When Wood Sings


(I will get to the topic, but the back story is necessary)
A Viet Names American family has a shop up the street. They’re nice, friendly, hard working people with a quiet gentle way about them. While in my Hair Sticks Period, I made a pair for the wife, a delicate lady with fine long black hair. They were of rosewood. Her husband thought they were what we call chop sticks. I explained what they were for and how they were made.
The lady’s expression changed from polite but confused appreciation of a gift of unknown use, to one of recognition and real appreciation as she examined the hair sticks more closely, thinking about how she would wear them.
The idea of making the husband a pair of “chop sticks” prompted me to ask if something similar could serve as “chop sticks”. “Oh yes, but not in such a dark wood such as these. They should be a much much lighter wood.” And then we went off to a discussion of Buhdism - they being Buhdists.
At the time, I had no light colored hard wood suitable for making his “chop sticks”. Then I bought a bunch of maple and generated some “scraps” that were suitable for a first try at making him a pair of “chop sticks” (I really must ask what they’re called in Chinese and Viet Names).
With that back story, and the Buhdist idea linked to it, I finally got around to turning “chop sticks” in maple. Now when I’d turned some tops and a small weed pot in maple, it was a joy to turn, hard but predicatble. However, when turning a long piece to smaller diameters its nature seems to change. It flexes more and the beautiful grain patterns seemed to want to catch or dig in rather than cut cleanly and smoothly. Much lighter passes are required and much more finesse with the skew are a must.
My first attempt was a micro-disaster. Beyond a certain diameter, I just didn’t have the skill to get where I wanted to go. Despite light controled passes I got a dig in that snapped the piece - in a nano second.
On the next attempt I got down to where I was comfortable then reached for The 80 Grit Tool. Attaining close to the final size and taper I wanted I proceeded with The 120 Grit, 180 Grit, 220 Grit, 320 Grit and 600 Grit “tools”, finishing the surface with plain white paper, pinching the wood hard between thumb and middle finger.
Now if you’ve ever wet you finger tip, and rubbed it firmly around the top of a glass, or preferably a wine or champagne cut crystal goblet, you are familiar with their “singing”. Well this wood sang. As I pinched the paper to the wood and moved from end to end of the piece - it sang, the sound changing as I moved from thick to thin and back again. It was one of those serendipitous Zen Moments that happen playing with wood - when everything that came before or anything that may come next is forgotten as everything here and now does exactly what it’s supposed to do - just so.. Didn’t last long but its echo lingers.
Now I’ve had wood talk to me before - a flamboyant board of quilted maple saying “Hey big boy, have a look at this!” in a Mae West sort of way. Not audible to anyone else, but that’s what I heard “her” say. And when hand planing, the wood has whispered “that’s the way” or, a little louder “Wrong way - dummy!”. But until this morning I’ve never heard it sing - and sing loud enough that others can hear it too.
Fun, this woodworking thing. I wonder what comes next?
charlie b
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Thanks for the story
Pete S

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charlie b wrote:

That is a very cool story charlie. Thank you very much.
I hope your friend has half as much enjoyment out of using the sticks as you had making them.
Tanus
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[snip] Nice story --
Mandarin -- chopsticks are "kuai zi" Cantonese -- "kwai ji" Vietnamese ??
Regards -- JimR
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On Fri, 24 Mar 2006 12:03:37 -0800, charlie b wrote:

"Three Timbers"
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