I’m officially a woodworker

The old joke around these parts (and possibly yours as well) is that we have to lock our doors (house AND car) this time of the year. Not to stave off thieves, but to keep people from breaking in and leaving bushels of zucchini.

I’ve read about woodworkers, turners mostly, who come home to find a box full of burls, and/or the occasional pile of wooden bounty – thanks to their friendly neighboorhood arborist. A welcome sight indeed!

Who are these lucky people? Where do I have to sign up? How many years to I have to slave away in the basement before I make a name for myself to earn some of this great, free wood that would otherwise head for the landfill?

There’s arguably no other profession out there that people would bring you free supplies… “Oh, Mr. Fisherman… I dug up these worms, perhaps they’d come in handy?” or “Hi, Mr. Chef person, I was just going through my pantry, and I found all these canned goods. I thought you could do something with them in your restaurant. Maybe make and sell some soup? Have a nice day!”

Despite having a father-in-law who moonlights with his chainsaw, his haul is usually long dead, partially rotted, punky and/or ready for little more than the fireplace. I’m fortunate in that I can go scrounging for oak, birch, beech and occasionally maple and cherry when he brings home some more recently live specimens. Though save for the branches most of the wood is short, 12-18 inches, hardly worth milling into boards. Good to practice turning though!

A few months back, a co-worker was cleaning out her house, and let me rummage though her late husbands workshop. I hauled off two carloads of various offcuts – dimensional lumber, plywood – and as a bonus, two large natural edge slabs of pine. Some usable lumber, and plenty destined for the fireplace.

But today, oh joyful day, the wood came to me. A colleague brought me, from his barely post-civil war home, a 2′ long piece of 200 year old oak! This is approximately 7 board feet of nice, dry lumber with no twist in the grain. This will turn (literally) into a couple nice projects.

You can see the tool marks, dating back to the mid 1800’s when this was dimensioned down to 6 inches thick. I took my hand plane to the wood just to see what lies beneath the aged surface – it cut beautifully, nice and smooth, with little effort! I have a feeling turning this will be a dream compared to the last time I attempted a “fresher” piece of oak.

What am I going to make of this? Time will tell, but I’ll share the experience here. Yes, I have about a bazillion projects going on at once (yes, that’s a real number). But, I have a hunch I’ll do something with this sooner rather than later. I’m a sucker for the sirens call of a new project.

We creative types are really happiest when we get to make stuff. How funny is it that we want tools and raw materials as gifts, so we can, in turn, make gifts to give back?

So, thanks Don. Thanks for thinking of me. I’m touched, inspired and validated. And everyone else out there (within a moderate commuting distance), I have a great big farmers porch out front! If you can fill it up, I’ll take it as a challenge to bring new life into whatever you leave me. (storm downed hardwood, old barn boards, busted up chiffarobe…)

If you’re lucky, you’ll get a piece of it back (and if I’m lucky) your grandchildren will fight over it!

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