Thursday, October 18, 2012

Reading Lesson

It was a beautiful day here in Kentucky for a drive in the country.  The beauty of the sun glistening off the lightly frosted and very colorful leaves this morning, was absolutely stunning.  I started out this morning not to go leaf gazing, but to learn to read.  Yes, I made the 2 hour trip to Paint Lick Kentucky to learn to read, bark!  I met my reading instructor, Don Weber at his Paint Lick shop in great anticipation of learning the skill of reading bark.  For those of you who don't know Don, he is a chair and furniture maker, blacksmith, and a wonderful teacher.  Oh and a wee bit of a character, might I add.

After a tour of Don's shop and a look at the projects he has in the works, we headed out with trailer in tow for our reading lesson.  The wonderful conversation made the winding 12 mile ride to the classroom seem very short.  After turning down the gravel drive and cresting a small hill, there it was, our classroom.  Acres of logs loomed before us.  I thought, Don has led me to a chair makers paradise, I hope the reading lesson isn't going to be like my high school English Lit class and Milton's Paradise Lost.  The pile of logs pictured below is small in comparison to the multiple stacked piles behind me.

Well, I'm happy to report the lesson was great.  First was learning to determine the species of tree; we were looking for white oak.  Don showed me the scaly bark of the white oak and how verification can be made by looking at the ends of the log.  Next we looked at the bark to see if it was straight or twisting around the tree.  Straight bark good, twisted bark bad!  Don then peeled back some bark and examined the exposed wood.  The straight running striations confirmed the information put forth by the bark.  Next, we looked very closely for humps, bumps, and general malformations in the bark.  Malformations in the bark are indicators of likely flaws, such as knots or unruly grain in the wood that lies beneath.  I was amazed how quickly and how far away Don was able to spot these flaws. 

Armed with my new found knowledge, and Don's watchful eye, I was excited to put it to the test.  Mission: Take home a white oak log ideal for chair making.  I'm happy to report that I got the species correct on the first try.  It took sorting through several logs to find one with straight bark.  Next was to ensure there were no indications of hidden flaws.  Lets just say I'm hopeful that someday, I will develop Don's eagle eye.  After more show and tell instruction, we were able to locate an 11 foot long, 14 inch round white oak and deemed it worthy.  However, it did have a small hump in the bark 6 feet up from the butt end.  We bucked the log through the hump and it was perfect.  With the logs secured to the trailer and the ends sealed, I made the 2 hour trek north.  Upon my arrival, I was happy to find that my shop elf was all smiles and ready to give me a hand.  

After splitting the log open I will post on the results. 

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