Saturday, April 21, 2007

Buying Wood

This is the yard at Hofer Log and Lumber near Jeffersonville NY. The owner, Matt Hofer, is a second generation sawyer and log wholesaler. He moves logs by the truckload, and in my case one at time. I have been fortunate enough to have Matt as a resource for the last seven years. He knows what I need and alerts me when something special comes along. He sawed the timbers for my barn as well as all of the wide plank hemlock flooring for my house. Fostering a good relationship with a sawyer can be key to making greenwood chairs. I think that the key to dealing with sawyers is realizing that there are really just two ways for them to see you, either as a charming oddity or a time sucking pain. Obviously, you don't want to be the latter. In approaching a sawyer, it's a good idea to bring along some images of what you plan to make with the log. Log workers are just like the rest of us, they spend a great deal of time in the beginning or middle of a process and rarely get to see the final product. I think that they enjoy dealing with a grateful craftsman and will often work diligently to help you out. I know for a fact that Matt doesn't make any real money from me, he will hardly take the time to let me pay him! About twice a year I pin him down and settle up. I never question the amount and always appreciate his expertise and patience. A good tip for describing the grade of log is to ask to see veneer rejects. Often, after the veneer buyer comes through, there is a nice layout of rejects just waiting for a chairmaker to come along and cut around the one blemish that caused it's rejection. If I plan ahead, I can schedule my needs to follow the veneer buyer and the sawyer is happy to get a near veneer price. I will be picking up a hard maple next week and plan to show some tips on safely moving and unloading logs.

1 comment:

greg said...

I started out making ladderbacks and would barter or pay by the tree to people who owned woodlots. Firewood dealers would keep their eyes out for that special log and bring it to me. I'd pay them with something like an axe or Peavy handle or shaving horse. I showed one friend how to make ladderback chairs and he innundated me with some excellent red oak and hickory logs. I have friends who would just give me the occasional log because it is just too nice to burn. Since I'm not making chairs for a living, I often have more premo logs to work on than I can handle. Guilt sets in when the log gets spalted or just too dry to use.

And you're right about sawyers. When you talk to them about what you are doing, they will often go out of their way to keep their eye out for what you need. I believe that they are motivated by the idea that a special log will be put to special use. They have what Eric Sloan called "a reverence for wood". Saving that special log from becoming part of a pallet, fire- or pulpwood has to give a person the feeling that they're setting a part of the universe right.