P90217Saint Joseph did not have it so good. He is still the most famous carpenter, and somehow got the most excellent city in the World named after him, but he did not work in a shop like this one. The most well outfitted carpentry shops back then lacked modern power tools, and the selection of woods that are now so easily imported from all over the World.

The best lumber in this shop at the Conference Center (where I work in the landscapes part time) is actually not the exotic sort. Three very important timber crops, (coastal) redwood, Douglas fir and ponderosa pine, happen to be native. A few of the larger of these trees that need to be removed get milled into lumber that gets used here.

Much of the lumber shown in this illustration is recycled from old buildings that were built from local lumber at a time when it was not so practical to import lumber to such a remote location. The rack on the back wall, at the center of the picture, contains old doors that are ready to be recycled. Flooring and moulding were made from native oaks, which are not the easiest to mill, but happened to be the most available. Nowadays, most of the lumber used here is procured from the lumber yard across the road, but it is neither of comparable quality, nor very interesting.

What is most interesting about the carpentry shop is not seen in the illustration above. There are a few on the Maintenance Crew who are proficient with structural carpentry, and one who is a finish carpenter. The finish carpenter is as proficient with carpentry as arborists are with trees that produce lumber. He is very familiar with all the various woods, and what they are useful for. It is his expertise that will ensure that the old recycled wood, as well as newly milled wood, will be utilized accordingly.

More of my bragging about the Maintenance Crew can be found at: https://tonytomeo.com/2018/10/10/horridculture-lessons-from-motivational-posters/ .


8 thoughts on “Carpentry

    1. One of the many assets of working here at this job is that all of us are able to take our work as seriously as people did years ago. I really do not know anything about the work that others do, but I see that they do it as they please, even if it is not how the rest of society might do it. The landscapes are a perfect example. We use good old fashioned horticulture to maintain the landscapes properly. It may seem like more work, but is actually more efficient than the modern style of ‘mow, blow and go’. Carpenters are able to use old recycled wood, which may seem like a bit of extra effort, but is worth the better quality of the finished product. Even though I know nothing about finish carpentry, I am impressed by how carpenters take their work as seriously as old fashioned horticulturists and arborists do. Bragging about them never gets old.


  1. I love this. The marine carpenters I know have shops filled with different woods, but the effect is the same. We once slabbed a native cherry that fell, then stacked the wood and dried it outside a cabin for a couple of years. Eventually it became a bed frame and some tables, as well as part of some gorgeous cutting boards and small boxes. There’s not much that’s more beautiful or filled with potential than real wood.

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    1. For many of the cozy old buildings here, comparably old lumber, or at least locally milled lumber, are the most appropriate materials for repairs. Cheap modern materials would seem out of place. Unfortunately, modern materials are necessary for buildings that must be reconstructed, but even then the carpenters and other craftsmen are very proficient at maintaining the style of the original buildings.


  2. We need to build racks like the ones in your first photograph to store pecan wood for later use. Forrest hopes to work on carpentry – furniture making, when he retires. We’ve been having some fallen pecan wood milled thinner for possible flooring or walls, and thicker slabs for making furniture someday.

    We recycle wood here too. Old utility structures are used for corner posts in building fence, and buildings torn down have some very cool wood.

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    1. Hardwoods is something that our forests lack an abundance of. The valley oak and coast live oak were used for flooring a century ago only because they were the only locally available oaks. They lack straight trunks, and the biggest of them are rotten inside, so they are not the easiest to mill. Bigleaf maple is native, but not very common. There is nothing like pecan or hickory here. There is a black walnut from the San Joaquin Valley that is naturalized here now (because it was used as understock for walnut orchards), but like the oaks, it is gnarly and rotten on the inside when mature. It is excellent wood, but you would not guess that it is related to pecan and hickory. When I was in Pecan Valley Junction, I would not have recognized the pecan trees as a relative of the black walnut (if I were not a horticulturist and arborist). I looked for maples while there, but only found those that had been planted. The blackjack oaks did not seem like the sort of oak that would be easy to mill. I think that the biggest and straightest trunks were those of the sycamores, but I never hear of them being used for lumber. They probably twist like eucalyptus.

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