My plane skims the surface of quarter-sawn oak and I feel the corduroy corrugation I want to telegraph from its inner fibres through to the finished surface the work justifies. Undulations follow the long and wide cells in emanating rays intrinsic to oak in the uniqueness of oaks structure and colouring. Other woods have beauty, but non reflect rays like oak. The rippled surfaces extend from end to end of my tabletop. My fingertips trace the furrows they create and in my mind’s eye I see a ploughed field uniformly striped in a perfect symmetry of parallel lines. Sometimes the lines curve slightly around a knot to warn me of the care I must take not to rip the rootedness from its centred support in the interlocking grain of the wood. That’s seldom considered until it’s too late. So, so easily done.
The scraper becomes a useful tool for exaggerating the corduroy pattern. This ribbing comes well from a duller card scraper which tears the softer aspects where hard and soft growth rings cut well on the hard aspect and rip on the soft.
The texture to different woods can be as much a part of the decorative elements of wood as the colour and grain configuration. Those tiny, subtle shifts I see between cherry and walnut, oak, ash and dozens of others. I dislike grain fillers for this reason alone. Grain filling and smoothness can distort the reality of the wood so that it ends up looking like the very material I despise the most – plastic.
On a recent table I took the plane to the grain and then the scraper too. The texture I felt was so lovely and even sanding the surfaces gave the loveliness of undulation rather than the kind of sterility sanding often brings.
Join me on this one. I think you will be part of the new orchestra forming that began a decade or two or three ago! Leave the cacophony behind you and listen to the new music of an unfolding age. Your hand tools and the wood are waiting. We have a house full of furniture to design, draw, sketch and build. You can learn to play new instruments you never thought you would or even could. Yesterday I enjoyed playing alongside two other friends in my band. We each played our parts in the whole stroke by stroke and it was the loveliest thing to be a part of for a few hours. We practiced two times this week and oh what resonance. And the orchestra grows one by one!