I found a fabulous local lumber yard.
Just as I was despairing to find a local lumber supplier for the gunnels of the SCAMP Sailboat, one of the construction grade lumber yard suggested that I should check out McQueen Custom Cuts. I live in the Niagara Region and they are located in Welland. Perfect. Since Betty, my GPS said it was only about 10 minutes from where I was, I decided to check them out.
I had so much fun! It was like going on a field trip when I was at school.
Without much hope I went in to see if they had anything suitable. I had a list of possible woods and as I named each possibility I had to cross it out. Finally James McQueen suggested Ash.
It was one of these DUH!! moments. Here we were in the middle of a plague of Emerald Ash Borers, with ash trees being felled by the hundreds and it never occurred to me to look for it.
In my defense, lumber and firewood shipping are restricted in an effort to curb the spread of the beetle. It's not a factor for kiln dried wood though. Anyway I'm only about 15 minutes away and there are beetles in my neighbourhood. I've treated the trees on our property in the hope that they might last long enough for the little wasps and bugs they have released, to take over the control of the borer.
Ash is a perfect choice. It is bendy, strong, has a long history of use in boats. Is often used here for canoe gunwales.
Because the demand for long boards is not great and it is much more difficult to handle long pieces, they tend to cut wood at 10 feet or less. I'm sure it could be arranged to get longer pieces since their saw mill has the capacity, but I can scarf 2 pieces and I know that if done properly it is quite a good solution. Ash can be readily glued so no problems there.
After going though the boards I found a couple that would do just fine. Most people want the grain patterns but I was looking for quarter sawn. I got a couple of pieces that looked like centre boards. If I use the outside of each piece I have quarter sawn lumber.
Very long boards are tricky to cut in my shop. I would have to feed through doorways and open the outside doors to handle the 13 or so feet I need. So 8 or so feet suit me just fine.
Besides, there is a boat in the way right now.
As I was tying the boards on the car rack I asked a few questions and asked permission to take some photos.
Permission Granted! I grabbed my camera and trotted happily to the back where James had pointed the general direction of the saw mill.
The Saw Mill
The Saw Mill used by McQueen Custom Cuts is made by Wood Mizer and if you are interested here is a link to their website. There is a demonstration video of a similar saw mill in use.
It's essentially a powerful band saw that runs on a side track and that gradually lowers as each slice is taken off. A chain system pulls the band saw along the log on tracks.
Each slice is then stacked with separating strips to allow the lumber to air dry till it's ready to go to the kiln for final drying.
Fresh cut wood is stacked then goes to The Kiln for final drying
The stack of wood looks odd but I think that is a photo lens distortion. In person it looked quite solid and not so wonky. It will be left out to air dry for several weeks.
After looking at the saw mill I had gone back in and asked where the kiln was. Gord McQueen was kind enough to give me the tour.
The kiln building is heavily insulated to keep the heat in. Since the drying process can take 2 weeks or so it can get quite expensive to run. It is less costly when the weather is warmer so it gets less use in winter.
If the wood is fresh and has not air dried, the time in the kiln can be as long as 6 weeks.
After the wood is suitably stacked, plywood baffles are lowered in position to direct the air flow around the boards and the industrial grade electric dehumidifier goes to work. Not only does it heat up the kiln but it removes the moisture from the air.
Water drains out to the outside.
Not only does the kiln dry the wood but it kills potential pathogens such as mould and insects, including the Emerald Ash Borer.
I seem to remember that the temperature they dry at is around 130F but I might be mistaken.
Besides selling mostly kiln dried local hardwood, McQueens also does a lot of custom work. Not only can they mill and dry your own logs but the can fabricate tables and counter tops, and bench tops as well as other custom work. They also have a selection of butcher blocks, cutting boards, small boxes and other decorative wooden thingies available.
They are a go-to supplier for high end designer wood items.
They also have a fabulous collection of log slices with unfinished edges. These are very popular these days to make stunning shelving, coffee tables and custom furniture. James showed me some slices of ash with the patterns left by the beetles. They also have Walnut slices.
The selection of available lumber depends on what logs they can get.
They also offer wood for turning and sculpture. I was like a kid in a candy shop. I wanted to touch everything.
I was interested to see the jointer knives. I had only ever see the solid type of knives in one piece. Their jointer, and the thickness planer, had series of separate knives screwed in diagonal rows. They produce a very good surface and run very quietly. When the blades get dull each little square cutter is rotated 90 degrees to expose a new fresh side.
McQueen's is a family business. Father and Son, Gord and James McQueen are co-owners and Uncle Bud Chisholm lends a much valued hand in the shop.
They have a website. Their shop is on Netherby Rd in Welland. This is in the Niagara Region of Ontario, Canada.email me if you find mistakes, I'll fix them and we'll all benefit: Christine