I received this question in episode 2 of the Ask Brian Boggs Show:
Hi, I live in Los Angeles and would like to pursue chairmaking but the lumber available here is all kiln-dried. Air-dried is not available, let alone green logs. I ran into that issue and for years taught chairmaking in both Hawthorne … Well, Hawthorne, Orange, Los Angeles … All around southern California and this was always a problem, and in Portland, Oregon as well. – Mark
There are several ways that people have addressed this.
One is to buy kiln-dried lumber, saw the parts out, get things ready to steam bend and actually steam the kiln-dried lumber for about an hour, let it sit in the steamer overnight and then the next day, soak it or just re-steam it again. But if you soak it, you obviously still have to steam it again, so that’s a way to sort of anneal or reconstitute lumber that’s kiln-dried. It’s an expensive kind of pain-in-the-butt way to deal with it, but we can supply wood, and have for years supplied wood to chair-makers, so if you want to call us and let us know what your needs are, we’ll have a minimum order, but that’s one way to do it.
Green wood, it doesn’t have advantages unless you have really good access to standing timber. If you’re having to pay for reconstituting wood or having wood shipped out one share at a time, being able to manage green wood chairmaking processes so that they work like they originally did, it’s just not worth it. There are other ways to take advantage of wood moisture and bending, partly by the way that I was just talking about, but it’s more important in green wood chairmaking that the nailed parts are super-dried and that’s a lot easier to do out your way. Having a direct source back here like us, is probably the simplest way to do it. We can not only get you air-dried and green stock, but stock that’s specifically selected for this kind of work.
One of the things that, has made a difference in the way that I work since I started is being close to the timber and being able to work directly from the log, whether I’m making a table that’s gonna be kiln-dried material at some point, having access to the log and being able to decide exactly how that material comes out of the log, how I saw it, the dimensions I saw it too, and exactly how it’s dried, have a whole lot to do with how enjoyable and how fluid the process is. Anytime I think if you look at any craft or furniture-making history or process throughout history, you’re gonna see it, that there’s a close tie to locally-available materials, and when you step out of that you’re just adding a lot of complexity. Not that it can’t be done or enjoyable, but it does have a lot of complexity when you are working a craft out of its native habitat.