Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Wood of the Week: Padauk

Each week I will feature a different wood and discuss its qualities.
One tip to knowing more about wood is to understand the distinction between a hardwood and softwood. Not all hardwoods are hard and not all softwoods are soft. Most simply, hardwoods are from trees with leaves and softwoods are from trees with needles.

Padauk (pronounced- padook),
also called Barwood and Camwood,
is a straight grained hardwood from regions in Africa and Asia.
The bright or deep red color is what it is best known for and why it is considered a "dyewood".
The saw dust can stain your clothes, leaving them pinkish. Padauk wood, while being milled emits a warm-hot chocolate-like aroma.
(Wikipedia claims that African women have used it as deodorant)
It's very easy to cut, sand and carve.
It stays straight and is not too chippy.
Paduak works well for interior trim and furniture-some have even used Padauk as flooring.
It finishes well with linseed oil and paste wax.
Padauk is a beautiful hardwood and is very very red.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Article on Contractor Estimates

There's a great article in The New York Times this week about contractor estimates. I find that this information is just as useful for my would-be clients. I think no matter how large or small a job may be-it is best to be informed and to know what to expect when dealing with contractors, carpenters or any trade professional hired to do home improvements.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Burt's Bees Hand Salve

I deal with dry hands on a daily basis working with wood, glue and lots of dust. I've tried all kinds of hand balms and salves-but I've got to say Burt's Bees Hand Salve is my top pick. It feels awful going on when your hands are really dry-but then it soothes and relieves. I like that I can throw it in my tool bag and that it smells slightly of turpentine-which seems more appropriate than smelling like jasmine or lilac.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

What Wood You Do?

People ask me frequently "Where do you get your wood?"

As a freelance carpenter/cabinet maker I take on a variety jobs that require a variety of woods-from high quality domestic and hardwoods (Cherry, Walnut & Wenge) to industrial low grade composites (MDF, CDX & Masonite).
When taking on a job, a major consideration is "What material is best for this job?"
Unfortunately, there is no single vendor who supplies every type of construction material at the highest grade for the best price. There are lumber yards that supply quality hardwoods exclusively. As far as I'm concerned, that's your best bet for getting the best material at the best price. The price of all lumber fluctuates-much like oil or other natural resources-in accordance to demand and availability. Wood has its own trends-example: the price of plywood goes up in hurricane season.
So, when pricing for a job, I need to check with my vendor for current wood prices in order to give a responsible estimate.
I like Adriatic lumber for hardwoods like Cherry, Maple, Purple heart, Walnut, Padauk, Mahogany, etc . As far as standard lumber, any lumber yard or home improvement store is comparable in price and quality- especially when talking about composites like particle board & MDF.
In conclusion, buy your hardwood from a specialist-the highest quality at the best price. Don't think you're getting the same stuff from a home improvement store at a better price-when it comes to wood you pay for what it's worth.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Carpenter Quotes

"Measure Twice-Cut Once"
-carpenter law
"Carpentry is the Illusion of Perfection"
"The carpenter stretches out a line. He marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes. He marks it out with compasses, and shapes it by the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to reside in a house"
-The Bible-Isiah 44
"Every nail driven should be as another rivet in the machine of the universe"
"Everyone knows what a straight line is and what a point is"
That hand saw marks time
with the sound of poverty
late on a winter night
-haiku by Buson
"The self, though one, takes the shape of every object in which it dwells"
"Make it simple to last your whole life long. Don't worry that it's not enough for anyone else to hear. Just sing, sing a song"
-Karen Carpenter

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Job Will Take 200 Years

It can take a hundred or more years for a seedling to grow into a large, mature, and harvest-able tree. A lot happens in a hundred years. Countries rise and fall-generations of people live full lives-so much history happens around a growing tree. Hurricanes, blizzards, drought, corrosive bacteria, parasites, woodpeckers, beavers and the vast array of human interferences like pollution, war, and most directly clear cutting have an impact on the life of a tree. It is very hard for trees to protect themselves and in turn do their natural job of protecting us.

Forests have always provided food and shelter. They protect from flood and landslides. They provide us with shade and oxygen for hundreds of years. Then when a tree is done doing that job, it is harvested and provides fire wood, pulp for paper and lumber (perhaps the highest purpose designated to a felled tree). A craftsman, carpenter, or artist can re-purpose this already fully realized natural wonder and through skill, personal will and imagination create a new life intended for a hundred years beyond his own.

A bowl- an axe handle- a ship-a house- an airplane.

Through respect and skillful manipulation the bounties of a single tree could last 200-300-1000 years. Fulfilling basic needs like air, fertilizer, shade-then ascending into the transcendent realm of art and invention. Wood provides the flesh of a living home. Those early American colonial antique tables of yours were probably born before Christopher Columbus. Wood is a natural element that deserves respect and attention. It deserves to be expensive.

So when you think a job is taking too long or costs too much-think of your great grandchildren enjoying the same tree your great-great grandparents sat under.

100 years of growth-100 years of furnishing-a couple months of inconvenience.


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