A blog about a log!
A few weeks ago, when I was on duty at our local gallery, the gentleman who does all the picture framing for us asked me if I wanted a piece of cherry-wood……I didn’t have to think for too long about that!
Cherry is lovely wood to turn, it is slow growing, so has dense wood with close grain, which generally cuts cleanly. When it is freshly harvested it is especially wonderful to work because of the smell of the fruit coming through the wood shavings, but the log in question had been in store, in-doors, for several years.
There is a common disbelief that if you keep wood for long enough, it just gets drier and drier, but that isn’t true. When wood is still growing, about 40% of its weight is water, which we refer to as 40% moisture content. In the average centrally heated home, the moisture content will be around 10% to 12%, whereas the atmosphere in an outdoor building, such as a shed or a barn, is more likely to have a moisture content in the high teems, or possibly even about 20%, even if the wood has been in there for decades.
Getting back to our cherry log, which turned up one day in the boot of the picture framer’s car, it turned out to be two pieces, a clean length of about 90cm and a stumpy piece about 50cm long, each of about 30cm diameter; so a good weight. Each piece had a deep, wide open split running the whole length of the log and radiating from the pith (at the centre) to the bark, where it had opened up to about 3 or 4 cm width. This was good! A single split, such as that, will often serve to relieve many of the stresses built up in the timber and when it happens, the best course of action is to cut along the log with a chain saw, following the line of the split and cutting the log down, along its length, into two pieces. Nature chose to break the log in that way, and it’s always best to work with nature!
As you can see, cherry makes the most wonderful shavings. Coarser timbers, like oak and ash, tend to have shavings which break up into small pieces, but finer, close-grained timbers like this, give incredibly long ribbons which take an amazing amount of space when they’re cut out of the whole.
Anyway, here’s the first finished bowl out of the log.
Incidentally, there’s an amusing end to this blog about a log. As some readers will know, outside my workshop and safely over the garden fence live a goat and two rams. The goat (Peter) is temporarily in exile in another pen, but the two rams, Sion and Dobbie, are still there. When I bagged-up all the shavings, I popped them over the fence to be used as bedding, but what I hadn’t given a moment’s thought to was the wonderful smell of cherries. Sion and Dobbie spotted this smell from the other end of the field and arrived in seconds, only to dive into the bag, tumbling it over and searching for cherries It was really funny to see the pair of them trying to chew mouth-fulls of dry wood shavings!