Saturday, May 6, 2006

An Addiction to Wood

“I was angry at the world and if it hadn’t been for my grandfather and his friends…I don’t know what would have happened to me. They showed an interest in me and gave me a copy of Popular Science to read. At the age of 12 years, I bought my first lathe – it was an awaking for me and began my love of carpentry,” said Jim, a native of Greeley, Colorado.

“I love wood and the more exotic the better! Pink Ivory, Macassar Ebony, Purple Heart and Snake Wood can all be found in my workshop” Jim said with a smile. There’s nothing ordinary about Jim’s masterpieces or his passion for wood. “I admit to having an addiction to wood and tools and will purchase a piece of wood without the slightest idea how to use it,” he said.

Jim prefers the exotic and rare woods although they are difficult if not impossible to find at times. According to Jim, several years ago an unusual event took place. A shipment of Pink Ivory and Ebony was sold on the open market. A resourceful game hunter from Colorado visiting Africa heard the plans for a new reservoir. Knowing the value of the trees, and being a keen businessman, he purchased a truckload and shipped it immediately to the United States.

The news of the sale spread quickly to the various societies and clubs causing grown men to race to their trucks in anticipation of the purchase. It hadn’t always been so; pink ivory was such an expensive and negotiable commodity during the 1920s that sections were treated like negotiable bonds. This rare and sacred tree growing in the provinces of Transvaal and Natal in South Africa has been strictly controlled by the Zulu nation for centuries. Traditionally, only the chief can fell a tree; the penalty for unauthorized felling is swift and severe, sometimes death. It is a deciduous tree with a spreading crown and varies in height from under twenty feet to over fifty feet. The boles are usually seven to nine inches in quarter girth. It is hard and heavy; when air-dried the weight is 62lb per cu. ft. The fine, delicate pink hue in the wood is derived from the minerals and deposits in the soil. Controlled by the Zulu nation and usually impossible to acquire the shipment of pink ivory was sold for approximately $2 an ounce. Jim still has some small pieces of pink ivory from this shipment and has been known to collect the sawdust, mix it with a compound and use it on another project.

Over the years, Jim has designed and created many beautiful works of art. As a member of the International Wood Collectors’ Society, he constantly looks for rare or unique wood. He has noticed that women in particular have an affinity with Purple Heart, a vibrant and lively wood from Brazil and Central America and will ask for it to be used in their consignment. Jim frequently favors the almost stark white of the English Holly contrasting it with one of the Ebonies or an African Blackwood. “I rarely use a stain, unless requested by the customer; a beautiful piece of wood finished properly shouldn’t require much else.”