The solstice may still be a couple weeks away, but the first day of summer for me was yesterday. I celebrated by digging in to a special log. American chestnut. Big, green, American chestnut. I carved some chestnut a few years ago, but not this stuff.
Many readers of this blog are likely aware of the devastating blight that began killing the majestic American chestnut (Castanea dentata) trees in the early 1900s. In the 19th century, these mighty trees filled the woods in my area. Now they’re gone. But a rare stand planted in 1890 survived in Wisconsin until recently, when they too were hit by the blight. Details of that story can be found here. My understanding is that most of the hundreds of trees harvested last year from that stand were milled into lumber in Wisconsin. However, some of the trees were trucked to a veneer processing facility about a half-hour from my house here in Pennsylvania. One thing led to another, and I was asked to make a couple bowls from the cutoff ends of the veneer logs.
These chunks were massive, so even with the serious case of ring shake midway through the log, I was able to get usable material. You can see the fault line along the growth ring clearly on the left side, then a few rings away from it on the right side.
I was able to easily split out the central section, and that’s the blank I started with for this bowl. Notice, in the photo above, that the log was sawed at the plant. The cathedrals of the growth rings on the sawn face indicate that the sawcut runs at an angle to the growth rings, crossing five or so from one end to the other.
I hewed and planed that surface parallel to the growth rings and marked my longitudinal centerline along the bottom surface right through the center of them.
By the way, I recently discovered these pencils from the Musgrave Pencil Company in Shelbyville, Tennessee. They’ve been making pencils there since 1916. I like their pencils and the 600 NEWS model has a nice soft lead that marks really well on green wood without being so soluble that it bleeds into the fibers.
Once I marked the arc on both ends, I started in with the drawknife to remove the material beyond the line.
I love the drawknife work — especially.
Surprise. When I got close to the line, there was a bit of ring shake still present. I shaved past it, then marked new arcs just a little inside the originals.
I sight down as I go and a quick check with a straightedge verifies close-enough.
This chestnut bowl is well beyond layout now, but that’s enough for one post. More soon!