Touring the ‘Out of the Woods’ Operations in Bonny Doon

Bryan toured the Out of the Woods operation in Bonny Doon, California and also reviewed a magnificent house that is being completed on the coast, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Dave Merchant's Out of the Woods quality hardwoods from California.

Dave Merchant

Harvesting Madrone and Tanoak in the Santa Cruz Mountains

We love the look and feel of wood in a house, and we value harvesting our forests in a sustainable manner.  Given we are using our existing redwood decking for our finished ceiling, we thought it would be fitting to use a local hardwood for our hardwood floors, specifically Pacific Madrone.

In the Santa Cruz Mountains, there are large stands of Redwood trees.  In these forests, there are other trees, including Madrone and Tanoak.  The Madrone and Tanoak are sometimes incidental as they take valuable sunlight and water, limiting the growth of the valuable Redwood trees.  Consequently, the Madrone and Tanoak trees are selectively cut from the maturing Redwood forests.  In most cases, the Madrone trees are cut and used for firewood (Madrone is considered the best firewood material because it burns very hot for a long time, and results in little ash).

Given the limited logging in the Santa Cruz Mountains and the very limited amount of Madrone and Tanoak, these timbers are simply dried and then used for firewood.  Without scale and sufficient volumes, it is difficult to process the timbers economically.

Seeing this as an opportunity, David Merchant set up a small operation to use Madrone and Tanoak timber, and then cut it, season and dry it, kiln dry the wood, and then have it planed and finished for hardwood flooring.  His company, located in Bonny Doon, California, is called ‘Out of the Woods‘.

Dave’s vision is wonderful and could be a very nice fit for our remodel project at Via Sereno.  We believe that our reclaimed Redwood ceiling will look beautiful with Madrone, or Tanoak, hardwood floors.  These woods will work nicely together, especially since the trees grow together in the local forests in the Santa Cruz mountains.

We called Dave and discussed our requirements with him.  He thought he could meet our needs and came to our project site with some wood samples.  After, he kindly offered to give us a tour of his full operations.

Operations Overview

The complete operation consists of locating the timbers, bringing the timbers to the milling area, cutting the rough logs into blanks, milling the blanks into rough boards, and then air drying those boards.  Once the most of the moisture has been removed (approximately 4 months), the boards are then kiln dried (4 to 5 weeks) to the required moisture level (6 to 7%).  Then, the boards are trucked to a specialty mill where they are planed into precise dimensions for hardwood flooring.

The receiving site for trucks bringing timbers in for milling.

The receiving site for trucks bringing timbers in for milling.

The cutting operation is portable and currently located under some young Redwood trees. Nothe scale.

The cutting operation is portable and currently located under some young Redwood trees. Nothe scale.

Note the full log on the right, which is rough-cut into blanks that are then milled into boards.

Note the full log on the right, which is rough-cut into blanks that are then milled into boards.

Dave's mill utilizes a Wood-Mizer portable sawmill to cut the blanks into boards for milling.

Dave’s mill utilizes a Wood-Mizer portable sawmill to cut the blanks into boards for milling.

The two-man operation takes the blanks and cuts them into boards. Dave is on the right.

The two-man operation takes the blanks and cuts them into boards. Dave is on the right.

Dave cuts the first board from the blank.

Dave cuts the first board from the blank.

Continuing to cut boards from the blank ...

Continuing to cut boards from the blank …

Cut boards to stack for drying.

Cut boards to stack for drying.

Beautiful, fresh-cut California Madrone showing the sapwood and heartwood. This board needs to be air dried and then kiln dried.

Beautiful, fresh-cut California Madrone showing the sapwood and heartwood. This board needs to be air dried and then kiln dried.

Freshly cut wood being stacked with spacers for air drying.

Freshly cut wood being stacked with spacers for air drying.

Air drying cut boards before kiln drying.

Air drying cut boards before kiln drying.

Air drying lifts of wood.

Air drying lifts of wood.

The center of the logs cannot be used for hardwood flooring so Dave cuts this wood iinto pieces for firewood.

The center of the logs cannot be used for hardwood flooring so Dave cuts this wood iinto pieces for firewood.

After cutting the Madrone, Dave showed Bryan some of his inventory of wood that he is working on milling.  Dave seeks walnut, oak and other large trees in the San Jose area that are being removed for various purposes.  He takes those trees to his mill so the wood can be cut and used in buildings, not simply chipped and used as ground cover.

Walnut that has been cut from a huge tree that was removed from San Jose.

Walnut that has been cut from a huge tree that was removed from San Jose.

Dave showing some spectacular walnut blanks that are ready for to be kiln dried and then milled.

Dave showing some spectacular walnut blanks that are ready for to be kiln dried and then milled.

Walnut burl, ready for kiln drying and milling.

Walnut burl, ready for kiln drying and milling.

After the boards have been air dried, they must be kiln dried for 4 weeks.  Kiln drying is the critical phase where the moisture is removed slowly from the wood and it is stabilized into its final condition.  After kiln drying, the boards can be planed and finished into hardwood flooring.

Dave in front of his kiln, which is currently full of boards being dried.

Dave in front of his kiln, which is currently full of boards being dried.

Dave maintains some inventory of finished hardwood flooring (both Tanoak and Madrone), as well as other boards that artists and craftsmen seek for special projects.

Finished hardwood flooring, ready to be shipped to customer sites.

Finished hardwood flooring, ready to be shipped to customer sites.

Some of Dave's investory of hardwood flooring and other selected boards.

Some of Dave’s investory of hardwood flooring and other selected boards.

Touring a New House Looking Over the Pacific Ocean

Dave took me on a tour of a new home that is being completed nearby, which faces west over the Pacific Ocean.  The house includes Madrone in much of its finishes and has some great detail that we will be including in our home.  The tour was inspirational!

View from inside the house looking down a valley to the Pacific Ocean.

View from inside the house looking down a valley to the Pacific Ocean.

Rich and warm Madrone in the ceiling and walls.

Rich and warm Madrone in the ceiling and walls.

Hidden hinges that are a very nice, clean and simple touch. Yes, probably expensive!

Hidden hinges that are a very nice, clean and simple touch. Yes, probably expensive!

Fine example of detailed, flush-mount baseboards over a hardwood floor.

Fine example of detailed, flush-mount baseboards over a hardwood floor.

Yes, this house was an inspiration and confirmed several features that we want in our house.

At the conclusion of our tour, Dave showed us a table top, which was made over 50 years ago from a Redwood tree cut in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  This is a solid piece of wood!

A huge tabletop, cut from a single Redwood tree more than 50 years ago.

A huge tabletop, cut from a single Redwood tree more than 50 years ago.

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