Last month I had the opportunity to attend what I think is a unique experience in learning about wood. There are other wood identification short courses out there, and we occasionally teach them at Penn State, but this one included a unique perspective that I wanted to experience. It is a two-day course...in the first day, the class is a hands-on laboratory of whittling wood samples and grappling with the concept of transverse, radial, and tangential planes of view.
But the second day, the class moved to the campus of Yale University, where a collection of antique furniture resides. Tad Fallon and Randy Wilkinson, as professional furniture conservators, have had the opportunity to help the museum staff identify and verify several of the pieces in the study. In the class, they lead the students through the same thought process they go through when looking at pieces that are worth thousands, even millions of dollars. And it is a real learning experience, indeed.
With their permission, and the permission of the Yale Furniture Study, I'd like to share a little of that experience with you.
In our first video, Randy Wilkinson goes through a preliminary examination of a candle stand.
Next, Randy utilizes technology to examine the same piece up to 200x magnification to confirm the preliminary finding using the more technical aspects of wood identification learned by the class on the first day.
A little later, we moved into the "Tall Clock Row" of the collection, where Randy did a nice comparison lesson on a couple of clocks that could have fooled me on cursory visual inspection, mainly due to the colors.
We'll finish with an interesting introduction and demonstration of a high-tech secretary demonstrated by one of the collection's curators, John Stuart Gordon.
All in all, this was one of the best, if not the best, learning experiences I've ever attended, with a value far higher than the cost of the course. And I was at a disadvantage, not being an expert on antique furniture like the other students, who were mostly antique furniture appraisers and collectors. I'm thinking of learning a little bit about our furniture forebears, and attending the course again next year.
If you'd like to learn more about wood identification in the most interesting context possible, consider putting the course on your schedule next year. More information can be found here.
And if you're interested on seeing and learning more of the Yale Furniture Study, FineWoodworking.com has a great audio slideshow here.
The heft and feel of a well-worn handle,The sight of shavings that curl from a blade;The logs in the wood pile, the sentiment of huge beams in an old-fashioned house;The smell of fresh cut timber and the pungent fragrance of burning leaves;The crackle of kindling and the hiss of burning logs.Abundant to all the needs of man, how poor the world would beWithout wood.
Everard Hinrichs, quoted by Eric Sloane in A Reverence for Wood