Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Woodland Treasures

While waiting for contractor build estimates (in a previous blog), I began a decorating board to get ideas for color pallets and furniture. I wanted to focus on certain pieces to decorate around. One of those dream pieces was a natural wood coffee table, a signature piece that speaks to me every time I see it. That set me on the path to researching and finding the right custom woodworking shop.

The first step was to learn as much about wood from the area as I could. Of course, I am no expert, but I did find information to set me straight. There are many beautiful wood patterns, colors, and local woods that make choosing difficult.

One of my favorite kinds of wood is spalted pecan; I have a knitting bowl made from a fallen pecan tree that is spalted and marbled. The worm holes and added hollows were filled in with turquoise. Spalting is due to fungal decay from laying around or from stress wounds. The unique pattern of discoloration is considered a prize as you can see. I love the winding black lines and worm holes!


The butt\stock of my skeet gun is a lovely English walnut with dark mineral lines and marbling

known as marble cake. Wood like this is hard and smooth to touch and a joy to show off. There are     different woods for different uses. Guitar wood is another specialty, and it comes in grades that cost incrementally more as the figures are rarer. Grade 6 flamed maple is a favorite for this kind of project because it has a bold grain pattern with undulating heavy wavy lines like tiger stripes. and can just pop when on display. It looks like you could put your finger into the waves; the depth of the patterns are fascinating to see.

Movements in figured maple are described as: curly where the growth rings most of us are familiar with also display a kind of random 90 degree rays pattern, fiddleback with a more uniform pattern with rays running perpendicular to those growth rings, and quilted maple which has circular or oblong rings with blister or bubbles that can shine like bling. It has depth and movement as you examine it in the light.

Quilted blisters are so beautiful!

 I wanted a thick piece of live edge maple for my coffee table and took a particular fancy to burls.
Burls are one of the coolest treasures you could hunt for, and you have probably seen them before knowing what they were. Some knarly knots can make a tree seem strange and hauntingly so if you are in a group of burled trees.



Since bark generally runs up and down, you can see a burl’s bark looks like popcorn and/or pins and pollups that run across the tree. Some grow large enough and with fabulous grain variations that make them worthy of tables, veneers, and furniture. Finding a tree that has two limbs or trunks growing together known as a drudge or a bond can also make a special find as well. A drudge piece can make for an interesting shape. Smaller burls are sought after for the beautiful bowls they can make out of them.

Burls are similar to a scab, and these are really from a fungus that the tree is trying to mend over. Other injuries to the tree may also form burls. Sometimes tree harvesters leave the stump of a cut tree to regrow over many years to assist in that’s process. They will cut off all the skinny and dead twiggy protrusions to find rings and pins or bark inclusions which make for some interesting and unique interior markings, lines, and maybe even some spalting.

I found a custom wood working shop (AjE Custom Woodworking in Franklin, NC) who showed me a fabulous thick maple Burl in just the shape I was looking for. These scarce gnarly burls have a feel of long ago; a real forest gem found right there in Franklin. Adam estimates the age to be about 150 years old! He is a real artist and creates amazing pieces. I know he laughed when I said I was worried about the cracks I see in many of these larger pieces. Cracks are just the nature of wood.

For my table, Adam made exquisite little bow ties (also known as keys, Dutchmans, or butterflies) to enhance the anomaly and secure movement over time. He hand chisels the exact shape of the bow tie into the wood then pounds them in place and finishes sanding to his specs. I am proud of my heirloom table and its history and very happy to have found Adam Emery.

I will have to ask if Adam does Shou Sugi Ban, a Japanese burning technique used to preserve wood. That will be for the next visit.

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