You can't make furniture unless you have lumber. Furniture making starts at the sawmill. Above is a photo of Cole Brothers Lumber Company, located in Woodbury Connecticut. This is a great sawmill. We get 90% of our cherry from Coles. Recently, they opened a new commercial location in Woodbury. (Sorry no picture yet). If you are a hobbyist, or a furniture maker this is the mill to go to. They now stock thousands of board feet of domestic hardwoods, exotics such as mahogany, and wide pine - All kiln dried. If you are a hobbyist they can ship a selection of lumber to you via UPS.
When we buy cherry, we normally buy the entire tree. We take everything. When the lumber comes off the mill it is immediately graded. There is FAS, (the best quality used for table tops), Common, used for skirts and other parts, and finally pallet. The basic grading system is based on a number of factors. FAS normally means no knots, one face, along the entire length of the board. The common has knots, but the wood can still be used. Because many of our pieces are small, we cut around the knots. The pallet lumber is normally used for small projects, - little crafty things we sell in our store.
After it is graded, it is neatly stacked and ready for delivery. We like to pick up the lumber the same day it has been sawn. That way we can start the drying process as quickly as possible. We like to buy our cherry green and dry it ourselves.
This picture was taken about 10 years ago. On this occasion, Cole Brothers drove their truck over in the morning, and parked it outside our shop, saying they would return at the end of the day to pick the truck up. James Redway with his work ahead of him. The lumber must be unloaded, cut into 8 foot lengths so it fits into our kiln, and stickered for air drying. Lots of work.
The lumber is then stickered and allowed to air dry until the moisture content is around 13%. We then put it into our kiln, (which is too ugly to photograph) and dry the lumber to around 8%. We use 1" plywood stickers, which prevents any kind of "sticker stain" to the lumber. Sticker stain, is the staining of lumber by bacterial action. It can really ruin beautiful lumber. It does not happen here.
Since we are located in New England, it can get a bit humid at certain times of the year. This raises the moisture content back up to 10% or even back to 13% in the summer. That is why, before we build any piece, the wood is rough cut into approximate lengths, and re-dried for a couple days in the kiln.