It's Just Cheap Wood from Home Depot....

It's Just Cheap Wood from Home Depot....

I get this comment a lot at shows, and recently just got it on a review ... and I think it's now come to where it bears responding to. Because it has been slowly building from entertaining, to irritating, to now...insulting.

We make hardwood paddles and canes, because we love wood. We love working with it, going with the grain, oiling and finishing, staining or lacquering, smoothing and shaping or's kind of our thing. So when someone looks over it, sneers and mutters "it's just a cheap dowel...I can get that at Home Depot..."

No, darling, you can't. You can get a mass produced, kiln dried piece of crap "hardwood" (of a generic species, harvested unethically and indiscriminately by mass driven machinery from a forest of multiple species of hardwoods ... so 90-95% of it may be generic species "oak", but then there's that accidental 5-10% of "other".... so no, darling, you aren't guaranteed that the species of wood you're buying is what you're getting unless you can "type" it yourself, piece by piece).

And then it's forced air kiln dried, by the thousands of pounds, meaning you're getting a piece that is unevenly dried, poorly treated, roughly handled and rarely (if ever) straight. So it's going to have invisible patches of dryness the density (and relative strength) of a match stick. (Which is why, when @Kenova teaches classes on "do it yourself", he ALWAYS includes sections on re-oiling and re-treating wood, because generic big box hardware store hardwoods will be abused and force dried crap that will break at random intervals.)

We either cut our wood in house from chunks we've sourced from responsible vendors, or if we have a vendor we trust to treat the wood right, we source it pre-cut from sources that know their wood and do it properly. They slow dry, so you don't have patches of wood that are serviceable, with random patches so dry (and thus weak) that you can snap them like bread sticks. They cut (yes, dowels have to be cut - dowel is NOT a dirty word, it's a technical term for a piece of hardwood cut into a rod by a specific cutting tool - one that takes training to use properly) their dowels with attention to knots, straightening, oil and humidity, and direction of the grain.

Oh, by the by ... you've heard of "going against the grain"? Yeah ... big box hardware stores run their wood through mills, which cut in whatever direction is profitable. So whichever direction they can get the most pieces out of. Which means some of their wood (slat, dowel, slab or otherwise) is cut in poor directions for strength. It's why when you see carpenters at Home Depot, when you actually see them there, they're often sitting in the aisle sorting through a pile of wood pieces. Because their regular source is probably out, or they just need a really quick fix, so they're taking the time to sort through the big box junk to find one or two good pieces.

We don't buy from mass market mills. And we don't buy from sources that do. We take the time to know our sources, or if they are behind in stock or can't provide it in time, we'll buy it raw and cut it and shape it ourselves. And dry it ourselves, if we have to. We have connections with a wood shop nearby that has a kiln we've rented time on multiple times in the past.

And that's just getting the wood in the front door.

Then it has to be cleaned up. Prepped. Sanded and smoothed. Oiled, if it's too dry. Steam straightened, if it's bent. If it's going to be a paddle, there's shaping it along the grain, and cutting and forming it in a way that maintains a good surface for impact, and a comfortable grip style.

Then you have to have the knowledge of what sealants, dyes, water dyes, stains, oil colorants or dry rub dyes will color the wood without damaging the grain, or making it unsealable. Because, ya know - chemistry. Oil based sealants can go over water dyes - water dyes over oil stains, not so much. (And that bit of wisdom is kindergarten, when it comes to wood work).

And what species is best? What has a janka rating that makes for good impact surface tension, while having a nice grain pore to soak up oil or stain? What sub-species have good modulus of elasticity vs. density crosses in order to make for good impact strength canes?


You starting to feel us here?

So no, darling. You can't order a mass market force kiln dried piece of Home Depot oak, dip it in lacquer and say you've "crafted a cane". No, you dipped a piece of generic wood in even more generic lacquer. And before we go further, look: We encourage people to get involved in making their own toys. We do. It can be a very holistic thing, to have a toy or two that you've made for yourself, as part of your toy box. It's why @Kenova teaches a DIY class - because it's a powerful thing, to have that one toy in your toy bag that you really made for yourself.

But please stop insinuating that you're being robbed when a vendor puts all of those hours of work, and all of that craft and that cost, into providing you with a hand made, carefully sourced piece of craft. Because comparing a mass market piece of force dried generic hardwood crap to a hand cut piece of specified sub species hardwood that's been treated, straightened, water dyed and sealed... that's not even close.

And it's part of why you see so many vendors dropping out of the scene - they're just not willing to do the work anymore, when they can go back to straight carpentry or retail and make better margins without those kinds of comments.
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