Thursday, June 5, 2008

Woodworking Around the World

Some online statistic services let bloggers know how readers found them—through searches or referrals from other sites—and where in the world readers reside. Below is a list of the places where woodworkers who read this blog live. In total: 59 countries/regions/territories. Wow. Woodworking is truly a universal language.

I am very curious about woodworking in other parts of the world, including other states within the U.S., particularly regarding the types of wood that are readily available and the styles of furniture that originated there.

Cherry and walnut are plentiful where I live and they are my favorite woods to work with, followed by pine. I have only cursory knowledge of the furniture styles that originated in PA, so am not able to write about them with any depth, but my favorite is Pennsylvania German furniture for its folksy, earthy, and practical qualities.

At right are photos of a trunk that my great-grandfather built in Boxholm, Östergötland, Sweden before he came to the U.S. I have never seen the trunk in person, just photos, so I'll guess that the wood is pine. The hardware is not original and there had been a sliding tray inside which has since gone a-missing. Sturdy and functional, but with what may have been a purely decorative element on top of the lid—the raised portion.

The wooden plate was painted by my grandma and reads, in Swedish, "Welcome to our home." She used a technique called rosemaling, or rose painting, which originated in Norway in the 1700s. "C" and "S" strokes, and stylized flowers are indicative of this style of painting. Although she was not a woodworker, grandma may have influenced my love of folk art and handmade creations.

I would love to hear from woodworkers across the globe & U.S. about the wood & tools they use and the furniture designs & decorative elements that are representative of their country or state. Feel free to leave a comment here or email me directly: Photos are appreciated!


Anonymous said...

Well, I guess I am your visitor from the Dominican Republic.

Most of the furniture styles here are borrowed or imported with a pretty heavy European influence. I am not really aware of anyone else who does hobby woodworking.

As for the woods, there is some that is local. I can get southern yellow pine, and most tropical hardwoods. American hardwoods seem to be fairly scarce.

I did see a nice stack of maple for sale the other day though.

Jatoba (something like American Oak), Mahogany (and a dozen or so species that look something like it), andiroba (poor man's mahogany), and many others are available. Many seem to be imported from South America.

It is a shame that there are so many wonderful tropical species, but because people don't know what they are, they tend to get no attention in favor of Mahogany which is a wonderful wood, but totally overused.

Kari Hultman said...

Luke, it must be gorgeous where you live. A friend of mine vacations in the D.R. every year and just loves the beaches.

Jatoba is also called Brazilian Cherry in the states, but I had never heard of Andiroba.

Anonymous said...

Is is a beautiful place here. Unfortunately, I live in Santo Domingo which isn't quite that attractive.

Using adiroba for mahogany is sort of like substituting pine for maple. There is nothing wrong with it, but it ain't the same. The colors, however, are similar and it can be fairly difficult to tell apart with a thick finish.

One of the reasons that mahogany is so popular is that it is known to be impervious to termite infestations here. (I think the termites we have the most trouble with here are different than those found throughout most of the US.) I think other hardwoods have similar resistance, but I haven't ever found a reliable source to determine which are the best.

Vic Hubbard said...

Sorry Kari,
I can't think of woodworking style that actually originated in the NW...besides totem poles. I'm not even sure the indigenous indians of the NW started that. I do however have a piece of history. I bought an anvil from a friend that came over on a covered wagon. I compress a disc every time I have to move the darn thing.
We do have Roger Rogowski (Fine WoodWorking)in the general area.
Hopefully in a year or two, I'll be able to take a summer off work and study under him. That'd be cool.
As far as available local lumber.
I live in a desert, so just what people have planted over the years.

Kari Hultman said...

Vic, I know a lady whose son-in-law makes native american masks in the Pacific NW—a style that originated there. He belongs to a club of carvers who specialize in the reproduction of those masks.

That's very cool about the anvil that came across on the covered wagon. At least you probably don't have to move it too often. Think of the poor horse that had to haul that big boy for thousands of miles!

Isn't there a fine woodworking school just north of you in Canada?

Vic Hubbard said...

I'm not aware of the school in Canada. I know there are several places on the west side of WA that offer woodworking classes.
My plan is to first...FINISH THE SHOP!, then get a year or two in creating some bad habits, then go get some formal education.
I miss that we don't have beautiful hardwood forests of a lot of the central and northeast US. But, wouldn't live anywhere else. I love the NW and have come to love living in the desert. Weird, huh?

Kari Hultman said...

Here you go, Vic:

Inside Passage was the school I was thinking of.

I'd love to travel the NW someday....

Vic Hubbard said...

Well, you and your partner have a place to bunk if your in the neighborhood. Thanks for the school link.

Woodfired! said...

Many US woodworkers would be familiar with the common Australian woods such as Tasmanian blackwood, silky oak (sometimes called lacewood I believe), Huon pine, river red gum and many other eucalypts as a large amount of these are exported to the US. As elsewhere there are many less well known species that are used by Australian woodworkers. Most are not logged commercially but are collected by woodworkers and their ilk from fallen trees or the stumps and rejects of forest logging.

The most common character of Australian woods is their hardness. You can detect this in the accumulated deviations from European tradition in tools, joints and glues. (Fitting a dovetail in ironbark is a lot different to using French walnut or Honduran mahogany!)

Despite the immense popularity that aboriginal art is enjoying in Australia and around the world, we do not see a great deal of woodwork from the indigenous peoples. Canoes, hunting weapons, burial poles, and food gathering "treen" come to mind. These are often decorated in the distinctive aboriginal styles.

I reference to learning from other traditions, a close friend and sometime collaborator of mine (Matthew Harding) just returned from a workshop/seminar in Sweden that was set up to bring together woodworkers from Japan, Australia, Senegal and Sweden! Different traditions to be sure. I believe they were making outdoor furniture both individually and in collaborations. Matty is a professional woodworker and sculptor and is a highly regarded wood carver. In the latter role he has done collaborations with the traditional carvers from places as diverse as Easter Island, Cambodia, the Sepic River in New Guinea, New Zealand, Germany, Zimbabwe (the Shona stone sculptors), Japan and Canada. Now that's the way to bring diverse influences into your design! - that is if you have the time and money for all the travel and the skills to pull it off. I'm just happy working in my backyard shop and having the occasional chat with like minds via the internet.

Kari Hultman said...

Mark, you've given me lots of things to research on the internet. Does Matthew Harding have a website? Will there be an exhibition of the work that was produced in the workshop/seminar in Sweden? I'd love to see some of Matty's carving, as well as the work done by his colleagues in the other countries he visited.

Vic, thanks! : )

Woodfired! said...

Unfortunately Matty doesn't have a web site (at least not one that goes beyond the "under construction" excuse). I have been nagging him for years about this as he has great photos of many hundreds of works. Perhaps I should add it to my very large list of things to do.

The Swedish workshop project is called JoINT. You can get to the website from here. Click the "here" link under JoINT! The "artists" link takes you to the artists CVs and Matty's has images of 3 works. The "diary" link shows some of the works in progress. There's a great pic of Matty wielding a chainsaw.

There are some shots of his work on various websites. This is an image of a carved sculptural object typical of the work he has taken to SOFA in the US in recent years. If I can't find much of his woodwork I'll email you some of the many images I have.

Cheers, Mark

Kari Hultman said...

Mark, thank you for the links. I spent way too much time reading and admiring them today!