My first experience with live edge wood came in 1995 when I bid on a lovely 10′ long piece at a Timber Framers Guild Western Conference auction. The piece was placed in the auction by Peter Wagner of Pacific Western Timber of Bremerton, WA. At the time, Pacific Western Timber cut old growth wood from extremely large trees (one log per trailer load) that were carefully handpicked for their almost perfect characteristics. One of their recent projects at the time had been the cutting of replacement spars for the U.S.S. Constitution that was being restored in the Boston harbor. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that PWT was perhaps the only mill in America that had access to the type of logs and equipment to process the lumber that would meet these specifications.
Needless to say, I lost out on the bid. I’d like to think that I didn’t really know how much this piece of wood was worth. Although I probably lost out because of being Scottish by ancestry! The funniest thing happened though when the winning bidder said he only needed 6′ of the 10′ piece since he was shipping it back to the Midwest. Peter Wagner, whom I barely knew but shared a common friend, offered to let me have the 4′ long cutoff piece because he could tell I was disappointed. He told me that our common friend, Jake Jacob, had mentioned that I had a birthday coming up and they decided to give the piece to me for my birthday. Wow, the saying, ”it’s not what you know but who you know” took on new meaning that day!
This slab came from a Douglas fir log that was harvested in 1990. It’s 32” wide by 2.5” thick. It has only one live edge which means that it is only one half of the tree and the interior edge has been sawn straight. The piece is 32” of clear vertical grain wood. It doesn’t have any juvenile wood, knots, or face grain wood in it, so it would be safe to assume that the original log was over 8′ in diameter. The remarkable thing though is the density of this old growth piece of wood. It averages over 30 growth rings/inch so one could assume that this tree lived over 1000 years.(32 inches x 30 rings/inch) This piece of wood is a remarkable reminder of what was once commonplace in our old growth forests. Think of the history that this tree has experienced!
I turned this fine piece of wood into a table in our home that a few dozen visitors get to enjoy each year. I’ve often thought that someday this piece of wood belongs in a museum where many could appreciate its beauty and use it as a reference to the timeline of events that have occurred in the history of our land and our people. I’m fortunate to enjoy it for a few years now until I can find the right home for it!