Enjoy the Process!

We have a lot of wood that needs to be processed. Processing wood (my definition) means taking it from a rough-sawn piece of lumber to a finished piece that can be used as art.

Hey! That sounds like work!
Hey! That sounds like work!

Yes, it is a lot of work, dear Thomas. But it won’t cut into your nap time, never fear!

The beginning of the process was to plane the wood, as we saw in a previous episode.

After planing, we had a lovely pile of planks, all with slightly different widths and lengths. So we measured them and sorted them into piles.
Assorted widths!
Assorted widths!
Piles of planks.
Piles of planks.
After long deliberation, a decision had to be made. It wouldn’t have been as hard a decision if I hadn’t gotten all sentimental about losing width. The Cherry wood is so very beautiful, each piece with its own intricate and mystical design, that to modify it by sawing off an inch of it seemed a crime. Almost like cropping a painting!
What is it? Cropped!
What is it? Cropped!
Cropped it must be. The pieces couldn’t be different widths.
But wait! We can cut a straight edge without…a straight edge! So we had to use the jointer. The jointer is like the planer- it has rotating blades that makes a smooth edge. One side had to be very smooth so that it would glide against the fence on the saw and create a straight edge on the cut side.
The red warning label says: "Caution! Rotating knives"
The red warning label says: “Caution! Rotating knives”
It wouldn’t be a work-in-progress picture without the white orbs of dust! The camera (as you must have guessed by now) turns the millions of dust particles in the air into little white orbs of unfocussed annoyance.
White orbs of wonder!
White orbs of wonder!
Each time we planed or jointed, we made lots of sawdust. Since it’s March in the Thumb of Michigan, it’s still quite cold and snowy out. So we decided that sawdust would provide good traction on the ice!
Well, it seemed efficient at the time…
Well, it seemed efficient at the time…
Since I possess powers of looking into the future, I can tell you that we’re going to end up with sawdust “art” all over the front yard. But that won’t happen till the end of March!
Hey, how did she know?
Hey, how did she know?
I guess I was so busy looking into the future that I forgot to take pictures of sawing the wood to width. However my excuse is that when using the table saw, both people have to be on full alert. There really was no opportunity to take pictures and retain all our digits.
Hijinks under the Table Saw!
Hijinks under the Table Saw!
I did get some shots of the next step; cutting the bevels. We’d had protracted discussion about beveling the edges of the wood. In my minds eye, I thought it might look a little dated. In the artist’s eye (Michael), it would look great. Plus, it had the advantage of being the only practical way to ensure that the edges of the wood would line up and hide any imperfections. So the edges were all beveled. It was the right thing to do!
Beloved bevels!
Beloved bevels!
Perhaps you can see the level of alertness both participants needed for this kind of work!
Those are bevel remnants. Thin long triangles of wood. Fun!
Those are bevel remnants. Thin long triangles of wood. Fun!
That's a bevel!
That’s a bevel!
Next, we had to sand. And sand and sand. Again, as with the planing, ear protection is key to surviving the process without annoying “Wha?” syndrome.
Orange cuties!
Orange cuties!
Sanding is not a very photogenic process. Nor is it terribly exciting, but it did give me a sense of accomplishment, and I enjoyed it.
So I set up my sanders!
Three sanders…
Three sanders…
…three different grits.
…three different grits.
Oh yes, I had a little workshop set up for myself. My table top was an old door, and I had outlets and a light and everything! I masked up, squeezed in the Orange Cuties, and went to work!
Sanding
Sanding
I love you, Walnut plank.
I love you, Walnut plank.
I must say, I had more fun sanding these pieces than pretty much anything else I can think of. Mike says it’s because I like fiddly work. Perhaps, but I have officially begun a love affair with wood that I think anyone who works with it must fall into.
In between these activities, we just had to sneak peak at the soon to be Altarpiece. ( I looked it up- the name seems to fit what we are doing according to ancient church terms.)
Altarpiece- all in Cherry wood!
Altarpiece- all in Cherry wood!
Word to your mother: it doesn’t end up being all Cherry…
So: Here’s the results of weeks of work:
Walnut
Walnut
Cherry
Cherry
As hard as we worked, the maple was left undone. Mike the hero had to drive to Grindstone in the middle of the work week to take care of mailing back the water pump that arrived broken.
Broken bits!
Broken bits!
Meanwhile he sanded the Maple. No pix. Just an exhausting drive and more work.
So until next time, keep on keeping on…
He measures up!
He measures up!
– The White Church Gallery

It’s Friday, we must be…

Heading North!
Heading North!

