The crooked path

It’s gotta be a law of Murphy’s: When I needed a nasty, crooked piece of stock I didn’t have one.

When I get lumber I root through it to find the best stuff – no twists, no crooks, no cups – but I’m not always successful. Sometimes you can’t pick through the stuff (some lumber mongers frown on this) and you get what you get. Either way, it’s a good bet that in any woodworker’s lumber racks there are bad boards that need to be broken down into smaller ones to be usable. That’s fine, because that’s how woodworking works.

But last week I had to do an article on getting a straight edge on a piece of rough lumber, and I need a nasty, crooked board to use for the photography. So naturally I just start rummaging through my lumber rack, cutoffs and scrap barrel. Nothing. For the first time I can remember I don’t have a single unstraight board in the shop suitable for an article on straightening a board.

OK, so how about a Big Box store. Heck, crooked lumber is pretty much all they have, so I just went to the closest blue one. No luck. So I drove to a different blue one on the other side of town. Nada. There’s an orange Big Box in yet another part of town so I headed there. Nope, nothing I could use there either.

Oh, sure, all the places I went had cupped boards, and twisted boards, and split boards, and twisty boards, but I couldn’t find a single crooked one. So I called a friend of mine that I know has a ton of rough-cut walnut in an old shed. He had given me a bunch of it before, and it was loaded with crooks and waney edges before I milled it all down, and a piece of that would be perfect. No go there, either – his shed is virtually inaccessible due to the 49 tons of snow covering it.

Frustrated, I grabbed a perfectly good piece of lumber from the rack, tapped a chisel into one end and split off the edge along the entire length, followed by doing the same to the other edge. The result wasn’t quite what I wanted but it worked for the purposes of getting the photos. After years of turning crummy boards into straight lumber, this was the first time I ever took a perfectly good board and turned it into a piece of junk.

Intentionally, that is.

A.J.

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