My poet’s tribute to this one tree and many other remarkable contorted lodgepole pine trees is twofold: it is made as both a writer and as a tree art furniture maker and sculptor. These two photos are favorites, and will be included in a book-length tribute that I’ve been working on since when these photos were taken.
An important reason for my wanting to exhibit at the fair was/is my admiration for the octagonal log architecture of “The Pavilion.” Another reason is that our three families all live just across the Beaverhead River from the fairgrounds. Yet another reason is that the booth space was large enough to allow a collection of 11 pieces of furniture, as well as my shaving horse, tote box, and tool caddy.
I planned the exhibit as an educational display–about the trees, the designs, and the workmanship. It is yet another of my tributes to the contorted lodgepole pine trees.
It’s very likely that this will be my last public display, especially since we’re now thinking of furnishing our Virginia City home with these irreplaceable pieces of tree art furniture and sculpture.
I’m pleased that spending this time with the display has renewed our appreciation of the many artistic values embodied in each piece, and in the collection as a whole. It’s true that the pieces interact with each other, and that the whole display seems greater than the sum of its parts.
The entire collection represents thousands of hours of work–from the hunting/gathering of the trees, to the different stages of assemblage, cosmetic detailing, to the finish coats of varnish or wax–plus all the indirect labors, including storage, handling, marketing and sales.
With all of the components now in place, I’ve started the tedious and time-consuming processes of cosmetic detailing. This is strictly a matter of appearances, mostly by removing tiny areas of remaining bark or cambium; removing excessive glue, and tool marks left by coarse grinding, rasping, chiseling, sanding; filling counter-sunk screw holes and less-than-perfect joineries; shaping/sculpting joints so they flow together; and chamfering/rounding all edges.
The final stages of sanding require multiple types of electrical power and hand sanders and grit abrasives, all depending on the desired final appearance. Another cosmetic process is using stain pens of different shades to conceal the wood filler in the joints and screw holes. I try to blend differences in color with a stain that matches other colors in the tree.
I have to admit that I’ve recently arrived at the point where my desire to have the bench finished is almost as strong as my desire to do the best possible job. That includes dealing with a sense of diminishing returns.
I’m often told that I will be the only one who will notice the imperfections, that everyone else will have a general impression of the bench. That’s probably true, with the exception of other woodworkers or carpenters. That’s when I remind myself that tree art is not comparable to fine woodworking. Even the best of tree art furniture lacks the precision construction and sophisticated finish that defines fine woodworking. The trees (as unprocessed “wood”) are not comparable to the exotic hardwoods used in fine woodworking.
With the addition of the armrests, the bench’s components are almost completed. As the armrest design evolved, I had to give up my plan to have the bench come apart in two sections. With the armrest’s fixed connection between front and back legs, the bench can no longer be disassembled.
I still have to add an “ox-bow” tree trunk stretcher between to two back legs. I’ll also add a horizontal brace under the front of the bench seat, using the front “ox-bow” for support.
The making of the bench seat with 8 pieces of 2″ thick planks.
Perhaps, since tree art is a collaboration with Nature, I tend to abhor straight lines (and square corners, etc.). In the making of edge to edge butt joints, I like the mate cut, waney edge joints as a design detail.