Monday, June 23, 2014

Cedar in Plane Sight

When I first sanded down my maple table I said I never wanted to own a planed piece of furniture again. A plane is a tool -- either a machine or a hand tool -- designed to straighten and smooth wood before its final sanding. Because I'm looking for rootedness or groundedness or whatever the heck it is, planing wood seemed too far removed from that to be satisfying.

That was true until last week. When I showed up at the mill we were tasked with ripping down into 4-, 6-, or 8-inch widths cedar planks leftover from an artist's installation up at the Storm King Art Center's sculpture park. (I have learned, by the way, that we do not "cut" wood. We rip it.) The cedar had been taken from her family's farm down in Tennessee and was already milled. She wanted it cut to size and then planed so she could make crates out of it for deliveries.

I've always loved cedar, the way it smells, the way it looks. We have a big bag of cedar shims sitting in our closet, which we'd bought at a hardware store in Tennessee several years ago and were going to get around to making shoe racks or something out of. (My husband and I have conversations sometimes about how lazy we are together. We're bad for each other's health and productivity. But we have so much fun.) Cedar has a reputation for keeping moths at bay, which is why blocks of it are often put in drawers or storage chests. It also supposedly has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties among a million other uses (some of which I maintain healthy skepticism of), and makes great outdoor furniture because it's resistant to decay.

In raw form I think it looks lovely. But planed, with a layer of wood skinned off to expose the inner colors, it's really beautiful. We ran it through the saw and the planer and the planks came out with these deep, bright purple and cream colors.

Unfortunately, I also discovered that I'm highly allergic to cedar. My childhood allergy tests probably say this anyway, but with the dust flying in my face I became aware of it all over again, sneezing my head off even through the high-end filtration face mask. Time to break out the Claritin, since clearly the homeopathic remedy I've been trying (quercetin, with extra Vitamin C) has had no effect. I hate having hay fever. The truth is, in another age I probably wouldn't have survived even if I were competent at survival and sustainability skills. If severe allergies didn't kill me, childbirth certainly would have.

Anyway, I'm a convert to planed wood depending on the context. 

The plane's crazy noisy, though. Even with our awesome earmuffs the screeching was pretty penetrating. If I'm going to invest, I think I'll go for the hand plane. And then I can just do that for hours and forget about getting on the rowing machine. Except not with cedar.

1 comment:

debra said...

So beautiful.