Chair Stories: The Little Walnut

With the delivery of each chair order, the customer gets a short story I wrote about their chairs. Today I delivered two Velda’s Barstools and a Velda’s Settee to Rick and Betsy in Hillsborough, NC. A story about their chairs…

He was tall and strong and quiet, had a long salt-and-pepper beard and faded blue jeans: he looked like a working man. His family moved into a neighboring house when I was in my mid-teens. On our family walks, we’d pass him and he’d smile and nod, but rarely speak. Gradually I got too cool or too busy to go on family walks, but my parents slowly got to know him.

One day he walked down my parents driveway and up to my shop. “Junior at the log yard says you make chairs from logs,” and he told me about a little walnut log that had fallen down by the creek. Turns out this fellow was the forester for Triangle Forest Products, the log yard where I buy my wood, and knew more about trees than deer know about gardens.

I hauled the walnut tree home and stored it in my parents’ yard till it looked more like a compost heap than a pile of logs. Years later I got an order for some walnut chairs and hauled the logs to my new shop behind my new house. I split them open to reveal dark, beautiful, walnut heartwood. The sapwood had rotted away, but the heart remained undamaged by rot or insects for nearly a decade. Walnut is virtually rot-proof.

That tree yielded enough parts for the three walnut chairs on order and not a stick more, an event unprecedented in my chairmaking experience. May the luck and longevity of the walnut be with you.

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