Exotic woods don’t blow my skirt/kilt/skort up much.
In small doses they can look beautiful, but for the most part I find them oily, difficult to work and far too wild looking for full-size furniture. I’ve always preferred hardwoods and softwoods from the Northern hemisphere. Quartersawn beech is exotic to me. Quartersawn sycamore is too wild for my potato-flake tastes.
When I was teaching in Germany this summer, two very talented students from Denmark brought me a small gift – oak that had been buried in a bog for 3,000 or so years.
It was like no other oak I’d ever seen. It was dark through and through, with light-colored medullary rays. The two chunks weren’t heavy at all; they were about as heavy as pine. Even in the rough, the stuff is beautiful.
So I gave away a good deal of my clothing (and my running shoes) so I could make room for these ancient hunks in my luggage. Since I came back from Germany in June, the wood has been sitting next to my desk – never out of sight.
Now one of the perils of teaching (and taking) classes is that sometimes your tools get swept up into other people’s bags. This is exacerbated because I freely loan all my tools to students so they can feel how a sharp tool works.
I’ve lost a few tools over the years as a result, even though I mark them all with my name.
So this summer I decided to make some special tools using this black oak. I don’t have much, but I am going to try squeeze out a set of chisel handles, a Roubo try square and winding sticks from my stock. Today I started on the chisel handles.
This oak is remarkable. It cuts beautifully – even machine tools leave a nice finish. And as far as I can tell, it has no odor. This is something I was really worried about after Glen Huey worked with some mahogany that had been buried in a jungle riverbed. It was beautiful, but it smelled like an abandoned park restroom stall.
I finished the first chisel handle this evening with a little wiping varnish and it polished up nicely. I cannot wait to cut into the rest of the stuff.
— Christopher Schwarz
Want to Learn to Turn? This summer I have been doing a lot of turning in my spare time. The biggest help to me has been the book “Elementary Turning” that we published earlier this year. It’s a great little textbook and has lots and lots of useful lessons. I highly recommend it.