Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sustainable Woodworking

Hi there PORC fans.

I've gotta give you the truth.  I am wiped.  It's been a long day, but I REALLY wanted to share a few thoughts about sustainability.  I will share some photos with you and keep my long ramblings to a minimum.

Do you like this photo?  Keep reading for more just like it.  AND BETTER.

So we're starting today's post with a quick question.

What do a pool, a boat, and a vacation home all have in common?

Answer: They're nice to have, but it's better to have a good friend that lets you borrow it.

Well, the same thing is true with a saw mill.  If there is one thing I have always enjoyed, it's having great friends.  Some do have pools, several own a boat or two, and I can't even keep the vacation homes strait.  Those are all fine and dandy, but the real keeper is the saw mill owner.

A few years back a couple good friends all went in a on portable sawmill.  It's got the ability to work 36" wide trees, and has a 16'+ bed.  You pull it behind a truck and set it up and in no time flat your making lumber.

Granted it's a bit more difficult than that.  There's plenty of techniqe ennvolved to get good results. The work is exhausting, and coiling up a 15' razor sharp blade of death is downright scary.

NOW.....  All that being said, milling up a tree is such an amazing reward.

I HATE the mass production of most things.  Lumber is one of them.  The usage of our forests around the world is sickening.  The rainforests will never recover from our current generations abuse.  Within the US, the harvesting of lumber for construction is downright sad.   I wish that I had a good photo to share of the damage done by lumber companies and their clear-cutting operations.

Buy wood at your local lumber yard.  Go to a specialty dealer that sells exotic woods.  However, PLEASE make it an exception and not a standard practice.

With a bit of extra effort and time, anyone can find reputable dealers that work to achieve good foresty practices and follow the FSC guild lines.  Please do what you can.  I am fortunate to live in an area of the country filled with great lumber.  I now have a wonderful new supplier that sells all sustainable products and all are harvested within 300 miles of my home.  They have amazing pricing, huge selection and the most knowledgeable and kind staff out there.  Look for one of these places in your area.

Below are some photos of us milling up a cedar in Southern Oregon.  This 130' baby was on private property and was starting to have heath problems, so the land owner said we could have it before it started to decay to badly.  We made 1 deck, an entire fence, and entryway gate out of it.

First cut with a 42" bar on the saw

Note the running man AWAY from the tree.

A very peaceful moment.

The rotting stump made for creative milling.

This is a very typical milling picture.  :)

Just the beginning of the load.          

    Another great reward came my way recently when I was asked to make a large table.  It just so turned out that one of our early milling adventures was a very large Douglas Fir.  It yeilded a lot of big slabs that are about 2ish" thick, 18"-22" wide and up to 14' long.  Granted I helped mill them, but I don't own them.  My friend and I worked out a fair price that we both could live with.

They've been drying now for about 3 years and I finally brought them inside to start working with.

Big is beautiful.  

Those sawhorses are about 50" wide.

Some nice Vertical Grain 

And finally I moved back into the showroom/storage room.  More walnut, sycamore, and maple from previous milling.

Art in a board.

Maple Burl with dye.

Sequential Sycamore slabs.

More Western Walnut.

I LOVE these boards!  But hears the funny thing.  I am aquiring them faster than I can use them.   I will sell some, I may donate some, I'm giving some away, and in theory, I will make something amazing with them.

I am NOT suggesting that you all (all 4 of you) go out and buy a mill.  However, I would highly encourage all to get to know your fellow wood-geeks.

This isn't just for us wood dorks either.  Homeowners can do the same thing when they want to remodel or build custom works.  Find an artisan willing to look for and work with sustainable products.

Did you find someone who ones a mill?  GREAT, offer to help do some grunt work next time they cut up some materials.  Do you know a tree trimmer?  Then ask them about local millers.  Do you own an excavator or tractor.  GREAT!  Moving large logs with a peavey, cant hook and chains is NO FUN.  Heavy machinery is nice to have around!  Need 2x6 material for an addition?  Check craigslist and off the beaten path options.  You never know what people have just laying around waiting to give away to the right person who asks.   

I would ask those who are still awake.  Where have you looked for materials, and had good luck?  What about false leads and dead ends.  Chime in the comments with your thougths!

As always, thanks for reading.


  1. Beautiful wood. Your challenge to find fellow wood geeks is good advise. Somethingn I need to do. Nice photography in your post.

  2. I would like to add that there are a lot of crazy storms going on around our country. Crazy storms = naturally downed trees. Turn lemons into lemonade by finding someone in the area with a mill who would be willing to take these trees and turn them into lumber.

  3. Reclaimed urban lumber was the only way I justified my sawdust creations. Salvaged a pickupload of 1 inch walnut offcuts for flooring and seven oak trees when they widened Olsen Road a few years ago. Free wood comes with a price! So much work! Agree 100% with your assesments

  4. Thanks all for your thoughts.

    Jeff, I think Joanna is on to something. Perhaps for your dresser your making, and donating you can find some downed trees from the storm?

    Great advice Joanna. :)

    Lenderboy, I hear ya, salvaged lumber creates several challenges. However, for sustainability and the budget minded its a great way to go!

    Great advice from all. Thanks.

  5. Awesome! I love those mills! I love seeing them, I love being a part of the process, well I just love wood.
    I still have about 2 years before I can think of using some lovely black Walnut I helped to cut a little while back. Can't wait!

  6. Nick, I hear ya!

    Waiting can be the hardest part. It's been a real eye opener and learning experience using that thing. Thanks for chiming in!

  7. I know my way around a pickaroo and willing to do some sweating and grunting for wood in the future! Shop is ~1 year away so timing is perfect :)

  8. WOW! Great news about the shop Lenderboy! Congrats

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