West Penn Hardwoods Location
In conjunction with other business taking me to North Carolina along the I-40 corridor I was finally able to visit the ultimate wood turners candy store, West Penn Hardwoods, a turning blank and lumber supply company that is easily one of the largest wholesale and retail operations on the east coast if not in the entire country.
The name West Penn Hardwoods made more sense when they were actually located in southeastern Pennsylvania, but for reasons unknown to me, they relocated in 2015 to Conover, North Carolina. I’ve heard that the new warehouses afford a great deal more space and perhaps real estate was cheaper as well. Whatever the reason, it brought one of my favorite suppliers of exotic hardwoods closer to home. To be sure, West Penn also sells domestic species but it is in the range of imported exotics that they really shine. I’ve done business with these folks for years and I have never been disappointed.
Immediately upon entering the parking lot one is confronted with stacks of imported exotic timber stacked outside like ordinary framing timber, but anyone remotely familiar with wood will know this is not SPF framing material! If you still aren’t sure, then the stencils on the sides that say “Gabon” for country of origin will clue you in that you might be looking at Ebony, Sapele, Bubinga, who knows what delicious hardwood treat.
Warehouse Number 1
The interior is divided into two distinct warehouses.
The first one you enter from the office is home to the turning blank supplies, all neatly organized alphabetically by species on huge turquoise painted racks with large red signs with the species names painted in white.
The effect is otherworldly, sort of like a Costco of exotic woods.
The space is easily the size of several football fields and it echoes with your voice and footfalls. West Penn is open to retail foot traffic but on the day we were there, there was no one else in evidence except a small number of staff members. Pushing a shopping cart through the warehouse was surreal.
There are also thousands upon thousands of pen blanks of all species
In bins along one wall are piles of burls, most Australian, which are sold by the kilogram. Never in my life have I seen such a variety of tempting materials. In addition to the burls are live edge slabs stacked against the wall, again the likes of which I have never seen. These slabs are most likely destined to be highly finished and turned into table tops.
Warehouse Number 2
The second warehouse is dedicated to dimensional lumber, again, of just about any and every species you can imagine and probably many you’ve never heard of. I wasn’t much in the market for dimensional lumber but it was still an impressive sight. I can’t imagine any other wood store where you can purchase everything from a $1.50 pen blank to a several thousand dollar live edge slab. But you can at West Penn Hardwoods.
One of the things I was most looking forward to were the sale bins where you can find just about anything. These bins have material tossed in with no indication of species and they may be off-sized, no longer stocked, rejects, or material that was shipped by accident.