Apr 242008

I have four orders– three of them are disgracefully old. I decided to concentrate, and cut them during this Waxing moon.

I get so nervous, because the wood is expensive to purchase, and I feel that each of these wands must show my very best efforts. I guess I feel that way about all of my work, but Rosewood does show my efforts. Uncompromisingly, in some cases. It was a very sensorial adventure.

This is a hard wood, with a very smooth and dense grain. It cuts like butter– Difficult, pissy, arrogant butter. It polishes itself. If I keep my tools sharp enough, I hardly need to touch it with sandpaper. It rarely lets the tools chip into it, but a wrong move can sweep the tip of a chisel across a once-perfect surface in a heartbeat– as it did to me twice this afternoon, causing me to finally stop in frustration. An email to a woodturning mentor helped, and a magnifying glass showed me where the flaw was in my sharpened tool!

This wood has a distinctive scent when it’s being cut. Sometimes I think fine pipe-tobacco is the nearest description, but I have no real words for it. It is irritating to the mucous membranes, and at the same time, seductively warm, spicy, astringent.

Rosewood changes color, beginning the moment it is cut. I suppose that several coats of a water-based, UV-protectant polyurethane might stop the oxidation– but nothing else, to my knowledge, will. The wood begins quite varicoloured, with browns that are speckled nearly black, softer sand tones, ivory. Sometimes there will be violently orange streaks, sometimes subtle pinks– which might be where Rosewood got its name from. These colours don’t last long. You can amost watch it happening, and certainly, coming back to a piece after half-an-hour will make a visible difference in the color– eventually, your wood will be that glorious burnt-wine with black grain barely visible in the darkness– I have even had some pieces that turned an unrelieved black, like ebony.

…I have no final words for this post! *grin*

Apr 102008

Yesterday I gave my son a ride to school (he normally takes the train), and that put me about ten minutes from Bonhoff Lumber, down on the far south side. Instead of going home and getting my coffee like a sensible person, I went there, looking for Ash wood.

Bonhoff is a wholesale yard. I love to visit; There are stacks of boards twenty feet long and forty feet high, in an enormous hangar and a vast open yard. Two forklifts zip about all the time, picking up half-stacks and moving them here and there so that customers can choose the pieces they need. All of the wood is rough-cut, and I bring a pocket knife so that I can scrape away the fuzzy, splintery, dirty surface to get an idea of the color and grain underneath. Most of the boards are too heavy for me to lift. Buys are made in tonnage; while I was there yesterday, I watched the forklifts work together to place a load of mahogany into a truck that visible sank onto its shocks as the weight registered.

I am a little buyer. One half board can last me for months– and given my lack of productivity last year, last a whole year, arrgh! But the Bonhoff office welcomes me as if I were a treasured account, every time I show up with my pocket-change. And the yard men sometimes have a short piece that they’ve saved from the dump with me in mind. I was offered a styrofoam cup of coffee, petted the lumberyard cat– who could be close kin to my own tribe– and flirted with, all before the manager told me that Joe had a stack of Ash down on the ground for me. I reminded him that I only neded four or five feet. To cut a length off of a board is tricky for the lumberyard, as the remaining piece has to be long enough for the average sale. He told me that ten feet was the minimum , so anything I found that was longer would be fair game. And Joe cared even less. He cut me four feet off a twelve-foot board and tucked the rest of it away for me. I told him I’d be back for it in a month or two.

Bonhoff is not the only lumberyard that has such pleasant employees. In fact, I can think of only a few times when moral has been low in any yard I’ve visited. I think hanging around wood tends to keep people happy.

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