Sunday, 9 October 2011

Dining room furniture in the rough

Over the years, a few people have commented that I must have a horseshoe when it comes to finding really great wood. The truth is, that horseshoe has everything to do with not leaving a single stone unturned and following every single lead no matter how unlikely it might seem.

Every once in a while I will do a lumber search on kijiji just to see what is out there. I found an ad for live edge walnut slabs. There was an email address and a phone number. No prices, no photos and a location I had never heard of before. But it had a 519 area code - which is the the same as mine, so I figured it could not be that far away. So I sent off a quick email to inquire about the walnut. A few hours later the phone rang and I spoke with the seller. Mostly flitch cut walnut, mostly 8/4 or thicker and a price too good to be true. Only 35 minutes away too. So I called two friends who might be interested to see if we could make an outing of it.

A friend of mine makes live edge furniture and has been looking for good walnut for almost 2 years now. When I called him and gave him the details, he reminded me of the old adage that if it sounds too good to be true - it usually is. He also shared that he had been on about a dozen of these lumber scouting trips in the last year and everything was crap. His last comment was “... but you never know”, and with that, we set out.

When the door to the barn opened - we knew this was not crap. In front of us were stacks of flitch cut walnut trees - some 16' long. It was all we could do to keep calm. We must have looked like ants on sidewalk bubble-gum as we swarmed around the various flitches.

It was my friend Wayne who spotted what would turn out to be a spectacular find. Wayne has been harvesting his own furniture wood for several years now and has insight into sawn lumber that I do not have. I always learn a tremendous amount from him. He called me over to a skid of 8/4 sawn walnut and said “this is what you need for your dining room”. He then told me to pick up one of the boards on the top of the stack. It felt twice as heavy as any walnut I have ever encountered. I quickly put my moisture meter on it - 10% - it was pretty dry. And then the zinger - despite the poor lighting, you could make out a bit of curl.We quickly tore into the entire stack and quickly realized we could shut our eyes and tell by the weight of individual boards which ones came from the same tree. In the end, over half the stack had been pulled out... all incredibly dense and full of curl. 223 board feet in total.

On the drive home Wayne explained to me that this must have been a very old tree. Partly because of the weight (and density) of the boards, but also because of how it had been cut. You could tell from the marks on some of the boards that this log was split with a chain saw first and then cut on the mill. His explanation - it must have been massive if the mill could not handle the whole log.

The stack of curly walnut. The widest board is 22" across, most are well over 12". They are all just under 7' long.

It was only after returning home that I realized just how amazing this walnut was. It did not look like our typical black walnut. There was tremendous color in it - blacks, purples reds and golds - it looked like Claro to be honest.

The next morning, I took one of the smaller pieces and ran it through my jointer to get a better sense of what it looked like. The photo below is the most accurate color wise - it was taken outside in natural light.

There is an ironic twist to this tale. I had initially inquired about the walnut as a possible material for our much needed dining room furniture (chairs, table the whole 9 yards). Chairs scare the pants off me - and I am gearing up to face this fear and build some mock-ups. When I was initially given the price for the walnut, I realized I could afford to use it for the mock-ups (I too was not expecting much for the price being asked). The problem is - I still need to find some 8/4 mock-up wood.

Totally unrelated - thanks to everyone who commented on the blog or who sent an email with regards to the mystery test plane in the previous post. The feedback was great and I will be preparing part II in the coming weeks. But before that happens... there will be a post about an African Blackwood filled K13a and a A1 panel plane with a titanium body.


Blogger Richard Wile said...

Having seen this wood in person, it truly is as spactacular as Konrad attests, man I wished I lived closer, I would have some of this also. As heavy as white oak easily, I have never seen walnut this heavy.

10 October 2011 at 06:51  
Blogger mckenzie said...

Looks like claro to me. That wood is in mighty fine hands, can't wait your design.


11 October 2011 at 17:13  
Blogger Kev said...

Konrad did you and your posey clean up all this Walnut or is there any left? The trouble with curly walnut is to match the curly with the non curly in your design.I'm sure you will do a bang up job, and I'm looking forward to the finished photo's


12 October 2011 at 17:39  
Blogger Stuart Page said...

Hey Kon long time! Just wanted to say WOW! to two things - first your walnut stash (GREEN with envy!) but more importantly your K13 Widowmaker ;-) What a BEAUTIFUL plane!! I checked out Schwarz's blog video and man only you could have pulled that off. It looks (and sounds) like it functions INCREDIBLY well (which is a wow in itself) but you've turned infills into an effing Corvette! (the '50's classic, not the horrible later ones) Congratulations amigo, I wish you orders galore! Love to Jill and the kids, Stuart

13 October 2011 at 09:05  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hey Tyler,

I have been enjoying the walnut and Wenge Credenza’s - very nice.


21 October 2011 at 20:06  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Kev,

Nope - lots left:)


21 October 2011 at 20:06  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hey Stuart,

Long time indeed! Nice to hear from you.

Glad you like the K13. You will just have to make another trip to 21 Maynard for some football, a pint and another day (or 4) messing around in the shop. We will have a clean set of cutlery waiting for you:)

And you can check out the ever growing piles of lumber. I am most certainly going to need some off-site storage soon.

Best wishes,

21 October 2011 at 20:10  
Anonymous LaZBoy said...

Thank you for going over the process of building quality dining room furniture. Its interesting to see its inception from raw slabs of curly walnut towards its completion. Great read.

10 December 2012 at 09:52  

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