Where to Find: Larch Wood Enterprises Welcome to Larch Wood. This is where it all starts. Not a lot of cutting board businesses start with the logs. This is larch, sometimes known as tamarack; also known juniper here in Cape Breton. What our boards are made of is the end-grain of the wood. So, what you actually see on each board is the growth rings that you see at the end of a tree. Maybe this one here or this one here are very typical of the colouring of them. These have faded a little bit, because they have been in the sun for a while – the ends have. But, they have a nice, beautiful red colour and really distinctive grain patterning to them. That’s what shows up on cutting boards and which makes the cutting boards very unique. After, we take them into our sawmill across the way and they’re sawn into boards. The hydraulics make it a lot easier. It’s a great benefit for us to have our own mill. We’re able to keep the quality of the wood way up beyond purchasing wood from some other supplier. This has been one of our goals from the beginning, and it has made a huge difference in the quality of our product. And there you go! Peter getting the maximum out of a log. If you look at these ones that have been sawn recently, you also get a better sense of what the grain patterning is going to be like in the cutting boards and the different colouring. When we enter them into the kiln, it takes 20 lifts of these. So, you’re looking at now 9 different lifts. So, this is the outside of our kiln, here, and we run it about 8 times a year. It’s loaded up on the inside, so we’ll take you in there for you to see. You think it’s a hot day outside, but it’s a heck of a lot hotter in here. We’ve just turned the kiln off, so you have the aroma of the wood and you can see it’s been dried. When we dry it, we put little pieces of wood in between each layer of wood so that the air can pass
through it. It’s helping it to dry evenly. The wood’s dried for 16-20 days. This is the kiln dried lumber that has been sorted into different widths after it’s dried, and it goes over to this saw here, a pop-up saw, and it’s cut into different lengths – each length depending on the size of cutting board that’s going to be made from it. They will be taken over our ripsaw and planer over there and turned into sticks. So, what we’re doing is taking this wood, starting with the log, and milling it down to pieces like this. The rectangle that you see at the end is a Golden Rectangle, which is a repetitive mathematical formula found in nature and has been used in centuries in architecture
and design. They go through our molder over here, which makes the exact size. As you can see, this is a multi-step process – this isn’t anything that happens very quickly. In this stage here, this gentleman, Dave, is choosing the patterning of the cutting board. He’s choosing a wider grain, faster growing wood and mixing it with a tighter grain, slower growing wood to get some variance of design in each board. So, Dave spends a fair amount of time doing that, and there is a fair amount of artistry to that. This machine over here, which is a clamper – he runs the glue across the wheel, here, and puts the pieces on one after the other. It’s like a big ferris wheel. By the time he’s gone through a dozen different phases here, the ones that come around – the finished ones that come around are already dry and ready to take out. So, this is what the boards look like after the first gluing. You can see there’s patterns of glue on it, and this is what we call an edge grain board. These get packed into shopping carts and shifted down to the far side of the building. So, after the boards have been through the planer, they go to the table saw where they get cross cut on
the table saw. The pieces are saved in sequence and stood on end like that, so now you see the patterning that you find in the boards. After they’ve been cross-cut and placed in sequence, they come over to this table here, and they get glued a second time; the second time creates the beginning of our finished product. So, that’s the product after it’s been glued a second time, and you can see how each row has been sequenced from the same piece of wood. These boards go through a series of sanding processes. First one is through a drum sander over here with a rough grit paper on it. It’s called a thickness sander – it takes it down to the exact thickness we want it. It comes over to another drum sander: this is two other grits of sandpaper which take the board down to a finer quality. Another sanding process happens here: you just put the board underneath, drop the handle on, slide across, and you move it this way and that way. She rounds over the edges of the board with a router, then she burns our logo in the back of the board. The finish on our boards is quite superior to most boards on the market, and it makes a big difference. The tactile quality of the board, after it has been finished, is really something. Katie is just about to put some oil on, so you’ll see the dramatic change there from raw wood to oiled wood. You’ll watch the grain just jump right out. She’ll do one coat and let it sit overnight, and then she’ll a second coat. After the second coat is dried, we apply a mixture of beeswax and mineral oil to the board. That’s put on with a cloth and it’s left for a while, then it’s buffed. That oil soaks right into the wood, because it’s end grain wood, the fibres are going vertical, it sucks right into the board. So, we put a soft rubber foot on all our boards, and that has 3 different purposes: One is so that it holds the board off the surface of your countertop, so that you don’t get moisture trapped under it. Second is that the soft rubber feet grab the countertop, so the board doesn’t slide on your countertop – it holds real well. The third one is that it makes the board easier to pick up. Viola! Next stage is that they get wrapped in a stretch wrap, and then they go on the shelf ready for shipping. Butcher-block is unique because it has that end grain manufacturing. The blocks are all arranged in different patterns, and the blocks actually expand and contract at different rates. So, the block technology actually holds the board together better. When you get your Larch Wood cutting board, or even a countertop – this is a sample of a countertop – when it comes to your home, the first thing you need to do is acclimatize it to your house, the humidity in your home. Every humidity is different, every home is different, so in the first week that you own it, it’s very important that you season your board. We suggest using something like this: this is beeswax and mineral oil. You apply it in the first week that you own it, ideally you put on a goop on some cloth – dollop – and you apply it fairly thickly. Ideally, you let it soak in overnight, and that way the wood absorbs at the rate that it needs to absorb. It’s kind of like feeding the wood. And then the next day with a cloth, just buff off any excess. So, when your knife goes in, everything gets squeezed to the top: including your knife – it’s almost soft and cushiony. So, colour, bacteria, food: everything gets squeezed by these very, very strong, flexible fibres up to the surface, and your job is just to keep wiping the surface. So, for example, say you have strawberries on your cutting board, and you go, “Oh no! Strawberry stains!”, the trick is – with an end grain board – is to actually re-oil it. Oil it more, as opposed to trying to scrub off the stain, because scrubbing and using abrasive cleansers really just dries out the wood, whereas oiling it allows the wood to do its own natural cleansing. End grain boards are very knife friendly, so the sharper your knife, the better. What happens with the mineral oil and the beeswax is it penetrates into the fibres of the wood and it keeps them flexible, so that when you cut into the wood, which is what butcher-block is designed to do, the fibres will pull together again. You ideally pass this onto your grandchildren – not just your children, but your grandchildren. Butcher-blocks that have been made in previous centuries are still around. We get most of our logs from Cape Breton. We have the contract cutters keep their eyes open for us and bring us logs, and we utilize just about every part of that log: the slab wood, which comes off from the milling, sold as firewood for people; our sawdust is given to the farmers – a lot of farmers use the sawdust for bedding; and then the smaller cut-offs, after the wood has been kiln dried, is bagged and sold as kindling. So, we’re using just about every piece of the wood that we produce. Every little bit of it, and we’re kind of proud of that. We’d love people to come visit us here in Cape Breton, so please do.