At my current pace – about three significant pieces a month – I have enough rough lumber to keep me busy for the next two years.
But when I walked into Midwest Woodworking Friday morning, I knew I was going to buy more. Frank David and his employees had sorted through the shop’s stores and come up with a lot more incredible stuff, including a cache of 4/4 sugar pine that I’d never seen.
As we unpacked that particular pile, I pulled six 16”-wide (or wider) 100-percent clear 16’-long boards aside. At less than $5/board foot it was a steal. And I made it only one-third of the way through the pile.
Then I hit the mahogany – I picked up enough 8/4 for eight Roorkhee chairs.
And then, the Sipo (Entandrophragma utile). Midwest has a half-dozen planks of 16/4 that are 24” wide and 14’ long. Beautifully figured. Clear. Completely dry. And about $9 a board foot.
I bought a plank – about 128 board feet worth – and needed to crosscut it to get it into my truck. Neither radical-harm saw at Midwest would do the trick the Sipo was too thick. Then we tried a recip saw. It was slow. Finally, one of the other customers loaned me a little battery circ saw that was the solution. I cut through both faces with the circ saw. Then removed the waste between with the recip saw.
What’s the Sipo for? I am thinking ahead: H.O. Studley workbenches.
After hoisting each plank onto my personal pile, I said aloud: “That’s it. I’m done.”
Five planks later, everyone around started mocking me.
I took my wood home and unloaded it.
Today I returned to Midwest to help other customers. Somehow I ended up unpacking that pile of sugar pine again. And I got down to some 18”-wide boards that had been there for 40 years. After pulling every plank, I told myself: That’s it, I’m done.
Five planks later… I really was.
The wood and machinery sale was a bittersweet affair for me and Andy Brownell, who did a huge amount of work organizing the event. The owner, Frank David, was there on Friday and it’s clear his health has deteriorated. It was great talking to him and catch up.
He’s suffering from congestive heart failure and is staring death in the face with the same pluck and optimism he used to run Midwest for decades.
“They say people can live with this for eight to 10 years,” he said. “We’ll see.”
I’m not sure what is in store for Midwest, the lumber inventory or the machinery – it’s none of my business, really. But I can say that the legacy of Midwest Woodworking and Frank David will live on through my work for at least the next five years as I pick through the incredible pile of lumber that takes up an entire wall of my shop.
— Christopher Schwarz