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In praise of rays

Medullary rays, that is! I am working on several commissions at the moment which use quarter sawn oak. I normally get this from the guys at the Quartersawn Oak Company in Edale. Just because they are conveniently a few miles away from my workshop, and lovely people, shouldn't detract from the point that their air-dried oak is some of the most beautifully figured native hardwood there is, and it's a joy to work with. The pleasure I get from cleaning up the rough sawn boards with my plane to discover what lies underneath is something I don't think I will ever get tired of. The autumn light catching the rays that fleck the boards is mesmerising, and I often stop work just to look at the patterns and swirls. In our modern world of speed and convenience, there is a definite pleasure to working wood like this with hand tools, and I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to use material as special as this.

Medullary rays
Detail from an quarter sawn oak side table

Pretty much all the wood people use today has been dried in a kiln - cooked to force out the water and make it ready for use within weeks of the tree being felled. It is almost always inferior to work with compared to wood dried naturally, but wood dried naturally in the air can take years before it can be used. Speed and convenience versus care and quality? I'll take the latter option every time.


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