Why *I* Like Woodworking

Readers of last week’s blog were asked to comment and describe what they like about woodworking. Although I can’t enter the contest, I will add my two cents. What I like about woodworking is working with my wood. The wood from the tree I watched grow, the tree I pruned when it was just a pole, or the tree my dad’s cattle would hide under to seek shelter from the hot southern sun.

Cherry Tree Trunk

Brian Lockhart, USDA Forest Service, bugwood.org

I have always loved forests and everything in them. I studied them from the time I was old enough to wander through them alone (which, on a small farm in Mississippi in the 1960s, was a very young age). That is what eventually led me into my profession. I am a silviculturist, best described by The Society of American Foresters, as one who practices silvics, which is “the study of the life history and general characteristics of forest trees and stands, with particular reference to environmental factors…” In a nutshell (I know. That’s why I didn’t go into standup comedy), I try to manage forests for the benefit of the trees, wildlife, water and the people that use them. It is an odd profession, because if you think about it, the end result of what we do in a forest today will not be apparent for tens or hundreds of years. So, it is a science of faith.

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Tree Tidbits to Use in Telling Tales

Many woodworkers pride themselves on being able to readily identify lumber of various species. They impress the uninitiated by blowing the dust off a stack in the lumberyard and saying, “oh, that’s white oak/red oak/white pine/spruce, etc.” Then they might throw out an offhand tidbit about good uses for the wood.

I’ve learned a few things recently about wood “on the hoof,” as it were – or, perhaps more accurately, “on the root” – that, to me, definitely fall into that interesting tidbit category. Cones Pointing Up

The first one has to do with identifying certain kinds of lumber while it’s still growing – no need even to see the grain. You do need to be able to see the cones of these conifers, though. This came up when one of my friends mentioned that she had taken a picture of a tree with its “pinecones” pointing up instead of down. She found that unusual. Turns out, it would be very unusual – for a pine. Or a spruce. The cones on both of these conifers grow pointing down. Fir trees, on the other hand, grow cones that defy gravity and point skyward as they grow.

Huh, you may be saying (I know I did), that’s kind of cool.

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