found wood #13: wood gloat: superior grade alder scraps

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Gary Fixler posted 08-13-2009 09:43 AM 9752 reads 0 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 12: Is there such a thing as *too much* Jacaranda? Let's find out... Part 13 of found wood series Part 14: Inside Jacaranda »

I can’t believe it’s been just over 3 weeks already since I picked this stuff up. This year is cruising past me. I saw an ad one morning – only a few minutes old – for a very large pile of scrap wood, mostly superior-grade alder, but with a mix of some other things in there, like plywood, and walnut. I wrestled internally for a bit. Do I really need more wood? The answer, it turned out, was yes. I wrote, mentioned I was a budding woodworker, and would love to find uses for all of it, and he gave me preference over some folks who just wanted to burn it all. He does interior work and signage, and felt a kindred spirit, I suppose. Here’s what he posted on craigslist:

alder scraps as seen on craigslist alder scraps as seen on craigslist

alder scraps as seen on craigslist alder scraps as seen on craigslist

The chop saw in there gives a sense of the size of this pile. The deal was “no picking and choosing, just take it all and sort it later.” Deal! On my lunch break I headed down there, in El Segundo near LAX. Very close by. One of his workers helped me load up the entire truck bed:

truck bed full of mostly alder scraps

truck bed full of mostly alder scraps, tailgate down

I just had to let the pile sit in the truck after lunch at the office. I worked to sort it out before sunset back at home after work. Here’s what I sorted out…

Smaller, mostly straight pieces of alder:

small straight pieces of alder

small straight pieces of alder

Pieces of alder with bark inclusions:

alder with bark inclusions

I’ll enjoy finding weird uses for them. I like the look.

Thicker chunks of alder:

thicker chunks of alder

Wedge-like cutoffs of alder:

wedge-shaped pieces of alder

Longer pieces of alder, some with knots and/or bark inclusions:

longer pieces of alder scrap

longer pieces of alder scrap

Side note: the vines behind the trash can above gave me a pleasant surprise recently.

Irregular and glued-up pieces of alder:

irregular and glued-up pieces of alder

All manner of higher-grades of plywood, some glued up thick and/or beveled:

plywood scraps

Misc, including Douglas fir, red oak, and many small pieces of walnut:

scrap wood, including walnut

I think there was a lot more walnut there that I wish I’d gotten, but I could only fit half of the pile, and the walnut was in the other half. We could have fit probably all of it if we stacked it all in neatly, but we had no time, and had to just throw handfuls into the back, wasting a lot of room to airspace. I did get a chunk of walnut 2×4, which I’ve never seen before.

Taller, thin pieces of alder, and some other woods:

tall scraps of mostly alder

me for some scale:

tall scraps of mostly alder with me for scale

Everything to the right of the tallest piece is alder. Much else is DF, plywood, or red oak. IIRC, the tall piece is 2 pieces of ply, one junk, one walnut ply, glued together.

Here’s all the smaller stuff, larger stuff out of view to the left:

small piles of scrap alder

He had mentioned several times in the ad that it was “Superior Alder.” I didn’t know what that meant, but while looking up alder online, learning that it has an unusually high number of grades in the lumber industry, then looking those up, I stumbled upon Cascade Hardwoods, whose logo matched the “ascade” I saw stamped partly across one of my pieces earlier. Now I knew where they were from, and I really like their site. They have a few other species, like birch, and IIRC maple, but clearly are known for their alder, which is even the title (in the titlebar) of their page when you visit. It just says “Alder” up there.

They have the greatest catalog I’ve yet seen that diagrams (with drawings) their drying techniques, and moreover, every grade of alder, the symbols they draw on the planks that indicate these grades (over 30 of them), and 5 pictures of full boards, front and back, per grade, in good detail, to show you exactly what you’re getting, as well as full details about each grade (percentages clear and whatnot), and standard uses for each grade. So helpful! Download it for free in PDF form in high or low quality at their site. It’s over 50 pages long, all of which are surprisingly interesting to flip through. The whole site is fun to explore, and much of the catalog info is there in the left sidebar. Oh, and “Superior” is just one of their grades (actually several with subtypes therein).

I learned a little Spanish sorting this stuff:

spanish words on scrap wood pieces

As night fell, I found a home for all the plywood on this shelf of my log drying racks:

log drying rack shelf full of scrap plywood

And for all the smaller bits of alder on the bottom shelf, 2 down from there:

small alder scraps on log drying shelf

The shelves are nearly full, though with all the turning lately, I’m starting to chip slowly into this pile:

log drying shelves filling up

I’ve thought up lots of uses, but it’ll be awhile before I can get to those projects. In the meantime, it was great to experience alder itself. I haven’t worked any yet, but it was all covered pretty thickly in alder wood dust, which has such a nostalgic smell. I remember toys in my preschool and kindergarten smelling just like this, as well as things like children’s painting easels and paint storage boxes and toy chests. Clearly there was a lot of stuff made from alder back in the day.

Here are the shelves (bottom, and 2 up from that) by the light of day:

scrap plywood on log drying shelf

scrap alder on log drying shelf

scrap alder and plywood on log drying shelves

I was going to go back for the other half, but I guess he’d already promised a shot to some other folks, and they cleaned the place out before I could return. When I called, he offered me some really beefy work tables (multiple laminated ply on sturdy 2x frames) instead, which I sadly had no room for. The taller stuff I fit in my wood shed, which one of these days I’ll get around to documenting as well.