Yes, the weekend ritual, with small variations, is to get through the work week, discuss plans, throw a bunch of stuff in the truck, toss the dog in and point the Chevy toward the N. Pole.

We stop at the end of M-53, where this long road meets the Lake. Sometimes it feels like the N. Pole.

I must point out that every weekend, without fail, I toss my knitting bag into the vehicle we’re driving. And every weekend, without fail, it makes the trip back untouched, unloved and undone.
But I have eternal optimism that the green yarn you see there will be made into the blanket/hat/whatevah. Ha!
Not when there is a metric ton of wood to be processed!
For most of February and now into March, we’ve been processing wood. Pine, Maple, Cherry and Walnut. It sounds good enough to eat!

Lots of Fiber!
Lots of Fiber!

We had rough sawn wood.

That means pretty much right from the tree.
That means pretty much right from the tree.
I tried the best I could to capture the gorgeous natural beauty of the wood, but I failed. The wood is more awesome than my camera shows. But it all had to be processed; the wild ends where living pulp meets bark had to go.
The first step is to plane the wood. That means to shave off layers of the rough sawn jaggedness and leave a smooth, hopefully straight edge. The wood basically came from the tree!
The planer is a device that is:
1. Really loud
2. Really cool
3. Really slow
When we first started planing, we stuck the whole plank through. That was hard. And kinda dumb. We learned… better to cut it to length first, then push it through.
What were you thinking, humans?
What were you thinking, humans?
You KNOW there’s going to be gratuitous puppy shots now, right? Thomas has integrated deeply into our lives. I’m not sure how he’ll do once we open the gallery- Mini Dachsunds are traditionally shy with strangers. But we’ll see…
Gratuitous wood shots!
Gratuitous wood shots!
Meanwhile, there’s the wood.
Mike was at the feeding end of the planer, but I was at the fed-out end. I’m sure there’s a better name for it, but I’ll just call it the magical end. Because it was truly magic. Every time a plank went through the planer, more breathtaking views came out.

I don’t have many pictures of this process because I was busy holding wood! It takes focus!
Here’s one…

Pushin' it through!
Pushin’ it through!
And this doesn’t do it justice, but you can kind of see that bits are being revealed! (I might have gotten yelled at for taking pictures rather than focussing!)
Unveiling!
Unveiling!
And more…
In process…
In process…
I also have pictures of the process of figuring out how to do this in the first place:
Ciphering dimensions.
Ciphering dimensions.
And pictures of using the jointer. Jointing is when you make the edges of the boards flat. But it also can plane the wide face of the board. It’s fun!
Wee, this is fun!
Wee, this is fun!
You will notice the ear protection. I’m teaching about sound waves in Physics during my week-day job, and I’m blathering on to my students about how delicate the ear mechanisms are. And then I prove how old I am by giving them a frequency test. I only make it to 14 Kilohertz. The under-21’s hear into the much higher frequencies. I remind them that they, too, will get old one day and that perhaps they shouldn’t turn their ear pods up to full blast. They, of course, ignore my advice as only a 17 year old can!
Can you see the orange foam ear plugs?
Can you see the orange foam ear plugs?
I took breaks to do some testing. Hey, I’m a scientist! How will the wood look with different stains. I needed to know. So I set up a lab and testing began!
Testing, testing!
Testing, testing!
Turns out, we decided to go with clear coat. With this fine grained, dense, rich wood grain, clear seemed to be the way to let the beauty though.
Clear coats for you, me hearties!
Clear coats for you, me hearties!
More next time!
– The White Church Gallery