WoodCentral's Book Reviews
Harvesting Urban Timber

Harvesting Urban Timber
by Sam Sherrill

Linden Publishing: 2003
Paperback, 223 pp., $$25.95
ISBN 0-941936-71-6

     At last, someone has taken time to put down in one volume how to go about dealing with local felled timber. Author Sam Sherrill has researched urban wood recovery programs across the united States, has worked with Wood-Mizer Products, Inc. to keep up with new developments, and followed the successful stories of many volunteer groups banding together to harvest local wood brought down by parks departments, utility companies, on construction sites and by the US Forest Service.
     "Using wood from urban trees, and the extra effort this entails, is easily justified by respect for the material and by a deep aversion to seeing it treated as waste," Sherrill says. He credits Steve Shanesy, editor of Popular Woodworking, for "having the foresight to bring the idea of reclaiming urban trees to the attention of readers of woodworking magazines. His efforts continue to pay off..." as Sherrill is receiving word from across the country of newly formed HUT (Harvesting Urban Timber) groups made up of woodworkers from all walks of life.
     Now here is the book, with harvesting mechanics including chainsaw safety, felling, limbing, bucking and skidding in urban areas; advice on chainsaw mills, circular saw mills, pricing options and sawing for grade of lumber; on catering to an individual's requirements, flat sawing, quarter sawing, rift sawing, kiln drying and air drying.
     Sherrill lists the details of how to work with urban authorities and how to go from a non-profit community service to a profit-bearing business in selling the lumber produced. He gives several examples of groups performing community services and earning great lumber deals for themselves while donating time to the community for park benches, Habitat for Humanity or Cancer Care houses.
     This is an important book, with all the information necessary to initiate a local program to use the many thousands of board feet of fine timber wasted locally every year. The author gives excellent guidance on any pitfalls awaiting the unwary, and lists many pages of resources to help the effort along. The California Dept. of Forestry, for example, has purchased five bandsaw mills and five portable kilns to have on hand to loan to local governments, non-profit organizations and private firms who are willing to explore this intreprenurial venture. Their successful example could be offered to other states to get such cooperative programs started.
     Sherrill includes appendices covering common/commercial/botanical names of trees, weight of green logs by species, certified grading organizations, heartwood resistance to decay, kiln drying associations with examples of current prices, equilibrium moisture content, and a long list of references for the material he presents.
     Are you aching inside to see the local parks department chipping up walnut trees? Here is the whole scoop on how to prevent it from all going to waste, and how to profit from some of that lumber yourself. Even if you are only interested in felling trees on your own property, Sherrill's advice is exhaustive on how best to accomplish it with fine woodworking in mind.

. . . Barb Siddiqui