As a family-owned business, we got our start almost by accident. Having moved to Washington state years before, Merrill hired Joe to get him some firewood. After cutting down a big maple and having a hard time splitting it, Joe delivered it. Seeing the intense flame figure in the maple, Merrill, an experienced violin maker, showed him what he had done. “Did you know you could have got two thousand dollars for that tree?” Thus began a quest to find and supply the best Western Bigleaf maple we could to the guitar industry. Four members of our family started the original company. After they sacrificed many things to get the business going, a family friend joined us and together we made Whale Bay Woods what it is today. Literally building the business from the ground up, we even did all our own construction. Today, we are able to consistently offer some of the best wood available in the industry.
We are conscious of sustainability. We realize the value of trees before they’re cut as well as after. In our selection process, one in a thousand or so maple trees are what we could consider useable. We take this tree and cut it into manageable sized pieces, taking care to cut around what knots and defects we can. We encourage full use of the entire tree, the lower grade portions as well as the high, with what’s left over to be recycled as firewood.
Once we have the raw block of maple and all the bark has been removed to reveal defects that may be hiding, we examine each piece. We decide how best to cut each individual block to maximize our quality- an important step that can't be overlooked without very costly consequences. After it is cut, each billet goes through the initial grading process with a minimum of two qualified graders. After the grade is agreed upon, each billet is hand-dipped in a natural, biodegradable solution that prevents surface staining as the billet dries and protects against future bug attacks. Hand dipping insures complete coverage of each piece. Then it’s into the dryer for the next stage.
Through our meticulous 6 to 8 week drying process, (we do not kiln dry!) the billets are brought down to 15% moisture content. We pull them out to continue the journey. We chose 15% because that is what they naturally equalize to here in the Pacific Northwest. Next each billet is surfaced on both sides and they are all regraded. Some minor adjustments are made according to defects that were hid or had disappeared, and everything is sorted into its place.
When an order comes in, the appropriate stack is gone through and the wood is chosen according to the customer’s specific requests. If they are ordering billets, we have a final review before they are made ready to ship. If the customer requires resawn material, we have standard thicknesses we resaw to or they can request a custom thickness. After the bookmatched sets are resawn, they are graded once more before they are put in our redrying room. Once there, the sets are individually stickered and pressed to prevent warping. A couple more days of redrying down to industry accepted standards and they are ready to ship.