Monday, March 22, 2010

Two Great Lumberyards

Thirteen years ago, Groff and Hearne Lumber became two different companies—Groff & Groff Lumber and Hearne Hardwoods.

This past Saturday, our woodworking club toured both since they are in close proximity to one another.

Morris was our guide at Groff & Groff (first three photos) and showed us where the lumber lay in log form, waiting to be sawn into planks. He said that pine can remain in the yard for a year before it decays, and hardwood can lay for 2 to 3 years.

Allowing some hardwoods, like cherry and walnut, to remain outside as logs is beneficial, because the sapwood will darken.

Once the logs are cut into boards, they will stay outside for 6 months to a year before being kiln-dried. Depending on the type of wood, it will take between 3 and 8 weeks to bring the moisture reading to 8%.

In the kiln, an 8"-wide board will shrink to 7", and 1/8" in thickness will be lost during the drying and milling processes. And after 3 days at 130º, any bugs that made a home in the wood will be toast.

Groffs carries some exotic woods, but they have a very large selection of domestic hardwoods, much of which is local, since Pennsylvania is abundant in timber.

They will also cut and plane boards and logs that you bring in for milling.

I left with a 1" x 15" x 6' piece of pine, a small piece of Swiss pear, and a substantial chunk of quartersawn cherry that will make a couple of nice planes someday.

From there, we caravaned to Hearne Hardwoods, where the owner, Rick Hearne, showed us around his specialty lumberyard.

Rick considers wood to be the "art of nature" and travels all over the world to find one-of-a-kind pieces. He explained that in Germany, they harvest oak trees in 200 year cycles. Compare that to the U.S. which cuts them down after just 60 years. The Germans plant beech, which is shade-tolerant, beneath the oak trees, and will harvest them 3 times before they fell an oak.

Hearne has several outbuildings completely overflowing with boards, some of which are 6 feet wide, and a yard that's loaded with logs.

One enormous log measures nearly 7'-wide at the base and 9'-wide at the crotch, and is the largest walnut tree I have ever seen. They plan to build a special saw just to cut it, because to Rick, it would be a sin to shave off a section just so they can fit it in their existing saw. "This log needs to be cut from bark to bark."

Hearne carries a huge variety of exotic species in addition to well-known domestic hardwoods.

One club member asked "What's the most expensive wood you sell?" Rick's answer—an unusual rosewood burl that costs $400 bf.

I left with a large piece of Swiss pear, which sells for considerably less.

The new showroom, which is located in a gutted 1810 barn, is still under construction, but we were permitted to enter...and gawk.

The flooring in each room is a different species, and in one room, the floorboards are Macassar Ebony.

The ceilings are all the same, though. Tiger maple.

Groff & Groff and Hearne Hardwoods: two distinct lumberyards that are filled with the things we love.


Peter Cales, Artist & Designer said...

Thanks for the virtual tour, Kari! These looks like a couple of great places that elicit much drooling from visitors. The few Local sawmills I've come across in the Omaha-Lincoln, NE area have become my lifeline, since they tend to sell quality (and local) product for considerably less than I can find at our few retail sellers. I'm curious about what the bd. ft. $ is for walnut and cherry there...?

Shannon said...

I feel blessed to live 45 minutes from both of these lumber mills. Great tour Kari, I am jealous of your woodworking club. I wish we had something like that down here. I may have to declare myself an honorary Pennsylvanian just so I can attend.

Anonymous said...

I am going to definitely have to stop by the lumber yards when I go to Wisconsin this summer. Here in Houston we just don't have that kind of yard. Mmmmm. a cherry plane made of cherry... very cherry.

- Shawn G.

Charles "Sunshine" Davis said...

Wow, some delicious lumber shots!

That bandsaw is awe-inpsiring... I would definitely recommend using a push stick when using that! ;-)

John Preber said...

I put Koa flooring in my house. WOW! After ten years I still marvel at the floors.

Klausbird said...

Kari, those are some amazing images. I can imagine how tempting it would be to take home a little bit of everything. You might have to make a second trip for those six foot wide boards. You are very fortunate to have such great resources close by. I have not found any sawmills nearby yet.

Here's a silly question. I realize that they can't practically sticker all those boards, but how do they manage to prevent serious warping? If I did that, I'd end up with a bunch of pretzels.

Thanks for sharing your trip,

The Great Ethan Allen said...

I would love to carve into a walnut log that big. I wonder what kind of sculpture I could make out of a piece that size!

Kari Hultman said...

Peter, you'll want to check the websites for prices. Hearne, for example, has 19 different prices for cherry, depending on size and figure:

Shannon, I thought there was a club in Annapolis. Guess the D.C. club would be too far a drive for you?

Shawn, they probably have some nice lumberyards in Ohio, which would not be so far out of your way as PA on your trip to Wisconsin. Ohio is not so different from PA.

Sunshine, that bandsaw was awesome! They had a blade lying on the floor and I kept thinking how many scrapers I could make from it.

John, your floor must be an incredible sight. Koa is gorgeous.

Klausbird, it can be a bit overwhelming and hard to make a choice because there's so much to choose from. That's a good question about the stickering. I heard someone ask it, but was busy taking pics, so did not hear the answer. They do sticker the boards that are outside. My guess is, that once they've come out of the kiln and are stored under roof, there's no longer a need to sticker them.

TGEA, you'd have to have some pretty hard-edged carving tools to stand up to that walnut. It looked hard as a rock. He estimates that it was over 200 years old.

rhenton said...

If you're ever in the North Texas area, you'd appreciate this place:

...they specialize in mesquite, but carry a wide range of other woods as well. The mesquite is what you really have to see - and it's some of the most difficult wood I've ever worked with.


Alexander Hobson said...

Outstanding tour photos! Would love to see both places one day. Serious wood people there!! There used to be a similar yard in Toronto years ago but it's townhouses now. Closest thing we have is in Cambridge Ontario, but still nothing like what you have with both places. You are very lucky!!!
Thanks for showing us, I have to go wipe the drool puddle up now....

Kenneth said...

That showroom looks spectacular. Thanks for sharing Kari.

Woodbloke said...

Kari - some nice timber yards there...what's the plan for the Swiss pear? - Rob

Dan said...

Boy would I go crazy in places like those! Thanks for sharing that, and of course I am envious - we don't have anything remotely like that up here...

Myeloman said...

Hi. My names Tracy and I'm a woodaholic...


BlogOPotomus said...

That post was intriguing enough that it almost makes me want to hop in the car and go. I think it is probably only 800 miles away, likely worth the trip. Alas, I have to get back to work, but it is fun to think about taking a wood buying road trip.

Kari Hultman said...

Rhenton, thanks for the link. What a cool showroom! I've heard other people mention mesquite, but I've never seen a piece in person. I suppose that's the price we pay—the most beautiful wood is often the most difficult to work with.

Alexander, they really know their stuff and both places are passionate about what they do. We should have issued drool cups to all the club members before we started the tours. haha

Kenneth, thanks!

Rob, the Swiss pear is such a joy to work with, I just couldn't pass it up. I might make another plane or two—I'm not sure yet.

Dan, you need to come down for a visit!

Welcome, Tracy. You're among friends here. :D

Brian, you can buy wood there online, of course, but it's really neat when you can see the wood in person and look through the piles. Maybe a vacation is in your near future?

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