Some friends had to remove a large pin oak from their back yard, as it was declining and would soon pose a hazard to their house. They were sectioning most of the large branches and upper trunk for firewood, but were interested when I mentioned the possibility of milling some of the trunk for use in something that would last longer. So began our adventure of brainstorming and design work, which appears to be leading us toward a coffee table and a console made from the quarter-sawn lumber. Here are a few photos showing the transition from the original trunk to fresh sawn lumber. The wood is currently air drying, but will be finished in a kiln this fall.
I’m not typically a big fan of red oak, but this one was cut effectively to reveal good flecking and a few pleasant surprises in color variation. Last year I found a red oak crotch piece where two trunks had grown almost parallel to each other for several feet, and the grain went wild along the merging edges. I turned two shallow bowls out of it, one of which is pictured below.
Opening a piece of wood is like unwrapping a present. Further cutting, surfacing, and construction reveal qualities that shape meaning through function and aesthetic experience. When this is coupled with a memory of the raw materials, a personal history that preceded the wood’s cultural usefulness, it presents a unique opportunity for a living memorial– one that can maintain vitality and relevance in daily life instead of sliding ever deeper into a mysterious past.