A question that we all have to address as woodworkers is one of supply.
Where do we source our timber?
This is a question that I am often asked, and as recently as this morning I fielded a telephone call specifically on this topic.
The obvious places, such as hardware stores and trade timber yards are fine for construction projects, but the choices are limited and prices are high.
My own experiences might be a help in guiding others to find cheaper outlets with wider variety.
This is a generic "species" term that all my woodie mates use to describe "found" timbers. The species vary - but usually include branch loppings, storm damaged trees, the results of noxious tree removal, or maintenance clearing.
We have a beautiful timber here on the coast called camphor-laurel, that is a declared noxious tree and is slated for removal everywhere. This is often available free for the collecting.
I usually keep a lookout for this kind of timber, and people know that I am interested in their tree loppings from yard clean-ups as well.
Our club house - Hastings Woodworkers Guild - is situated in Timbertown, Wauchope and this hosts a working steam train. Daily, this steam engine uses eucalypt offcuts from numerous mills in the area. I have lost count of the number of times a beautiful piece from the log-pile has been turned into a box or a bowl.
There are numerous wood-heaps around that are either firewood, demolitions, furniture factory offcuts etc. All of these can yield timber for small projects.
Mills and Lumber Yards
The numbers of these wonderful hives of industry are shrinking, but there are still timber mills to be found if you look.
They are worth the drive as the selections are wide and the prices are better than retail.
We are lucky enough to have several mills within an hour's drive of here, and the outing is an experience to be savoured.
Here is a one-day outing that we did recently to Botique Timbers of Rollands Plains.
A 50HP bandsawmill makes short work of slabbing this camphor-laurel log.
Some of the club members add scale to the size of the milling equipment
At Botique Timbers, the slabbed lumber is air-dried in the open - usually covered in old galvanised iron sheeting. This leads to some interesting warping occasionally, but the timbers are normally surprisingly straight and stable.
Burls - yes there were plenty for the bowl turners to select from. These are normally sold by the kilogram - unlike the slabbed lumber - which is sold by the usable super-foot, or board-foot as our US cousins call it.
This is a quirky mix of metric and imperial calculations, but we have learned to be at home with them.
Advice is freely given and discussion often ensues ..........
...................... disagreements are handled with diplomacy and skill .................
A close-up of the bandsaw mill in action - here it is just finishing the cut as the log slides past it.
Discussions about the merits of an unknown timber can arouse interest. This is a piece of snakewood which became very popular after the briefing ................
I source much of my timber from this mill, as it is only about a half hour from my home and I have known Mal - the owner - for over twenty years. This outing, which I organised for the club members, might just see them coming back for re-supply of their own timber needs.
I came home with a few lovely West African makore boards and some hairy oak.
A great day indeed