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A Woodworker's Dream

by Dick Rank
Atlanta, GA

Note: click on any picture to see a larger version.

If you are a wood collector or woodworker, pull over next time you see a large pile of sawdust and smell wood smoke. Some time ago while driving up in Western North Carolina, I stopped to investigate such a scene, and what I found was a large portable band saw lumber mill, a large log yard stocked with a variety of wood species, and a very talented local sawyer and woodworker. For a long time, local craftsman Bryan Simon was attracted to the lumber and trees that are everywhere in the Cashiers area of Western North Carolina, and at some point he decided to build his own saw mill. He now has a beautiful trailer mounted mill he made out of stainless steel, with a hydraulic system that will turn a big log every which way in order to expose that perfect grain pattern. He also installed an automatic control system that repeatedly cuts the exact board thickness a customer might want.

While visiting him one day, he showed me a 32 inch wide, two inch thick slab of hemlock cut out of a three hundred year old log that he was drying. (Counting the rings took a long while!) It will become a table top in my shop. The mill does cut big logs! Last week, I stopped in again, and there alongside the mill was a huge dark grey hemlock log about ten feet long and 32 inches in diameter. A highway crew uncovered it under 8 feet of mud while repairing a bridge site, and they knew Bryan would want it. South America and Florida rivers aren’t the only places to do lumber archaeology. Using his old Chevy crane truck, he swung it onto the mill and cut a slice so we could see its species and condition. You can see the soft grey color reaching all the way to the log’s center, suggesting it had been soaking for a very long time. Worms had also drilled many holes almost to the log’s center.

During the last several years, he has cut huge amounts of custom sized lumber to supply the recent building boom of custom vacation home construction in the area, and he systematically continues to add to an impressive collection of very special woods and grain patterns.

For Bryan, it was no longer enough to just cut wood. Some things needed to be built, including a magnificent all-weather shop, some furniture and most recently some walnut kitchen cupboards with bookend face-cut doors and wooden hinges he designed. And, in order to do that, of course he had to design and build a large dovetailed workbench out of local wood he dried. The only metal in the bench is a pair of drawer slides on the bench end.

The interior of the workshop building has many unique features. Bryan has used a variety of special woods and construction methods to create a unique and very functional interior. The shop exterior quietly blends in to the beautiful creekside setting he chose. It all is a woodworker’s dream, from log, to mill, to the table saw and the workbench. If you are ever in the Cashiers area of North Carolina, stop at the Glenville Sawmill and enjoy a unique experience. You may find that special piece of wood you need.

My grandchildren now really understand where lumber comes from.

Dick Rank can be contacted at .

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