On Choosing Wood
Trees have six distinguishing features which I use to highlight my work:
- (1) Heartwood comes from the center of the tree, and is responsible
for the primary color of the
Virtually all of my work is made without stains or dies, but relies on the natural
colors of the wood itself.
(2) Sapwood lies at the outer edge of the tree, and is typically white
or gray. Many furniture makers won't use sapwood, as they consider it a defect.
I feel that is very much a part of the wood, and helps a piece reflect the tree
from which it came. It also creates contrast by providing a much wider yet
natural color range in a piece.
is an excellent example. It's made of American Sycamore (the yellow wood) and Walnut
(the brown wood). On both the drawer fronts and the sides you can see the heartwood
as the darker yellow, and the sapwood as the nearly white areas. On
you can clearly see the white areas of sapwood at the front and back edge.
Sapwood is a bit softer and more porous than the heartwood, but a durable
finish will thoroughly protect it.
- (3) Bark is the 'skin' or the outer edge of the tree. Bark is extremely
soft and porous and therefore structurally inferior, but on the edge of
a table top or desk it provides a beautiful accent called a "live edge."
has a live edge on its top and on the upper shelf.
- (4) Branches create both knots and complex grain patterns in the wood.
This table top
is a good example of how I use the knots in my work.
The almost black areas on the top are knots, and the interaction between tree and branch
can be seen in the complex grain patterns surrounding the knots. Many furniture makers
avoid knots and consider them defects, but I believe they add a uniqueness
and depth of character.
- (5) Grain is created by the annual rings, which are seasonal growth
variations in the density of the wood. Grain
creates the lines, whorls and patterns that you see.
- (6) Figure is the word used to describe unusual variations in the
the grain pattern of a particular board or veneer. It is highly prized by woodworkers, as it
creates beautiful and sometimes spectacular variations in the way the wood reflects light.
Figure can cause a wood to appear to undulate or move as you move near the piece.
Examples of figure include:
beewsing, fiddleback, tiger, ripple, mottle, spalting, burl, and birdseye. Different genus
woods exhibit different figuring. Maple, for example, can have either
fiddleback (so named for its use in violins) or birdseye. Changes in the direction of growth of the
wood fibers cause figuring. It frequently occurs around knots, near the roots, and around
a fork or crotch in the tree. It is also caused by wind damage, changes in climate, disease, and insects.
By carefully selecting each individual board and arranging the boards according
to grain pattern, color and character, I achieve a unified whole.
My work produces timeless, unique pieces that will last lifetimes, rooted
neither in the past nor the future.