Stitches & Sap

Yesterday, I was finishing up the milling of my workbench legs. The stock was originally 8″in diameter by 8′ long. I had salvaged four posts from an old mill in New Bedford, Mass. Two of the posts are now residents in my old house, and I was saving the remaining two for a special project. They are well over a 100 years old, and I love the color and grain patterns.

I decided to take the posts down to 5″ square and I cut the individual legs down to 36″. I had just finished one of the posts when I was struck by the pattern that had shown up around a split in the wood. I commented to myself that it resembled the scar I had on my arm from when I was a kid. The little markings looked just like those from where the stitches were placed on my arm. It was an internal conversation that brought me to other thoughts but those are not important.

After I finished dimensioning the legs, I moved on to cutting out some potential foot patterns for the legs. I was using some old 4×4 Douglas fir cutoffs that were in our scrap bin. They were kiln dried – the kind you’ll find at the home center. Even though these prototypes were a little smaller than my intended final size foot, I find the process of trying out different ideas helpful. So I cut a few out on the band saw and left them on my desk when I lwent home for the day. When I came in this morning, I noticed that one of the prototypes had bled a bunch of sap all over the desk. I immediately thought about the internal conversation I had the day before about my stitches. Certainly, the cut left by the saw left a significant gash.

If you want further proof that we are privileged and working with a really special material, when I was a kid I worked for an arborist as his assistant. It was a great summer job at the time. My boss paid me cash under the table, and I got to play with a chain saw all day. Usually, my boss would climb the trees with his ropes and trim the trees while I would collect the branches and cut them up into small bundles for the homeowner.

I’ll never forget one particular tree. Our job was to take the entire tree down. My boss made a cut about halfway through the trunk when a huge amount of red liquid came pouring out. It was quite a sight, splashing all over our boots. It wasn’t as thick as blood, but it was a really saturated red. Good thing I wasn’t squeamish, because that tree let out a lot of blood that day.

–Ajax Alexandre

By the way, Christopher Schwarz’s book “Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction & Use” is currently on sale at our store, saving you over $10.

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