To a true woodworker, whether professional or amateur, there are few things more exciting or inspiring than being the first to sort through a freshly-arrived stack of hardwood lumber. Only the sawyer and lumber handlers have seen it. While sorting through the boards, you can’t help wondering: “what did the tree look like?” “where is the rest of the log?”, where are the book matched pieces?”, or “what if the sawyer had turned the log differently to expose more highly figured wood?” Usually, though the nagging question is “why does someone else always manage to pick through the lumber before I do?”
Instead of wondering, Duane Slaymaker, of Strasberg, PA, loads a log onto his sawmill and pictures in his mind what it looks like on the inside. With more than a decade of experience, he has learned to read the logs, and decides for himself how to cut them for the best grain.
Duane is a professional woodworker who runs a one-man shop in central Pennsylvania. His custom furniture is in offices and high-end homes throughout central Pennsylvania. Duane says that milling his own lumber is a logical link between the raw material and the final product. It gives him total control, allowing him to start out with the desired dimensions and the opportunity to turn the log for the best grain pattern. He keeps boards from the same logs together in sequenced bundles so that he can match the grain or make book match panels.
Duane has come a long way since he began his career as a woodworker twenty-four years ago. He recalls, “Equipped only with a table saw, drill press, router, band saw with a broken shaft and a ‘nothing to lose attitude’, I began building cabinets and custom furniture.”
Starting up a woodworking shop in the middle of Amish country, Duane knew that he would need to quickly find a niche to set him apart from the other shops. As he moved toward high-end cabinetry, he became increasingly frustrated with the quality of his raw material. “Many times I would travel to a supplier only to find the best lumber had already been picked out of the pile.
No tools or training can turn a piece of low grade material into a quality cabinet door panel or table top,” he recalled.“I wanted to get away from depending on others for my lumber. The Norwood sawmill was a good fit. It wasn’t all that expensive, and seemed like a good way to explore cutting my own lumber without risking a considerable investment. I took a leap of faith and ordered the mill.”