We have attempted to maximize the benefits found in each of the systems of making furniture. The first thing that we refused to do was to be restricted in our wood supply.
Since 1978 we have cut over 350,000 bd ft of lumber from our 160 acres of high quality timber, and have been a part of the American Tree Farm system, and closely managed and monitored our forest from the start.
We can now cut 10 thousand board feet a year from our land and maintain a thriving, productive forest. When we need species that we don't have, or more Oak than we can safely cut, we buy logs from local sawmills. They allow me to pick through piles of thousands of logs and choose exactly the ones that I want.
We then bring them up to the sawmill at the farm, and quarter-saw them ourselves. I examine each log and mark a sawing pattern on the end based on the grain, growth pattern, concentricity, and bark pattern.
I have to remain flexible as there are often surprises waiting when we "open 'em up" (a sawyers term for the first couple of cuts made on a log). Here is the first reward.... I get to see the lovely grain as it comes off the log on each board face. MANY of the decisions as to where the board will be used in furniture are made at this point !!
We like to keep at least 5000 bd ft of lumber on hand, and are more comfortable with 10,000 bd ft.
After we insured our supply of lumber, we realized quickly that the process ,that the local kiln used, made the wood unsuitable for furniture. The addition of our Dehumidification Kiln in 1987 completed our ability to produce our own lumber. These are the first elements of the process we have developed that distinguishes us from a typical production or custom shop.
We have isolated and secured our wood supply and its quality. We are not at the mercy of indifferent merchants eager to move the stock they have on hand. We have imbued the actual production of quality wood with as much skill, concern and attention as any other part of the woodworking.
Our versatility and capability with wood far exceeds that of a shop that must buy a bit here, and a little there, as projects develop.
Unlike a production shop, we are not constantly casting an accountants gaze at a large inventory of lumber that is purchased with borrowed money.
Our intimate knowledge of our wood's appearance allows us to match and arrange grain patterns and characteristics in a way that is impossible for other small shops.
With all of the lumber that we have available to us, we resisted the urge to make a lot of furniture. We wanted to make high quality pieces at a pace that would accommodate our lifestyle and environment. We have looked closely at the example of the larger production shops to maximize the efficiency of making multiple copies once the tools are set up.
What we do is to cut out several copies of a piece when we are going to make one for a customer. Special attention is given to color and grain match.
If we are making five cribs, we have a pile of 150 slats to choose from rather than just the 30 slats we would have if we were making one copy. This allows us to spread the pieces around the room and take the time to closely match and number each end and side.
Often we will spend one or two entire days matching components into individual pieces of furniture from piles of parts that we have prepared. We then make the crib that we need, and have four other copies of it already half done. We seal them in plastic wrap and store them in a climate controlled room waiting on another order.
Because there are less financial entanglements with our wood supply and stock, we are able to keep a reserve of parts on hand that is much like a large production shops inventory.
The similarity ends there. We are not obliged to hurry those parts through production and bring the finished piece to market quickly.
When sorted and matched, then wrapped in plastic, the parts are secure for several years in perfect condition ,
waiting to be assembled.