German Bog Oak from the Mesolithic Era
I love wood, so anything 5,000 – 10,000 years old is bound to be pretty interesting. Woodworkers have a variety of options for materials to chose from that fall under the “ancient” variety. Whether you are using 1,000 year old-growth wood dug up from the bottom of a lake, or 50,000 year old giant Kauri logs from New Zealand bogs, they all tend to have some pretty interesting characteristics. Combine the anaerobic environment of a bog that halts the decomposition of organic matter, with a tree whose structure essentially sucks up the surrounding minerals (extractives), and you’re going to find some amazing wood.
My latest haul from Midwest Woodworking here in Cincinnati was from a stash of small veneer flitches of German “Sprecher” Bog Oak. The pieces were smaller than 24″ long and about 11″ at their widest, somewhat limiting, but perfect for my latest project. The natural color is simply spectacular. On one sheet alone, the outer portion of the tree is almost charcoal black, but then transitions in and out of olive, brown, tobacco and tans – all with the characteristic medullary rays you’d expect from quarter sawn oak. This wide variation in pigment figure may have been evident when the tree was alive (similar to what you can find in red oak today), and then was exaggerated by the extractives the wood absorbed from the bog. Based on what I’ve read and was told by Frank David over at Midwest Woodworking, they are somewhere in the 5-10,000 year old range.
I had a set of two book matched 1/4″ panels made for a pair of sliding panel doors that will sit in a walnut frame. They’ll make their way onto a dovetailed walnut TV console I’ve been working on in my spare time. This project is the next installment of challenging myself on my woodworking projects this year. The use of veneer in a project design is the first part. The other new technique I’m working on is integrating some more organic shapes into my designs. In this case, the legs have a fairly complex set of hand-shaped curves and transitions. They’ll be attached to the corners of the case, with the tops of the legs sitting slightly below the top edge of the dovetailed case.
“Extractives” , “pigment figure”, and “medullary rays” are some of the new terms I’ve recently picked up in the latest release by Lost Art Press: With the Grain: A Craftsman’s Guide to Understanding Wood by Christian Becksvoort. While he focuses on domestic species only, the principles, science and art of understanding wood is knowledge that can be easily applied to the woods we pass every day, or the wood from the 10th Millennium B.C. I recommend picking up a copy for your collection.