Wednesday, April 15, 2009

This Is Not A Gloat

There’s a saying on the interweb bulletin boards that “if you don’t have pictures, it didn’t happen.” Therefore, this is entirely a work of fiction.

One of my best buddies called me up the other night and was all excited. He told me about a cache of hardwood lumber, stacked and stored in a garage of a retired furniture maker in an elegant lake community home. Almost 3,200 board feet of random width, ten foot lengths of maple. And it could be had for a mere $450.00 or about fifteen cents a board foot. Quite the deal since it normally sells for around four dollars a board foot. Did I want to go in halves with him he asked? Way too much wood for one person and probably for two, but I had visions of just building all kinds of crap out of this stuff because it would be cheaper than pine. I could build tool cabinets in my shop that would be the envy of woodworkers everywhere. I could replace all the kitchen cabinets cheaper than I could buy plywood. I could build some little pieces of furniture and get some practice with my hand tools. This is going to be great. Of course I said yes.

We made arrangements to take off work a little early the next day and make the hour or so drive up to the lake community near Heber Springs. “These kinds of deals never happen to me,” my buddy grinned at me. He and I shared the same vision of a carefully swept garage stacked with pristine planks of rough sawn maple, dutifully watched over by a bespectacled, white haired gentleman who had sold all of his tools some time back and now just needed someone to haul off the leftover materials from a lifetime of craftsmanship. Maybe his wife told him he had to clear out the garage so she could park in it. It was an intriguing thought.

We crested a hill and saw the sparkling water of Greers Ferry Lake in the distance, and turned into a well manicured road of elegant two story houses. Which one is it? We thought as we counted down the addresses on the rural mail boxes. Ninety-nine, One Hundred and Ten, One Forty-four… we looked at each other, puzzled, when we saw the mail box for One Eighty. It stood at the opening between the dense copse of trees with just a glimmer of what appeared to be a pile of junk in the distance. We turned into the lane.

A pot bellied man with a long white beard and a fierce stare came out of the ramshackle “house” with the slap of a screen door. Dressed in flannel and wearing a wide brimmed hat, I began to flash back to the scene in Deliverance… well, you get the idea. Piles of trash and junk adorned the porch and front yard. He motioned to a small, lean-to garage covered with a blue tarp. We stumbled across rotting piles of fence posts and clapboards to peek in.

And there inside were two saw horses with a small stack of boards on them. Lots of small cut-offs on top, a couple of pine 2x4’s sticking out, and a few nice wide and long maple boards. My buddy shook his head and muttered, “These kinds of deals never happen to me.”

How did you figure the board feet on this, he asked. The old man produced a tattered notebook with a column of figures on it. “Here’s the figures the guy wrote down when he delivered it to me.” We peered over them and took a few minutes to realize that these were the calculations for square inches of lumber. And yes, there were thousands. But when you divide that by 144 to get board feet, well… it turns out you only have about two hundred and twenty board feet. Less whatever the dude used out of it. And scarcely a pick-up truck load.

We wound up striking a deal amidst our dashed hopes and loaded up the lumber and headed back home. No, we won’t be replacing the kitchen cabinets. Probably won’t build all those nifty tool cabinets for my shop. I might build that little table I’ve been wanting to build.

As we wheeled back up onto the highway, I heard a mutter, “These kinds of deals never happen to me…”