Wood is the heart and soul of the work we do. Therefore we have found it beneficial to control, as much as possible, the entire process of acquiring it. We involve ourselves in every aspect of that process from the forest to your home. We often literally go out into the woods with consulting foresters and loggers and pick the trees that will later become the timbers in our projects. Quite simply, good timber can only come from good trees. By walking the land we can not only select the best trees for our use but we can also gauge whether or not the timber is being harvested in a sustainable and environmentally sensitive manner.
We mill our own timbers so that we can completely control their production quality and minimize waste. Each timber is sawn in such a way that defects are minimized and the yield is maximized. The band saw mill we use creates a very thin kerf (wood removed by the saw blade) and hence very little useful wood ends up as saw dust. We also have the flexibility to mill timbers to the exact sizes we need. We are not limited by the standard industry increments of two inches in thickness and two feet in length. If we need a 31 foot-long timber 9" x 14" in section, we make it. It's that simple.
We use many different species of wood in our frames. One of the reasons we are located in East Texas is the access we have to high-quality timber. Southern Yellow Pine, Oak, Cypress and numerous other species are locally available. There is no "perfect" wood for all projects. Strength, color, grain pattern, size availability, moisture content, grade and cost all need to be considered before deciding which wood is best for a specific use.

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Sawmill Sawmill in Action

John Box sawing logs

Sawmill Long Timber

Types of Wood

Red or White Oak
Oak is a relatively strong wood (not the strongest by any means), has a pleasing grain pattern, takes a finish well and is easily worked when green and is moderately priced. We have used it often. Both our Timber Shop and Planer Barn are Red Oak. Most often Oak is used green, or freshly cut, which means it has a high moisture content. As the wood dries, it checks and shrinks a great deal. This is unfortunate in that both the joinery and timber faces distort after a frame is raised. Please visit the Dry Kilns section of our tour for a complete discussion of moisture in timbers. Red Oak can be dried in a radio frequency (microwave) kiln, but this is both very expensive and often degrades the wood fibers. We do not recommend the process.
Since we are committed to using local materials, when Oak is a clients wood of choice, we most often use the southern species of both Red and White Oak. Northern species are available, but are in no way superior and we see no point in spending the money and energy to ship it halfway across the country. Due to Red Oak's pleasing color, we most often select Red Oak, although White Oak does offer better resistance to rot and insect damage. This is only important if a frame will be subject to the elements, as would a pavilion or possibly a barn.
If you like the look and feel of Red Oak, and see the checks and shrinkage that will appear over time as evidence of a natural material, then it might be the right choice for you.

Red Oak
Red Oak
Southern Yellow Pine (SYP)
Southern Yellow Pine is one of the premier structural woods in the world and it is our most popular timber product. It is very stiff and, when dry, quite hard. One of the colloquial names for SYP is "Hard Pine." It is available in large sizes, long lengths and is of consistently high quality. It is also very amenable to kiln drying so it need not be used green. When dried properly, it distorts very little and checks are small and scattered. It has a bold grain pattern and a color range from golden brown to reddish brown as it ages. It finishes and stains very well. Southern Yellow Pine is a commercial classification for four related species naturally occurring in the southeastern United States. The species are Longleaf, Shortleaf, Loblolly and Slash pines. The mix of species changes as you move from the Atlantic seaboard to East Texas. In our area Shortleaf and Loblolly are predominant with a fairly substantial quantity of Longleaf in areas with sandy soils. The majority of logs that we buy are Shortleaf Pine.
We use Southern Yellow Pine in our own frames because of its strength and quality. Should these attributes appeal to you, Southern Yellow Pine would be an excellent choice for your frame. We used SYP for both our Layout Barn and Board Barn and plan to use it for a future shop addition.
Southern Yellow Pine
Southern Yellow Pine
Douglas Fir
Douglas Fir, like Southern Yellow Pine, is one of the most sought after structural woods in the world. It is available in virtually any grade and size. It has a very pleasing dark reddish brown color as it ages. It is very sensitive to ultra violet radiation and darkens very quickly when exposed to light. The grain pattern of high quality Douglas Fir is often even in both color and pattern. Planed Douglas Fir seems to glow when a clear oil finish is applied.
Douglas Fir, although very strong, has an Achilles Heel. It splits very easily along the grain. It is therefore necessary to design joinery in such a way to avoid this characteristic. This is seldom a problem for experienced timber framers. We kiln dry new Douglas Fir before using it in a timber frame. Kiln drying stabilizes the wood and reduces movement in the timbers and checking.
Although we use both new kiln dried and recycled Douglas Fir, recycled material has its own special characteristics and beauty. In addition to the environmental benefit of using recycle wood, the material is often very dry and stable. The nail and bolt holes present often leave character marks that are pleasing evidence of its previous use. As either new kiln dried or recycled material, Douglas Fir is one of the more expensive woods on the market. So, if a darker color and even grain pattern are what you want in a frame, and the budget can support the added cost, we certainly would encourage the use of recycled Douglas Fir for your frame. The homes in Argyle Texas and Nacogdoches were built with recycled Douglas Fir and each has its own particular character.

Douglas Fir Douglas Fir

Over the years we have used a limited amount of Cypress, mostly for pavilions and porches. High quality Cypress is rot resistant, has a very pleasing color much like Southern Pine but with a more subtle grain pattern. It often has very high moisture content when green. In our experience it shrinks and checks relatively little as it dries. On the down side, high quality Cypress logs are hard to find and are usually quite expensive. They also tend to come from environmentally sensitive areas. Cypress is not a particularly strong wood and prone, more than most woods, to ring shakes (separation of the wood along the annual rings).
If you have a situation that requires a high degree of rot resistance and the structural requirements of the frame are not extreme, you might consider Cypress as a wood for your frame.


Walnut, Pecan and Other Hickories
Yes, we do have access to all these woods and we use them from time to time for accents in a frame. All of these woods check and distort significantly (much like Oak) as they dry and are not available in quantity and quality enough to warrant their use for a complete timber frame. However, each wood has its own beautiful and may be used for splines, wedges and other frame parts that are relatively small but visually interesting.

Recycled Timber
In addition to new material, we also use recycled or salvaged timber. By recycled timber we mean material that has been used at least once in a structure that is now being dismantled. When possible, we will visit the demolition site to select our materials from this "harvest" from the industrial forest. The raw materials come to us for remanufacturing.

Other Choices
Occasionally we have a client who wants something just a bit out of the ordinary. For these people we have access to numerous other species of timber such as Eastern White Pine, Hemlock, Sitka Spruce, Port Orford Cedar and Western Red Cedar. We have even used the local aromatic cedar (actually a Juniper) in a frame. Options are limited only by your imagination.


Recycled Timbers Recycled Timbers