From Midwest Woodworking: The Board of a Lifetime

I’ve never understood people who build furniture using pallet wood and an Altendorf table saw. Well, I guess I understand them, I just don’t happen to sympathize.

When I buy materials for my projects, I can’t imagine skimping on the wood, the hardware or the tools I use in the shop. For me, it’s a lot like cooking. Getting a good meal from a typical grocery-store steak is difficult to impossible.

Today I made a trip to Midwest Woodworking in Norwood, Ohio, with woodworker Andy Brownell to score a teak board that I have been dreaming about for some months now.

I spotted the board during my first trip to Midwest (read about that here). It was stashed away in a storeroom filled with old doors and other unidentifiable stuff. It’s huge – 24” wide, 1-1/4” thick and 12’ long. Clear. Flat. And at least 40 years old.

I’m going to use this board to build another campaign chest for this book I’m working on – teak was one of the common woods used for these pieces. But there is nothing common about this board.

The owner, Frank David, was kind enough to have one of his employees surface the board on the company’s 24”-wide Italian planer. My jack plane was most grateful of this gesture. As the board emerged from the planer, I got that tingling feeling in my underpants that we are all familiar with. The tingling that comes with good wood.

If you can make any excuse to come to Cincinnati, make sure to visit Midwest Woodworking Co. and then go to Gordo’s down the street for a microbrew and and burger. You will not regret the trip. Bring cash and a big truck. And be sure to call Frank beforehand to set things up: 513-631-6684. His prices are as reasonable as his wood is incredible.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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14 Responses to From Midwest Woodworking: The Board of a Lifetime

  1. Robert Justiana says:

    I know the “tingling feeling” of which you speak. I used to get it while merely trying to get my first teacher and wood supplier to part with this amazing beam of black walnut he was saving “for a special project”. I moved 1200 mi. away without ever changing his mind. The wood is everything. I look forward to seeing the teak chest.

  2. Matt Grayum says:

    “The tingling that comes with good wood.” This is why your my favorite woodworking writer. Cheers!

  3. Joel says:

    On your recommendation, I went to Midwest Woodworking the last time I was in Cincy. What a weird, and amazing, place. Frank was very friendly. We chatted for awhile, he sold me a nice sugar pine board that had been milled decades ago, and then they resawed it for me at no charge. Very impressed.

  4. robert says:

    I have three teenage sons; no daughters. All laughed uproariously at the good wood reference – one even opined on good morning wood. Wife rolled her eyes – she had to be held back from administering a dope slap – I have no idea how you get away with half of what you do.

  5. don2laughs says:

    I’m sure most of us know that feeling. It is a very big part of this passion. I recently got that ‘tingling’ when a friend brought some koa to my shop. But that tingling now has a companion sensation that I associate with apprehension (thanks to you, Chris) because I am committed to using hand tools as much as possible now. I’m trying very hard to divorce my table saw and this tingling/apprehension is increasing reluctance.
    I’m very anxious to see pics of you using hand tools for this project … especially hand saws.

  6. Niels says:

    that’s hot.

  7. Jonas Jensen says:

    Actually I think that an Altendorf tablesaw is a pretty good quality saw, but I have always had a hard time convincing myself that I should actually buy nice finished wood for the projects. In order to overcome this problem, I have now got two sawmills instead, so I can make nice boards the size I like. The only problem is that now I have to buy some really nice and expensive logs if I want nice boards..
    Actually my younger brother has a board that looks like the one in the article. He has immigrated to Japan, and left the board at my parents house. Maybe I should try to persuade him into giving it up.
    Palletwoodworkers of the world – Unite.

  8. Christopher Hawkins says:

    My wife & I busted a gut on this one. Well played my man.

  9. Rob says:

    When you say teak, is that Tectona grandis?

  10. Publius Secundus says:

    Make hay while the sun shines. Get the good wood while you’re young enough to appreciate the tingling. As you age, you’ll find good wood more infrequent and more difficult to obtain and maintain, until you’re happy with merely finishing. . . palletwood. Some old woodworkers only fondly remember good hard wood but palletwood is hard enough for some excitement now and again. For now, take advantage of the good wood you can get. And a bonus–you didn’t have to use your jack.

  11. edreher says:

    Wonderful. But I have opposite, retreating, feeling just thinking that 12′ length had to be cut down a few times.

    I bought some teak several years ago to refit some boat parts. I asked about resawing it at the hardwood dealer. They couldn’t resaw but offered to plane it to 1/2″ I told them I had no need for another $100 worth of teak shavings.

  12. sleepydogwoodworking says:

    I use to work for them as a sub make in the 90s doing installs, what a great shop, I was always drooling when I was walk in there.

  13. sleepydogwoodworking says:

    I use to install for them back in the early 90s when old Joe still ran the place, what a great shop I use to drool every time I walk in there.

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