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Working with rough cut lumber (spruce, white pine) and truely measured lumber is a joy. Yesterday, I had a chance to go to the Ralph A. Esty & Son sawmill and lumber yard in Groveland, Mass to pick up some lumber for a firewood storage shed.
I love rough cut lumber because it’s often green and incredibly easy to work. What’s more, a 2×4 is an honest 2×4. They don’t shave a half inch off the dimensions and call it a 2×4 like at Home Depot and most yards. I never understood why lumber companies did that. What happened to truth in advertising? A board foot at Esty is 1 foot x inch x 1 foot and often a eight foot board or stud is nine foot, never shorter than what’s specified.
I thought the mill had closed which would have been too bad because it’s the only one in the area. That was the rumor and Esty’s rivals enjoyed spreading it, according to manager Roy Esty. Indeed, the sawmill and yard have fallen on hard times and is running only three days a week now, but at least it’s running. Five years ago, the place was bustling, thanks to what Roy termed “commercial business” such as pallets for Haverhill Paperboard, which closed last summer throwing 174 out of work. I recall in the early eighties a friend loading up his truck with bark mulch because Esty gave it away. Same with scraps for firewood.
Five years, I built a small barn out of Esty’s rough cut lumber (spruce, I think) which feels, smells and looks good. Instead of the usual plywood for the floor, I used rough cut inch thick planks at half the cost.
Roy said milling oak for box truck beds is quite robust, though. Yesterday when I visited, it was just Roy and another counter man working. Five years ago, there’d be four counter men writing up lumber from a separate building from the hardware store (great assortment of barn hinges, latches and sliders and they had a guy who specialized in barns) and just as many yard men. The place has a bit of a forlorn look, but at least it is still going as it has been since 1917. Haverhill Paperboard started up in 1902!
The operation sits on a sharp bend in the Merrimack River and the Esty family could have been sold to developers in real estate’s gogo days. I’m glad they didn’t and are still cutting logs just as their forebears did for the past 92 years. I urge you to pay them a visit should you have the opportunity or need.