White Oak Windfall


looking toward the mouth of Tomales Bay

We’re enjoying a spectacular fall in West County with warm, dazzling days and  crisp, clear nights. The apples have been harvested and my thoughts have turned to loading summer-cured firewood into the shed before the rains and organizing my piles of timber for winter production in the shop.

I have several furniture projects in development and need a good supply of cypress to round out my collection of walnut and acacia. Though a bit brash, Monterey Cypress is dimensionally stable, works well and is resistant to rot and insects, making it perfect for my new outdoor furniture ideas. The tree is unique to this stretch of coast, and is fairly available after winter storms.


Monterey Cypress along the shore

I travelled down the coast and along the Eastern shore of Tomales Bay to check in with my friend Steve Potts, who lives near Point Reyes Station and mills wood when he’s not building bicycles. Steve toured me through his piles of cypress but the wood was generally not straight-grained enough for my needs and still measured about 16 % moisture content, which would mean a few more months of air-drying time. My eye caught unexpectedly on a neatly stickered stack of white oak, about 1000 board feet, cut to about 5/4″ x 6″ x 8′, exactly the dimensions I require. The wood appeared well-seasoned, with straight, flat-sawn grain, with about 20-30 % sapwood. Because of the sapwood and some dimensional inconsistencies, Steve offered me an excellent price if I bought a unit, about a quarter of the pile.


Steve Potts by his new Woodmizer

Although it is not native to this region, white oak will be perfect for my Hayride bench, and I can mill strips of the off-cuts for my steam-bending experiments this winter. Steve milled the lumber from an old tree that lived in Ross, CA. It took a year and a half for the arborist to get a permit from the city to cut the tree, about half of which is still in log form in Steve’s woodlot. I’ll be proud to make my first batch of the Hayride bench from such a majestic source, and feel good that the first commission will be used so close to the tree’s original home.