I'm building a tool cabinet right now for the final semester project at my Hand Tool School. I was going through a stack of rough sawn Cherry, matching color and grain and assigning each piece to a part of my build. I came across a 10 by 50 board that had a small knot right in the middle, about 2/3 of the way down the length. Not really a big deal. It would make hand planing the board a little more difficult but I figured I was up to the challenge.
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I flipped the board over and that little knot had bloomed into a canyon on the opposite face. Probably a branch formed at this point on the tree and then had broken off leaving this chasm. What to do here? The grain around the knot of course begins to swirl like water down a drain and in order to cut out the knot and leave straight grain that would match with the rest of my piece, I would need to sacrifice quite a bit of material leaving me with two much shorter pieces around 26 and 12? long. These two pieces would fit within the dimension I need for parts in my build and I could move on happily without the defect.
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Maybe this "defect" is really just an opportunity. I think that there is a way to embrace this knot hole and make it a feature in a table top. Imagine creating a spot for a built in Ikebana style flower arrangement growing right out of the top. Or fill the hole with clear resin and encase something within it. The swirling grain around the knot makes me think of a Zen rock garden so I have visions of turning the knot into a tiny Koi pond and highlighting the grain around it. Even just leaving the knot open and planing the board until you get a through hole would make for a real point of interest in a top while making it clear to the casual observer that this piece came from a tree. You could use this as a door panel that provides a sneak peek of what is inside the cabinet. Maybe I have been reading Nakashima too much lately, but I'm really excited by the opportunity presented by this "defect."
This "Hand Tool School" series is provided courtesy of Shannon Rogers, a/k/a The Renaissance Woodworker. Rogers is founder of The Hand Tool School, which provides members with an online apprenticeship that teaches them how to use hand tools and to build furniture with traditional methods.
Shannon Rogers started woodworking by trying to build a proton pack, and has been in love with the craft ever since. He runs The Renaissance Woodworker website which is dedicated to spreading the love about hand tool woodworking. He is also the head glue pot keeper at The Hand Tool School where teaches thousands of woodworkers on 6 continents (still trying to find somebody in Antarctica) how to cast off the power tool oppressors and build "the hard way".
By day Shannon is the Director of Marketing for J. Gibson McIlvain, a lumber company founded in 1798 that supplies high quality hardwoods from all over the world to everyone from Calvin Klein, the New York Yankees, and the US Government. He is a wood nerd through and through and often finds reasons to inject latin botanical names into everyday conversation.