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.
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.
Anyway, it was this practice of forestry that brought me into woodworking. One of the not infrequent hurricanes that slug across the south from the Gulf of Mexico blew down some black cherry on my small farm in Mississippi. Not wanting it to go to waste, I had it sawn into dimensional lumber with the idea of selling it for a profit. The more I looked at that beautiful wood, the more I wanted to keep it. I convinced myself that a worthless silviculturist I would be without the knowledge of how to use the wood I grow. So, with the help of some books and now ragged and torn Woodworker’s Journal issues, I taught myself woodworking. Luckily, I didn’t teach myself while using my black cherry, but rather some yellow popular that was also thrown by the hurricane. But a few years later, I did get into that cherry, and my home is much more beautiful because of it. There is something special about working with wood from trees you have stood under, played around as a child; wood that came from your own land. So, that is why I like woodworking, because I love the wood.
Through this blog, I hope to take you on a journey to discover where your wood comes from. I’ll describe some of your favorite species by where they grow, how they grow, and why they are important to you as well as to the ecosystem from which they came. I hope to take you through a lumber mill or two and introduce you to some of the loggers who harvest the wood you use. I will bring you the latest in news about the pests, storms and other things that influence the availability and price of your wood. If anyone wants to take a side trip, let me know, and we may go there, too. My wish would be that you will be as enthusiastic about the wood we use as I am. Hop on for the ride.
Next time: I will introduce you to a little guy who is a curse to lumbermen, a nuisance for foresters, and a boon to bowl turners. Stay tuned!