Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Look, Touch and Smell of Wood

I remember visiting Duckloe Furniture in Portland, PA several months ago. They have exquisite examples of American hand-crafted furniture. Their showroom is filled with everything from Arts and Crafts and Shaker styles to Windsor Chairs that they have been making themselves for over 150 years. The woods and grain patterns are awesome. Words like bird’s eye, tiger, quarter-sawn and burl are used a lot in the wood descriptions of the items on display.

Like a naughty child, I found myself touching everything. As I ran my hand across the top of a table or over the carved decorations I realized how much I love to touch wood. There is a tactile sensation that brings me joy. The smoothness of the finish, the beauty of the grain pattern, even the smell of the beeswax and oil, all contribute to my sensual enjoyment.

I get a similar feeling in my own workshop. It may be the fine sawdust that remains in the pores of your hand after sanding; or feeling the contour of a piece you just carved. I’m sure many of you fellow woodworkers know what I mean. I remember finishing a spoon with wax and mineral oil and then sitting watching TV and just rubbing the finish with my bare hands for quite some time. It was a comforting sensation. You may argue that velvet or leather also gives tactile pleasure, but when it comes to hard materials, nothing beats wood.

I just completed my Salamander Cane. It was my first attempt in carving a critter wrapped around the cane. Instead of carving a detailed snake with hundreds of tiny scales like the award-winning artist, Dave Stehly, I chose a much simpler piece for my first attempt. The salamander is a lot smaller and its skin is smooth and easy to carve. I liked the feel of the wooden cane handle. I realized why canes and walking sticks are made of wood. For some reason, it just seems natural.

Has working with wood heightened your sensual awareness?


Anonymous said...

Dave here - you lulled me into complacency by not posting for a while. Now your first comment for this article is almost a week late. Nice stuff, I like the idea of you sneaking a feel of everything in the showroom. Hehe, I might have the same prediliction for glass, I am not sure, but that would be pretty much anathema to your blog, so we will let it go.

Robert said...

You continue to amaze me with your creativity!
-Cheers, Bob.

Robert said...

A cubicle is about half the size of a prison cell, so consider yourself lucky to be a free man. (But keep a tie or two handy in case you cut yourself on sharp tools).