Goby Walnut is located just outside the Northwest Portland industrial district, and most of their lumber comes from within 100 miles of their shop. Their material is sourced solely from hazard or salvaged trees – those that need to be cleared either because they present a hazard, or because the land is being converted to another use. The source is predominantly from urban areas, and does not impact valuable forestland.
Ordinarily this material would be considered waste or sold for pulp. Goby instead upcycles it to higher value uses. We are happy to partner with a local company that provides us with fantastic material sourced from – sometimes literally – our own backyards. It allows us to build furniture that fulfills our lifetime warranty, ensuring that each tree has a second life that can rival the length of the first.
The process is complex and time consuming. After removing the tree, Goby transports it to its NW Portland facility. It is milled, then are air dried for one summer per inch of thickness. The slabs are then kiln dried.
That gorgeous Western Walnut Studio Dining table that just came through our shop? The material started out two inches thick, which means it was air dried for two full summers. This allows the moisture content to lower gradually and naturally. Trying to speed the process up by blasting the slabs with heat in an extended stay in the kiln can result in cracking. Turning the heat down in the kiln, but skipping the air drying process can help the outer portions of the lumber dry evenly, but not the interior. Eventually that moisture in the center of the slab finds its way out, and the result is wood movement or warping.
In the best-case scenario, it takes over a year and a half from the time the tree was taken down to the time we can complete that dining table. Generally the total leadtime for material of that thickness is over two years – a big investment in inventory, both in terms of cost and the space needed to warehouse it.
In 2015 we worked with Goby to improve predictability and lower financial risk by implementing a log purchasing program for Western Walnut. We committed in advance to purchase an entire tree, knowing that we would not have the material for one to two years. We worked closely with Art and Aaron to select the trees with certain characteristics, including color and grain pattern. We then determined the thicknesses for Goby to mill the material to, based on our anticipated future needs for key products – a tricky process to be sure. The slabs then air-dried for those one to two summers before finishing off in the kiln.
Now in its third year, our log purchasing program has been successful for both partners, and has provided material that is just now being turned into finished products. The beautiful live edge pieces in our showrooms now – including dining table tops, coffee tables and beds – are from Goby logs that we worked with Art and Aaron to select two years ago.
Below are photos of one of our Joinery logs, the milled lumber bieng layout out for a coffee table, and the completed piece. Come by our Yamhill or Woodstock showrooms to see these products on the floor.