A fun and productive activity that’s related to the great outdoors is that of woodworking. Harvesting wood yourself directly from nature, processing it, and making it into furniture or other items is a great way to develop your craftsmanship skills and exercise your creativity, as well as a satisfying means of saving a few bucks, as lumber can be very expensive. In the months to come, I’m going to be sharing some woodworking videos and blogs with you, but to set the stage, I wanted to first share some ideas about where to get the wood for your projects as well as other supplies and tools.
Buying either treated or untreated lumber for your woodworking projects can be very costly. And, if you’re interested in purchasing specialty lumber, such as whole slaps, rounds, or planks for live edge tabletops, benches, or other items, you can end up spending a small fortune. An enjoyable, cost-effective means of acquiring the raw materials you need for your wood working endeavors is to directly harvest and process the lumber yourself. It’s also a very satisfying part of the creative process when you can look at something you made and know that you were involved in every step, from start to finish. There are actually many options for getting your hands on the wood you need for your projects. Here are some idea to get you started…
#1 Home Owners
Homeowners often remove trees from their property that have either died, been destroyed in a storm, because they’re tired of the maintenance, or for a variety of other reasons. Tree removal is very expensive and many professional tree removal companies charge extra for getting rid of the wood once the tree is down. Homeowners often BEG people to come over and help themselves to the wood from a downed tree! Neighborhood or community Facebook pages often have notifications from people when they have wood to get rid of, or simply keeping your eyes open for downed trees and “free wood” signs in people’s yards while driving around town can be a great way of scoring lots of free lumber…especially after a big storm that’s caused lots of tree damage. And keep in mind, even if a tree is removed because it’s dead, there’s still often a lot of good, salvable wood that one can harvest and work with.
#2 Land Owners
Another source of potential free, high-quality lumber, is from landowners. Many folks who own wooded property often remove trees for many of the same reasons that homeowners do, such as dead or storm damage trees, but many landowners also selectively harvest certain trees that they either don’t want in the area, that may be encroaching in on more desirable, mature trees, that may be an invasive species of tree, or, that they want out of the way for a building or planting project. Again, getting rid of a bunch of downed trees can be a big, expensive, time-consuming task, and many landowners are more than happy to have help with getting all that timber out of the way.
Similar to landowners, both big and small contractor companies sometimes clear out large areas of trees for building projects and have to spend a lot of time and money getting rid of all the wood. Some contractors may have liability issues that restrict the general public from coming out and salvaging wood, but sometimes not. In fact, sometimes they actively seek help from the local public to assist with the chore by offering free wood. So again, keep your eyes open and don’t be bashful in asking around or investigating potential opportunities.
#4 Federal and State Land
Harvesting trees from public land can be another option for getting some choice wood for your projects. This is something you have to thoroughly check out as the regulations for harvesting wood from State and Federally owned land can vary greatly from place to place, however, some forested areas do allow for the removal of storm damaged or dead-fallen trees, which again, can often be salvaged and produce some good material to work with.
A joke that I would often hear around the more barren parts of Alaska, is that, “Wood doesn’t just grow on trees around here you know!” In parts of the state that are more covered by tundra than by timber, local community members, or those who inhabit more remote dwellings, have to routinely go out in their boats and search the shorelines for logs and other useable lumber that drifts in from who knows where. For many folks who live in the bush, driftwood is a major source of firewood to stay warm and cook their food, as well as being turned into the raw material for a number of building projects. I’ve seen some amazing things built from scraps of wood that has washed ashore! So if you live near the ocean or a major river system, have a look around from time to time to see what kind of lumber ends up on the shore.
No matter if you harvest wood from a neighborhood tree that came down in a tornado, from a local construction zone, or from a river bank, you first have to dry it out and prepare it for use, which can take several months, to even several years. But, that’s a whole other topic that I’ll be exploring in the future, so stay tuned for that one!
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