caldwell's salvage, on bayshore, has a couple of racks full of large timbers pulled out of old buildings and such. some are ancient, others less so. i first saw them in modern tea, where the owner had made 3-inch thick douglas fir tabletops from them for his cafe. at $3.20 per linear foot, it ended up costing me less than the ash for the frame. these pieces are 10' long, 12" wide, and 3" thick. i thought briefly about bringing my roof rack down to pick them up but decided it would be folly and probably a public safety citation, so i called john instead and he came from the shop to pick them up. when we got them back, one of the pieces had a greenish tinge which made everyone suspect that it had been pressure-treated and was thus a time bomb waiting to burst open, spraying the shop with arsenic and cadmium. a chisel chipped into the wood proved otherwise. both pieces were quite dramatically bendy and full of knots. i'd never laid out such large raw lumber before; it takes a big straight edge.


to make these pieces manageable, i sliced them into 7-foot pieces with the radial arm saw. the blade radius was about a half-inch shorter than the wood was thick so cutting through each piece required two flipped cuts and produced the nice rising curve visible on the end grain.


we put a 3/4 inch blade on the bandsaw, clamped in a nice big fence, and shaved off the faces of the plank to reveal this amazing block of pale yellow wood. the last stage in the raw milling was to bandsaw each block in half again to produce two 1.25" planks, each 9.5" wide and 78" long. up until 5' into the block, everything worked like a charm. then there was resistance and a big puff of black smoke -- inexplicable until we flipped the block over and saw a black stain and a nailhole right where the blade had been turned. we replaced the blade, flipped the block end for end and sawed through on the other side until just before reaching the nailhole, and tapped the two halves apart with a wedge. the culprit: an old screw broken off a half-inch below the surface and undetected by the metal detector john has in the shop.

people go to some great lengths to avoid these knots, but i think they're marvellous. connected directly to the cambium, they're much younger than the rest of the heartwood in which they're embedded and are so impregnated with resin that they leave behind a fine, sticky, pale-yellow sawdust and are slightly translucent when held to the light.