We took delivery of 1500 board feet of white ash and hard maple lumber to build our handcars. This lumber order is particularly sad as it will be our last opportunity to obtain ash lumber. Ash trees are an endangered species as the imported Emerald Ash Borer insect from Asia has been attacking and killing nearly 100% of all ash trees. The insect began its assault in Michigan during the late 1990s and is now found in every ash growing region east of the Rocky Mountains. It is estimated there is a three year supply of lumber remaining before the wood is no longer available. Lumber mills are cutting the trees as fast as they can before the insect destroys the remaining trees.
Traditional handcars are fabricated entirely from ash, including the frame and floor. Ash is an amazingly strong wood that machines nicely and is extremely strong. Our new touring handcar uses ash for the seats and rear storage boxes. We have enough ash on hand to build 20 touring cars, and four traditional handcars. We also use ash for the felloes on the wheel centers. When our ash is used up we will need to locate a substitute species. At this time we are leaning towards transitioning to hickory or maple, but more tests are needed to ensure these lumber species are up to the task.
We also took delivery of several hundred board feet of hard maple for wheel construction. Maple is the wood of choice for spoke construction as it is a stable wood that does not expand as great as other woods with moisture increases. We use ash lumber for the fellows that hold the wheel in place, but we will need to find an alternative lumber once the ash is done. This combination of wood has been in use for wheel construction since the 1880s.