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Thread: Going to the sawmill: Ash or Oak or?

  1. #1

    Going to the sawmill: Ash or Oak or?

    There's a sawmill relatively close to me that sells oak, ash, hickory and maple for $0.40/bdft (min. 400 bdft/order). The catch is that each type of wood is a mix of subspecies, so for example, oak is a mix of red and white oaks (probably 3 or 4 species of oak too). Hickory can be pig nut, bitternut, and maybe shell bark, etc...

    My dilemma is that I'll be getting a load of ~400-600 board feet (or however much I can safely fit on my trailer) for a number of projects. The main project is wainscoting and built-ins for the den in our basement. As we're slowly remodeling our house, we're going for a "rustic craftsman" style. The wainscoting will be tall (about 5 feet) and be simple frame and panel. The built-ins will also be heavily influenced by the craftsman style and be on either side of a large stone chimney. I already made a dutch door that connects the den to the woodshop using reclaimed oak (see photo below). It would be nice if the wainscoting would be close to this look.
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    My concern with Ash is that it may be too yellow which wouldn't look good with the soft green walls, warm brown stained concrete floors, and the stone. I'm not sure if Ash can be stained a warm brown color? I haven't worked with it before.

    If I get oak, then I'll have to sort through and divide red and white. I can't afford to get QSWO which is the "standard" for craftsman style, but this is more rustic as our house is more "cabin" like.

    Hickory's grain contrast is probably a little too pronounced.

    Maple is too light and doesn't stain well, though I did my basement workshop walls in it in LOVE it. Not so much for the den though.
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    Here's one of the only photos I can find that show the stone, walls, and floor:
    IMG_0707.jpg

    Here's the shop door made from reclaimed oak (sorry, photo is a bit dark):
    IMG_0179.jpg

    This is an inspirational photo of wainscoting that I'll be loosely basing ours from (may lighten the color since it's in a basement with no natural light):
    craftsman wainscoting.jpeg

    I'd appreciate any second opinions before I commit at the sawmill!
    Thanks
    Last edited by Matt Schenk; 12-27-2018 at 7:02 PM.

  2. #2
    This is very complicated. IMO if you have a place to store some wood I would get the oak, separate it into red and white. Use the one you have the most of or that looks the best and use the rest for future projects. At that price.............what the heck? If you have no storage, sell the stuff you don't want on CL.

  3. #3
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    I'd buy both because Ash will only be getting harder and harder to find in the future, that's a good price (is this fresh sawn, green lumber that will need to be stacked and air-dried?) and having some around if you have the room will only become more valuable. Ash can be stained to look like a darker oak if you really want it to.

    I agree with Ron above and would separate out the White Oak and try and use that for your interior woodwork. What type of finish did you put on your door? What type of oak is it? Hard to tell from the photo.
    Last edited by Phillip Mitchell; 12-27-2018 at 10:58 PM.

  4. #4
    Yes, the lumber is green and needs to be stacked and stickered. For the price I donít mind.

    The door is red oak and just has a coat of BLO. In retrospect, Iíll probably refinish it since itís a bit too orange.

    Maybe Iíll just have to convince She-who-must-be-obeyed that I need to stock up with as much as possible of multiple types of wood.

  5. #5
    I've mixed red and white oak together with a darker stain, and you really can't tell one from the other. Oak hasn't always been separated by species, so mixing isn't unheard of historically, even (especially?) in Craftsman/Mission times.

    On the desk below, the drawer fronts are quarter sawn white oak; the rest of the desk is red oak. Finish is a coat of medium walnut Watco with a coat of shellac and two coats of Minwax satin polyurethane. The desk was for my dad; he had just moved into the old folks home and the red oak was from his former shop, and the white oak drawer fronts were from trees in his former yard that he had milled into lumber. I normally don't intentionally mix oak species, but this was for sentimental reasons for him, and either way, it can be done successfully.

    Walnut Watco works good as a stain for the Mission style look (I don't care for it without a topcoat though). It is basically the modern equivalent of the asphaltum stain that was often used back then. Contrary to popular belief, not all Mission/Craftsman furniture was fumed. I suspect the minority was actually fumed, as fuming was as inconvenient (and dangerous) for them as it is for us today.

    Regarding wainscoting, Gustav Stickley himself said that wainscoting should be plain sawn and not quarter sawn, because the figure was more pronounced in plain sawn. Again, not all Mission/Craftsman style furniture was quarter sawn white oak. Both Stickleys offered furniture in a variety of species and not always quarter sawn.

