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C R Washburn Fine Woodworking

Focusing on your unique desires

About the Materials

Fog & Trees

Many people ask why I would choose to work with wood when logging destroys the environment. I must admit that there are those who act like alien invaders bent on sucking the earth dry of all its resources then throwing away the empty husk, but to think that the perfect solution to all environmental issues is to keep humans as far away from “nature” as possible is equally short sighted. Like it or not we humans are an integral part of our environment. We share a common origin with all other life on this planet, and we share a common destiny. The solution must include us and must include our needs.

Like many other life forms we change our environment to better suit us, but when we change things, we bring something unique to the table. Our changes are planned and they are systematic – or at least they can be. We have the ability to envision what the consequences of our changes will be. Unfortunately, we do not always stop to think things through. As a result some changes we make are good, some not so good, and others down right horrible.

So, what is the solution? We must be stewards of the earth. As steward, we do not own the earth, nor does it own us. We hold it in trust for future generations and must manage the resources available to us to not only meet our needs but those of our children and grandchildren for generations to come. We must think through our actions and balance the needs of not only ourselves, but the needs of those around us, including the natural environment. Any time we ignore or favor one part of the equation to the exclusion of the others, we endanger all of it.

Longcove

Harvesting trees doesn’t have to be damaging to the environment. It is possible to manage our forest land to meet our needs for lumber and still maintain the environment in a way that is healthy and supportive of all creatures that live there. With the movement toward plantation grown timber, even the “exotic” woods are becoming an environmentally sound renewable resource.

So, why use wood? Why not? I believe wood is the perfect material. Wood has a very sensual quality to it. There is something special about the way it feels when you run your hand over a piece of wood. It has a warm and inviting quality to it that few other materials can even come close to matching. It is also very pleasing to look at. The interplay of light with the grain of the wood creates an ever changing kaleidoscope of beauty.

And, on top of all that it is fun to work with. I find that there is something special about working with wood. It participates in the process. You can not force wood, you must work with it, move within its boundaries. With materials like plastic or metal, you can form it into any shape you want and it will stay there. Wood is more alive. You have to study it, learn its needs, and its unique characteristics to be able to create something of lasting beauty. It is not static; it reacts to its environment. Wood moves. It bends, bows, cups, and twists, and you ignore the nature of the wood you are working at your own peril. Different species of wood move different amounts. There are differences within the same species and even each piece of wood from within the same tree can have its own unique characteristics. All these things must be kept in mind as you work through the design process as all these things will affect what you can and can not do. Then, once you start the building process, you must continue to allow for the active nature of wood. Will it remain stable or will it move after you have started to shape it? If it does move, then what? It is this constant interaction that I find so intriguing.