(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
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
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
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
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?