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Rare Woods USA Blog

Latest news and happenings at Rare Woods

Mother lode of antique tools


Some people call them hoarders - in Maine we call them traders! Everyone is forever having yard sales, porch sales or garage sales and Craigslist and Uncle Henry’s are thriving. It seems to me (admittedly an outsider) that the same treasures (junk?) never leave the state, but seems to change hands often. I don’t know – perhaps it’s a unique new way of growing the economy????

So anyway in order to embrace my new identity as a Mainer, I have decided to join them and Rare Woods USA now boasts an incredible selection of antique tools from $5 bric-a-brac to a superb English patternmakers complete toolkit in a handmade tool box with top notch tools (including Sorby and Norris) from the days of cast steel. The kit even comes with a list of owners and photos. At $19,000 this is certainly not junk. Who knows, it may even wend its way back to the United Kingdom over time after a 60 year stay in South Africa and briefer sojourn in Rumford, Maine.

There are a multitude of treasures on our display tables including Liberty Bell wooden-based planes by Stanley, saws by Henry Disston, Millers Falls shaves, and piles upon piles of other bit of history.

Come and stake your claim on your treasures—we will even trade (preferably for wood, no mother-in-laws or wives accepted!).

Superb patternmaker's box

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Plenty of solid mahogany levels and bygone quality here


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See those Stanley Liberty Bells?

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Waiting for our sawmill


As I mentioned in an earlier entry, I have a local friend who has hit rough times. With the banks and repo men chasing him in a big way he has been in desperate need of cash and I have been keen to help out as best I can, by helping him offload some of his assets.

In particular, I have always wanted to own a small versatile portable sawmill, and his Timber Harvester LT30 had low hours and was in good shape. As an added bonus he also offered a WhisperWatt diesel generator with it, to fire up the machine. As the power costs in Maine are astronomical this was great news.

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Timber Harvester portable sawmill has 36" diameter log capacity


Great news in the beginning, but that was 6 months ago and the machine is still in my friend’s barn. First there was a bunch of legal to-ing and fro-ing after he was forced to file Chapter 11, and then he told me that he just needs to mill about fifty hemlock logs before he can hand it over. I obviously couldn’t refuse as you can’t kick a man when he’s down.

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Hydraulic log lifter saves the backs of our workers


So we hope to take delivery any day now. With that machine we will be able to custom cut large flitches and mantles and supply our export market in South Africa with custom-cut North American hardwoods.

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With a 30 ft length capacity we are all set for cutting even specialised boat lumber in locust and oak

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Seven ton monster: Our Newman Whitney behemoth


In order to look after larger orders and to neaten up selected stock that comes from third world countries we decided to invest in a monster doubled-sided planer. Our South African operation runs two 25 inch Taiwanese machines with spiral bladed replaceable TCT cutters. They work a treat on wildgrain stock and the abrasive woods we often stock. The 14mm square cutters are indexable and have four cutting edges so that we often get up to two years out of a set of 244 cutters. This is obviously a real cost saver in terms of both time and money.


After being in the USA for a while I found out that the venerable firm of Whitney Newman (www.newmanwhitney.com), has been making similar machines for over 50 years and of a near-legendary quality of construction. With the sad decline in US wood manufacturing jobs in recent years, some of these machines were being basically given away on auction.

I successfully bid on a 44 inch S970 double-sided planer (check it out- they still make the same machine today and it costs circa $180,000!). I got mine for $5500 and thought I was in heaven, but the fun had only just begun.

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Isn't she a beauty?


Rigging and transport were another approx $2000, and then I had to unload it at the mill.

I have six forklift trucks (one of my few vices??) From two ton TCMs to four ton Yale and Hyster diesel workhorses, but of course these weren’t going to do it as this monster machine weighed in at 7 tons!!!!!

Luckily a good friend of mine has a seven-ton Manitou 4 wheel drive and offered to help. What he forgot to tell me was that he had declared bankruptcy and the banks collectors were after this machine. We used some good old lumber man ingenuity and kept it hidden for 3 days until the fateful rainy Saturday arrived.

Our first problem was that the delivery truck trailer was a low bed – with small wheels that were below our loading dock height. That meant that we couldn’t skid it out. Needless to say, there followed about four hours of further obstacles, but eventually we got it onto the ramp and sent the bemused driver on his way.

