This week we embarked on an exciting new product. Northern Red Oak Timbers. This program is patterned upon our existing White Pine Timber program.
Northern Red Oak of this quality is more difficult to grow than White Pine. But we've been working on the forestry part of this for a long, long time. So fortunately we have a sustainable supply of nice big Red Oak ahead of us in the forest.
Following is a depiction of the process to date. The timbers we cut this week will be dry and available in the next year. So it's not too early to begin designing for using them if you have a project in mind. We have some excellent friends who are builders and know how to turn our Red Oak and White Pine timbers into a great project for you. You can always reach us through www.rajalamillwork.com .
We time our selective harvests in Red Oak areas with the Acorn crop, which only occurs periodically. The tracks of the harvester and the tires of the skidders help stir up the heavy leaf duff and put the acorns in contact with mineral soil. Blue Jays and Squirrels do the same thing through collection and burying.
In approximately 5 years or so we'll have an abundance of young Red Oaks like this one. If there was advanced regeneration present at the time of harvest, we'll have a number of young trees even taller than this.
If things go well and if we're able to keep the deer off the trees, we'll have a full stocking of young Red Oak. The deep reds of the young Red Oak trees are my favorite fall color. I think they are absolutely breathtaking.
Just like White Pine, if we want to grow straight and high quality trees, we need to keep the deer from chewing on the tips at a young age. I developed the process of paper bud caps for Oak and have worked on perfecting it with my father, Jack. We are quite pleased with the results - although admittedly it's an intensive undertaking.
Here's Jack with friends of ours from Minnesota DNR reviewing Red Oak regeneration and explaining the new bud capping process.
One of my favorite woods photos of the thousands I've taken over the years. Here's our daughter Claire and dearly missed woods partner Ike, standing by a perfect young Red Oak tree that she has just pruned. Red Oak responds beautifully to pruning. The pruning helps it to continue to grow straight and eliminates limbs and knots from what will ultimately be the butt(bottom) log from the harvested mature tree.
This video shows a prime Red Oak log being sawn into high quality boards and a large (8" x 12") timber. The sawyer is being careful to keep the pith (centerline) of the log centered in the timber. This helps it remain straight as it dries. This log is 115 years old (I counted the rings). Because of our northern climate, Red Oak grows relatively slowly. That's an obvious disadvantage for us in this business. However, the slow growth results in tight growth rings, which increases the strength of the timbers.
Finished timbers in the pile at the Rajala Millwork sawmill in Bigfork, MN. These timbers will air dry for a period of time, and then will be finished off in the dry kilns. They need to be dried low and slow to keep them straight. Most of our competitors sell unseasoned (green) timbers. Our customers have come to depend on us for dry timbers to reduce the cost and complexity of construction.
Here's just one example of how Red Oak timbers and flooring can be put to use. Red Oak has deep, elegant tones, resulting in timeless beauty and value.