Sunday, 6 July 2014

It's a Chinook Salmon!

The East coast of the United States, for those of you who haven't ventured there, is a pretty green sort of place. Sterling Massachusetts is no different. Sure we have 'green' at home, but a more drab eucalyptus sort of green. Here it's lush, vivid green, made up of a dense canopy and undergrowth of Maple, Oak, Hickory, Pine, Birch and a whole stack of other stuff. And it's no wonder when you experience the humidity from heavy showers and healthy sun like we have the past few days here.  It's  a recipe for growing trees. Good straight ones.

So on the first day out of the blocks at Pete's I weighed in for an hour or so…….splitting blocks. Or logs really, with Charlie in the front yard of Pete's place. Charlie is one of a talented pair ( Claire being the other ) of young furniture makers currently staying with Pete.

Under a tarp in the front yard is a pile of Oak and Maple logs. "30 bucks a log for the maple," said Pete with a grin, as I muttered something under my breath. I don't think the White Oak was any more expensive. Now a couple of the logs had a bit of wind to them, but compared to our White Oak and Hard Maple logs back home……..oh yeah, that's right, we don't have them do we.

So as Charlie busted open the Oak log I measured out 2 foot lengths around knots and the like on the maple flitches, then docked them to length with the chainsaw.

I then started to break those respective quarters down with the wedges and froe into 2 1/4" slabs, then
2 1/4 " square blanks.

Said slab.

And Leg blanks

But as I began to split those parts out, I noticed one big problem. The rotten things were all figured. Damn, talk about all the bad luck eh?

You can see it more readily in the bottom block.

And here in the ones I rounded down and the double bobbin leg I turned. Bummer eh?

So of course when you have such bad luck with rubbish maple, then what's there left to do but split Oak. The following day, amongst other stuff, I went down, cut a another couple of lengths off the Oak flitches Charlie had split out, marked them and started splitting some spindle stock.

Well that's a bit more like it. Nice even growth rings and straight long grain

Well, I guess you might call that split 'ok?' You know, if that's as good as you can get it. So I started splitting a bit more out.

Mmmm, not bad. 1 inch square and straight for about 2 foot ( 600mm )…..

Now that's a fairly good pile. enough for a couple of side chairs. And so about that time I showed Pete. "Oh, that's kinda curly which is not ideal for spindles, I'll go and ring the guy I get my logs from and see if I can't get another log."

It immediately took me back to those 1980's John West salmon and tuna adds. You know where the Aussie guy is in Canada and is blown away by a big Salmon a Canadian fisherman is holding. The Canadian proceeds to tell him it's rubbish. "it's a Chinook! Chinook salmon, flesh is too course, colour's all over the place, not enough oil. John West buy all our best salmon." "Ahhh" says the Aussie. "So this is fish John West reject?" "Riiiight." says the Canadian. Then blazed on the screen. It's the fish John West reject that make them the best……..

And so, the figured spindle stock was rejected……And that's why Pete is making the best chairs going around.

 But to hell with that!  So I made them into spindles :) I'm comfortable being that other guy, when it comes to that wood. Chinook or not.
And I have to say, curl or no curl, they were pretty damn fine to shave down. I even made a few spares. I think a little bow back side chair when I get home might just be the place for those horrible curly spindles.

Amongst other things it's just been nice to have the time to chat with Pete about all things chair related and his latest work. And to delve in deeper about green wood to.

Here's the blanks I rounded down, turned by Pete into Baluster legs. (yup, there's that nasty fiddleback again) These things are that green that not only are the tools wet afterwards, but look at the moisture contained below those bulbous sections. Makes you want to grab them and wring them dry.

Pete's workshop, no matter what is going on in there, is a great inspiration for anyone being there, whether taking a workshop or not. Stay tuned for more….and less about salmon.


  1. So have you worked out how to relieve Pete of that rubbish and ship some of that nasty timber back yet?

  2. Im working on it Peter, especially the rubbish maple, …. oh and some eastern white pine….. oh and the 2"thick 20" wide walnut slabs Pete want to get rid of too. The burden these guys face dealing with their awful timber….

  3. Oooh that's horrible. They must sure be grateful that you're willing to clear that rubbish away for them.

  4. Yeah, they are Peter. I'll be sure to send you a pic of the slabs of curly maple in the shed that Pete wants to get rid of too. Wanna go halves in a shipping container? :)

    1. Absolutely! Count me in.