Sunday, August 12, 2012

Japanese Chestnut on the Lathe

Our Japanese Chestnut (Castanea crenata) is fairly resistant to the Chestnut blight fungus that devastated billions of trees in the United States, and where intensive efforts to find a prevention for the disease have to this day not been successful.  In Japan, our Chestnut is still quite abundant, the wood being a valuable timber, and the nuts an important food product.   It appears that although the Asian trees have the level of resistance, it is thought that either the Japanese or Chinese variety (different species) were in fact the culprits in introducing the parasite into the west, possibly either in some lumber or living trees that were imported.  A sad day that was, beginning the demise of an important timber from trees that had also been a source of food to natives and the early settlers.

Speaking of the wood's character, it is quite 'calm', a fairly light in weight hardwood that is yielding and relatively easy to work with.   With time, objects made from the wood take on a subdued but very pleasant honey color, giving a subtle quiet effect.  One of my favorite woods, and fortunate to have a local source for it.  I have made a wide range of different types of furniture with Chestnut, both of western and Japanese style inspiration.  I currently am building a rocking chair with the wood.  There can be some range in the quality of the material, the older trees with a tighter grain are the ones that yield the best lumber, with greater stability resulting as well. 

It occurs that many woodworkers have not had the opportunity to work with the wood, perhaps haven't much seen how it turns out when worked and polished up with a finish on it.  Both a clear oil and an urushi finish will give very pleasing results.

A tray or "obon" like this is very commonly used to serve tea, I suppose nearly every household will have one.  A fine wood for the lathe as well.  This chunk has an interesting swath of reddish color through it, something that I don't recall seeing much before.

I put this small item with it's stand of tig welded stainless out as part of an exhibition that I had of pieces for sale, something inexpensive to supplement the larger furniture work.  I was interested in seeing what reaction it might bring, to my mind a very lovely piece of wood in a useful form that most people can relate to, and last but not least, at a giveaway price.  "Buy it for almost nothing and I will give you the stand too".  I like to at least show one thing at a price that a shrewd person ought to pick up on right away, my contribution to the masses, so to speak.  I don't recall there being any reaction really, folks barely looked at it. It is hard to figure, sometimes, and a bit disappointing.  Still, Illusions can inspire...