I can’t believe it’s been just over 3 weeks already since I picked this stuff up. This year is cruising past me. I saw an ad one morning – only a few minutes old – for a very large pile of scrap wood, mostly superior-grade alder, but with a mix of some other things in there, like plywood, and walnut. I wrestled internally for a bit. Do I really need more wood? The answer, it turned out, was yes. I wrote, mentioned I was a budding woodworker, and would love to find uses for all of it, and he gave me preference over some folks who just wanted to burn it all. He does interior work and signage, and felt a kindred spirit, I suppose. Here’s what he posted on craigslist:
The chop saw in there gives a sense of the size of this pile. The deal was “no picking and choosing, just take it all and sort it later.” Deal! On my lunch break I headed down there, in El Segundo near LAX. Very close by. One of his workers helped me load up the entire truck bed:
I just had to let the pile sit in the truck after lunch at the office. I worked to sort it out before sunset back at home after work. Here’s what I sorted out…
Smaller, mostly straight pieces of alder:
Pieces of alder with bark inclusions:
I’ll enjoy finding weird uses for them. I like the look.
Thicker chunks of alder:
Wedge-like cutoffs of alder:
Longer pieces of alder, some with knots and/or bark inclusions:
Side note: the vines behind the trash can above gave me a pleasant surprise recently.
Irregular and glued-up pieces of alder:
All manner of higher-grades of plywood, some glued up thick and/or beveled:
Misc, including Douglas fir, red oak, and many small pieces of walnut:
I think there was a lot more walnut there that I wish I’d gotten, but I could only fit half of the pile, and the walnut was in the other half. We could have fit probably all of it if we stacked it all in neatly, but we had no time, and had to just throw handfuls into the back, wasting a lot of room to airspace. I did get a chunk of walnut 2×4, which I’ve never seen before.
Taller, thin pieces of alder, and some other woods:
me for some scale:
Everything to the right of the tallest piece is alder. Much else is DF, plywood, or red oak. IIRC, the tall piece is 2 pieces of ply, one junk, one walnut ply, glued together.
Here’s all the smaller stuff, larger stuff out of view to the left:
He had mentioned several times in the ad that it was “Superior Alder.” I didn’t know what that meant, but while looking up alder online, learning that it has an unusually high number of grades in the lumber industry, then looking those up, I stumbled upon Cascade Hardwoods, whose logo matched the “ascade” I saw stamped partly across one of my pieces earlier. Now I knew where they were from, and I really like their site. They have a few other species, like birch, and IIRC maple, but clearly are known for their alder, which is even the title (in the titlebar) of their page when you visit. It just says “Alder” up there.
They have the greatest catalog I’ve yet seen that diagrams (with drawings) their drying techniques, and moreover, every grade of alder, the symbols they draw on the planks that indicate these grades (over 30 of them), and 5 pictures of full boards, front and back, per grade, in good detail, to show you exactly what you’re getting, as well as full details about each grade (percentages clear and whatnot), and standard uses for each grade. So helpful! Download it for free in PDF form in high or low quality at their site. It’s over 50 pages long, all of which are surprisingly interesting to flip through. The whole site is fun to explore, and much of the catalog info is there in the left sidebar. Oh, and “Superior” is just one of their grades (actually several with subtypes therein).
I learned a little Spanish sorting this stuff:
As night fell, I found a home for all the plywood on this shelf of my log drying racks:
And for all the smaller bits of alder on the bottom shelf, 2 down from there:
The shelves are nearly full, though with all the turning lately, I’m starting to chip slowly into this pile:
I’ve thought up lots of uses, but it’ll be awhile before I can get to those projects. In the meantime, it was great to experience alder itself. I haven’t worked any yet, but it was all covered pretty thickly in alder wood dust, which has such a nostalgic smell. I remember toys in my preschool and kindergarten smelling just like this, as well as things like children’s painting easels and paint storage boxes and toy chests. Clearly there was a lot of stuff made from alder back in the day.
Here are the shelves (bottom, and 2 up from that) by the light of day:
I was going to go back for the other half, but I guess he’d already promised a shot to some other folks, and they cleaned the place out before I could return. When I called, he offered me some really beefy work tables (multiple laminated ply on sturdy 2x frames) instead, which I sadly had no room for. The taller stuff I fit in my wood shed, which one of these days I’ll get around to documenting as well.
Superior alder is quite light, but pretty strong in feel, like a very high-grade pine (e.g. radiata pine). It has a smooth, pretty look to it, and a pleasing grain. I’ll be happy to see it in some projects with some finish on it. I think I’m going to have to plan a few projects that make use of glued-up panels to combine a bunch of these pieces into larger ones to thin things down and regain some shelf space. What’s nice is that if I manage to make anything saleable, it’ll be 100% profit (minus my time, of course). If I could get a deal going with that guy to let me haul away his scraps a few times a year, maybe kicking him back a little for the opportunity, I could have a nearly 100% profit business model :) Oh, if only I were so ambitious.
Okay, I’m done gloating for now :)
-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator