Over the years I have developed relationships with loggers, arborists, and the community. (I often joke that I am the wood equivalent of the old woman who rescues stray cats.) Whenever an associate sees a tree they think I might be interested in, they put me in contact with the tree’s owner. Especially in the case of a tree growing near a house, this can be a win-win for everyone. Cutting down and disposing of a large residential tree can be expensive. Of course there is the felling. But the tree must also be moved, and a fee paid for disposal. And very often these trees are filled with memories to the extent that they are part of the family. The owners can’t bear to see them just cut up for firewood.
If I find a suitable tree, I will have it delivered to my shop, taking care of the disposal issue. And if they wish, I will give a slab from the tree to the client to use as they wish. However, don’t let this lead you into thinking this is an easy process. These logs are extremely large and awkward to move. (Many loggers won’t touch them…) Buried inside of benign looking trees I have found nails, screws, lengths of chain, barbed wire, roofing slate, and a nine piece rock collection! Each time we find one of these, the saw chain must be resharpened, the offending matter must be removed, and if badly damaged, the saw chain replaced. And after putting many hours into acquiring, moving, and preparing a log, we can begin sawing only to find it is rotted and useless. It often takes the better part of a day to saw a single log.
After the log is sawn, the slabs are air dried, sometimes for as long as two years. They are then sent to the kiln for final drying, and are ready for use. When building with these slabs, no two pieces are alike. Even if building a form that I have previously made, the slab makes each piece unique.
I have little need or desire to work with exotic woods from other countries. The native hardwoods available to us are endless in their variety and beauty. Some of my work does not require the kind of wood I saw with my mill. In that case I will buy from small, local sawmills. These are often one or two person operations, sawing timber off their own land. By doing business this way I seek to preserve both the land, and to provide work for the people who farm it.