Saturday, December 15, 2007

Sometimes it's enough

I read an article this morning about a recently deceased local man who was a passionate woodcarver his entire life. He was born in 1922, served in WWII by parachuting behind enemy lines and blowing up bridges, witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor, and of this event, wrote these words in his Bible: Hell is moving. We have all missed death 100 times this day. Amen.

His workshop was a converted chicken coop behind his house where he would sit for hours whittling whimsical characters and animals, often so engrossed in his project, he would work through dinner.

In the article, this is the sentence that really resonated with me and to which, I think, most woodworkers can relate: Arthritis stopped him from carving and whittling about four years ago, but he still shuffled to the wood shop with the help of a walker and sat among the pieces of wood and sawdust.

As I'm entering my busy season at work, I know that I probably won't be able to do any woodworkng until mid-March. But, during the busy months, I always seem to find a little time to at least sit in my shop or tidy up or open my tool cabinet and take out my handplanes. Sometimes it's enough to just be out there sitting among the wood.

Sun or Shade

This Piet Mondrian in wood shows several species in their natural hue; no stain or finish has been applied. With colors like these, you pretty much can't go wrong if you're making decorative boxes. Just let the wood do the talking.

One thing to consider, however, in choosing wood for its color is the long term effect of sun or shade on the color's intensity. These pencil boxes I made a few years ago were very colorful upon completion but over time, the saturation has changed.

Sun can either brighten or darken wood, depending on the species, so the lid of the middle box now looks dark and dull. The underside of the lid, however, still resembles the box when it was first made. Why? Because bloodwood and padauk, woods used in this particular box, darken in sunlight.

The second to last photo is a padauk board that was partially covered by another board in my shop. The part that was getting some sunlight turned dark maroon, while the portion in shade remains orange/brown.

Now, with some wood, it's preferable to keep them in the light. Purpleheart and cherry, for instance. The piece of purpleheart sitting on top in the last photo has been getting plenty of sunlight in my shop while the board below it has been buried in a lumber pile (it's actually brighter than I expected). Purpleheart turns bright purple in sunlight but turns brown in shade. Cherry, as most people know, starts out as a light pink when first milled, but darkens to a rich brown over a relatively short period of time.

So, if you're planning to rely on wood color in your next project, you might want to consider what will happen to its color over time.