As a kid, I fondly remember my grandfather bringing me and my little brother to the garage on the back corner of his property. We knew this place as simply, “The Building.” It was an uninsulated and unlit steel structure with a high ceiling, a gravel floor, and it seemed to go on forever in all directions. Part of the sense of size had to do with The Building’s contents – rows and rows of fascinating mechanical contrivances, tools, engines, and even whole vehicles in various states of disassembly. There was an early Ford truck cab in one corner (which we loved to climb into) surrounded by all the mechanical guts of the vehicle, as if it had been turned inside out. My grandfather had worked on the Steelton & Highspire (Pennsylvania) Railroad, and I imagine that many of the massive gadgets and gizmos out there were from his engineering days. But to us boys, it was a wonderland.
My Grandpa and his locomotive.
Often when we headed out to The Building (it was a bit of a walk), we were on a mission. My grandfather was looking to repair an air compressor or fix a vacuum leak on his vintage Mustang, and he needed something specific. He would pull out a wrench and remove a fitting from some greasy part, look it over, and pocket it. And it always did the trick. In that massive collection of machine parts, he knew where to find exactly what was needed.
We as woodworkers often adopt similar practices with our lumber. I recently wrote about the value of sourcing our materials ourselves – going to the forest to cut and mill trees, reclaiming boards from old structures and furniture, becoming “the woodworker friend” who is a regular, happy recipient of orphaned lumber – rather than relying entirely on big-box stores or suppliers. Having a literal stockpile means that you can usually dig through and find exactly what you need. The problem with this approach is that it creates a storage problem – where do you put all that wood?
For city dwellers with space constraints, things can be tricky. You might find an empty area under the stairs or in a utility room where permission could be attained to stack your boards, or (less ideally) a storage unit could be rented. Obviously, the best advice here is to flee the city and purchase a few acres out in the woods, but that’s another subject entirely…
For those of us who do have some space to stretch out, the options are more open. Period cabinetmakers often stored their lumber in the garret or attic above their shops, as well as keeping covered-and-stickered stacks of rough-cut boards out in the yard. Overhead garage trusses are a good option, or a quick shed roof addition on an outbuilding can provide safe cover for your precious stash. Covering stacks in the yard with a tarp is not a good idea, because the wood can’t breathe and damage will result. Sheets of plywood or corrugated metal roofing material are better. The point is, making the effort to create a sustainable storage solution will always pay off. And with lumber prices today increasing tremendously (with no end in sight), that kind of investment is a wise one.
How do you store your lumber?