SYP From The Amish Sawmill

Many years ago as I was deep into the initial construction of the barn, I decided to make the flooring in the main parts of the building from 5/4 SYP, or southern yellow pine.  I went to my local Amish sawmill in southern Maryland and placed the order for 4,000 linear feet, and set the date for the pick-up.  On the appointed date I showed up with a large rental ruck and they loaded it into the box, pushing and pulling the bundle with the almost prehistoric machines.  I drove it to the mountains and unloaded the 16-foot x 6 x 5/4 green stock into the lower log barn where it would season for a year before I could work with it.  I still have the mountain of stickers that came with it.

A year later I pulled out the lumber, planed it with my little Ryobi 10-inch planer, and started laying flooring.  In the years since that SYP has been burnished through foot traffic and adds a real note of character and comfort to the building.

Then several months ago I sent a letter (in the Mail!) to that favorite Amish sawmill to inquire about getting “300 board feet of clear 4/4 southern yellow pine.”  The leftover inventory from many years ago was nearly depleted as I use it for all kinds of things around the homestead.  I was exceedingly pleased with the quality and value of the previous load and just wanted to re-stock the pile now.  By ordering material of a higher grade than run-of-the-mill even I knew I would have to pay a premium over the $0.36/b.f. I’d paid previously.

Since communication with the Amish in Maryland and Pennsylvania or Old Order Mennonites in rural Virginia is a challenge, about six weeks ago I was in Maryland and stopped by the sawmill in person.  Yes indeed they had received my letter, and had tried calling my cell phone.  I remain bewildered about what sorts of technology these communities are allowed to use, but anyhow they were putting together some large orders of SYP and would cull through them as they were working to pull out enough clear stock to fill my order.


Last weekend I was in Maryland and went to pick it up.  The material they had for me was 16-foot x 10-inch wide x 4/4 stock.  They sawed the pile in half so I could get it into my little truck, and then loaded it by hand.  I helped, a little.  The material was essentially 95% select grade, but they gave me a price based on the two boards that had a single knot.  Otherwise they are all perfectly clear.

I dropped off several of the boards with my pal Tom, and my partner-in-ripple-cutting-machines JohnH wanted some but the rest is in the pile, awaiting my ministrations.  The wood was initially cut and stickered in October (currently ~12% moisture content) so it should be ready for me to start working this summer.  I could rush it if it needed to by placing it in the heated shop with a fan, but doubt I will.

I’m not a tool chest sorta guy, but I’m thinking a petite Dutch chest for teaching might be in order.

And the price?  They gouged me for $0.50/b.f.!