Taking the East Fork

A few weeks back I took a fact-finding trip out to S. Oregon to visit a sawmill that is the primary mill in the US sawing first growth Port Orford Cedar: East Fork Lumber, based in Myrtle Point.

Here’s the scene that greets you at the driveway:

It’s an old saw, and takes a fat kerf with its cutting, but gets the job done. They also have a large band mill on another portion of the property. Most of the time the mill is cutting fir. The don’t cut POC very often.

East Fork Lumber has been operated for more than 30 years by a fellow named Bob Spraul. He’s been in the business of logging, milling and selling Port Orford Cedar longer than anybody else on the planet and it was great to spend a few hours talking with him and looking at some fine logs he has stashed away for the Japanese gate project for the MFA that I am involved in.

We journeyed over to one of East Fork’s nearby log yards, where they have a quantity of large fir logs reclaimed from a large forest fire, and we stroll on over to look at the POC log pile, passing many large logs in the process:

I’m now thinking about obtaining a bit of that juicy Sugar Pine!

We climbed up onto the log pile, as I was trying to get as thorough a look as I could at all log surfaces, and we continued to talk about, you guessed it: Port Orford Cedar. One question I had for Bob concerned the issue of the root fungus that has been killing off a lot of these trees, and pathogen spread by water it appears. A portion of Bob’s comments:

It’s interesting how the problem goes beyond a  disease containment issue. Because of the root fungal attack and consequent die-off of many trees, private land owners won’t plant new POC trees, and now it seems that most of the remaining privately-owned trees have been milled. What remains of the resource is in fact a fairly vast stock of trees, however it is a largely inaccessible one: they are on government land and cutting is not permitted in most instances, even in cases where wind storms and other natural events take the trees down.

I spoke with Bob a bit about the logging history of POC, and the scene today:

I hope the above clips are of interest to readers here – I know I learned a lot talking with Bob Spraul at East Fork. All the above films are raw footage. As you can see I am a novice when it comes to filming stuff, but the camera I have seems to do a decent job so I am likely to do more filming and video uploads in coming months.

If you’re ever in the Myrle Point area I can highly recommend the back country drive eastward to the town of Looking Glass – spectacular!

Thanks for coming by the Carpentry Way.

2 thoughts on “Taking the East Fork

  1. Chris,

    Thanks for posting these! POC is one of the very common street/urban trees here in Vancouver BC. They are dying like mad right now because of the root fungus as well. Thus they turn up fairly often in the city's log dump and can be milled up into lumber. (Along with Monterrey Cypress) In many cases these urban POC logs are quite rustic with plenty of knots as one of the desirable characteristics of POC for urban use is that it does not lose its lower branches as quickly as the local red cedar.

    Dan (still hoping to build an andon.)

  2. Dan,

    thanks for sharing. I have spent a lot of time in and around Vancouver and had no idea that there were so many Port Orford Cedar trees there. Interesting that the fungal problem affects them in that area as well, so far from their native range. Must be a widespread pathogen in the soil – I wonder why it is taking such a toll now?


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