The domestic wood species we carry are indigenous to the northeastern United States. Our primary focus is hardwoods, mainly oak. We carry a significant quantity of other hardwoods in log form, but availability is dependent on what we have in the log yard (or stored away in a few trailers).
Everybody loves oak. Unfortunately, most people never get a chance to experience it. We are a bit biased, but we see oak every day. Most people, when they think of oak, envision RED oak, in some form of laminate on a table, chair, cabinet, etc. We've met many people who think it is all the same. Well, it sort of is, and sort of isn't. Two other oak species are highly preferred: black oak and white oak.
There are many, many species of oak wood, all having their own "personality". Some species are good for cabinetry and fine art, and some are better for structural work (trailer decking, truck side boards, etc.). If a person wants oak, we ask why. Typically, they want the properties of a hardwood species. Right now, oak costs more. If you want something that is going to sit on the ground and last a while, white oak or locust is where you want to be. If you want sideboards for a truck, you want an uneven grained oak which would be less susceptible to splitting (straight grain = split). If you are looking for furniture grade, you are looking for stability and straight grain (a characteristic found in Red Oak). If you want something unusual, wood will make you pay. Typically, "The harder it is to work with, the more beautiful it will become." (I used to quote this from an old guy years ago, but I guess I am sort of getting toward that age!)
There are many species of maple wood which are sold as "hard" and "soft". Hard maple is typically more expensive. Soft maple is easy to work with and has a lot of character. Maple is a complicated wood which is hard to explain.
Simply put, hard maple is very hard. It is hard to work with and hard to machine. It can have the most beautiful characteristics, and the most amazing finishes. It also warps, twists, and gets cabinet makers jumping on toes and throwing hammers (of course I was being proverbial!). Hard maple has a few "figures" like birdseye, which can cost up to $21/bd.ft. as I saw in a retail chain. That's not what we do.
Soft maple has a tendency to get fungal inclusions which I think are neat. The term is "spalting", and it has a tendency to follow the grain, quite a sight for a cabinetmaker who knows what they are doing! Some of the best turning stock I have seen has come from soft maple. The offset for soft maple is that it is not as hard as its cousin. It is still as good, and maybe better than, the softwoods for many applications.
I call this the premium wood of the early 1990s, when ash wood prices were out of this world. Primes were selling at a premium and seconds were used for backdrop materials such as cabinetry fillers. Long ago, and still today, it has been a premium wood for turning (i.e., baseball bats). The downside is that it splits, cracks, and does all the bad things people hate when they put a lot of effort into it. A good thing is that it takes stain well and can look like many other species when it is finished. This is a wood which I would say, "it is what it is".
A much harder and stronger wood than oak (similar to hard maple), hickory is adored for its flavor and smell when burned. Hickory has the same machining characteristics (difficult and tough) as hard maple. It's probably one of, if not the, strongest wood species we have in the area. Tough for us to saw, but is extremely durable.
A wood which was very plentiful up to 20 years ago, locust wood is known and adored for its ability to resist rot and be there for 20-40 years. The old "locust posts" were simply seedling locust trees which were cut down, cut to length, and plopped in the ground. Once in the ground, cover boards were nailed and replaced as needed. Presently, black and honey locust wood are sold under the same name (black locust is better). On a personal note, 10-15 year service mixed hardwood is comparable at a more reasonable cost. Please don't compare our wood with the stuff sold in retail chains!
There are basically two types of cedar wood we deal with: Aromatic Red Cedar and Atlantic White. A similar species to Locust, both are tough to come by, and we charge a premium. If you are looking for smaller boards (1"x6") used to make cedar chests or linen closets, we probably have it. Larger sizes and specialty markets take time, as we have to negotiate with vendors. Typically, cedar is sold on a case-by-case basis. Beams typically come out of Canada (from which we have chosen vendors) for home construction. It's up to you if you want to do it yourself.
Considered a dunnage (junk) wood for many years, poplar wood has gained acceptance among the elite for windows and window frames. This wood can be your best friend or worst enemy. Poplar is known for its extraordinary growth (it's leaning over my house) as well as the green hues it has in cut form (i.e., turn bowls). The primary use at this time is for residential coverage (covering "rustic" areas such as a garage or work shed). Premium stock goes into moulding and door frames. Seconds go into cabinetry filler, siding, and construction materials.
I really like walnut wood! It's like looking into my first cup of morning coffee. It has the dark color (a warm feeling), depth when finished properly, and figure that comes out unexpectedly. Walnut is hard to describe, and it has a number of different colors, from chocolate brown to light tan in the sapwood, and even green hues in the right light. Our primary sales are to mantel buyers and local wood trades. We have cut 8"x8"x12" long beams for a centerpiece beam in a house, to fireplace mantels, to boards for cabinetmakers. We even get logs in from time to time for specialty requests. We have a good stock of walnut wood on hand, so it's best to check for availability.
We get a lot of calls from people who say, very excitedly, "We have a walnut log in our backyard!". They go on to state they have talked to "people" and it's worth a lot of money. Yes, it could be, but in 99.9% of the cases the cost of taking it down, moving it, checking for metal, cutting it, drying it, and preparing it far outweighs any cost of getting it off your property. We'll always be willing to talk to you, but selling a log (or a couple) won't pay for taking it down.
Cherry and birch wood are best described as premium grade lumber with all the characteristics described in our Walnut section (figure, color, size). The main difference is color. Cherry has a reddish color with a variety of color contained in sapwood and heart. Birch colors work between yellow, red, and brown when finished. Figures tend to be more prominent than in walnut, due the lighter colors.
Sometimes we get "what's it's". These are typically logs we get in and see some unusual characteristic and set it aside.