Like Hauling Coal to Newcastle

Posted by Lloyd on October 6, 2013 | Subscribe
in The Cabin

Just as the town of Newcastle was known as the source of coal in Victorian England, North Carolina is recognized as the origin of much of the US’s hardwood lumber.  So why did Susan and I leave North Carolina and drive to Sunshine State of Florida to pick up a 14,000 lb load of lumber to haul back to North Carolina?

This journey of questionable sanity started four years ago when I met Bob Gruner, who runs a three person custom sawmill North of Eustis, Florida. Bob mills, kiln dries and processes his own lumber in an operation whose sheds surround their family home.  The “heart pine” floor that Bob ended up cutting for my shop was high quality, looks great, was easy to lay and cheap enough that bringing the floor from Florida for my NC shop made sense.  As the cabin remodel got underway I returned to Bob to see what he could do for pricing on oak flooring and pine ceiling material.

The oak floor Bob ended up cutting for the cabin is a mixture of Florida native oaks that you may have never heard of like water oaks and laurel oak.  Planks were cut 4″ wide in random lengths up to 16′ long.  The beauty of the flooring is its character, including wide color variations, curly grain,  worm holes, spalting, knots and so much more.  You are going to have to wait to see the finished floor because taking a picture of a few board doesn’t do it justice.  I think it will be perfect for the cabin.

In the photo below Bob and crew are loading half of the 16′ long, six-inch wide, v grove ceiling boards.  The fork lift is holding the load in front of the truck while the Bobcat is pushing the stack of lumber in the truck.  They are rolling the wood on the truck bed floor with 6″ PVC pipe.  Very inventive loading!

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The twelve-hour Budget truck ride from Florida to NC was miserable.  The ride started badly when we picked up a dirty truck with love bug guts pasted all over the windshield.  At highway speeds, vibrations that randomly pulsed through the truck frame had the ability to make your butt burn and your nose itch at the same moment, leaving me the constant dilemma of which irritation to deal with.  After it got dark, somewhere in South Carolina, I thought the truck we had rented had no headlights.  Then I noticed the right headlight was pointed straight down at the road and the left headlamp must have been adjusted by a NASCAR mechanic since it pointed left.  But the important truck stuff worked so we arrived safely at the cabin with the lumber.

Five guys from our stone mason’s work crew labored with me for five hours unloading the floor and ceiling boards and storing them in our cabin’s new basement.  The hand unloading made us very thankful for the Egyptian log rolling, bobcat pushing mechanical help we had on the Florida end of the project.

Here we are near the end of our reenactment of the Bataan death march.



Rooster stopped to pose for this photo of the pine ceiling boards when he saw Susan with the camera.




Work got started on the new fireplace chimney while we were in Florida.  We found Phil and his crew hard at it on our return.




After getting the new chimney underway our mason also got started replacing the stone on the fireplace Susan and I tore down and had rebuilt last year.  Here Phil and his crew are wrestling with a 200#  limestone rock.

Already the big pile of rocks we had collected in the spring is looking insufficient so next week we will be tearing down an antique limestone fireplace in Virginia and hauling it to North Carolina.  More coal must be needed in Newcastle.




Susan has faithfully been running our cedar shingle laundry.  Here grandson Jack hands “Mimi” a shingle to dip.




Grandson Truett helped out too by taking dry shingles off the line.




Seeing the look of the front of our house being transformed by the newly stained shingles is motivating us to keep the laundry going a few more days.  There are more details to be added to this gable end so expect another update when the gable end is finished.




Susan fired up my grandmother’s wood cook stove in the shop to reward her laundry helpers with fresh baked chocolate chip cookies.




Meanwhile, the new front door is glued up and being “fumed” with cookie aroma just a few feet away from the baking activities.  The darker white oak panels were finished with exterior poly before gluing the frame together.  Floating panels expand and contract with the weather so pre finishing avoids unprotected lumber from being exposed to the elements.




I took a wrong turn on our way through Greenville, SC to pick up our grandsons and ran accross this interesting mailbox.  It looks like the mailbox holder is an early 60’s Honda.



  • go4mars says:

    Coming together beautifully. It’s fun seeing this and reading about it from afar.

  • Lloyd says:

    Thanks Grant. It is going to be close but I think we can get the house dried in before winter.

  • Sarah Ray says:

    Wow! It looks great guys!! You two are working so hard. I bet its going to hard to leave it and go to Florida.

  • John Shearin says:

    This is better than HGTV!

  • go4mars says:

    I just noticed you’ve had 1468 visits in the last month!! How long until I just watch this on HGTV?

    I think the increased frequency of your updates is likely a strong factor. I know I’ve enjoyed it!

  • Lloyd says:

    We are way too slow for HGTV. They have to resolve their episodes in 30 minutes. Our project will go on for at least five years.

  • Lloyd says:

    Thanks John. If we had a good producer and director we might could get things done on time.

  • Lloyd says:

    Guess again about it being difficult to go to Florida. Susan and I are dreaming of the first of November and our trip south. It will be good to sleep in a house, takes showers with something bigger than a six gallon water heater and sleeping in a full size bed. The RV has been perfect for what we are doing but we are done with it for a while.

  • Ron Brese says:

    Given the effort and attention to detail going into the work, I’m predicting your cabin will be absolutely beautiful when it’s done.


  • Lloyd says:

    Thanks Ron, great to hear from you. The attention to detail may leave us broke. It would help if either Susan or I liked to take short cuts, but if there is a complicated way to do things we are both up for it.

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