In search of the perfect board
One of the joys of woodworking is starting a new project. You envision it in your head...imagine it from every angle...try to work out in your head the steps and the order to put them in. Often the best (and sometimes worst) part is getting the wood.
This is sometimes more complicated than it should be. The big box stores (Lowes, Home Depot, Rona, etc.) are the last place to look. Unless you want some pine 2x4s, you will pay through the nose for maple, poplar or oak. If you want cherry, or walnut, or any other hardwood, you will need to buy it rought cut from a mill and plane it down yourself.
Something I learned rather quickly is that there aren't a lot of lumber mills selling quality hardwood. And when you buy rough cut lumber, it sometimes isn't easy to tell what the wood will look like cleaned up. That's where the best (and worst) part comes in.
There is nothing more breath-taking than revealing a beautiful grain you didn't know was there. Or nothing more disappointing than losing a lot of wood due to cracks, knots or other defects you couldn't see when you started.
Still, the cost difference is worth taking the chance. Maple hardwood at the big box retailers is almost three times the price of buying it at the mill. And you can't get anything thicker than 3/4".
After 25 years of woodworking, I've never found that elusive "perfect board." But every piece of wood has its own beauty...and the thrill is always coaxing that out of the lumber.