's a good deal, I buy some and stash it in my shed. It's is usually a pretty good deal. Usually, they are from trees on the property or nearby so it's mostly red/white oak, walnut, and cherry. Cut at a local mill or mobile mill and air-dried. Quality runs the gamut, but it's cheap.
  • Local lumber yard - If I need something specific that's not in the lumber shed already, it's off to the lumber yard. Almost always this will be kiln-dried commercially harvested wood. So the quality is high, as is the price. Almost anything that's still commercially harvested is available.