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Confessions of a Lumberholic

by Dick Rank
Atlanta, GA

In my late seventies, I consider myself to be very fortunate to have a really nice woodshop and lots of choice lumber. I am living out part of my childhood dreams. Now, If you look at my woodshop, it is really crowded with tools, and lumber is stashed everywhere. In fact, it is getting hard to walk around in there. That is not good for productivity. But last week some events happened that made me admit that I need help. Somehow I need to stop buying lumber.

I spend a good amount of time searching the internet for tool and lumber bargains. And in these economic times many bargains do present themselves. On the internet, several national auction companies present lists of auctions weekly- auctions for cabinet makers and wood product manufacturers who are going out of business. One such auction described small lots of “premier furniture quality pine lumber” up in central North Carolina. In my mind I pictured all those wide and perfect white pine boards in my trailer as I happily drive home from North Carolina. This purchase would eliminate the many trips I make to Lowes or Home Depot to pick up a couple of boards of utility pine for my various projects. Of course, it would save money if the auction price were right, and perhaps I could favor some of my woodworker friends by offering some premier pine to them at a price they couldn’t refuse. That might even pay for what I keep for myself. Well, now I am forced torealize that all this is addictive thinking. I know now that I need to join LAA, Lumber Addicts Anonymous. I can hear it now: “Hi! I’m Dick, and I’m a lumber addict.”

But then there was no choice. I was driven to bid, and I would work out the arrangements later. At the time, a trip of 400 miles one way did not seem particularly long. I bid a total of $150.00 on three lots, totaling about 600 board feet of this “premium” pine. Not bad, about twenty five cents per board foot. The die was cast.

To my surprise, five days later when the auction ended, there were no other bidders. I had bought the lumber with my first bid. The good news was that the price was very low. The bad news was that there might be something wrong with the lumber. Oh well, let’s go for it. I borrowed a full sized pickup truck, rented a trailer on the North Carolina end of the trip, and hit the road.

Leaving Atlanta at 2 pm put me in the Durham area just after dark. I found a motel and went to sleep with dreams of sugar plums and a gift of beautiful lumber under the Christmas tree. Up bright and early the next morning, I found the trailer rental place, went through their hookup process, and drove to the auction site. There were my three lots, under huge stacks of other lumber. The first lot looked pretty good, but- there must be a mistake. The other two lots had a few fine white pine 2x6 planks, but were mostly 2x2 Lowes variety utility yellow pine, some narrow off-cut strips, and a lot of small reject pieces with many knots, bark, swooping curves and other various and sundry defects. Unfortunately, there was no turning back now, but I could see written complaints I would write to the auction company in the future about this adventure.

It did not improve my state of mind when the helper assigned to me for loading asked how I would explain all this to my woodworking buddies back in Atlanta. In a way, confessing my errant ways in this article is part of my addiction recovery therapy.

We sorted and loaded the lumber worth bringing it back to Atlanta, leaving a large pile of “premier” fireplace wood behind. Again I eased my pain by thinking that a lighter trailer load would consume much less fuel on the way home. I also kept telling myself that this was quite an interesting adventure.

After a day of restacking some wood in the shop to make room, the smaller stack of new pine is neatly stacked, ready for that next piece of furniture to be made. Things are a little more crowded. The previously planned mahogany table is now going to be a pine table, and I now go to weekly meetings of Lumber Addicts Anonymous. At least for the near future, I have stopped looking at lumber auctions. To ease my pain and embarrassment, the auction company sent a refund check. They are an honest operation.

Anyone want to buy a small amount of premier furniture pine at a very low price?

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