Monday, April 14, 2008

A Difference of Opinion

Work has a lot of standards and guidelines. Dresser drawer faces should be glued up as a panel that flows together and then cut out, instead of a one board per face approach. Knots, sapwood, mineral deposits, etc. are considered defects and should be hidden or not used. Tops should be made from boards no narrower than 3" and shouldn't have more than a few inches of difference in width over the span of the top. Every board we use should be the "typical" representation of that species, so that we match what may already be at our customers homes, or so we can match their future orders.

So, I thought I was on the right track with this table top. It is unacceptable, however. Not "bad" but not good either. The grain (with its typical cathedrals) speaks cherry to me, but not to the company.

Its another case of me finding beauty in the wood because it is wood. Most of the defects that are avoided in the industry attract me. Knots, when structurally sound, mineral streaks and deposits, and sapwood are all beautiful, and I try not to shy away from them.

I recently had an opportunity to make a sappy cherry rocking chair, with heavy mineral deposits, and a couple of knots here and there. And while I chose wood with an eye toward defects, I didn't necessarily try to match everything. It turned out wonderfully. All the "mis-matched" parts actually matched. When sapwood came through it look as thought I planned exactly where it would appear, but I didn't. I just didn't let it frighten me away.

I like telling the story of curly maple (also known as fiddleback or tiger maple). Because of the way the tree grows, it has these high and low spots that catch the light, and it gives it a ripple or curl look. For many, many years, the curl was considered a defect because it was too hard to work with hand tools. Only recently has this defect come to be prized, and curly woods (it happens in other trees as well) are sought after, and command a higher price.

Now, I have met ugly boards, and I try to stay away from them, but most of what I find absolutely beautiful I have to set aside, and save for my own projects.

No comments: