I do not have the gene of a hoarder or a collector. The fewer things I own, the happier I am. So for the last eight years, a pile of wood has made me miserable.
The following is a cautionary tale for beginning woodworkers about getting stuck with the world’s largest horde of mostly useless scraps. Or, as I called it, my big pile of No. 2.
It started with a phone call from a close friend and colleague. An elderly friend of his with Alzheimer’s was selling his tool collection and all his lumber. Both the husband (who was the tool collector) and his wife were afraid they would get taken advantage of when selling the wood. It was many hundreds of board feet of wide cherry and walnut.
Would I take a look?
It was a three-hour drive, but I agreed to go. I called the elderly man before I went, and he got it in his head that I was going to buy all his wood. I honestly didn’t need a splinter of it, but I rented a truck and made the trip.
The wood filled his entire basement. And, as advertised, it was loads of wide cherry and walnut. The problem was that it had been planed to 3/4” and had warped during the last couple decades. As I sifted through the stacks I realized that most of it was No. 2 common (at best). Lots of sap, knots, unusable grain. About 20 percent of the stack was FAS (firsts and seconds).
The deal was all or nothing for the wood. I wanted to walk away, but I felt sorry for this old couple that was struggling with Alzheimer’s (which my grandmother had), and they really just needed this wood gone. So I made a kind offer.
The wife was insulted. She thought the wood was worth several multiples of what I offered.
They agreed to my price. But it was a miserable day because they thought they were getting screwed. And I knew I was getting screwed.
For the last eight years my friends and I have all picked at this pile of walnut and cherry. If you’ve taken a class at Lost Art Press, you probably have worked with some of my No. 2. I’ve given away lots of it to beginning woodworkers who wanted to make mistakes in inexpensive wood. It’s been used as backboards and interior bits in my case pieces.
Today, I loaded up the last 100 board feet of the stuff into a dumpster. Lucy and I are moving out of our house and above our storefront, and there’s no room for this garbage wood.
Good riddance and – I hope – never again.
— Christopher Schwarz