A Viking Tale
It was in the spring of 975 A.D. when Erik the Red's 1st cousin, thrice removed, Sven the Brunette with blond highlights, headed out in his longship for weekend of pillage and camaraderie with his buddies. Sven was a giant of a man, standing 6' 8" tall, with a barrel chest, and a thick beard, also with blonde highlights. His friends were also rather large and one might say malodorous (of course one wouldn't say that until 1840 or later, as the word didn't exist in 975, but I digress). They headed out to sea, towards a little village, which they expected would put up scant resistance to their pillaging, and Sven had heard they had a nice day spa. He figured lads would be sore after a day of pillaging and he really needed a seaweed wrap.
Sven had not done a lot of pillaging in his life, he was more of a home body, but the continued success of his cousin, forced him to, according to his wife, 'get out more'. Apparently the other wives were beginning to talk. So off they went. As he stood at the head of the longboat, looking out over the waves, he thought about the conquests of Eric, and he thought about his other cousin, Bahn the rather grumpy. History has forgotten Bahn, but Sven knew only too well of his tales. He cringed as he remembered the stories of Bahn, with his massive hammer over head, screaming as he ran into the villages, 'Fear my hammer, fear the Wrath of Bahn!'. This cry would cause the men to tremble and the women to swoon. When the tales of Bahn were told back home, the men toasted him, and the women, well, they swooned too, except for Sven's wife. She hit him on the shoulder and gave him a dirty look. That night was a cold and lonely one for Sven.
He spent the next week fashioning a massive hammer from his best wood. He reinforced the handle and polished it to a fine sheen. He then gathered his smelly friends and told them of his plan for fame and riches. The lads were not terribly bright, and they all liked the idea of getting away from the wife and kids for a weekend.
As the little village came into view, his excitement almost overwhelmed him. They had been crossing the sea all day and were eager for battle. Sven had been practicing his war cry in his head. The boat crept ashore, down the coast from the village. They made their way through the woods, over the glen, and soon they saw the village. There were several dozen huts, people milling about, an ox pulling a scratch plough, and children playing near the center of town. It was just as Sven imagined.
He led his band of Viking Warriors down the hill. As they got within ear shot, Sven yelled out his battle cry, wielding his hammer with bravado. The bravado was short lived. The town's people all heard the cry, and a group of women, washing clothes in the stream at the edge of town, defeated Sven, not with weapons, but with their laughter. Not just laughter, but a full on eruption of boisterous chortling, with a fair amount of finger pointing. Several woman, laughed so hard that they slipped and fell into the stream.
Sven's friends, his Viking hoard, stopped soon after hearing the battle cry, and the aforementioned laughter. They just shook their heads, turned around, and headed back to the boat. Sven was crushed. He was confused and didn't understand what had happened. The lads got back in the boat, snickering, and waited for Sven. When he returned and demanded to know why they had stopped, Holgar spoke up, and said, "I've got wood!?...Massive hard wood!?...Really? THAT was your battle cry?...Did you think it through?" The rest of the hoard busted out laughing, and continued through the night as they returned home. It didn't stop until most of them had gone to bed, but quickly started up again, when they told the tales of their great adventure. Sven said, he would never pillage again, and his wife said she loved him regardless, which was all he wanted in the first place.
So with Sven in mind, I declare, "I've got LUMBER, really massive lumber." When I began my journey into woodworking, I imagined creating all sorts of beautiful tables and chairs, with exotic woods, and stunning grain patterns. I don't think I ever spent even a moment, thinking about where one gets beautiful lumber, for I knew that, unlike most things, lumber did grow on trees.
The book 'Selecting and Drying Wood', which is a collection of articles from Fine woodworking magazine, has opened my eyes to the challenges involved in selecting and buying lumber. I have learned that one should be prepared when they head out to buy those bits of trees that will become treasured projects. Roland Johnson's article in the book, suggests that one have a 'kit' for their trips to the lumberyard. He believed in taking a flashlight, gloves, tape measure, moisture meter, clip board with cut list, pencil, and even a hand plane. I wouldn't have thought of any of these things, with the possible exception of a cut list. The book also taught me the value of trying to select pieces of lumber that are from the same tree and gave tips on how one can determine if two boards go together. I had no idea how much the color can vary between different trees of the same species. I didn't know what heartwood was or how one could use defects in a board to match it to another board from the same tree.
I learned that rough cut lumber is cheaper than the kiln dried wood one finds at a lumber yard, and that rough cut wood needs to be air dried for 1 year per inch of thickness, if you don't have a kiln. I don't have a kiln. But most of all, I learned that one should always keep their eyes open for opportunities to get a good deal. It became apparent, after reading this book, that 50% of the skill of the master craftsman is their understanding of, and ability to find, truly special wood.
A few weeks back I made a purchase. I bought some rough cut walnut and cherry from a gentleman who advertised on craigslist. I bought approximately 340 board feet of rough cut lumber. I have been inventorying every piece, and I haven't finished, but when finished, I will have a detailed record of what I have in the stacks. The lumber was cut in June of last year. 80% of it is 1 inch thick and should need another 6 months of drying, while the remaining 20% is 3 - 4 inches thick and obviously won't be ready for several years. The breakdown is 20% Cherry and 80% Walnut.
I don't know if I got a good deal. I paid $400.00 for the lot, or $1.17 per board foot. It feels like a good deal to me, and I will get lots of hours of enjoyment from my lumber. I am learning how to build stacks. I didn't even know what a sticker was, before I needed one. And perhaps the best part, is the joy I feel when I walk downstairs to my basement (where I have the dehumidifier running 24/7), and see the stacks I am building. There is something great about having lots of wood.