The J. Gibson McIlvain company has been in the hardwood business for centuries, but it wasn’t until recently (a decade is recent when you have been around since 1798) that we began to play in the softwood market. This may sound obvious but softwoods are very different products from hardwoods and we have been refining the way we buy and store these materials. Moreover, like any product there are different segments within the greater product. True to our hardwood business model, we only buy top quality softwoods for high end applications. J. Gibson McIlvain is not your source for construction grade materials nor will you find C and lower grade materials. We have taken a position to carry only A grade and appearance grade timbers as well as specialty products. Select Structural grade Douglas Fir, Alaskan Yellow Cedar, Clear Vertical Grain Western Red Cedar and Douglas Fir are common softwoods found in our inventory. Bevel edged siding and rustic face treatments are other common specialty products that we carry. Several key differences mean that softwood products need to have their own space to be kept in good condition during receiving, storage, and shipment. Recently, we made a big change by adding a new facility in near York, PA that is dedicated entirely to softwoods to address these differences.
Though not always true, in general softwoods are, go figure, softer than hardwoods. This means they can be damaged more readily by forklifts and the like. When they ship from the saw mill they are most often not in the rough but rather surfaced on 4 sides. So while some forklift damage can be removed when a hardwood is run through a planer, the damage to an S4S (surfaced on 4 sides) softwood timber does not have the same leeway. Additionally, since these are install/finish ready products, dirt and dust that gets kicked up in a typical lumber yard will settle on the surfaces and require sanding to remove thus altering the appearance of the face and possibly the finished dimensions. Softer material means that gravel and dirt can more readily scratch and/or mar the surfaces as well.
We think that segregating this product will go a long way to improving the quality of our softwood products. Wrapping the material to keep the dirt off the finished surfaces and keeping it under cover will significantly decrease damages during storage. Finally, with a dedicated distribution point, we can change the way we receive and ship the material to cater to the more delicate nature of softwoods. Careful packaging and banding will protect the lumber as it is loaded onto and off of trucks. This may seem like minor differences but the end result is that this higher quality material stays high quality from the moment it leaves the saw mill to when it arrives at your project site for installation.