My student Christophe from Australia commissioned three Pete’s Stools with white oak legs and butternut seats. Here’s the story about his chairs:
I like the log yard when it is quiet, and the three-man crew is waiting for trucks to arrive. At those times, Junior might come down from the knuckleboom truck to talk. He’s a tall man with white bushy hair, blue jeans and a John Deere ball cap. Mostly he talks about wood — how it grows, how it’s cut, and how it’s sold.
When logs arrive at the yard, Junior sorts them by species and grade. Veneer, the highest grade of hardwood, is followed by saw logs and logs for railroad ties. The lowest grade hardwood logs are only good for pulp (paper and particle board) and firewood. Pine has it’s own complex grading system, one I can’t fathom.
Last month I was selecting a veneer-grade white oak log for some bar stools on order. It was a slow day and Junior was helping me pick the log. Over the years he’s learned what logs I like — or maybe he’s taught me what I like. Two logs were still in the running, and I started talking about their bark. Bark says a lot about the wood beneath, if you know how to listen. One log had flaky bark, the other had tight, knobby bark. I said I liked the flaky bark.
“They’re probably about the same,” said Junior. “Maybe that tight-barked oak grew in a stand of gum trees. Trees grow to look like the trees around them, same as people.”
Junior’s knowledge is the sort passed from generation to generation, highly regional and rarely found in books. It’s a gamble to ignore his advice: a brave gamble or a foolish risk. I decided to trust my instincts and bought the flaky-barked oak. It is a beauty.
Here’s some photos of the stools being built:
Not boring at all!
I love using this adz.
It is doing more splitting than cutting.
The drawknife splits too.
I’ve had photo-journalism student Stella Reneke in the shop the last month, so I finally made it in front of the camera.