Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Don’t waste wood.... NOT using it. All of us have prized pieces of wood stashed away, waiting for the “perfect” project to come along. Or maybe we're waiting to improve our woodworking skills before using that plank of bubinga, for fear of ruining it. Or maybe we think that padauk board is just too pretty to cut up.

Years ago, I bought a huge stack of wormy American chestnut from an old woodworker who had considered using it to build a dry sink. He told me it had grown on his property and reckoned it was about 100 years old when he hired a sawyer to cut it up because it had fallen. The boards had been drying in his shed for years and years, and now he was too old to work with the heavy boards.

He used a walker to get around, and although he could no longer lift large pieces of wood, he kept a tall stool at his bandsaw where he sat to cut small slats for the boxes he nailed together for a local farm to use for packing. He showed me around his tiny shop and the numerous stacks of boxes he had made, and I understood why he continued to work with wood despite his limitations.

As I drove away with a carload of that woodworker’s chestnut, by the look on his face I imagined he felt disappointed that he hadn’t used it himself. He also may have thought as I was driving away, “I hope that chestnut doesn’t end up in that lady’s fireplace.” So I made sure to pay him homage by using some of the wood in the doors of my tool cabinet. More pieces were used to build the Ephrata Cloister cupboard. My only regret is that I didn’t get that man’s address so I could send him photos of the pieces I built with his wood.

So, don’t put off using that precious piece of birdseye maple or zebrawood for too long—waiting for that perfect project to surface or for your skills to improve or for the planets to be in alignment. Use it, admire it, turn it into something other than a piece of lumber, or worse, firewood. You make it more precious by giving it a second life in the form of your project.