Often I get asked, where do you get your wood?
Finding and procuring (sourcing) the raw wood can be as creative and adventuresome as the carving. Wood can be sourced in the forest or by knowing where to buy suitable wood. There are a number of options for the aspiring carver.
It’s one thing to be fortunate enough to know where the right beaches or rivers are to provide the best driftwood and in what season to gather it, but one also needs to be aware of the influence of tides, storms and flooding. It’s another to know where in the woodlands one is able to find and take home the salvaged wood. The age, shape, dimensions, species, and characteristics and soul will speak to the wood artist. Will the wood be good for a bowl, feast plate, or something as simple as a walking stick, or an arch for a garden gate, a sculpture for the garden? Is the density and grain good enough to take home to the band saw and become paddle stock?
Often no one will tell you the where and how. It is up to you to get out there in all kinds of weather and explore, take the canoe down the wild rivers, bush whack out to a travelled beach, walk into the old growth forests where no roads go. Often fascinating shapes of fallen trees, limbs or trunks can be found close to home. The tree service crews in your area may know of some blow downs or clearings they must attend to. They may tell you where there are some exceptional domestic trees for live edge furniture (e.g. maple, Garry oak) or burls on trees that aren’t often seen in the rain coast forest —alder and arbutus. Garden shrubs being pruned or removed can be a bounty for smaller wood art — laburnum, English laurel, fruit tree wood — apple, plum, cherry, to name a few for spoons and kitchen wares, falloff colour and interesting grain.
To get the wood home is quite another matter. Brute strength and having the right tools is necessary just to carry it out to a vehicle or put in a boat. Chainsaws, gas, file sharpeners, wedges, winches and axes are all necessary tools for salvaging.
Access is critical to get the wood out safely — for you and the wood! Do you have permission from the tree farm license holder or landowner to salvage the wood? Is it close to a truck? Do you need a winch, crane truck or A frame?
If it’s not possible to access your own wood in the deep dark forest, then check out areas where it may be. Walking and meandering slowly through clear cuts, dry land sorts, waste wood piles, ditches and road sides where new logging roads are being built will yield interesting log piles. Look to see where the excavator has stashed intriguing roots, root balls and decayed old growth limbs that may have burls on them. Be cautious on active logging roads and drive slowly.
Form friendships with loggers, equipment operators and foresters who work in the woods. If one needs seasoned wood consider visiting local mills. Sooke has several mills that will sell milled wood for the woodcrafter. Today, with the trendy live edge, mills are selling beautiful pieces for wood art and furniture making. Some of it seasoned, some not. Fine furniture makers usually belong to woodworking guilds that can assist hobbyists to procure seasoned or kiln dried woods. The Vancouver Island Woodworkers’ Guild has a wood recovery program which prevents dead, diseased, dangerous or just unwanted trees from becoming firewood.
In smaller communities, like Sooke, people often know who the woodworkers are. Word of mouth will lead you to those who share your passion and love of woodworking.
It’s all out there, be inspired, wood sourcing can be an adventure.