|A timber shop selling local timber varieties|
For a woodworker there can be nothing more enticing than the scent of wood. I am always sniffing around for different varieties and sources of wood.
So when John Canby, a Californian expat in Delhi, asked me if I could find him a decent source for Sheesham, I readily acquiesced.
Sheesham (Dalbergia sisso) is a much sought after local species in North India where it is used for making fine furniture, tools and so on. It is widely available in most towns of North India but not in the main timber markets which nowadays rarely keep local timbers.
I checked with a few timber shops in Greater Noida where I live and discovered no one had Sheesham. My carpenter friend Sirajuddin (known to everyone as Mullaji) offered to help. He said he could take me to some local timber dealers in a nearby town called Sikandrabad.
Yesterday, John, Sirajuddin and I drove through the dusty outskirts of Greater Noida, down a narrow country road traversed by suicidal drivers and giant trucks carrying Honda cars.
The dust and the road hogs kept us tense and mostly off the metalled road till we crossed a railway track into Sikandrabad.
John parked by a small shop making horse drawn buggies with wood and metal. The timber shop was half a kilometre up the road.
|Sikandrabad timber shop|
It was piled with firewood and scrap but had an enormous store of local timbers in an inner shed. Local wood species are called "Desi Lakdi" and for some reason are shunned by urban cabinet makers and carpenters. They are mainly procured and used locally in small towns and rural areas.
John looked extremely happy judging from the glow in his face and I too was intrigued by the variety of local species cut and stacked in untidy lots inside the dismal shed.
John picked up quite a few pieces of Sheesham of various sizes; I could tell he had a good eye for even in the dark he had found pieces with interesting grain and figure.
|The venerable proprietor amidst his stash|
I was fascinated by a stash of freshly cut planks of Neem (Azadirachta indica) drying near the open door of the shed. I had never seen Neem wood - it is distinctly pink in colour and rather heavy. It also gives off the peculiar Neem smell.
I picked up three one inch by five feet by one feet planks for Rs 250 (less than four US dollars) while John paid Rs 3700 (about 50 usd) for eight or so pieces of Sheesham including a fine four foot by 15 inch slab with handsome figure.
The workers in the shop fired up their ancient diesel-powered band saw, an enormous beast sunk into the ground, to cut my pieces of Neem.
I bought the Neem as an experiment as I have been looking for a source of secondary wood for use in making the insides of drawers, shelves and so on. No point using expensive species for all purposes.
If Neem works it will turn out cheaper and better than Pine of Poplar for use as a secondary wood. Who knows perhaps it could even be used as a primary material in certain projects.
Time will tell and in the meanwhile John and I plan to do some more sniffing around for local timbers in the area. If only drivers in this part of the world cared more for their own and the lives of others; hunting for wood would be so much more pleasant.
8 April 2016
Photographs by John Canby