A limb torn from a tree stem by weight and wind tells a story science does not tell. The formation of cells encircling the rooted continuity of fibrous strands of growth becomes evidence enough to convince me of the amazing attributes of nature in wood. I record the evidence in my brain, of course, but then a digital image serves as a memory prompt alongside. So it is with walks revealing the materials I live and work with. I watched as a branch grew in front of me knowing it was growing but also knowing I could not see its growth by eye. I don’t question its capacity to grow because I have seen past evidence of girth and length in measurements I took a year and two and three before. My knowledge of woodworking didn’t come so much from books or indeed from my working with George or other men. No. I would be generous if I said that perhaps 10% came from these resources.
Just peering into the parted-off branch, ripped not cut or sliced in any way, tells me more about grain structure to add to my notes and drawings and such. Recutting now, sawing and planing, even abrading but mostly plane work increases my knowledge of the wood, the tool responses, and this information can never come from science alone. Anything beyond what I see and feel from my plane’s cutting edge and my saw strokes is of little if any worth to my actual craftsmanship. I think science simply or mostly adds some interesting information confirming only what we might feel and know but not be able to put a name or two to. I mean, well, we all know that water and mineral salts and such like, travel through cells within the structure of wood. That these cells are named tracheids is of minimal consequence.
But here’s the punchline if it needs one. Back in 1997 I was leaving the house and discovered one of the branches of my peach tree had parted from the main stem under the weight of the peaches extending out a good distance. The leverage was just too much and a heavy wind in the night added to the stresses. I couldn’t get the car past the branch and so I cut a section of wood with a V notch in the end. The boys and I lifted the branch and cantilevered it from a centrepoint under the branch. That way the car passed under the branch as it had always done before. As it is with many things temporary becomes unintentionally permanent. Surprisingly to me the peaches continued to full fruit and then on to ripeness and we harvested without any problems. I ignored the temporary prop intending to lop the branch at some point but 9 months later I decided to tidy things up. Pulling out the prop the branch held and on close examination I saw that it was completely healed and solid. It remained so until we moved on and returned to the UK a decade later. Another lesson learned. The simplest of all. Don’t interfere unless it’s necessary and nature will take care of its own.