Tuesday, September 19, 2006

From Tree to Furniture



















Herschel continues to drive a truck five days a week. He makes day trips to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Wilmington and Charlotte, North Carolina. He has several drop-off stops between home and these places. His days start between 2:00 AM to 4:00 AM and he arrives home from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM. During his spare time, he builds furniture or other projects from wood. He maintains this schedule and pace at age 69.

During our twelve years of friendship, I've learned much about wood, trees, lumber, and woodworking. He and I harvested mature trees, milled logs into boards, dried lumber, and built custom-made furniture. I've built several beds and one dining table for my family starting with standing trees. In part, I was able to accomplish this through encouragement from Herschel and his suggestions and advice.

As I wrote earlier, Herschel is well read and subscribes to many magazines, trade publications, and owns many fine books about woodworking. He readily looks up information for me to read approaches to woodworking complexities like dove-tail joinery. He also owns a fine collection of power tools as well as hand tools. If I didn't own a particular tool and he did, he allowed me to use his after showing me the correct way.

There is a proper way to sharpen a chisel and bevel the cutting edge. Herschel used his instruments and expertise to sharpen my chisels a couple times.

Before Herschel became a truck driver, he worked as a foreman in a furniture factory where he supervised the building of furniture. This involved mass production, building product samples for designers, and finishing techniques for sanding, varnishes, and stains.

I've visited him in his workshop many Saturday or Sunday afternoons over the years when he was in the middle of a project. He always willingly stopped whatever he was doing and spent an hour or more talking about whatever came into our minds. He showed me what he was working on, how he approached the project, and the rationale supporting the design features.

Herschel retains a quotation he saw when he was age 16. The message was inscribed on a brass plate on the side of a large chopping block in a butcher's shop where he worked. Here's the quote:

"Made the way it's made by the way it's made"

When he first related this conundrum to me, it took some thinking to arrive at the meaning of such a phrase. What does this mean to you? I finally translated it to mean, something is what it is by the way it was put together.

The top picture shows Herschel with finished TV tables he made from walnut lumber I milled from logs. Notice the white edges of the table tops. This is sap wood in walnut that he strategically positioned for contrast and symmetry.

The first below picture is Herschel and me standing beside a finished wardrobe he built from spalted ash he found on a mutual friend's property. It was an uprooted tree that had been in a damp gully for several years. Our friend used a bulldozer to help drag the tree trunk to a clearing for loading and hauling to my sawmill. We milled the logs into lumber and Herschel built this fine piece a few years later.

Notice the dove-tails, cedar, and slide design of the drawers in the bottom picture.

Return here on Thursday, September 21 for an update.

Have a good day!



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