Superior alder is quite light, but pretty strong in feel, like a very high-grade pine (e.g. radiata pine). It has a smooth, pretty look to it, and a pleasing grain. I’ll be happy to see it in some projects with some finish on it. I think I’m going to have to plan a few projects that make use of glued-up panels to combine a bunch of these pieces into larger ones to thin things down and regain some shelf space. What’s nice is that if I manage to make anything saleable, it’ll be 100% profit (minus my time, of course). If I could get a deal going with that guy to let me haul away his scraps a few times a year, maybe kicking him back a little for the opportunity, I could have a nearly 100% profit business model :) Oh, if only I were so ambitious.

Okay, I’m done gloating for now :)

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

12 comments so far

View PKP's profile


95 posts in 4789 days

#1 posted 08-13-2009 02:21 PM

cool lumber storage, I love scraps.

View lew's profile


13489 posts in 5098 days

#2 posted 08-13-2009 03:16 PM

Great Score, Gary!!

Those kind of “scraps” come handy for sooooo many projects and jigs.


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View patron's profile


13722 posts in 4684 days

#3 posted 08-13-2009 03:24 PM

alder , the poor mans cherry .
good score gary .
it’s good to see that someone in l.a. ,
can do something besides water and mow the lawn !
keep it up , and play safe .

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View PurpLev's profile


8653 posts in 4991 days

#4 posted 08-13-2009 03:54 PM

great find… reminds me of my own fine of shorts… had to go back and forth 2 times to fit it all in, but is sure does give lots of good lumber for projects.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Karson's profile


35295 posts in 5743 days

#5 posted 08-13-2009 04:19 PM

great gloat.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View rustfever's profile


801 posts in 4653 days

#6 posted 08-13-2009 05:40 PM

Alder is easy to work. It also will accept stains so that it will fit in well with many more exotic woods.

Interesting you found the wood was from Cascade Hdwds. I am originally from the same community and my father was a part owner in another hardwood mill just 4 miles away.

-- Rustfever, Central California

View RBWoodworker's profile


442 posts in 4695 days

#7 posted 08-13-2009 06:19 PM

Geez Gary… you can make tons of faceframes for cabinets out of all that wood.. Looking forward to seeing what cool creations you come up with..

-- Randall Child

View Pete_Jud's profile


424 posts in 5096 days

#8 posted 08-14-2009 01:21 AM

I love to work with western red alder. The local mill will call me up when they are grading 5/4 or 6/4. They give me the mill ends that are up to 24 inches wide and 2-4 feet long. All that I can fit in my truck. It stains to almost any other wood. Nice find.

-- Life is to short to own an ugly boat.

View Julian's profile


884 posts in 4868 days

#9 posted 08-14-2009 03:23 AM

Do you realize that there’s a show about people like you called “help i’m a hoarder”.... What are you going to do with so many small scrap pieces?

-- Julian, Homewood, IL

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1001 posts in 4724 days

#10 posted 08-15-2009 01:15 AM

patron – “the poor man’s cherry” – ha! I like that. My landlady pays for a gardener, so watering and mowing the lawn are two things I never do!

PurpLev – what kind of shorts did you get in your haul? Alder?

Rustfever – I had heard about stainability. I haven’t done much with stains, as I always have terrible results. Maybe I’ll have to give it a try now that I have a wood that sounds designed for it. Cool that your dad was close by. Were they rivals?

Pete – those sound like huge pieces to me! Very cool! I don’t know of any sawmills close by, except for socalwood’s place, which I believe is still some hours away.

Julian – I plan to protect and care for it :) I watched that show once, and did find many similarities, like how they cruise around looking in people’s trash bins. I cruise around looking in green waste bins. I don’t think I fully fit the profile, though. I have a bunch set aside – junkier stuff – that will be burned at my friends’ outdoor parties soon. I’m trying to unload some of it on a friend who does some hobby woodworking. Also, I’ve actually passed up dozens of opportunities for free logs and wood very close by, if it wasn’t good enough stuff, or if I just didn’t feel like it. After the last 2 pallets I picked up (making 3 total now), I’ve sworn off of them. Not enough ROI on the work required to get them, saw them up, and work around the nails, and most of the pallets here are just too junky. I’m actually being somewhat selective in all this stuff. One thing I do, though, is scout out things no one – or few – ever use, like Jacaranda, Ficus, Paperbark, and Bottlebrush. I’ve learned a lot playing this way, like how different woods you never see or use, and which are rarely if ever for sale smell, feel, work, etc. I love that learning. Finally, I’ve been out to my piles recently on an almost daily basis to turn things in the lathe. I’m ‘whittling’ down my reserves slowly but surely. The true hoarders never use any of their stuff. They just collect.

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

View a1Jim's profile


118310 posts in 4920 days

#11 posted 08-23-2009 11:35 PM

View palaswood's profile


1061 posts in 3094 days

#12 posted 09-20-2013 06:37 PM

I’m blown away by your lumber rack setup. Its Bada$$!

-- Joseph, Irvine CA, @palas_woodcraft on Instagram

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics