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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Another one, nearly finished. Its sassafras, 53" long, only weighs about 1 pound. Altho' its quite stiff for something so thin and light, I wouldn't carry it for anything but keeping balance.

The notion behind the carving is that it was to suggest a stream of water flowing over and around rocks. The "rocks" are where the knots were, carved out and plugged w. bits of yew heartwood. Sanded to 600 grit. The finish is a light coat of Trans Tint golden brown, followed by 3 coats of Hut Crystal Coat carnauba based finish. May add another coat of that, and do one more round of buffing.

I was hoping to get more "chatoyancey" from the grain. I did get a little, but I suspect the wood grain is too open to get the kind of sheen I wanted. I did try covering the entire surface w. some stainable wood filler, but found that I couldn't get it into the pores. Spent a week sanding it off, sigh. Next time, I'll try the classic method of rubbing in rotten stone.

I did compare it to a stick I did about 18 months ago. Better color and finish, so while I didn't manage to get quite what I had in mind, I've made a few steps forward.

Plant Water Nature Tree Grass Plant Tree Automotive tire Wood Grass Eye Carnivore Fawn Wood Terrestrial animal Hand Arm Leg Human body Wood Wood Plant Human leg Wood stain Hardwood Human body Wood Fawn Sculpture Felidae
 

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Wow, how cool is that? Really nice. Say, you mentioned two terms I haven't before heard: chatoyancey and rotten stone. What are they?
 

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"Chatoyancey" was a new one for me, too. Its an English version of a French term for "like a cat's eye," specifically, for the shimmering quality that certain semi-precious gem stones display when turned in different directions. The word is sometimes used in wood working. I came across the word while reading about an old technique called "French polish." Based on some reading I've done in the past few days, I think I may have been mistaken in thinking that any well smoothed and waxed piece of wood will show the effect.

I did give another coat of the carnauba finish to a portion of the stick. The luster became even more pronounced, but does not have much of the shifting effect. That is only present in portions of the stick where the bends are most pronounced, and the grain is sort of crinkled.

As I was told when I was a teenager, "rotten stone" is a form of pumice. I was surprised, because the only pumice I knew of was the gritty stuff in Lava brand soap. What I came across was almost dust, just a grey powder. It has a small amount of abrasive strength, but my recent reading says it is used to seal wood pores. Being a silicate, it doesn't change size w. humidity. The powder is so fine that when wax is rubbed over, the wood surface can become glassy smooth.
 

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French Polish is a technique whereby you apply shellac in many thin coats while also rubbing the surface of the wood with a "tampon" (that's what it's called) that includes a very mild abrasive called rotten stone. There are a lot of videos and tutorials out there on the technique. It helps add depth and luster to a wood surface. Very labor intensive, but amazing results.

You can also get chatoyancey from most any wood just by riving it. Riving is splitting wood rather than sawing it. This opens up the wood so that you see whole strands of the fibers rather than any cut ends. Think of wood like a bunch of tiny drinking straws held together with gunk. If you split the wood, you mostly split the gunk between the straws and the straws stay together. When you saw it, even quarter sawing, you end up with a surface that also includes a fair amount of straw ends, which don't look as nice as the sides of the straws.

Another advantage of splitting and keeping the "straws" whole along the entire length of the piece of wood is that you now have a much stronger piece of wood, less liable to break. The gunk is much weaker than the straws, so if your grain runs from end to end with any "ends" running to the surface, there are fewer points of potential failure. In the olden days, all ladder rungs were split as were chair rungs. You can get a very strong, yet thinner, piece of wood by splitting it.

Peter Follessbee is the master jointer at Plymouth plantation and a specialist in 17th-century woodworking and a master at riving. Here's an example of how big the old trees used to be. http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/i-dont-have-time-for-this/

His stuff is great. Thought you might enjoy. And sorry for semi-hijacking the thread. Chatoyancey naturally leads me to riving which is an obsession-in-waiting for me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
No worries about a hi-jack. Altho' I've certainly seen a lot of chatoyant wood, even made some myself by happenstance, this is the first project where I learned the word, and read about French polish. Glad for the additional info.

Took a look at the Follessbee article. Yes, one does not see logs of that thickness much any more. Just after college, I was working in a barn demolition crew that was trying to salvage old wood. Helped take apart a few that dated to around 1850. One was astonishing. The main floor appeared to be sycamore, planks about 24" wide, 20' long and more than 2" thick. As I recall, the biggest beam we retrieved was oak, 15" on a side, and about 30' long.
 

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At a local woodworking club meet a couple of years ago I bought from a guy some quarter-sawn red oak 17" wide and 7' long (and 1" thick). The original diameter of the tree was probably closer to 40". It's waiting for the right project. He said it was a massive old oak that had to come down to make way for a new building. He was able to get the trunk. It was mostly chopped off at the top by the power company, but the trunk was huge.

And the old-growth stuff is great not just because of the sizes, but also because they grew more slowly (more dense forests) so they are also much more dense. I have a bookshelf my great-grandfather made from old-growth white oak and it weighs a ton.

More on-topic, saplings that are growing in dark, dense forests will be much older for the same diameter than something growing on the edge of the forest.
 
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