Heritage Wood, Heritage Projects - Honoring it's past, present, and future

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Blog entry by Schwieb posted 10-14-2010 07:14 PM 1944 reads 1 time favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is a topic that I have made reference to on previous project posts. It was my LJ cyber friends Mads in Denmark, Div in South Africa, and others whose posts over the past months have moved me to try writing a little more about this. So what is heritage wood? For the purposes of this post, we’ll loosely define it as a piece or pieces of wood that have been saved for some lengthy period of time. Perhaps received as a gift; inherited; collected; or salvaged. Perhaps it belonged to a deceased woodworker. It could be a section of the crosscut of a log saved by a woodturner who never got around to working with it or a piece of a river recovered log. It could be the recycling of a particularly interesting piece of wood or furniture that is damaged in a way that it needs to be reworked or rebuilt. It might even be some boards or wood that were up in the barn or grainary at your immigrant ancestors farm. It might be boards from a black walnut tree that was planted by your great-great-grandfather in the 1880’s and later harvested by your father who made furniture from it. The remaining boards divided between his 3 woodworker sons. These are all true for me and more.

It was my German, farm raised, depression era parents who instilled the idea of fixing things rather than just throwing it away. Appreciating the little things and things well made that actually were useful as well as beautiful. They both understood a lot more about recycling, repurposing, and making do with what you have than most people today. The crazier the world gets the more I am glad to have lived with those sorts of values and ethics.

I begin with a board given to me recently by a friend named interestingly enough, Forrest. It’s a very clear 1” x 18” x 84” piece of Philippine Mahogany that he knew came here in 1944.

I now have the challenge of coming up with what to do with this 66 year old board and of course much older wood, from a tree I can only wonder how old. You’ll notice lots of boards in the background that are awaiting similar decisions. I first thought about this responsibility after I read a book by George Nakashima back in the early 1980’s called The Soul of a Tree. I gave my copy to a brother many years ago, so I haven’t read it in a long time. I was inspired then by both his work and philosophy regarding trees and wood and nature. Very spiritual, very Japanese, and a wonderful book, and the idea has stuck with me since.

I have the luxury of doing my woodworking for entirely personal reasons and do not make my living from it. For me this is a blessing because I do not have deadlines or cost considerations to make. I am in it for the love of working with wood and making things from it. At the same time, I take from my upbringing the idea that it honors God to be able to make things from his creation and I honor him by being a good steward of the material and what I do with it. To the best of your ability the ancestors would say, God expects nothing less. I’ve lived by that credo in my professsional life as well as my woodworking life and it has served me well. For me working with this heritage material means that you accept the responsibility of making good use of it and making something that the former owner would be delighted with. It honors the creator, the tree it came from and shows respect for the woodworker who might have owned it before. I like to think that they look down from heaven and smile.

-- Dr. Ken, Florida - Durch harte arbeit werden Träume wahr.

7 comments so far

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 3244 days

#1 posted 10-14-2010 07:49 PM

Looking forward to hearing more.

-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3503 days

#2 posted 10-14-2010 08:44 PM

hello Ken
I don´t disagree with thoughts like that
I´m just wondering how you can live up to honuor the former owner by making something
they wuold like and as the same time make something you realy need here and now or justfor fun with out
going to the pile of plywood instead :-)

I allso think that this board you show shuold wait to the right and speciel project comes around

looking forward to hear more about your thoughts of this isue/thing

take care

View Div's profile


1653 posts in 3328 days

#3 posted 10-14-2010 08:50 PM

Beautiful blog Ken! As you know, I can relate to your words. Thanks for mentioning me. It warms my heart to know I can “be of inspiration”. I am quoting our wonderful friend Mads here!

What a fantastic piece of wood. A tough call to decide on the final use… Let us know.

-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."

View mafe's profile (online now)


12049 posts in 3477 days

#4 posted 10-15-2010 01:28 AM

Ken, you touch my heart again.
This sounds like a wonderful travel you will take into history, responsability, and respect. For a travel like this it is not a bad idea to breathe deep before taking the next step.
When I read your text I also get goose bups, and it light my imagination and I can feel exactly where I would go!
If you want I will give you imput, but for now all I will say is that I feel that two facts in your story are pointing at the design! Two countries was mentioned!
Also I’m proud to be a inspiration, and to metioned with our dear Div only makes me more proud.
Thank you for the thought.
Best thoughts and best wishes on this journey,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View mafe's profile (online now)


12049 posts in 3477 days

#5 posted 10-15-2010 02:03 AM

I smile!

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View oluf's profile


260 posts in 3427 days

#6 posted 10-15-2010 02:22 AM

Not to question your friend Forrest, but I was alive and old enough to know what was going on in 1944. There was nothing being shipped from the Philippines to the United States. Our armed forces were fighting and dying there to retake that country.

-- Nils, So. Central MI. Wood is honest.Take the effort to understand what it has to tell you before you try to change it.

View rivergirl's profile


3201 posts in 3226 days

#7 posted 10-15-2010 01:25 PM

ooorah Oluf! Good call. :)

-- Homer : "Oh, and how is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."

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