Urban Harvested Lumber: Friend or Foe?
I’ve spent my share of time dealing with the collection, drying and milling of plenty of urban harvested trees from the Cincinnati area. There’s plenty of sweet walnut, cherry and maple to go around, and probably more oak and ash than the entire furniture making community could use. You can either be very opportunistic like I was my first experience with a fallen maple tree that became my split-top Roubo bench three years later. Other times, it can simply fall into your lap, sawn and dried, as was the case with some cherry and walnut that came from a former co-worker, who oddly enough, isn’t even a woodworker.
Most people think about the challenges of the cutting and milling. Sure, it’s a pain, especially if you don’t have a big truck, not to mention a portable saw mill. Then you deal with the potential of coming across something other-than-wood as you cut into it. All of that is a pain. Then you have the drying and storage aspects to deal with. It takes some effort to do it right, and unless you do it at some scale, the yield at the end of the day, may not me all that it’s cracked up to be. The latest pile I came across did yield some nice material, but not the quality I was hoping it would be at any lengths greater than 6′. And the pieces of 16/4 that I thought were walnut? Yeah, those ended up being cherry with a nasty case of mildew stains. I may go the Chris Schwarz route and use some blue milk paint to cover them up.
I’d love to hear from some other woodworkers who have ventured down this path and what your experiences have been. Is it worth the time? I do like knowing where it came from and being able to say that it definitely came from a local source, rather than ending up in a fireplace somewhere. But is it really worth the time?