Processing is Underated


If you were to break woodworkng into five parts: harvesting, processing, drying, building (what most people consider woodworking) and finishing I think processing is the most underated aspect of the craft. Most "woodworkers" don't think about it. You go to the lumber yard, pick the best material for your project and then start building. You've paid someone else to do the processing for you.

Green woodworking is different. You start from the tree instead of the lumber yard. THis gives you more control over your final product. It also demands a new level of knowledge. All of a sudden you are in control of reaction or tension wood, grain alignment, drying prep and such. In treen work you chose brances and crooks then spliting/riving to control strength, beauty and workability. In chair making you chose lengths for grain straightness, bendability and balance. Even those who cut boards for you to buy have to balance a trees taper, twist and lean to get you a straight grain board or even cathedarals. As much thought goes into how to get the material out of the tree and make it ready for work as does extracting shavings and sawdust in the creation of the final peice. And like everything some are better at it than others because of knowledge, experience and care.

This past week I spent with a chainsaw in my hand or in front of the band saw. Every cut had my thought process bouncing between what the grain told me of how the tree stood during it's lifetime, what final peice would be extracted, how the later shape would progress and finally to product bought by the customer. A miscalculation on the first chainsaw cut will diminish the bowl, vase, box or mallet you hand a customer.

In other words I spent a lot of time this week tell looking at the blanks I cut reassesing my work one or two cuts prior. "If I'd split that round a few degrees over that centerline woulda been...."

I guess you have to try something to realize how hard a simple looking task really is. Mad respect to the consistent quality processors out there.

Shawn Graham