“There is something about the outside of a horse…that is good for the inside of a man.”
, Attributed to Winston Churchill
Whenever I start on a project, the most curious part is sorting out my pile of rough lumber into piles of finished parts. Selecting for grain, figure and color is as important to me (maybe more) than tight-fitting joints.
So today as I launched into the cover project for the Winter 2008 issue I was amused to find that I stayed in a deep rut that I’ve been in since I started in the craft. Whenever I select my boards for color and figure, I almost always choose the heart side of a board to face out instead of the bark side.
Even in the legs for this project, which are predominantly bastard grain, have the heartwood facing out in three of the four. I know that I read somewhere that there are other woodworkers who do this, too. But I am at a loss for a good explanation, as is my wood bible: “Understanding Wood” by Bruce Hoadley.
The consistency should come as no surprise. Heart-side wood and bark-side wood can reflect light in different ways. So if you obeyed you shop teacher and glued up a panel using boards that had alternating growth rings (heart-side to bark-side to heart-side etc.) you could end up with a top that has a striped look, especially once the finish is on it.
But that doesn’t explain why I always choose the heart side. If anyone has a good explanation, I’d like to hear it in the comments below.
The project itself is a Gustav Stickley plant stand with a tile top. The project doesn’t appear in any of the catalogs that I own, but I’ve stumbled over a few signed examples since I started collecting in 1990.
I enjoy projects like this because they don’t use a lot of wood, but they contain lots of fun challenges. For starters: tusk tenons, weirdo offset and intersecting mortises, and incorporating a standard floor tile into the design. And there are some nice gentle curves.
And so I’ll end with another horse-related quote that applies to woodworking and the challenges ahead in this small plant stand.
“It is not enough for a man to know how to ride; he must know how to fall.”
, Mexican Proverb
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