Hank Gilpin: Exploring the American Forest & Serendipity

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Blog entry by DaveLeHardt posted 03-02-2010 05:09 AM 2892 reads 1 time favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Hank Gilpin: Exploring the American Forest - Fine Woodworking

Serendipity is a word I’d like to use in this sentence (stolen from Dave Barry…). But that’s how the idea for this blog post came out…

Ok so I joined the Fine Woodworking website cuz they have some great content, how-to’s and gobs of other great stuff, like the link above.

I checked it out and was just floored with what Mr Gilpin does and has done with “plain ole” American hardwoods. I like what he said about any wood; that “there is no bad wood”. Any wood is good wood. I also like that he’s made his career out of using native woods in his work; that’s something I’m going to try to do too. Up here in the Evergreen State, we’ve Fir and Pine out the ying yang, but I also know there’s some sweet hardwoods here. Like the incredible quilt and curly maple I keep getting from this wonderful shop in Port Townsend – Forest Gems. I love rummaging thru the cut-offs and rough cut boards he has there (and had no clue before validating their link that he has ANOTHER cache of wood! No FAIR!!!).

This brings up two points. 1 – I need to find a local sawmill (like that’ll be hard here!) and get to know them and what they have. My neighbor works in the forestry biz so I need to pick his brain as to where I can find some local hardwoods. Hemlock, the state tree, is really a soft wood (pretty sure of that, it’s a Fir…) but I wouldn’t mind making some country pine projects/furniture out of that. Or the Shaker style dressers (from Norm Abram’s New Yankee Workshop) I want to make for the boys, that I hope will one day be heirlooms they pass along.

And 2 – Serendipity. After watching Mr Gilpin’s slideshow, I went down into the garage to work on some risers for getting projects up off the workbench during assembly. I had this “nasty” 2×4 that was basically missing two of it’s 4 corners along the length of the board. So I cut off three 2 ft pieces for the risers (planning on cutting on in half to stack on the other two), shaved a 1/4 in off of each side to take them down to 3×1 1/2, but mostly to remove the rounded corners on all dimensional lumber. AND since I just plunked a chunk of my annual bonus from work down on a Rigid planer, I figured I’d try to take the boards down to 1 1/4 in thick. WELL! Got thru the first one and WOW! What beautiful piece of pine that “nasty” 2×4 turned into! I almost don’t want to use it for the risers…but I will. Won’t paint them tho. I have some Tung Oil left from when I built the workbench, so I’ll use that to show off the wood.

So, ya. I’m a Native wood woodworker, and I doubt there will be even a stack of fire wood I won’t walk by and see something I want to take home and work :)

-- What? Me worry?!

3 comments so far

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 5530 days

#1 posted 03-02-2010 02:27 PM

Nice blog, lot to be said for non-exotic woods. I’ve seen incredible maple, elm, ash, pine, and many other local woods. Yes bubinga, and paduak are beautiful woods, but so are our own domestics.

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 5011 days

#2 posted 03-02-2010 05:53 PM

i liked this entry particularly much.

View DaveLeHardt's profile


48 posts in 4291 days

#3 posted 03-03-2010 03:39 AM

Thanks Guys.

Still pretty new and still finding my way with wood. You’re right Mike the Bubinga and Paduak are beautiful, and so are what’s out in our forests. As a new woodworker, I think I’m blessed to be in W WA, out on the Kitsap Peninsula, where I play traffic dodge ball with logging trucks on my daily commute, to be so close to so many saw mills. Now that the weather’s drying out some, I intend to make a nuisance, er acquaintance, with some of them! While getting things set up and squared away in the garage too. Still getting that outfitted. Additional wiring for lights and powertools is a must!

-- What? Me worry?!

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