Tue 10 May, 2011
Tags: Rough Lumber, Shop, Woodworking
I am fortunate to own 5o acres of forested land and live in an area where I can fell trees and hire local sawyers to cut them into rough lumber. That is how I get much of what I use in my shop. However, that strategy limits me to local species and generally narrow and four quarter stock. When I need other species, exotic species or larger stock I first call Sue to see if she has what I need, and she usually does. When crafting fine furniture, as important as woodworkers skills are to its final results, is the quality of the wood he/she uses. For this reason it is important to have a source you can trust and whose products are of the highest quality. That is why I turn to Forest Products Associates. That and the personality known as Sue.
Forest Products Associates has been a family owned business for over 60 years, located on the outskirts of Greenfield, Massachusetts. Founded by Lee Fisk, today it is run by Susan Fiske. Sue lost her mom a few years back and her dad remarried. He now lives in Texas and is not active in the business. Sue’s clientele ranks in the four thousand range and growing. Her customers range from hobbyists like me to professional cabinet makers, contractors and architects.
When I first started buying lumber from Sue she had four or five sheds, though one was the primary shed. I believe one or two may have been used for drying lumber. The sheds with dried lumber were open to the weather, protected only by a slanted roof, sides and back. The office was a small, cramped trailer with two wooden steps. Climbing the steps and opening the door at the same time took a little skill. The office fit about two people; Sue and a customer.
In the winter it was a colds days task just to sort through lumber for a project; a task I never looked forward to. On these January days even the office seemed large and cozy. I have no idea how Sue made it through those entire days of winter, day after day, and remained cheerful and helpful whenever a customer arrived. Sue always has a smile on her face and is willing to spend as much time as you wish. Her knowledge of wood is endless and I have often picked her brain about its characteristics.
Several years back Sue built the current shed. This one is huge, closed in, concrete floor and well organized storage shelves. Shortly after it was completed a storm reduced a third of it to rubble. So Sue did what she usually does; she smiled and rebuilt it – but even better. It now has a spacious and comfortable front office. She is very proud of the sign that hangs over its door with the name of her business, and the little sign that announces Office. I suspect the door is seldom closed.
Sue is one of those rare business people who really want the customer to be happy with her product and she maintains a quality control level also rare in business today. On many occasions she has helped me sort for the lumber I needed.
Sometimes she would steer me away from certain board(s) based on my description of the piece I was building. She would say “there is nothing wrong with that board, but if you are going to use it on the front of that hutch we can find you better grain patterns” or something of the kind.
I live about one hour from Forest Products Associates, so I always call Sue first to see if she has what I need. She carries a cell phone at all times and is always available. Sometimes the lumber I want is still on a palette and not yet graded. She has always offered to have it open for me by the next day, and if necessary grade it for me as I select it.
These days, because her dad has moved and is no longer active in the business, Sue’s responsibilities have grown and she has hired staff to help. She needs to spend more time in the office or on maintenance projects. So when you call you may get a staff person, but rest assured they will be every bit as helpful as Sue. And you can always find Sue somewhere there, and she is always willing to talk and brighten your day.
Sue’s products have grown over the years both in size and variety. She now has a much larger variety of exotics and large pieces for custom tables. She also has larger inventory of wider and thicker stock. Her business has grown in spite of the economic downturn.
For more information on Forest Products Associates, check out their web site: http://www.forestproductsassociates.com/index.html. If you live near or within reasonable driving distance of Greenfield, MA you will find Forest Products Associates a reliable, quality supplier of rough cut hardwood. Check them out. Give Sue a call or stop in.