Last Thursday we had an unseasonably warm and sunny day, so I hopped in the truck for a road trip. I made my way down to Charm Ohio, the headquarters of Keim Lumber. Nestled in rolling foothills in the heart of a large Amish enclave, Keim is one of the largest lumberyards east of the Mississippi. With 700,000 square feet under roof and three hundred people (mostly Amish guys named Miller or Yoder, don’t ask me how they keep it straight) keeping the operation humming. If you want anything in domestic hardwoods, they probably have it. They also run a large retail store with a huge supply of tools and building supplies. The showroom has a large open atrium, sort of a cathedral in homage to lumber rising three stories high. I wonder if this is what a casino would look like if it were built by Amish trim carpenters. For me the highlight of a trip to Keim is a visit to their specialty wood showroom. They have every exotic that comes to mind and domestic lumber in varieties and sizes you don’t often see. Three varieties of elm, 8/4 pear, select clear quarter sawn 10/4 Douglas fir. Claro walnut crotches 36” across, exotic burls 45” wide. They had a few chunks of apple which I have never seen in a lumber rack, and I was reminded that at one time it was plentiful enough to be the wood of choice for premium saw handles and hand planes.
Just seeing the great variety really gets me excited about furniture and inspired to build something that captures the beauty of this wonderful medium. I tend to limit myself to a few domestic species – figured maple and black walnut. Part is due to a nasty allergic reaction inhaling some cocobolo dust, and partly due to the fact that I still have not exhausted my fascination with figured maple. None the less I walked away inspired.
Later that morning I parked the truck near a rare patch of old growth timber and ate lunch while taking in the songs of spring. A flycatcher was buzzing his familiar freeeebeeeer! call, along with the welcome sonnet of a white throated sparrow. I trudged up to some high ground crowned with a stand of mature black oaks. Around the base of each is a little micro climate supporting clumps of wildflowers – spring beauties, trout lilies, and cut leafed toothwort.
I spied this shagbark hickory and took a few moments to enjoy the visual mayhem created by the flaking bark. We all need a recharge now and again.
George R. Walker