A few years ago, before we were married, Dana and I went to Ohio to visit her family. They all live close to Akron, which is most of a 10 hour drive, so we’ve always flown up there, and this time was no exception.
As much as I’m a conservative, Dana’s mom is a liberal, so we try to avoid those kinds of topics. But one thing we all enjoy is going to estate sales, so more often than not, we’ll hit one or two every trip.
On this particular trip, we happened by a sign that said a small family business was going out of business and the estate sale was that day. What caught MY attention was the fact that the small family business was a furniture repair shop. So after much pleading and crying, we turned around and went back.
I was slightly disappointed in the shop, to be honest with you. I have a feeling the really good tools were taken to a specialist auction or sold in some other manner, because we were there early, and I didn’t see much of anything in the way of hand tools. There were some possibilities in a few unfinished pieces of furniture, but that wasn’t really what I was looking for.
As we were leaving, I saw a small cardboard sign with an arrow pointing to the left that simply said, “wood”. I was intrigued. I turned to the left and entered a small shed attached to the building and entered one of Dante’s nine levels of Hell.
The first thing I saw was another sign that had two prices on it:
$5.00 per board if the board is under 3’ long
$7.50 per board if the board is over 3’ long
I was surrounded by stacks of wood in varying lengths and widths. There was several hundred board feet in each stack, with stacks for white oak and red oak and walnut and cherry. There was a smaller pile of reclaimed wormy chestnut, about 20 boards of 5’ to 8’ lengths, over to one side. Behind that was a much smaller stack that was simply marked “exotics”.
My mind started racing. For $100, I could have a nice supply of some pretty rare wood! How much money did I have in my check book? How much money did I have in my savings account? Could I transfer that money from an ATM? What if I even just wanted to try and sell the lumber on-line? That might be a great way to make some money…
How was this like a visit to Dante’s Purgatory, you might ask? Here follow my next thoughts…
How could I… oh, crap. How could I get any of it home??? We’d flown up to Ohio! I couldn’t possibly ship it – with my mother-in-law’s car, I couldn’t even get it out of the parking lot! I briefly thought about renting a U-Haul and driving it home, but the cost of the U-Haul and the wasted plane ticket and the time and effort needed to achieve such a feat made it an unlikely option.
So what could I do? I did what I could. I grabbed as many of the exotic boards as I could that were under three feet long (i.e. that I could fit into my suitcase). I only spent about $20, but… that was the best I could do.
Slightly dejected, I waited outside with my small bundle of wood for everyone else to finish browsing. While I was waiting, I watched a guy load a 14” wide x 1” thick x 12’ long white oak board into the back of his extended-bed pickup truck and tie a red bandana to the end of it.
Me: So you only paid $7.50 for that one board, right?
Him: Yup! This is great! I’m making a trunk and I’ll be able to get all the wood I need out of this one board!
Me: So… you’re just buying the one board, then?
Him: Yeah, that’s all I need for this trunk I’m making.
Me: … (unable to form any words for several seconds) … but… but you have a truck!
Everyone else came out at that time, so we walked back to the car and started heading home. Two lights later, we ended up next to a blue pickup truck with one board sticking out the back, red bandana flapping in the wind. He looked like the happiest guy in the world, with his one board, while I wanted to beat my head on that board until I passed out.
I can’t really say I REGRET leaving all of that wonderful wood behind, but hopefully if I’m in a similar situation at some point in the future, I’ll try to come up with some kind of a creative solution.
-- Ethan, http://thekiltedwoodworker.com