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Life in a Pine Cone

DSC_0004 - Version 2Today I wanted to see inside a pine cone. One of dozens lying on the ground beneath a large tree. I have gathered these in the past to make hedgehogs from for my grandchildren. These cones, when still on the tree, can be hard to detach from the branch and hard to cut with a regular saw. In this case I sawed through the off centre line and exposed the inner seed encasement. The figuring was stunning and also the colours radiant. The surface was rough from the saw kerf, but the surface was hard enough to plane with a #4 smoothing plane. When I planed it the colour and texture, configuration and insight became vivid. Just looking at these inner fibres punctuated my workday with the reality that this clustered beauty was beyond words and only silent observation could really absorb a superficial yet respectful acknowledgement of its life. The seeds are pocketed in spirals of hard protective woody nodules designed to keep the seeds out of the mud and wet until full growth in the seed is completed. Just as the tree in its stem sustains the growth of leaves and seeds, so to too the cone supplies ongoing nutrition as it dies and dries to release the hundred or so seeds within. The split seed is creamy and grey whereas the wings and pod are brown on the outside.


Phil and I spent the day in the shop working on the Shaker bookcase and arrived at the point of gluing up. We were too near the closing time to feel confident to complete the gluing and so we will glue up in the morning. The pine I chose has been just lovely to work and I hope that you get the same as I had. The roundovers went just fine and so too the mortise and tenons, arching and other shaping. Soon we will be starting the back framing which I think if you are enjoying the woodworkingmasterclasses you will all enjoy this next series too.

DSC_0009I so enjoy hearing from the guys going out on a limb to start their businesses. Young and not so young, I feel very inspired. Rhodri Owen came by today with some questions and stopped fora cuppa. He brought out his sketchbook to ask a few project questions on his upcoming projects. He is getting a little more work now and so that’s good. I encouraged him to get a website together as soon as he can. I should say this now that I think your website is critically important as an open door for people to see what you have and what you are doing and of course it’s your personal high street shop window and selling your work often starts with people just window shopping.

Please take a look at Joe Sleight’s website* and encourage him with his opening steps. He came out to us last years for a month’s intensive and went back and got stuck in making his product line and diversifying to establish himself. It’s not easy getting going and sometimes you need to do bill-paying work until the sales start coming in. But , you know, if it was a breeze would you really want it. Being a furniture maker is a way of life that has no promises, no guarantees and often there are no backers. One thing I can promise is that it is a way of life worth pursuing. There are several people over there in the US striving too. Take a look at Eric Curtis and encourage this young furniture maker too. Caleb Pendleton down in the great state of Texas too has the beginnings of a website*. Yes it’s an uphill struggle but in time Eric, Joe, Rhodri, Caleb and many a dozen others are going to be the future of woodworking and career furniture makers. They are determined to make it and are investing their lives as I have these past five decades. I recall a man named Ron Goodnow in Dallas, Texas who left his former career as a police officer in Fort Worth and became a furniture maker in his own right. Ten years down the road he is still doing it I see and going strong. What about Mark Day from Texas and Rick Dickemper who came out for a few weeks to be with me too. They all went and became woodworkers or added to their existing woodworking skills. There is life beyond the technical jungle for some. For anyone that wants the challenge.

More of this and on this later I hope.

* Websites removed as the links no longer work (08/02/19).


  1. ScottV on 24 January 2014 at 12:00 am

    My family went to see the Giant Sequoias in the Sierras last month. The mass of these one, two, even three thousand year old trees is breathtaking. Surprisingly, the cones of the Giant Sequoias are about the size of and apricot, while the lowly Sugar Pines nearby produce cones the size of footballs. Sequoia cones and seeds are prized, since they produce so few of them in their lifetimes.

    The Park Ranger offered an humbling scale comparison: The size of the Sequoia seed relative to the size of the largest living Sequoia tree is the same proportion as the size of the same Sequoia relative to the size of the Earth.

  2. Dave on 24 January 2014 at 12:22 am

    Could you show us how you make a hedgehog form a pine cone sometime?
    Thanks and keep up the good work.

  3. Gordon on 24 January 2014 at 5:16 am

    That looks like something from Aliens! Amazing complexity of life.

  4. Matthew on 24 January 2014 at 11:42 am

    Another recommendation for advertisement that has worked for me and is cheaper than a web site is Facebook. I found it to be an excellent marketing tool.

  5. Caleb on 24 January 2014 at 3:33 pm

    Thanks Paul for the mention in the blog. My old website has more stuff than my new one.

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