The repo team took my friend’s Manitou away on the Monday and it took us three days of co-ordinated pushing and shoving with two separate 4 ton forktrucks to position the machine. If this sounds a little tricky to you, rest assured it was, and there was much beard-stroking and hot coffee required.

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Putting a Yale forktruck next to it gives you a real feel for the size and weight


Once we had the beast in position, we had to make sure we could feed it lots and LOTS of power. A 50 hp top head and 30 hp lower head means that this machine is hungry all the time. Fortunately we had a really high quality power distribution box from the old kilns that could be converted, but we still had lots of wiring and fittings to buy and fit.

Switch on day was magic and the machine purrs like a kitten and does a superb job, but there was sawdust every which way. This baby wasn’t going to play ball without a dust collector (and a suitably large one at that).

After trawling Ebay for ages I picked up the perfect Dustek (www.dustek.com) - another great American-built machine.

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Putting on the finishing touches, with the Dustek extractor in the foreground


All that was needed then was another $1200 dollars or so of starters, hoses, fittings et cetera and we now have a set-up that is running as sweetly as we could have hoped. Our machine shop also has a fitting centerpiece.

Here’s hoping we just never have to move it again!!!!!!

 

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Blood, sweat, but no tears yet: Getting our facilities in shape


Sometimes I feel like the most fortunate guy in the world. With the new world business order seeing jobs heading to China etc in droves, the state of Maine USA has endless factories lying idle, which is a sorry state of affairs all in all, but one that held great potential for me. As a result we were able to purchase a perfectly viable old dowel mill just perfect for our needs.The factory and site offered lots of bang for the buck with just a little elbow grease required to get into workable shape (or so we thought...)


Two years and about $50k later, and after superb efforts from some great local guys that I’ve got to know, we are now ready for business infrastructure-wise. Here is some of the fun we had transforming the old mill.


Firstly, the roof.....  The old flat roofs had endless leak problems, whereas pitched roofs work really well with the amount of snow we get in winter.

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Hard at work on a nice sunny day

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The roof beginning to take shape


Another of our projects was to build a substantial mezzanine floor and install a racking system for easy selection of timber on a board-by-board basis...

Our mezzanine is built with about 10 tons of hemlock laid over steel trusses

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All-in-all it took two weeks of solid effort from four men armed with nail guns and a compressor

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We now have space for 180 types of exotic wood from the four corners of the globe - always enough to finish your project!



(p.s. these racks are all now very full indeed!)

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And thirdly, we set to work building a large showroom to show off some of the wood....

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Hard at work on the interior structure. I can't explain how cold it was when we were doing this work - hence the polar explorer outfit

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We pretty rapidly got the room into good shape...

Showroom now

...and then filled it with an extensive range of samples, all with a half-finish so that you can see the beauty that is waiting to be released.

All 180 species that we stock are here, ready for you to touch, smell and feel - and to take them home of course!


It's been an incredible process, and probably a little harder than we had predicted, but we are now able to fill the warehouse with beautiful wood and be confident that we have first class facilities, and a great lumber selection experience, for our customers.

 

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Located in beautiful Maine, USA

Come and explore our huge warehouse, with its large showroom and convenient racking to aid selection

Perhaps take in some of our wonderful Maine woods while you're here

With huge stocks of gorgeous exotic lumber from the four corners of the earth

Latest Blog Posts

01 July 2011
Good showrooms can give people ideas and the stimulus to begin that project they have been dreaming about.  Unfortunately they can also cost a lot! Our challenge as a fledgling business was to come up...
24 June 2011
Life as a timber merchant has often been a steep learning curve. I’m not ashamed to say that many mistakes have been made, some worse than others!Below I thought I would run you through some of the sc...
18 June 2011
Luthiers are a different breed with very exacting needs – often happy to sort through mountains of wood to select that specific piece with the perfect combination of grain, color and taptone. With my...
30 May 2011
Many woodworkers are surprised to find a “full house” exotic wood dealer in Mexico, Maine. 500,000 bd ft of exotic hardwoods 180 species displayed in racks and bundles Extensive showroom Milling fa...

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