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Big Timbers from Forks, Washington

At Crossroads we often document the historical origin of our material. It can be a challenging task to get an accurate history about structures and businesses that have been dismantled. We recently had an order for one of our large timbers from furniture maker William Stranger.  William was thrilled with the beauty of the wood and wanted to know its story.

Russ Gammon, Marc Mandel, & John Hunt

Russ Gammon (IGL) Marc Mandel (CRL) and John Hunt at a McMillan Bloedell Sawmill teardown in Port Alberni, BC 1996

In this case, Marc Mandel, owner of Crossroads, was the perfect data source. When asked about the history of the lumber he responded from memory,

“That 12x18x24’ Fir timber has an interesting story.  It originally came from Forks, Washington on the Olympic Peninsula.  We called the wood the “Forks Clear”.  In 1995, a friend in the reclaimed wood business, John Hunt (ReTech Wood Products) was hiking in the woods and spotted some old mossy logs that loggers had left long ago.

The trees could even have been cut 100 years before when they only took the very best and even wasted some of the very best. John bought the logs and got permission from  Crown Pacific Corp to helicopter the logs out. He flew them into a landing that log trucks could access and then trucked them to his yard in Forks.

My former sawmill partner, Brien Thomas (now Mad Marmot Mills in Everson, WA), hauled our mill to Forks for 6 months and cut incredible wood from the helicoptered logs.  So that wood was milled in 1995 in Washington State and has been air drying ever since. Interesting to note that John said he never made a dime on that whole deal because the Helicopters were so costly to hire. At the time I had a yard at Port of Seattle where we were storing 208 pieces of 16x32x30’ that came out of Pier 91 at the Port.  There is a long and cool story about those pieces which I will forego here.

A designer from California named David Quinn (Quinca Developers) sent his representative, Bob Reyburn, to Seattle to meet with me and after a long 2 days of calculating where each piece would go in their project, they picked 2 semiloads of 16x32x30’ to haul to California.  That’s when I sent Bob to Forks to meet John Hunt and the helicopter wood.  Quinn ended up having us custom mill a bunch of it. Much of

The big sticks

Gary “The Ripper” Chain saw ripping logs to fit on our mill at John Hunt’s yard 1995

the wood was either supposed to or actually did go into a house for Tracy Chapman but at the time it was all hush hush for some reason – celebrity ego trips or paranoia or some malarkey. Quinn took most of what helicopter wood was left after that job to a yard in Watsonville CA. Then Quinn decided to go into the wood business as an adjunct to his design company. He spoke fluent Indonesian, I don’t know how or why he had that knowledge but he then went to Indonesia, took 5 years of back and forth to import ¼ million feet of forest floor monsoon blowdown (Indonesian Red Mahogany, Borneo Ironwood, Ringas, etc.) and started a saw and planing mill in Watsonville CA.

After several years of back and forth to Indonesia he became ill – I believe some intestinal disease that Westerners sometimes get in the Orient and Eastern world.  He then had financial troubles and sold out. That was around 2005, ten years after the Forks Clear had been milled up.  Bob Reyburn called me one day and asked if I wanted to buy back the 16x32x30’ and more, including Redwood 12x12x40 from the Scotia California Mill teardown and a few pieces of Forks clear.  Crossroads ended up buying a lot of the Quinca wood and that is basically the story of how Mr. Stranger’s timber came from the Olympic Peninsula to California.  It is the same place those 3 pieces of perfect 11x18x30’ Red Cedar came from. I think there are 3 pieces of the Forks Fir and one piece of Forks Cedar left.”


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PO Box 928, 58500 Hancock Way
North Fork, CA 93643
Phone 559-877-3645
Toll Free 888-842-3201 Fax 559-877-3646

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