Everywhere I go I find a pal
Peter Weinschenk, Editor, The Record-Review
I am getting a geography lesson right in my woodshop in Edgar.
This past weekend, I worked on a back porch replacement project that uses Iroku, a west African tropical hardwood.
My task was to use Iroku lumber to make massive eight foot wide and 12 inches deep planks for stair treads.
This job challenged my skills as a woodworker. The Iroku lumber, yellow brown with a distinctive grain, is a heavy, oil-rich wood. I can barely lift the boards.
The wood is so heavy that my extended length jointer was useless. I couldn’t balance the boards to get an even cut.
I had to use alternative jointing techniques. My first try was to make a plywood sled for my table saw and use toggle clamps to attach a Iroku board to the sled. This technique worked, but badly. I was unhappy with the result.
I decided, instead, to use a router with a long pattern cutting bit. This worked much better.
I clamped a two-inch thick Iroku board to a piece of plywood. Using the plywood as a guide, I created a straight edge with my router. It took several passes to take the curve out of the Iroku.
I created quite a mess of wood shavings on my shop floor. As I routed the Iroku, a plume of wood shavings spiraled in the air and floated slowly to the floor. The heap of reddish-brown shavings resembled witch’s hair.
The router left a nice edge to my Iroku board and, pairing boards together, they proved to be remarkably straight, even over the distance of eight feet. I was pleased.
Something happens when you actually work with wood. You get to know the wood and, to some degree, where the wood came from.
I was covered with a greasy Iroku dust. I had Iroku shavings all over my shirt and pants and mask and hat. I was becoming familiar with Iroku...in a personal way.
I could imagine the sections of Nigeria or Uganda where the trees for my boards were harvested. I could see the trees, which can live to a grand old age of 500 years, rising up from the yellow, dusty roads of rural Africa. The Iroku, like other exotic hardwoods, is raised on plantations.
And I could further place the wood on the globe by tapping it. The Iroku produces a bright, bell-like sound. Iroku is a traditional wood in the construction of the djembe, a west African drum. It is also the wood used by the Basque to make their txalaparta, a kind of marimba.
I have a lot of work yet to do on my back porch. I hope I can get it done by the time snow starts flying.
Meanwhile, I am testing my skills as a woodworker and getting first hand knowledge of other parts of the world.
Contact Peter Weinschenk at pweinschenk@ tpprinting.com