Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Put Another Log On The Fire.... NOT!

At least 90 percent of my winter heating fuel comes from wood. Therefore you could sign me up as a true testament to the fact that, " If you can't carve it, then burn it". I love everything about wood because wood is the real deal. I can find it growing naturally all around me unlike heating oil, kerosene, or electric heat which requires unbelievable manpower to mine/generate, process, and transport. You could say that I'm just a "wood" person and there's nothing "plastic" about me. So like I said, If I can't carve it then just please let me burn it!

In the woodshop we go through quite a bit of wood through out the year and something in me dies whenever I have to burn it up into thin air via the fire barrel just to get rid of it. Those scraps are bone dry and make excellent kindling for starting up the wood heater so I use as much as I can for doing just that. In addition to generating btu's such practice also produces a very gratifying sense of satisfaction and resourcefulness when I know that wood isn't being wasted. I manage to save some of that scrap wood but not all of it.

Just this afternoon I brought in another bag of the woodshop scraps for starting a fire that would get me through another frigid Carolina mountain night. This particular bag held scraps from more than a year ago and I paused before offering it's sacrifice to my warmth. In the bag I broke a smile when I found a myriad of familiar objects that rekindled a lot of fond woodshop memories.

As the picture to the right shows I found a canoe, a piece of a nameplate, a couple of mini-basketball goals, a motor boat, an African mask, and a flag that was intended for a small boat. I could easily write a book on these unfinished woodshop projects but these were projects that for one reason or another never got finished. While some of them just never met the quality standard that we have, others might not have been finished because a board got ripped beyond repair as young hands were learning about the limits of stress upon the grain of wood.

For whatever reason they didn't get finished into useful objects but now these scraps  reminded me of the education themes we had during a particular session of study. Once our theme was African History so we did a lot of research and learned about how young African children used masks to imitate and to test their transition into adulthood. I therefore had the kids make their own masks based upon this beautiful art. During another session our theme was about pirates and piracy so I had the kids design their own pirates ship. A theme on extreme sports led to the small basketball goals where a small wooden ball could be shot by the spring produced by a plastic spoon positioned just right on the base. Dug-out Indian canoes are always a popular carving project when the kids are meeting the carving in-the-round requirement for their woodcarving merit badge The nameplate you see is the first woodshop project that I have every new student make as it gets them familiar with some basic power tools and provides a good introductory orientation to the shop as they begin to imagine the possibilities and gain confidence for greater projects later on.

Those scrap pieces of wood represent a lot of hours spent learning something about wood AND something about ourselves in the woodshop. And now I hesitated to put them in the stove but finally my cold fingers convinced me that I was gonna have to do it. My fire is now pumping out heat and I am warm but just seeing those scrap pieces from a shop class long ago warmed up a part of my soul from a time now gone and I know that I'll sleep good tonight... even when the temperatures outside might be in the teens.


  1. Dave, Your story is one I can relate to. I burn all of my "misfit carvings" eitgher because I'm embarassed to have them lying around, or because they just take up space and I can't keep them any longer. Each one was a learning experience that gets me closer to being a master carver. Wood is a wonderful thing! Besides the tree providing O2 for us to breath, after it dies or is harvested, it continues to be of use to us in the form or houses, furniture, carvings, and even after that...Firewood to keep us warm! Three uses from the same source before it is completely lost to nature. And I believe it is better to burn it up than to clutter landfills or public land with it simply left to rot. My Grandfater worked at a furniture factory and woudl bring these little slivers, cuttoffs, and scraps home to tinker with. He would say, " We can alwasy just burn it!" After 45 years and 5 moves later...My father finally did just that! My father: " I've moved this crap way too many times, and I won't move it again!" Luckily I got several pieces that were carvable out of there before they met their end. (The rest was pretty much crap lumber in the end)

  2. Thanks for the story on your grandfather and glad that your father saved a few pieces of his stash. Perhaps we might be related somewhere down the line because your Grandfather describes me to a "T". I'm always collecting odd pieces of wood and I have them stashed, stacked, and stuffed in just about every room in the shed, the pump house, and the house. So far there's none stored in the bathroom but it's getting close because it's now under my bed. "My name is Dave and I'm a wood-aholic" and hope that I don't need help.