The Artful Codger

Bubinga DetailI have to admit that I like art. A beautiful photograph, a lovely piece of sculpture, or a well-done painting – I have all of those in various places in my house. Of course, one of my paintings is of pointing dogs, another of an old train engine – they strike my fancy. As the saying goes, art – like beauty – is where you find it.

The reason I bring this up is that, a while ago, I found a really interesting looking piece of wood – it was cut from the outer aspect of a huge bubinga log. The tree was a monster, almost 400 years old, and for that reason, this piece – which contained bark and exposed sapwood – was able to be sawn flat. The shape of the bark remnants and the graphic nature of the exposed wood kept bringing me back to the piece … but I could think of no really good way to make use of it. Then it struck me: it looked like an abstract painting. So I bought the piece of wood, took it to my workshop, and got busy.

Sanding BubingaFirst, I cut it into a nicely proportioned rectangle with clean square edges. I wanted the highly geometric shape and edges to set off the organic shapes of the surface of the wood. Then, I got out my 4 x 24 belt sander and started smoothing the exposed wood patches while leaving the bark alone. I finished up with a random orbit sander, taking the smoothed areas all the way up to 320-grit sandpaper.

Wall ArtTo finish the piece, I started with amber shellac right out of the can, thinned 25 percent with denatured alcohol. I brushed it onto all surfaces (bark areas included) of the piece and allowed it to dry (I used Painter’s Pyramids to hold it up as the finish cured). Following that, I applied a coat of sprayed-on shellac, de-nibbed the sanded surfaces with steel wool, and sprayed on a final coat of the shellac.

To mount it to the wall, I plowed a groove with a 3/8″ dovetail bit so that a heavy-duty screw sunk into a wall stud could hold up the piece. (It is a pretty heavy chunk of wood, so it really needed to be well-supported.)

Once it was hung on the wall near my dining table, I confess to feeling pretty darn artistic. And in the brief time it has been on the wall, I have had several compliments on the piece. So, perhaps my retirement gig should be in the field of art instead of woodworking … or maybe not!

Rob Johnstone
Editor in Chief

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About Rob Johnstone

Rob Johnstone has been part of Woodworker's Journal's since 1997, becoming editor of the print magazine in 1998 and editor in chief in 2007. He began woodworking at age 13 in his family-owned cabinet shop and, as an adult, trained to become an accomplished luthier. He eventually opened his own cabinetry and custom fine woodworking business. Rob has brought many of the most well-known authors in woodworking to the Journal's pages and introduced Woodworker's Journal Online Survey. When, in his free time, Rob isn't woodworking, he enjoys hunting for sharp-tailed grouse with his bird dog, playing music and/or listening to his son's rock band and cooking on his high-tech stove.

6 thoughts on “The Artful Codger

  1. Art is what any specific individual likes. Personally, I like it. Thanks for showing it off!

  2. Ficou linda demais a peça, muita criatividade e uma visão impar ao comprar a madeira em bruto. Parabens

  3. That is “Fine Art” to me. I have some highly figured pieces but not with bark still on them. That is what really sets off this piece–great work.

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