It's the Wood That Makes it Good

It's the Wood That Makes it Good

The importance of the grade of lumber, our relationships with our vendors, and popular types are all explained in this blog post.

Seinfeld, one of my all time favorite shows, popularized the phrase I used as the title of this post (If you are not sure what I'm talking about, check out Season 8: Episode 8, "The Chicken Roaster" after you're done reading and enjoy a good laugh!). Seriously though, since we are in the cabinet business we happen to think the same thing: It's most definitely the wood that makes our cabinets good.

As manufacturers and craftsmen, we have to make choices and for us, purchasing lumber is one of them. Both quality and price matter. Please notice that I put quality first, as we believe at Plain & Fancy that quality is paramount.


We purchase FAS lumber for nearly all of our component manufacturing. FAS is a grade dictated by the NHLA (National Hardwood Lumber Association). This particular grade has the best width and defect ruling available for our industry requirements.


There are many challenges with lumber that are not covered under the grading specifications of the NHLA, which is why once we receive the lumber at our facility, we evaluate it for color, grade and what we consider to be defects (defects can be subjective, what is a defect to us may not be to someone else). However, more importantly than the NHLA standardized lumber requirements, is the relationship between Plain & Fancy and our vendors.

Baltzley Lumber company is our primary supplier. They are a small family owned lumber processing plant in Tioga County, PA. They purchase green lumber, in board form, from local PA and lower NY state. Then they kiln dry (see an example of kiln drying below), surface and grade the material to their customer's specifications. During this process they will defect or down grade poor lumber to applications other than kitchen manufacturing. One of Baltzley's large customers is a rustic flooring company and they prefer some of the mineral and stain that is not acceptable for us. We have enjoyed a great relationship with Baltzley Lumber company and we continually work with them on what premium quality means to us and they happily provide us with the high quality lumber that we are looking for.

Wood treatement equipment and boilers Drier Drying Kiln 500px


During the course of the year the wood species that we purchase most is Hard Maple, which we use for our painted cabinets. (Painted cabinets are easily our most popular type of finish). Due to its high density and stability, Hard Maple is an excellent substrate for painting. For an explanation of the difference between Hard and Soft Maple check out this article. Another wood species in high demand these days is Walnut. Companies all over the world shop in the Appalachian Hardwood Region, which is right in our backyard, for some of the best Walnut in the entire world. (See map of the region below).

Appalachian Hardwood Region IMG 400px

For more on the lumber market, take a peek at the 2015 Appalachian Hardwood Verified Sustainable & Legal Resource Guide here. This particular issue highlights an analysis of the USDA lumber data for the Appalachian region.

  • Forested land in the 344 county region has increased 300,000 acres to 65.7 million acres.
  • More than 33 billion live trees are in the region, an increase from 32.7 billion.
  • The top species are Soft Maple, Red Oak, White Oak, Hard Maple and Yellow Poplar.

This information is encouraging, but there are still some hurdles to clear. For instance, in Northern PA, the gas companies have disrupted tree harvests, by paying landowners large sums of money for mineral rights to the gases under their land. So, landowners that in the past sold off timber for a profit, are currently cash rich, and are saving their logs for another day. Gas companies have also affected the workforce with higher wages, crippling small business loggers and mills. Reports show that 50% of the sawyers closed in the 2008 economic turndown. So, even if there is more timber available as the AHMI states, it is not necessarily being sold on the market at a reasonable price.

As a manufacturer of high end wood products, we continue to keep one eye on the market, and the other eye on the wood pile. We do everything that we can to produce the highest quality cabinetry at a great value, but it is certainly a challenge given these market conditions.

For more on the quality of the hardwood that we use at Plain & Fancy, watch the video below.


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