Finding a Quality Piece of Wood

Last year, maybe even the one before that my father-in-law used to talk nonstop about pieces of wood. The grains, each pattern, each ring, the weight of a piece of wood, where it came from, its literal origins and oh so much more. Enough to give a guy an ulcer.

One afternoon on a warm November day I decided to head out of the office for lunch to a quaint little cafe called Fife n’ Dekel. Rounding down 149th street headed towards the cafe I recalled when I visited Windsor Plywood this past weekend, they had suggested going over to W.G. Chanin Hardwoods, to see about this piece of African Walnut that my father-in-law was after. “If Gary doesn’t have the piece of wood your father-in-law is looking for, nobody in the city will.”

Instead of my usual sandwich and a slice of pie, on this day I did two silly things. First, I opted for a vegetarian sandwich stacked up 6″ high on sunflower seed bread and 3-double chocolate chip cookies. Second I asked for the meal to “go” as I wanted to stop in at this W.G. Chanin fella’s shop as it was nearby.

I thought to myself… you could grab this sandwich and head over to that shop. Ask the guy about this African Walnut and be on your way back to the office.

My naivety was showing because I did not know the difference between a piece of regular walnut and that of some lost piece of wood from an African jungle also known as “walnut”. I walked into this 14,000 square foot shop thinking… in and out in ten minutes, fifteen tops.

Literally an hour and fifteen minutes later this Gary was still going on about how this one piece of Dogwood was brought into North America by a guy in California, whose been sitting on it for the past fifteen years!

But Gary, finally got his order fulfilled. This was genuine Cambodian Walnut from some forest off in some distant land. I opted to purchase a stick. A literal 1″x1″x12″ piece of wood. It only cost $75.99 !! My eyes bulged out of my cranium at what seemed to be an ABSURD price on a piece of wood. Oh Wait, IT IS, an absurd price on a piece of wood!!

Jump forward 2.5 years and I scouring Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist and Kijiji in search of Canadian Oak, chunks of Walnut, and any other exotic hardwood I can get my hands on. I’m literally being swept up in this crazy world called: Wood Turning!

Unknown Exotic Hardwood

One afternoon, I found these guys on Facebook Marketplace; Mike & James selling “exotic hardwood” According to their advertisement they had exotic hardwoods. When I arrived they had plained off one side on a number of pieces of wood. They were charging an additional $7 per board for these plained pieces. Otherwise you could choose from the pile of wood on the trailer or in the driveway.

This was beautiful wood.

I had not seen anything like it. Then one of them, James, I think… he says to this older guy from the Cold Lake area… “The only other place your going to find this quality of exotic hardwood is from W.G. Chanin Hardwoods. But that guy will charge you up the Arse! for a piece of exotic hardwood!” I smiled to see what the older guys’ response would be. Nothing. Just smiles. That’s when I say, “You are correct. Gary, does charge a bit more than yourself but in all fairness, he does know exactly where that piece of wood came from. I mean he can tell you the exact place on the planet the piece of wood you are purchasing is from. Its destination, its origin, the species, what that specific wood is used for, the type of material you should or shouldn’t be building with it and he’ll befriend you in a moment of time. But true, his prices are a tad bit on the higher side. I suppose its because he’s been in business as long as I’ve been alive. Well that and he has a 14,000 square foot warehouse to pay for storing his massive collection of hardwoods.”

I smiled as I pulled out a handful of sticks. At $13 each for a 2″x4″x8′ piece of unknown exotic hardwood. Heck who knows what it would even turn out to be?

A week after purchasing the exotic hardwood of unknown origins, we had cut a chunk of 2″x4″x12″ off the eight-foot stick. Then we cut 2″ off the 4″ side and split this 12″ piece into two halves. With the two 2″x2″x6″ pieces of wood in my hands, we examined the grain, smelled its freshness and pondered at the sheer weight of this unknown chunk of exotic hardwood.

Well, what do you plan on making these two pieces into?” inquired my mentor.

“I do believe, these would make a fine looking box,” I responded then walked over towards the prep table to mark the ends of the wood and begin working on this new project.

~ Aaron JacksonCrabb