One of the most difficult things about being a maker in a relatively small city is finding suppliers. For exotic hardwoods, there seems to be Lee Valley, which supplies small hobby-sized boards at a premium price, East Coast Specialty Hardwoods, which is on the wrong side of the harbour for me and has typical Burnside hours, and Halifax Specialty Hardwoods at 112 Bluewater Road in Bedford/Hammonds Plains. I only recently discovered this last supplier, and was stoked to learn they were only 10 minutes from my house and were open Saturday mornings. In search of some walnut and I-don’t-know-what to try my hand at making chopsticks, I packed up the kids and we went to explore.
Sometimes, sellers of one-off metal scraps, unique pieces of lumber, etc. don’t include prices. You have to find something you like, then find someone to inquire about the price. For an amateur woodworker for me, it can be a bit embarrassing when I pick up what I think would be a $10 board only to be told it’s closer to $100. I also like to know what I’m looking at, and these suppliers sometimes either don’t bother labeling their smaller stock or assume they’re selling to people who are experienced enough to know by look/feel/telepathy what they’re buying. That is, if you can browse at all. Sometimes you have to explain what you want (which presupposes you know what you want) to an office worker who writes up the order with nary a scrap of stock in sight. I was very happy to find Halifax Specialty Hardwoods suffers none of these flaws. You walk in and browse. Everything is clearly labelled with species and price.
They offer a wide selection of wood products. I quickly found a few manageable sized pieces of purpleheart, walnut and yellowheart, but wandered around for a half hour, just taking it all in. They had hardwood plywood (which would have saved me a trip to Burnside for the pinball project), a wide selection of pen blanks in many exotic species, ditto for bowl blanks, and even rough turned bowls (turners will roughly turn a bowl, then leave it, say, a year to completely dry and allow the stresses to warp the bowl before finishing it). They had a huge selection of smallish boards for the kind of bite-size woodworking projects I do, but also much larger boards for moulding, flooring, etc. The stars, though, were the huge live-edge slabs, typically used for bartops, benches, tables, and the like, priced from a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars. I eagerly/anxiously await the day I have coin and courage enough to tackle a project using one of these.
They have tools on-site to provide custom laminations, moulding and facing. They specialize in flooring, and can ship throughout the Maritimes. I’m unlikely to need any of these services soon, but I will definitely be back as soon as I can find an excuse to buy some of that gorgeous 5/4 zebrawood or mahogany.