I’m Done. Really. I’m Done.

My Friday haul – Sipo, mahogany and sugar pine.

My Friday haul – Sipo, mahogany and sugar pine.

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.

Customers hit the amazing cache of 5/4 mahogany.

Customers hit the amazing cache of 5/4 mahogany.

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.

Daryl of Midwest attempts to cut a Sipo plank on a radial arm so. No dice.

Daryl of Midwest attempts to cut a Sipo plank on a radial arm so. No dice.

Daryl tries a recip saw on a Sipo plank.

Daryl tries a recip saw on a Sipo plank.

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

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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9 Responses to I’m Done. Really. I’m Done.

  1. I guess now would be a good time to order some books I’ve been meaning to add to my library! 🙂

  2. Jim Maher says:

    Thanks for letting us know about the sale a few weeks ago. I drove from Joliet, IL on Friday. Round-trip, about 11 hours driving.

    I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the treasure trove of wood and spending a few hours talking to fellow woodworkers and lusting after boards I couldn’t afford, would never use, recognized as never to be seen in this world again, and desprately HAD to have. The chestnut! The CHESTNUT!!!

    I did NOT overdo it. However, I, too, got some of that sugar pine – to finally build my ATC (a big AND and a small). When my wife saw the wood this morning, she said: “Toy boxes for your grand-children. Better hurry; Christmas is coming!” Sigh.

    ‘Twas a great adventure!

  3. Bob Jones says:

    Nice. Finding great lumber is more fun than completing a big project! I have a lumber problem 🙂

  4. abtuser says:

    Sounds like a great couple of days with good wood found by all. Sorry to hear about the owner Frank. On the positive side, I work out at the gym regularly with an older gentlemen, 85 or so, who had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure over a decade ago. So far, so good. He doesn’t wood work, but likes the craft and likes to talk some about it. Good company. Hopefully Frank has many more years too.

  5. fitz says:

    What a nice picture of Frank and Andy!

  6. Charlie Case says:

    zU bx x

    Sent from my Galaxy S

  7. They’ll be open this Saturday 8/24 at noon. Plenty of tools and wood left.

  8. Chris, I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts on the Sipo/Utile. Commercially it is a species gaining a lot of steam from window and door makers because it is quite stable. I like it because it is a close cousin to Sapele so you can get that beautiful ribbon figure with lots of width, thickness, and length. Personally I love it as it isn’t as hard as Sapele and a bit softer than White Oak so it is a good hand tool wood. I’m hoping it gains some more notoriety as it is a great species with great infrastructure in the supply chain that includes great certification and validation schemes to ensure sustainability. There are some hints with very little evidence that Utile has been in widespread use in Europe all the way back into the 18th century. In fact Utile may have been used in place of Mahogany for quite a bit of the European “golden age” furniture as the supply chains have been in place long before the new world trade routes had been set up.

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