“The things you own end up owning you.”
— Tyler Durden, “Fight Club.”
I am not a wood collector. After you finish reading this blog entry, however, you’ll probably call me a liar.
Yesterday I and a couple friends filled a 17’-long U-Haul truck with wood and drove it three hours to my home, where it sits outside my house this morning. The wood came from the basement of a woodworker who is winding down his craft. It is stuff he amassed during the last 20 years.
He approached me a few months ago about buying it, and I resisted. I never like to buy wood unless I have the project ready to build. Why? Oh there are so many reasons.
1. I don’t have the space to store wood. Every scrap of storage space in our house is given over to books – the basement, the guest bedroom, the sunroom, the garden shed.
2. I think you get a better color match if you use wood that all comes from the same tree. It’s easier to get it from the same tree if you buy small quantities right when you need it.
3. When I have had a stock of wood sitting around, I find that I always end up with too much or too little wood for what I need. So I end up buying more (with a poor color match) or having little bits of waste sitting around. And I have no space for that.
I could go on and on. But the question of the day is why did I say “yes” to this guy after saying “no” to similar offers since 1993?
It must have been the 30”-wide clear cherry and the 20”-wide walnut. People do dumb things for wide wood. And so Megan Fitzpatrick, Ty Black and I spent all day yesterday loading up this huge U-Haul truck. Today I will spend all day unloading it. Sorting it. Making a pile of stuff to burn through the winter.
I don’t feel like I own this wood – it owns me and I don’t like that. Already I’ve started looking for specific projects for these pieces. Megan needs walnut for a blanket chest. Ty needs mahogany for a drawing table. We need bookshelves galore.
But right now, I need two ibuprofen and some clean gloves.
— Christopher Schwarz
39 thoughts on “I’ve Made a Huge Mistake”
I can certainly relate. This past weekend I spent many hour sorting, moving, and stacking wood. Wood that is awaiting resumption of a boat building project that is on hold during our house remodeling project. Wood from workbench project that is nearing completion. Wood from our Maple tree that, unfortunately, had to be taken down and I couldn’t bear the thought of turning it into firewood. Wood that seems to have accumulated and propogated all on its own. And all this wood requires housing…Things always seems to require more things to take care of the original things. It is a vicious cycle if not managed well. Which brings us back to one of the main theses that I took away from ATC which is simplify, simplify, simplify. A lesson that I continue to need to learn.
I used some 12/4 walnut last year that I got cheap from a guy who was selling his house. He bought it 25 years ago to build a table, and it didn’t move from his basement until I took it. But I didn’t need a 17′ truck to carry it!
It’s OK Chris – it’s not like you’re footloose and fancy free anyway –
actually, when I looked at the picture, I thought you bought the truck – that would have been a mistake –
sort it out, move some of it on, keep it stacked and stickered straight and dry, and have a productive year or two in the shop – use 1/4″ thick stickers – rent a storage unit for a while if you need to – make individual stacks the width of the wide stock so you don’t have to move everything to get the board on the bottom – the stuff you want is always on the bottom, but I still like to put the nicest material kinda in the middle -make the stacks of individual trees, in order, if that’s the type of material it is –
there’s nothing like wide boards – this is the type of material that woodworkers of the past prized and often dictated and constrained their designs –
you’ll be spoiled now – have a good time and don’t regret –
I Kind of felt the same way after I took on this monster:
At least all mine is from the same tree 😉
Heh heh heh. No no! Of course we don’t collect wood. We’re going to use it someday! All of it!
That’s why I have a shed and half a garage full of it, I guess. The wide stuff is hard to pass up, and when you get it en boule as Kent (and I) did you think of how cheap it all is.
But there it sits. At least you, Chris, actually can use it for your job, and could unload it on all of your coworkers if you had to. I’m not so lucky, so there it sits for now.