    IMG_4764.jpg

  6. #6
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    Wet ash is like crack to powder post beetles. They'll come from far and wide to lay eggs in it. Do yourself a huge favor and treat the wood with a borax pesticide and have it kiln dried. I had to burn a couple thousand board feet of air dried wood that was stored in a shed on my Mom's farm after I cut it. Still makes me sick. I had 16" wide maple that was riddled with holes and internal tunnels. Buying cheap won't help you if it gets infested and you have to burn 2/3 of it.

  7. #7
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    Wet ash is like crack to powder post beetles. They'll come from far and wide to lay eggs in it. Do yourself a huge favor and treat the wood with a borax pesticide and have it kiln dried. I had to burn a couple thousand board feet of air dried wood that was stored in a shed on my Mom's farm after I cut it. Still makes me sick. I had 16" wide maple that was riddled with holes and internal tunnels. Buying cheap won't help you if it gets infested and you have to burn 2/3 of it.

  8. #8
    Andrew, thatís a beautiful desk! Thanks for the information about the style and history too.

    Richard, thanks for the heads up. I have enough problems with the carpenter bees around the wood shed, donít need to invite PPB too!

  9. #9
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    I've been working with a lot of ash lately. I have 1000's of board feet that I've cut and dried, so time to use it up. It takes gel stain very well, as long as you use a quality product. Minwax is not on that list. I have been using Old Master's gel stain exclusively for a long time, when I need to stain wood, and it is working beautifully. I have been able to make ash look like any color needed, including a dark chocolate walnut (Espresso), Pecan, or any of the middle colors. They also have a newer gel stain called weathered oak, which gives a grayish hue to the wood, just like weathered barn wood. You can add any other gel stain color mixed with it to tint it a little, as well.

    Edit: Forgot to mention that you do NOT want to sand the ash any higher than 120 to 150 grit. If you do, it becomes too fine, and doesn't hold the gel stain as well. This means, you would have to leave more of the stain on the surface, leading to longer drying times, and less wood figure seen. Might as well paint at that point.
    Last edited by Jeff Heath; 12-28-2018 at 1:17 PM. Reason: Additional info.
    Jeff

  10. #10
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    Are you staining? I'm not a red oak fan although I like rift sawn. If staining to a medium or darker color, I like hickory. It polishes up as the pores are so small. It does take stain but you can't sand too fine, 120-150 so the stain can take enough to even out the light and dark. I made hickory and oak doors and to me the hickory look similar but much more classy than red oak. White oak is kind of a middle ground between red oak and hickory if stained. Smaller pores than red. I've not worked enough with ash to advise on it. Dave

  11. #11
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    Keep what you want. Sort and sell the rest. At those prices, you might run a liitle business on the side. Go back for more. I planed a piece of ash last week. Over16' long. Grain similar to white oak with dark patches that remind me of birch. Beautiful stuff.

  12. #12
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    The answer to this depends mostly on your own personal choice/preferences.

    I like ash a lot, and prefer it to oak even. I do not like red oak (so much out there and too orange for my tastes). I like QSWO (which yours is not). But staining and mixing the two would likely go un-noticed, and look beautiful in your house.

    I have seen hickory cabinets and liked them, and with the various colors in the wood naturally mixing some other species would likely go un-noticed.

    If a great deal, and you have a place to sticker/dry it, I also vote on just getting it all and using on future projects. You have enough work ahead to use it all. (exactly as I do). But I am a wood hoarder... (and personally trying to buy and sell takes too much time away from more productive tasks).

    So it really comes down to your own available $, space, preferences, project list.

  13. #13
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    I am no expert, but craftsman and rustic aren't the same IMO. I could be wrong. To me rustic would be more hickory with a combination of heart and sapwood with occasional knots and other imperfections. But not as crazy as knotty pine of years ago. Here is a shot of my hickory kitchen cabs:
    Attached Images Attached Images
    NOW you tell me...

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ole Anderson View Post
    I am no expert, but craftsman and rustic aren't the same IMO. I could be wrong. To me rustic would be more hickory with a combination of heart and sapwood with occasional knots and other imperfections. But not as crazy as knotty pine of years ago. Here is a shot of my hickory kitchen cabs:
    Those are nice Ole. I've seen some hickory that was way too 'rustic' for my taste. Heart & sapwood mixed nilly-willy, yuck.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Seemann View Post
    I've mixed red and white oak together with a darker stain, and you really can't tell one from the other.
    I bought a big load of mixed oaks on ebay for $1 (because I was the only bid...) and made a table and chairs out it. I didn't have any thick enough for the chair back rails, so I used ash. With Minwax Spanish Oak on it, it all looks alike. Sure, the grain is different, but no one but a woodworker could tell, and even then it looks fine.

    I think ash works better than oak; though if drying it is a problem I would go with oak.

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