In this digital era sometimes we get to meet and interact with people for years without getting to know them personally. A blessing or a curse some may say, but it can’t be denied that technology expands our reach beyond our usual 20 mile radius from where we live.
Thanks to the magic of technology and sources such as Craigslist is that got to James Wood Mill. Now let me back up a bit to explain the importance of finding someone like James when you are building a boat.
If you have ever built a boat or have flirted with the idea of building one, you might have read that bending wood is part of the deal and an almost a science in itself. Well, I am not a wood expert. As a matter of fact, I have been foreign to the northern hemisphere wood collection for my first 27 years of life; it is now when I am becoming more acquainted with different kinds of woods and their features. With that said, white oak and ash seem to be the most utilized species for bending stock in boat building. However, if you buy white oak or ash from a local hardware store your bending wood experience will be plagued with lots of frustrations. The brittle layers of wood will inevitably snap in every piece of stock. Why? Because the wood has been dried in a kiln where all the moisture content has been extracted, leaving the micro-porous cellulose between the wood grain bone dried. Unfortunately, the wood, once dried, cannot regain its moisture unless the wood has been dried naturally outside. This kind of wood is what is known as “green wood” or air dried
Nice Saturday trip just over an hour from Woodridge, IL.
Here is where James Wood Mill comes into play since he has been a great source of knowledge and green wood for our kayak project.
I contacted James a couple of years back through one of his adds on Craigslist, and not only was he accommodating delivering the wood for us right at our school but he was also a wealth of information.
The wood he gave us made the job of bending the kaya’s ribs an unreal and fascinating experience. We cut our rib stock in slats 1/4 inch thick by 1 inch in width, and length according to the rib length needed. After about ten minutes in the steam box, the hard unbendable oak became so soft and malleable that it is actually difficult to keep them straight.
This school year 2018- 2019, to replenish our green white oak supply I decided to travel to Johnsburg, IL, and visit James. To my surprise, James is not only very knowledgeable about wood cutting but he is what I would call an authentic “renaissance man.” He has quite the wood operation right in his backyard, including his own kiln. Plus he also is equipped to tackle the fabrication of mechanical parts for cars and tractors, rebuild engines and other sophisticated parts that require surgeon-like precision. He is an avid gardener, electrician and has even dabbed into the science of oil extraction from herbs for homeopathic purposes among many other endeavors and lost arts.
If you are ever in need of any off-the-beaten path wood specialty or product, including fancy cutting boards, I highly recommend getting in touch with James Wood Mill. You will not regret.