The cabinet shops I worked at would give me a discount on wood, basically I’d buy it from them at cost and they bought in such huge quantities they would get it much cheaper than I ever could. As every “bunk” of wood came in the shop I’d catalog each wide board in it and then watch the bunk like a hawk until it was worked through enough I could dig out the widest boards which inevitably followed me home. I just couldn’t bear to see a 20″ wide walnut plank cut up into 2″ or narrower stile stock… Never regretted it once and I only now regret that I don’t still work for those shops.
I tend to buy sawmills instead of wood, I think that your way could be a little wiser.
Nice get! Don’t feel bad, look at that as a blessing and not a curse. Sometimes the wood finds you. No doubt you’ll have projects for all of it before too long. I have been the steward of many such piles of wood that I got when I wasn’t looking for it, and now after about ten years it’s all gone. Projects just presented themselves.
Buyer’s Remorse is strong the first few days, but then it fades as Wide Board Owner’s glee sets in!
Here:s a hint for you — by dispensing with the understructure of a typical queen sized bed and replacing it with carefully stacked lumber, you can find space for about 500 b.f. underneath each mattress. And, it’s a much firmer platform for sleeping!
The Soul of many trees rest in my humble shop
The boards’ mass is heavy but their presence is light
like the soft landing of a colony of butterflies upon my open door
WAIT, is that bottom row of stickers crooked? $%#^&…
I feel your pain. My tiny basement has 175 BF of cherry I found on Craigslist lining it’s walls. I found it for less than a buck a BF. I live less than an hour from the PA line and cherry is abundant up there. I need the space real bad but do not regret it. besides it’s not like I have a U-haul full of the stuff at 175 BF :)..
Yeah, I understand. I totalled up the wood that I have -ahem- “acquired” (collected is such an ugly word!) over the last 20 years, and it weighs approximately 16,000 lbs. There is one advantage to having all of this hand-selected wood acquired over the years. I feel absolutely no guilt whatsoever in cutting up a board to make any particular project – there’s no “holding back” to find that one special project that “fits” the spectacular nature of a highly figured maple plank or 30″ wide mahogany lumber.
And p.s. – don’t sell that mahogany too cheaply. It has gotten very expensive, the quality of today’s lumber is generally very poor compared to mahogany of 20 years ago, and it has gotten increasingly hard to find boards that are over 12″ wide or so.
I know, right? Stupid 30″ wide cherry. No good if you don’t have four or five matching boards to go with it.
On the bright side, just think about how many colour-matched drawer sides you could get out of that one board, Chris!
Make sure the ledger for that deck is bolted into the house (not nailed as was common!), and that the posts and footers are in good shape. I don’t want a deck collapse for all that pretty wood or your family,
Welcome to the darkside.
30in cherry….20in wide walnut…..yup that was a mistake! I am sure buyers remorse on that purchase must be terrible! hah hah!
Lucy and the girls can use the wood you don’t want to build fancy cat trees with cubbies for toys, catnip, cat books, etc. Then they can put cat steps and ramps on the walls and walkways up near the ceiling…..
I have assorted lumber all over my house; most of my basement is occupied by lumber. Maybe I should finish some of my projects and then use the lumber to start some new projects?!
is the “i’ve made a huge mistake” from arrested development? i hope so, that show cracks me up.
Hence my reply below. That show is amazing.
This is perfect. Historians of the future would be upset if they didn’t have assorted lumber listed along with your tools and such in your estate inventory. Now they’ll have more evidence.
Well, a woodshed would be nice if you have the room on your property for it (a very large woodshed that is). Otherwise a carport like structure would serve well, unless you have theft problems in your neighborhood. Otherwise, maybe build a free standing garage to store your wood in AND temporary storage for LAP books.
Why the obsession with wide boards? We’ve invented the edge joint – rubbed, if you use hot hide glue….
You are welcome to all the 2″- and 3″-wide boards.
I’ll take 8″ to 12″ wide boards quite happily.
