Every piece of furniture we make starts with me at one of our lumber suppliers handpicking all the boards to be used on that piece. This is an often overlooked part of the building process because it is much easier to just send in an order and have it show up site unseen a few days later at the shop. Let me frame it like this, if building a piece of furniture was a movie then the lumber is the star. The piece’s final appearance will be dictated by the lumber selection more than anything else.
The first thing to know is that all lumber is not created equal. That is why there are several grades of lumber. The highest of these and the only grade of lumber we use is FAS, derived from the original grade of “first and seconds“. Most manufacturers would stop there and just place their material order and wait for it to show up at the shop. But even though FAS is the most select grade there is, there are still many different characteristics with-in the grade.
Take Walnut, for example, FAS will allow for about 20% sapwood, the white or silvery part of the board. Most customers looking for a Walnut piece are expecting nice dark consistent wood tones. When we produce a Walnut piece the final product will typically contain less than 5% sapwood. Because I handpick everything I am able to select boards with very little sapwood upfront which means less waste during the building process and a much more consistent piece at the end.
Handpicking lumber is not just about selecting the right colored wood it is also about maximizing the board usage and minimizing the amount of waste. Wood is the second most expensive cost of furniture making. Reducing the amount of waste is one of the reasons we are able to keep our prices so low. As you can imagine a piece of furniture has very specific sizes of wood and lumber does not come in any predetermined sizes to match those needs. Handpicking allows me to select pieces of wood that will yield the most usable material to fit that particular piece’s requirements. We often have less than 5% waste on a material order compared to 20% most manufacturers lose. Combined with that we only buy lumber from sustainably sourced producers ensuring the lowest possible impact to forests and wildlife.
With the quality and craftsmanship that we put into each one of our creations we know, there is a huge benefit to handpicking our lumber but it is not without drawbacks. For us the highest quality suppliers are not our next-door neighbors, it requires us to journey out to the edge of town, roughly an hour just to get there. Once there it’s like being in a wood junkies playground, exploring and marking each board that will become part of our legacy. Imagining how the grains in this cut will show the unique characteristics of the wood and create a truly unique custom gaming table. That process is time-consuming but we consider it a foundation of what we do and one of the many reasons we believe that each piece we make is heirloom quality.
So even though your table journey will begin with the design process, it is not truly born until we handpick each board that makes it a Uniquely Geek table.
Lvl. 20 Wood Whisperer