Wood

Wood is alive. It has a life hundreds of years after it has been felled and it is vital that the artist in wood understands the changes that the timber will go through from its growth  from sapling though felling,  milling and prepapration. To understand the  very  big difference between drying and seasoning: they are not the same thing. Wood can reach target moisure content within a coupke of years once planked but might take twenty years to season - that is to adjust to  the environment in which humidy ranges widely, temaperatures change, chemicals in the wood crystalise, resins harden over decades and so on. 

 

The artists first task with wood is the source the right piece. This can take a long time - but most woodworkers know where to find good  pieces and endlessly needle their estwhile friends for a baulk of something that inspires them. Most artists have an odd relationship to a fine piece of wood. It begins with a total disgust at the idea of  cutting into it at all - becvuase we see the beuty in the rought chainsawn log. Then, when we open it and see the unique grain, we cosider this to be the best presentation of the  piece. But we are not here to present pieces of wood - though I have sometimes  hung a flat planel on a wall for a while  just to enjoy what nature did.  Its also a great way to get the wood used to being indoors. (I'll avoid the term seasoning now). 

Here is an example

 

           Green Man. English Oak 450mmx 220 June 2007

 

This piece of timber is approximately  250 years old. It was felled, as far as I know, in the mid 1960's and was thus stable and acclimatised (and mentally well adjusted to being hacked into). I had been in my workshop for over a decade before I found out what its future should be. 

So you look at the figure. Consider how the form of the face will fit, where grain looks as if it wants to go that way already and where they grain might resist. (Nobody knows the meaning of the phrase 'against the grain' until they have worked with a chisel or plane on a piece of wood). The wood had an even vertical grain with some rays showing. See detail below:

The evenness and golden colour are worth enjoying. You can see here also the residue of tool marks. Evidence of the hand that made the piece. Grinling Gibbons didn't use sandpaper so neither shall I. It's worth clicking the link to the Wikipedia article on  Gibbons. He set the standard for woodcarving and his work remains astonishing.

 

 

 

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