This coffee table was made from an English walnut tree felled on the property of Fred and Janet Amrine. The tree was leaning toward their house as can be seen in the picture. After it was cut down, Janet called me and asked if it was worth saving for lumber. I had no idea but decided to take a chance and have the tree sawn into lumber.
Fred and sawyer preparing to cut down tree in August 1997.
Part time sawyer Vern Abell agreed to the task. It was Vern's first time sawing hardwood into lumber. He usually saws cedar and fir. After doing a quick check with a borrowed metal detector we found a couple of nails and removed them. We did find two more later with the saw blade. We started to remove the bark but gave up after a while because the tree would have rotted before it yielded its bark. The tree's main trunk was about 24" in diameter and 8' long. With great anticipation we started sawing the main trunk only to find a larger area of decay than expected. My visions of wide slabs of walnut boards disappeared. Most of the tree was cut into 1x12" boards with a few 2" planks for good measure. When I first looked at the downed tree I was surprised to see 4 to 6" inches of white sap wood. A 6" diameter limb had a core of 1/2" dark wood. Being a novice I thought the white wood would not be worth saving. Luckily we decided to cut white boards from the trunk because it was straight and wide. After the tree dried the white wood changed to a light brown/gray with wonderful grain patterns.
After making a mess of Fred's pasture we loaded my new treasure into my too small pickup until I felt like an astronaut ready for take off. Vern had to load the rest into his big truck for later delivery. The days work wasn't over for me. I had not planned beyond cutting up the tree and had no idea where I was going to put the lumber. It was raining when I got home and I decided to temporarily stack it in the garage where I had just made room for my pick up. During the stacking process I repeatedly wondered why I had cut any boards 2" thick. Those planks were incredibly heavy for this tired novice wood cutter. Proving that there is nothing more permanent than a temporary structure, the wood stayed in the garage from September 1997 to February 1999.
Before going on vacation in February of 1999 I decided that I was going to move all the walnut into my shop and put my poor truck into the garage. After getting my shop cleaned and stacking the lumber, I asked my neighbor to check the dehumidifier occasionally. He said the dehumidifier was full everyday for 5 days then it slowed down. The wood was in my shop about a month when I started work on the table. Finding good 48" long sections of boards was not easy. I decided that trying to book match boards was out of the question so I used the fewest number of boards I could, three, to get the requested 20" table top width.
Custom projects are always a challenge. The walnut coffee table was more involved because of the unknown quality of the wood and the desire to create a lasting piece of furniture as a keepsake for the Amrine family. At times the project came to a stand still as I endeavored to create a table worthy of the beauty of the wood and the historical significance to the family homestead.
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