Putting a positive spin on the narrow boards, maybe there is a future book in that pile on how to put it all to good use: Jigs, toys, gifts, tool chest drawers etc. “The Frugal Woodworkers Guide to Using Every Last Bit of Lumber – From Furniture to Toothpicks.”
You could always open it up for another contest on the order naming the hyde glue. Best/funniest idea for using them gets the narrow boards and a book or t-shirt..
The real question is whether or not the shipment comes with Clubsauce and a unlimited supply of Forget-Me-Nows.
OMG. In addition to ibuprofen and gloves, remember to be exceedingly kind, generous and loving to your significant other. And as my architect friend suggested when he abandoned all hope of designing a proper structure for my expanding universe of treasures: get a pole barn! (Which could come in handy if you don’t remember point #1.) It’s unspeakably cathartic reading your blog. Maybe just unspeakable. Enjoy the trove.
There is a building on dixie highway next to Reality Tuesday’s coffee shop you might want to seriously consider leasing, or perhaps they would sell it to you. It would make a nice workshop with plenty of storage space and room to teach. Just a thought.
I think I know the building you are thinking of. We go to Loschavio’s all the time for produce… . We have our hearts set on a downtown building in Covington. We want to run the business downstairs and live upstairs. We just have to sell enough books to make it happen because I don’t believe in debt.
I’ll see what I can do to fatten your bank account and get you into that dream building soon! I’ve got my eye on a few books…
Chris – Welcome to the club, its not very exclusive, but we all share the benefits & burden.
Borrowing from the idea of the Cincinnati time store that I read about in the Anarchist Tool Chest, I’d be happy to trade my time in exchange for some of the wood. I live in Independence and would be more than happy to help you load/unload/stack whatever you want in exchange for some of it. Or when you get the next giant shipment of books, I would be happy to help load/unload those as well. I am building a dresser for each of my kids based on your construction in the Joiner and Cabinet Maker. I have some locally sourced Kentucky black cherry that I am using (halfway finished with one of them), but I certainly don’t have enough to make the 2 dressers that I need.
I really like your usual philosophy of buying for each project, the only problem arises when there aren’t any good local lumber sources. I live in Dayton, OH and I can’t really find any good suppliers outside of woodcraft and their selection sucks most days.
Ask around – there are probably some local guys that have portable sawmills and cut wood on the side. The benefit is that they cut some interesting locally sourced stuff: spalted buckeye, Osage orange, apple, holly, English walnut, Kentucky coffee tree . Another benefit is that they are usually interesting characters, and once they get to know you they will keep an eye out for what you like.
Be careful with who you quote. The first rule of Fight Club is “you do not. talk. about. Fight. Club.”
Wide boards have a way of not getting used to make anything. Woodworkers hoard them and brag about owning them. They post photographs of their boards on the internet like some sort of lumber pornography. It inspires a kind of jealous ownership and covetousness towards their prize possessions. In time, you’ll catch yourself alone in the woodshop speaking out loud while looking at your wide boards saying “Sneaky Megan wants the Precious for a blanket chest… she wants to take MY Preciousss…”
I know that’s true. But I have no predisposition to collecting or hoarding. Ty and I are already planing a trestle table (or two). Megan is out right now measuring the blanket chest she needs to reproduce at White Water. I have a large burn pile. Very large.
Chris, it could be worse. I live in a small studio apartment. I recently found a stash of beautiful walnut live-edge boards at a sawmill that was closing its doors. The deal was too good to pass up. So now I’m storing them at the cabinet shop where I work. I don’t have a use for it in the near future and I constantly dread what I’ll do with them if and when I quit my job. I completely understand what your feeling of being owned by wood.
Most of us do this one way or the other (if you know what I mean). Me, I’m firmly in the camp of choosing my project to suit the material I have available, rather than purchasing lumber for a specific build. To each their own; it works for me.
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