Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Visit to Artisan Lumber

A stunning slab of Bastogne Walnut. This is destined for a guitar maker.

I've found another candy store! I've mentioned a few times getting lumber from The Woodery in Lunenburg, MA. A reader asked if I was familiar with Artisan Lumber, also in Lunenburg. I wasn't, but I looked up their website and was immediately intrigued.

I got in touch with owner Brian Brown and arranged a visit. Amusingly, after Al Breed and Phil Lowe, this is the third person I've met in recent weeks who was featured on the new PBS woodworking show "Rough Cut", though I haven't yet seen those particular episodes.

Artisan Lumber is a boutique operation on an old farm lot, specializing in big slabs and full log sets. They use a large Wood-Mizer bandsaw mill to process mostly local logs. They stack and sticker most of the lumber for air drying, and there's also a small kiln on-site. This is what I had dreamed of doing back when I read Harvesting Urban Lumber, but I don't have the room.

They also do a lot of quartersawn lumber. That's what particularly interested me at the moment, because I've been looking for a source of thick quartersawn stock for making molding planes.

Another specialty is figured stock, relying on Brian's eye for figure hiding under the bark. There are jaw-dropping pieces all over the place, in the stacks and lined up along the walls of his garage and workshop. The one in the photo above is a particularly fine example.

These are premium pieces, commanding premium prices. For now, they're out of my league. However, Artisan has a range of woods, as well as odd pieces and logs that didn't turn out well enough. Brian says he's too much the thrifty Yankee to let anything go to waste, so he gave me good prices on several pieces that I can break down.

My take for the day: two thick slabs of hard maple (we had to cut one in half to fit in my van), approximately center cuts from two flatsawn log sets. The center cut is effectively quartersawn.

I'll process these into plane blanks. For those small sizes, I can work around the various defects and get the best grain orientation. They're also thick enough to resaw into thin plane bodies. So now it's time to finish building the Hyperkitten framesaw. Resawing this stuff will be some real work.

If this stock turns out well, I'll offer blanks for sale here. I see people looking for them online, and they're hard to find. I'll also pick up some other quartersawn species.

Here are a few pictures of what Sam Talarico calls "wood porn" in Brian's workshop. Brian ships via UPS or common carrier, so you can have some of this in your workshop! Whether you're a turner, instrument maker, cabinet maker, or furniture maker, get in touch with him and let him know what you're looking for and your price range; he has the experience as a woodworker to pick out what you need.

More guitar stock. A figured piece of curly maple from a guitar set, and a bookmatched solid guitar body.

A big beautiful figured maple slab.

A log set featuring some lovely figured crotch.

Another beautiful curly maple slab.

These photos show some of the stacks of stock available.

Some of the stock in the garage.

A stack of spalted maple.

More figured crotch.

Walnut crotch.

The lovely orange wood in the center is wide curly cherry. The narrow pieces on top aren't as valuable, so Brian gave me a good price on them.

Huge thick slabs.

Full walnut log sets.

Here are some logs ready for milling, and the bandsaw mill. Running it can be an adventure. They never know what they might hit. Brian showed me where some debris lodged in the wood had torn through his jacket. He said it's like sawing shrapnel.

A short walnut log ready for processing.

Another section with the bark stripped, and a few tools of the trade. This is a laborious process.

This magnificent log is veneer quality, on its way to a veneer mill in Germany. The muscular ripples in the sapwood hint at the figure hidden inside.

The bandsaw mill.

One of the things I love about a place like Artisan is their attitude toward the resource. Brian is passionate about the wood, and he loves to see what he can bring out in it.

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