Monday, November 15, 2010

Choosing the Right Wood

Monday I went to Kettle Moraine Hardwoods in Hartford, Wisconsin to pick out 20 feet of wood to make ten hangboards. As with every choice I wanted to make one that in part reflected my values. I came up with the following list of things that were important to me in this particular project.
  1. Sustainable to use. I was not about to use Mahogany because of it's history and current threatened status in it's native Central America. 
  2. Durable for climbers. That rules Balsa, Aspen, and Cedar wood out. I know for a fact that pointy metal objects will be used on many of the hangboards and a softer or less dense wood would likely get destroyed quicker. That being said, a softer wood might absorb more sweat and maintain a better grip longer. 
  3. Local, at least in Wisconsin. As of now everything for the manufacturing and shipping of these boards will be done in Wisconsin. It is more environmentally friendly to buy local wood than have it shipped for over a thousand miles. 
  4. A nice grain structure and color. Each one of these boards will be slightly different and it was important to me that when each one of these is mounted above someone's doorway it looks nice instead of being an eyesore.
When I walked into Kettle Moraine Hardwoods, I was amazed to see they had even more selection than their website suggested. The man that helped me was extremely helpful. I showed him my prototype board, which was made out of Fir, and described what it was for and asked what he suggested. We walked around for a few minutes looking at different woods. One of the competitors boards is made of Ash, I believe. As we looked at the ash he mentioned the Hard Maple in the bin next to it was slightly harder and less prone to splintering. I had never really considered that some wood might be more prone to splintering, which is extremely important for something that will be touching our fingertips and fingernails. The Hard Maple grain looked, expensive. It looked awesome, I was sold.

Hard Maple it is! At least for the first ten production hangboards and fingerboards. The best thing about being such a small company is that things can be changed quickly. If the first ten boards are too slippery, we can try another wood. For now, Hard Maple is my new favorite type of wood. 

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