Although my main work is done with riven oak, I sometimes work with millsawn stock too. Particularly white pine boards that I use as secondary timber in joined chests & carved boxes. I really like white pine, and I have been lucky to have access to a good selection of wide & clear, air-dried stuff. It’s a tremendous wood to use.
I have just about finished up the board chest I made this summer, done in air-dried millsawn walnut. And I almost got to the point where I like that wood, even. I have some left-over quartersawn walnut, wide and short sections, so I might be making some walnut boxes this winter.
But…still for me, the wood of choice is riven oak. I get to do a lot of hand-tool woodworking; spring, summer, fall, & winter. By far, my favorite time of year for this work is the fall & winter. Yesterday was a beautiful day in Southeastern Massachusetts; I got a chance to go out & split out some remaining red oak sections, into framing parts for a joined chest. The light has changed now, and the weather and the oak just combined to really speak to me.
I will never feel about rough-sawn boards the way I do about riven bolts of oak or ash. Opening up the log this way is so full of potential, I’ve stood by a saw, and watched each board come off, but it’s not the same. I’ve been the pitsawyer doing the same thing – but splitting it and seeing those fibers opened up, that’s it for me…
I am reminded of a phrase that runs throughout Ken Kesey’s book Sometimes a Great Notion. Kesey describes in detail various aspects of different character’s lives; and when he wants to highlight the significance of a place or feeling, he writes: “This is Hank’s bell…” (or Henry, or Joe-Ben….)
Standing in a woodpile, golden leaves falling through splintered sunlight, busting open vinegar-smelling oak, that’s my bell…one of them anyway.
Then a log truck arrived, the carpenters at the museum had picked out a bunch of logs for various tasks, and I spied some worth chasing. Once the useful logs were loaded, they filled the truck with firewood, and I saw a white ash in that pile…some beech too. A nice winter ahead.
One other bell…