The Story Behind Our Wood
Each wood slab we mill tells a story about the tree it came from through its grain and imperfections. Our wood slabs are sawn from local logs from local trees that died or needed to be removed because they threatened a structure. Many of these trees are more than a hundred years old, some alive before the civil war and with huge, short trunks and heavy sweeping limbs. These trees bear the scars from past injuries resulting from storms both recent and long ago. Trees that grew in the town square or on a farm fencerow - twisted by the wind or struck by lightning, these trees survived many decades of drought and floods. These are the trees with natural imperfections, unusual shape and when milled into thick wood slabs reveal amazing color and character. This is “Character-Grade” Hardwood.
Store bought lumber is not Character-grade wood - commercial wood processors typically reject these “Character-grade” logs because of their imperfections/defects and or their size - historically, much of this wood was cut up for firewood or chipped up for other wood products. Thankfully, today this Character-grade wood receives the recognition and respect it deserves and is highly sought after for its amazing natural appeal and used to make beautiful table-tops, bar tops, shelving, cutting boards and décor. Character-Grade Live-Edge wood slabs are usually sawn around 2" or greater and require specialty milling followed by year(s) of air-drying - an investment of time and money that is justified by a beautiful thick wood slab full of wavy grain and warm rich color.
Our woods of choice are walnut, cherry and maple due to their durability, color and character. Each log we purchase is closely scrutinized for solidness and potential color and wood character. We are looking for unusual grain patterns, knots, curly figure and burls – all wood characteristics that make this hardwood so special and beautiful. ZimBoards specializes in thick culinary boards and shelving which explains why each wood slab we mill must be sawn at 3” to compensate for potential warping resulting from the drying process – this 3” wood slab gives us enough board thickness to achieve our desired 2.25” when flattening these thick dried wood slabs for use.
The large horizontal band saw (image 1) saws the big logs into thick wood slabs that are typically 30” wide and 12’ long. Once milled, the slabs are stacked (image 2) in the order they were sawn with 1” square sticks separating them for air circulation. The tall stacks of green wood slabs are then covered with shade cloth to protect them from the UV light from the sun. These high stacks of wood slabs are left to air-dry for 2 years until they are ready for the kiln (image 3). When the wood slabs are ready, they are carefully loaded into the kiln where they remain for 4 weeks at a constant temperature of 130F.
Once kiln dried the hardwood slabs are ready for making gorgeous, one of a kind home furnishings that are full of natural wood color tones and character. The freshly planned walnut slabs shown above are great examples of “character-grade” hardwood. These stunning walnut slabs are so amazing with their wavy grain and knots and the color contrast between the darker heartwood and the lighter sapwood add to the slab's uniqueness. So beautiful, each of these slabs could be used for tabletops, headboards, or wall art.
Our wood “is” what make ZimBoards. At heart, we are specialty hardwood collectors, no different from car collectors or coin collectors. We love trees…especially our native Pennsylvania hardwood species – their wood is so strong, beautiful and useful. We also believe that when its time; when the tree is injured or dying – carefully milling, drying and making useful things that can be used for generations, to us, is very special.
The robust appearance and character of our character-grade Cherry, Walnut and Maple make our ZimBoard Shelves and Cutting Boards unique.