From Oak Trees … to Lumber … to Projects

A couple of weeks ago, in Woodworker’s Journal eZine Issue 310, Woodworker’s Journal editor in chief Rob Johnstone wrote in his introductory editorial about a friend who’d questioned him on the viability of cutting his own lumber for a project. Rob asked eZine readers if any of them had ever chopped a tree down, turned it into lumber and built a project. Many of them had — including Herb Brodie, who shares his story here.

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Three-Wood Desk & Chair

This reader’s project skillfully combines three different species without sacrificing the pieces’ cohesive looks.

This is a desk and chair I recently made for my granddaughter that now has a place to do her homework. It’s made from leftover oak, maple, and walnut. The top is made from walnut plywood left from a dining table project and quarter-sawn oak edging remaining from a rocking chair project. The front chair legs are made from a piece of 100-year-old oak beam salvaged from a barn demolition. Does this make it a “green” project?

- Paul Douglass; Centennial CO

Do you have a project you’d like to share? Click here to send it in.

Matt Becker
Internet Production Coordinator

desk and chair

Arts & Crafts End Tables

We may not have posted many reader projects lately, but that doesn’t mean you’ve stopped making them! Some nice stock selection for the tops and eye-catching drawer joinery help make these tables stand out in any setting.

Here are a few pictures of some arts and crafts inspired end tables I built. All mortise and tenon joinery, with a sand cast bronze drawer pull. The finish consists of General’s Mission Oak Gel Stain, topped with two coats of amber shellac and wax.

Steve Pedersen

Do you have a project you’d like to share? Click here to send it in!

Matt Becker
Internet Production Coordinator

tables

table top

drawer face

Oak Jewelry Box

This reader’s project is a good example that even in great looking pieces, there are often decisions that we’ll make differently “next time.”

This is a jewelry box I made for my sister in Melbourne. It is the first of this type I have made and was done more as a trial piece. The carcass and lid frame are made of recycled silky oak which started life as a door frame in a government building. The lid panel is camphor laurel and the base is pine. I wouldn’t use the pine again but it was a trial piece. The dividers and interior boxes are silky oak.

- John Lear; Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia

Do you have a project you’d like to share? Click here to send it in!

Matt Becker
Internet Production Coordinator

oak jewelry box 1

oak jewelry box 2

Down-Sized Arts & Crafts Blanket Chest

We received this photo from a reader after we ran a previous letter showing his work in our June 2011 issue, all of which are variations on the Arts & Crafts Blanket Chest featured in the April 2010 issue.

First, thanks for the credit and photos of the arts & crafts blanket chest that I built from the April 2010 issue of Woodworkers Journal. As I mentioned in my letter [which was run in the June 2011 issue], I was planning to make three more of the chests for my daughter and her two girls, theirs to be used as a ‘hope chest’. I finished the three down-sized chests yesterday, trying to make them to scale of the original version, and finished them out with the asphalt stain treatment and then waxing with tudor brown Briwax.

The chests are 18″ X 18″ X 30 1/2″ for the chest, with the tops being 32″ X 20″. As I counted, there are approximately 90 individual parts, not counting the boards individually for the tops or the bottoms or the splines, with 28 mortises and tenons. Quite an undertaking, but I am pleased with the results. Each time I assembled one of the chests I learned something that made the next one easier to assemble. Having purchased the lumber through my son-in-law in Mississippi I got better quality lumber at a better price. Each chest cost about $200.00, including hardware and finishes.

- Dewey Lackey; Brentwood, TN

Do you have a project you’d like to share? Click here to send it in.

Matt Becker
Internet Production Coordinator

blanket chest

A Nutty Way of Telling Red from White Oak

A common autumnal sight is a squirrel, busily scurrying to bury his winter food supply of nuts. Have you ever thought about how much these furry little beasts have in common with woodworkers?

For one, both share a fine appreciation for oak.

istockphoto.com

Squirrels, however, may be even more discerning than woodworkers in distinguishing between the red oak and the white oak of this species. You may recall that forester Tim Knight, in his post on this blog entitled Red Oak White Oak: Telling the Difference, mentioned the different sprouting times of red and white oak acorns. What Tim didn’t mention is the “squirrel factor.”

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Red Oak, White Oak: Telling the Difference

As a forester, I field plenty of questions from friends and acquaintances about trees in general. However, by far the most common question is “how can I tell the difference between red oaks and white oaks?” Well, here’s how.

Oaks are in the beech family and in the genus Quercus which is the very literal Latin word for “oak tree.” The oaks are identified as belonging to one of three different subdivisions: the white, red, and intermediates. Only the red and white oak groups are found in North America. I don’t know the real reason white oaks are named such except that the namesake of the group Quercus alba (alba means “white” in Latin) has a white bark. However, the underside of the leaf is whitish as well. In addition, the namesake red oak Quercus rubra (yep, rubra means “red” in Latin) has a reddish wood, a red/orange inner bark, and its leaves turn a brilliant to rusty red in the fall. So, you see the problem?

Oak Tree Trunk

An interesting fact about oaks is that from the time red oaks bloom, to the drop of the acorn, is two years. If those acorns aren’t eaten by squirrels, deer, raccoons, turkeys, wild hogs, and any of the other numerous species that eat oak acorns, when they drop to the ground, then they will sprout the following spring. The white oaks, on the other hand, bloom in the spring, grow acorns, and drop them in the fall of the same year. When those acorns drop to the ground, they immediately begin the sprouting process and try to establish a beginning root system before winter sets in.

There are some major differences between the two groups and some more subtle ones. Although the wood can sometimes prove difficult to distinguish, especially if it was flatsawn, bark, leaves, and acorns are very useful in telling the difference between live trees of the two groups.

Aside from the obvious whitish bark of the White Oak and Swamp Chestnut Oak (both white oaks) and the darker bark of the Northern Red Oak, Cherrybark Oak, and Blackjack Oak (all red oaks), the leaves are the telltale indicator between the two groups. Look closely at the two oak leaves in this picture.

2 Oak Leaves

You have to look closely to find the one sign that quickly distinguishes the red oaks from the white. At the tip of a red oak leaf or the lobes of the leaf, you’ll find a spine or bristle.

Red Oak Bristle

They may be almost microscopic, or very visible; however, you will never find them on a white oak leaf. So, as simple as it sounds, THAT’s how you tell the difference between a red oak tree and a white oak tree.

 

Next time we will attempt to find the difference between the wood of the two oak groups. See you then!

Sharing the Shop

Oak Stool“Hey, Rob, do you think I could make some stools from these?” was the question posed to me last November while I stood next to the young man’s pickup truck in the church parking lot. A University of Minnesota student and family friend, Levi, was showing me a pile of 4-inch thick disks that he had sliced off an 18-inch diameter oak tree earlier in the week. (Levi was more than comfortable with a chain saw, as he had grown up working in his family’s apple orchard in Wisconsin.)

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Flummoxed Over Flooring Finishes

Calling all flooring guys out there! I’ve got a flooring conundrum to share with you. Care to offer some advice?

Here’s the deal: I’ve had a hardwood flooring project on my to-do list for a long time. It’s my shop floor, actually. A couple of years ago, I got a great deal on 900 square feet of hard maple “shorts.” Tongue and groove, beautiful stuff. My plan has been to lay it over the current flooring in my shop, which is plywood subfloor. Not that I mind plywood, but it gets banged up pretty easily and doesn’t look as nice as a hardwood floor. At $1 per square foot, it was a deal too good to pass up.

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