Friday, January 28, 2011

Woodworking, writ large

When Jane and I were building a house back in 1978, we needed two 24 foot long 4x14 timbers to use as heavy hip rafters.  Now, this was before the era of Home Depot, but I assure you, you couldn't then, any more than now, go to a lumber yard and find such timbers.  Rather surprisingly, the tough part was the 24 foot length.  Even in 1978, most lumber mills had carriages only long enough to cut 16 foot logs.

But amazingly, in Chewelah at that time, there were two operating lumber mills with 32 foot carriages.  So I was able to see the logging truck head up into the mountains past my under-construction house, and a few hours later come back down with one enormous log on it.  Two days later, the lumber mill delivered my timbers.

Today of course, you'd use a glue-lam or one of those things made up of glued together wood chips.

But suppose it's today, and you wanted an 80 foot timber to replace one of the C.A. Thayer's masts?  And a glue-lam or woodchip thingy simply wouldn't do?  A century ago, this would not have been a problem...  any number of West Coast mills would have been happy to fill your order. 

But not today.

Amazingly, you'd still have one mill that could handle the order - the Hull-Oakes sawmill, near Corvallis, Or.  The link leads you to Gary Katz's excellent website where he takes you on a tour of this still-steam-powered mill.  

I am gratuitously posting a linked version of one of the pictures from Gary's site here only to whet your appetite.  You really owe it to yourself to take Gary's tour of this mill.

A hat tip to Craft a Craft for pointing out this treasure.

(Somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I am tagging this post "carpentry")

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