Thursday, January 17, 2008

Weeping willow

Tenon cheek trimming progress has stalled while I, ah, deal with a potential design opportunity that I've only just realised. One of these decades the whole idea of having a drawing or plan of what you're going to do may finally catch on chez Alf, but I wouldn't bet on it. So meanwhile I continue with I may henceforth refer to as the blogmanship of risk. Viz: telling the world what you're doing whilst you're still doing it, instead of doing the sensible thing of completing the project and then telling the world how easy it was.

Not that I'm going to tell you what went pear-shaped. I have a faint hope it may not show, and anyway there's a good chance I'll foul something up much more obvious and fatal, thus entailing making fresh parts and losing the, ah, adjusted ones anyway. But if it shows, well perhaps I might confess then.

Meanwhile it's that time of the year again - when one or more tree about the place decides it has had enough of being blown about and elects to break somewhere.

In this case a so-called  "corkscrew", "contorted" or "curly" willow. Which basically means it's 100% reaction wood as far as I can tell. It grows like this, see? All corkscrew-y.

Looking at the break, the view was expressed that perhaps it had simply got too wet. Now I thought willows were so keen on wet conditions they'd practically grow in a bath, but perhaps things have been extreme even for them?

The theory is that the darkening round the junction of branch to trunk is the rot, in which case it, and we, are in trouble, 'cos look what's just above.

And what useful purpose can this stuff be put to anyway? Anyone had any dealings with such wood? Decorative? Could you (theoretically) turn it into amazing vases? Or something? 

Perhaps a cricket bat to facilitate easier scoring towards fine leg*... 

*Okay, 'Murricans and others - fine leg is behind the batsman and might be easier to hit towards if the bat was screwy, see? And cricket bats are made of willow, right? Sigh. As a signing off joke of modest proportions this simply doesn't work as soon as you have to explain it, does it..? Go on. Move along. Nothing to see here...


  1. If that willow is anywhere near to your property, Alf, it might be good that it is giving up the ghost. We had one in the garden of our first house and the roots travelled all the way down the garden and, one day, appeared in the pit which we had in the garage, having forced their way through concrete. It convinced me that they are best growing near river banks rather than in gardens.


    Paul Chapman

  2. Hmm, a design opportunity!
    Let me guess - you didn't do a proper rod?
    All woodwork jobs, however small, go better, faster, more accurately, with a rod.
    Except producing firewood praps. Dunno though - even firewood would benefit from some sort of guidey thing if frinstance you want stuff to fit in a stove.
    NB you can do a "retro" rod by starting one with whatever you have already finished, before beginning the next phase.


  3. Jacob, I really can't see how an absence of drawing or plan could possibly mean I did have a rod, can you? ;-P My intentions in that regard started well - and then disappeared. I suspect if I was to have waited until I made a rod we'd still be waiting for the first touch of tool upon wood...

    Paul, oh I'm right with you. I've been hankering for its swift removal for years; too ruddy near the workshop for my liking.

  4. Alice,

    Apart from the corksrew branch form, that willow looks quite similar to our weeping willow. The weeping willow is also a fast growing tree that loves water.

    Two years ago, I had a large piece of bark fall off of the trunk which revealed that insects had been feasting under the bark for some time. I must have removed half of the bark around the circumference. Two years later, there is no sign of the damage. It grew new tissue around the wound in no time and is a very healthy tree. My guess is that something had infested the branch on your tree at the crotch, thus weakening it.

    All that to say that if you like the tree, more than likely, it will recover. On the other hand, if you were looking for an excuse.....

  5. I suspect if I was to have waited until I made a rod we'd still be waiting for the first touch of tool upon wood.
    No nono that's the whole point - you would have finished the job. It's quicker. It doesn't involve any extra work. It involves less work.
    It's like map reading or working out a route in advance.
    As compared to setting off in roughly the right direction, stopping and sorting out where you now are, setting off again, going round in a circle, asking directions etc etc.


  6. Unfortunately, Jeff, I have no say either way - if it were up to me... ;-)

    Jacob, you have to allow for the Alf Effect - what I meant was I'd still be prevaricating over what to use for the rod :-)

  7. Perhaps a stool with corkscrew legs from some of the branchy stuff, although it's a fine line between cool and ridiculous. Just a thought.


  8. I don't use a story-pole any more. The one time I did, I made a right mess of the job. I marked height and width of the door on a piece of nice, straight 2 x 1.

    Working at home, from the story-pole, I wondered why the door looked too narrow. But I thought it must be okay. After all, I used a story-pole. Right? Wrong. It was okay for length, but I had somehow used the spare bit of wood at the end of the story-pole to measure the rails. So the door was not wide enough! These days I use two bits of wood, each cut to the exact length required, and I mark them 'stiles' 'rails', or whatever. Then I know I can't go wrong (Well not nearly always I can't!) For stuff I make at home, I don't use plans at all. I just lull myself to sleep, (Wherever that is) by visualizing the whole project. Next day I make a quick perspective sketch with a few measurements for peace of mind. Then I type out a 'step sheet', describing every operation from milling to finished project and work from that.

    I don't sell much of my furniture btw.

    Incidentally Alf, your 'wiggly Willow' is either the Pekin Willow, (Salix babylonica Pekinensisor) or The Dragon's Claw Willow (Salix Matsudana Tortuosa) a variation of the Peking Willow. But I reckon you knew that already. Thanks for an interesting bloggie site.

    (Alexander le Grande.)


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