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 130ยบ, 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.