woodworking season

with the days growing a little cooler and October almost upon us again, it is time once more to do some woodworking (though between you and me, i have no idea where i'll store anything new i make). especially since the Arbor Aid fundraiser is coming up in october and i've promised them 3 pieces including a special table i was invited to make.

a few weeks ago a friend and i crossed in the hallway at my consulting job and said 'hey i have all sorts of wood from a downed horse chestnut tree in my garage, do you want some of it?" heck, yes! i picked up everything i wanted of this last night and brought it back to my woodshop. i'll have enough to build a table or two i think. and some is even thick enough to be milled down into legs.

in looking over what i've received this piece strongly struck me as something rare. the board is over 8 feet long and has some beautiful spalting to it. after cleaning off the years of mold and dirt i began rough sanding it just to see what i could do with it, having not yet worked with horse chestnut

the image on the left is the board cleaned but not yet sanded. these boards were milled with a chainsaw and too wide to fit through my planer so it is down to my belt sander and lots of manual work. the image on the right shows the other side of the board after an hour with the belt sander. most of the chainsaw marks are removed and a few reddish burn marks remain which i actually like. the character and grain are being revealed (especially after a test swipe with some mineral spirits) and the board is really quite gorgeous. grain colors go from white through cream with spots of deep red and all the way to black. the gentle curve to the board reminds me strongly of the meandering banks of a river, reinforced by the striations of grain color.

i definitely would like to make a bench with this piece. i am a little concerned though that 8 feet long might be too much for prospective buyers and though i could cut it in half, making 2 companion pieces, that really seems a shame. for now it will remain this length.

there are two chain saw gouges on the one side which is a bit of ill luck but perhaps reminds us of the history of the tree that was lost in the storm, and the tracings of those this tree once sheltered. the image on the right is at eye level, sighting along the board. the photo brings out this concept of a river of grain.

living here in Pittsburgh of course i am surrounded by rivers. i think though i'd like to be more poetic, as i begin to create the furniture piece this will become, and look more to the rivers of Hades or or those mentioned in James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake: rivers of memory, rivers of passion, rivers of myth, rivers of song....

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