North American Hardwoods

After experimenting with a few exotic hardwoods earlier in my career, I have concentrated on using North American Hardwoods primarily for ecological and political reasons. Although I realize that much of tropical deforestation is accomplished for agricultural reasons, I also know that vast regions of the world’s prime forests are harvested for lumber. This is expecially true in South America, where forests are often clearcut in order to harvest a few prime trees. An article in Outside Magazine several years ago described the desperate measures some Brazilian loggers resort to in order to harvest and pirate valuable lumber. It has become a cutthroat (no play on words intended) business. When I’ve asked my local lumber dealers about exotic lumber that has been certified as responsibly harvested they all say that they have no way of verifying such claims. The lumber passes through too many hands between forest and lumber yard to be sure.

Cherry, walnut and maple, and their subspecies of flame, Claro, curly, birdseye and others provide a wide range of woods from which to choose. In addition, they can be flatsawn, riftsawn, and quartersawn to expose very different grain, pattern and color. These, and others are responsibly harvested from sustainable forests in the United States. The foresters know they have a precious commodity that would be foolish to squander.

Andy and Joe at Centennial Hardwoods in Denver have been especially patient with me over the years. They’ll set out a thousand board feet of lumber and let me sift through the entire pile (as long as I restack it) in search of the best two hundred feet for my project. Being a very small operator I can’t afford to accept anything less than the very best wood. I also work with small mills in Pennsylvania, California, Oregon and Michigan. Skip and Norman at Goodhope Hardwoods in Landenburg, PA send prime Cherry, Walnut and Maple. Jim Baker of Baker Hardwoods in Gilroy, CA sends me full width slabs of Cherry and Walnut. And Sara at Northwest Timber in Oregon has supplied me with wonderful milled Claro Walnut. Thanks to the Internet I can view the lumber before I buy.

So now, at the risk of being branded a hypocrite, I do occasionally incorporate very small amounts of ebony into my work – primarily for butterfly tenons on free edge pieces. Meanwhile, I try to walk the talk as best I can…

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