Sunday, July 25, 2010

My Friend Reggie

There are people you meet that you know instantly are going to make some aspect of your life better or easier just by virtue of the fact that they exist. Reggie Power is this person for my wood shop. I recently had the honor of presenting him with the bowl I made for him in exchange for a generous supply of beautifully seasoned walnut. We made this trade about 6 weeks ago. The making of this bowl became more than just a matter of exchange for me though for one main reason. We had agreed to meet on a Saturday earlier that week to make a trade. He'd give me lumber from which I would carve many bowls. One of these bowls I would give to him for the entire stock of wood. When I arrived at his mill that Saturday we exchanged pleasantries as we've become friends and everything seemed normal. After a while though he asked me about my parents and were they still alive and all that.
This conversation eventually revealed that Reggie's mother had died unexpectedly the last evening. I naturally expressed my sympathies and informed him that he could have called and rescheduled our appointment to another date to which he said that working in the mill and talking with me made him feel better. I was touched by these kind expressions of friendship and it warmed me even though I felt sadness for my friends loss.  The next day in the shop I set to work on his bowl with a sense of purpose and responsibility. I had to make him a good bowl, and I feel I did.
Driving to Reggie's is a jaunt through the beautiful Missouri country side as it sweeps down to the broad majestic Missouri River. It's as honest as the people who inhabit it, "don't tell me, Show Me" the saying goes, and on these back roads Missouri shows you just how pleasant she is and why I live here. Stepping out of the car I knew there was Garlic afoot, it was everywhere. Reggie had just harvested his crop for the local markets. It reminded me of walking through Garryhinch wood outside Mountmellick in Ireland when I was a child.  The tall oaks, elms, beeches, and chestnuts impeded the undergrowth as far as you could see. Creating a world beneath the canopy that looked cultivated and manicured. But every now and then you would wander into a vast field of wild garlic in flower like Wordsworth into the daffodils. Beautiful and pungent, what a great memory.
Reggie's is a treasure trove for folks like me. Oak, sycamore, walnut, cherry, elm, and on and on. Each cut to a respectable non industry standard sizes and seasoned. For most applications you need kilned wood. The kilning process drops the moisture content down to 5-7% of the over all weight of the wood. This means that the wood is far less susceptible to cracking and splitting in our air conditioned homes where vast variations of humidity and temperature occur on sometimes a daily basis.
The problem with kilned wood for me is two fold. Firstly the reduced moisture content means that the wood has far less detail to it. You take a piece of seasoned walnut and put it next to a piece of kilned walnut and the seasoned will win  any beauty contest you through at it. Secondly the kilned wood is dryer so the fibers of the wood are dryer and harder to finish. You can polish a piece of seasoned wood to a far higher grit and gloss than any kilned wood you care to mention.
So I love the seasoned hard woods, but you try to build a complex piece of furniture out of it and your going to be in serious trouble. Each component of your furniture is going to expand and contract at different rates, causing a lot of pressure across every joint and seem of the entire piece. Eventually the whole thing will just collapse like the car at the end of the Blues Brothers. The bowls however are all one natural piece of wood that is able to expand and contract in a uniform manner.
Traveling to Reggie's is incomplete without scouring through his vast stock of aged seasoned hardwood. Today I picked up some Sassafras which I've never carved before and some more walnut. Over the next few weeks you'll see some of that carved into dough bowls, trenchers, and votive holders. Thanks for reading and here's to Reggie.


  1. I learned SO MUCH from this one post. I've added your blog to my reader and look forward to learning more.

    Your work is beautiful and inspiring and drool-worthy.

    Thank you so much for stopping by my blog.

  2. Joe, this is great, I subscribed to your blog via Facebook, looking forward to reading more!


  3. Thanks Graham and Holyoke, will keep posting.