Ever built something from Honduran Mahogany? Burmese Teak? Plain old Black Walnut?
Last year I was cutting some trees on my property to make a hole for the sun to shine through on my kids’ new pool. We just couldn’t make that baby warm enough to swim comfortably in our little patch of woods in Southwestern Pennsylvania. The trees I chose were going to come down eventually; I thought two of them were Hard Maple, and I knew two of them were cherry.
Well, after awhile I realized that the maples were soft maples, not the hard, pretty maples I thought. Shoot. Well, they’ll burn nice. Sure are tall, though. And straight. And clear.
Do they have to be Hard Maple? Will the furniture they make hold a beer or someone’s clothes differently? Is it still pretty, tight-grained, and hard?
Being a new woodworker, I fell into the trap of coveting only the most sought-after domestic hardwoods you could get. I once cut down a nice Poplar at my brother’s house, leaving a huge 10 foot bole behind. Probably 36″ across. The friend of ours that was hauling some of the prettier trees we cut to the mill he managed looked at the Poplar, looked at me, and said “junk.” Junk? Really? What do I know? I thought, “you need secondary woods, too, right?”
Well, I didn’t let him talk me out of milling that tree. I never got the lumber, but that’s another story. The point is, when you want to build, almost no wood is junk, and I’m finally starting to realize that. That maple I cut down is drying in my kiln right now, and is it pretty. It’s going to make some nice bookshelves, contrasting doors or drawers for my cherry step-back, or whatever else I can think of.
I don’t have a huge stand of Walnuts. I don’t even have one Walnut on my property. But I do have some Sassafras. Hickory. Plenty of Poplar and Soft Maple. I think I can appreciate each wood’s unique characteristics enough to grace my living room with it.
I still like Cherry. White and Red Oak are still favorites. I have some of each to eventually harvest. But I’m finally learning that wood snobbery only gets you one thing– a light woodshed.