There are small towns in America that have no cell phone service.  They also have some of the most beautiful wood furniture I’ve ever seen.

Wood carving is a craft I never think of.  I have wooden furniture in my house; pieces that have been in my bedroom since I was a small child.

And then I have a chair that is plastic and falling apart.

In the interviews I did this weekend for WV Uncovered the wood craftsman I interviewed was insistent on one thing.  His wood pieces were for generations of his family and would last as long.  He created a hutch for his father-in-law that he fashioned from a sassafras tree to his first large, finished piece. It took him months.  He built his daughter a cradle for her baby dolls.

The work was amazing.  We helped lift a table that needed to be sanded and it took all three reporters, the other wood craftsman, and some verbal planning to get it on the right side.  How I failed to get a picture of that table is still bugging me- it was beautiful.  Pocahontas Woods was just a cool place to be for a day.

And then we made Dovetails.

Dovetails as a name don’t jog much of an idea in a girl who has never known much about the creation of furniture.  When I build an Ikea chair, every bolt is plastic and they pop into place.  Or it sits in a corner until my father figures it out.

But when shown them, we all went, “OHHH, I’ve seen those!” They are the sort of joint that connects wooden furniture, and I got to create one.

The first step is using an outline to trace the dovetails and then our wonderful instructor (and interview subject) Mike Hefner penciled “X” on the spaces we would be cutting out of the wood.  We used what he called a “Jap saw” which was different from an average saw because it cut on the forward motion and on the return.

The lines were cut strait down into the wood. Which left me with the question of how he was going to remove the pieces that were still clearly attached.

We used Poplar wood, which Hefner described as a cheap, softer wood.

Other woods he talked about were sassafras (which smells like candy) and wormy chestnut, which is the wood Hefner was currently making a hutch out of.  The story of wormy chestnut is better told by his audio clip.

http://www.zshare.net/audio/98953370c8cdefbd

So once we had sawed the straight lines, Hefner brought out a smaller saw, with a thin, little blade which could be pulled down the cuts and turned to saw out the bottom portion creating the space for the other piece of wood to join.  The portions are then lined up on the next piece of wood and traced to make sure they line up.  Then the same process is duplicated as on the first piece of wood.

This creates a joint that (when done by someone with more talent than me) meats perfectly and we were told “you could park a small car on.”  The joints imperfection is how you can tell it wasn’t made by a machine, which is something I’ll keep in mind next time I’m furniture shopping (so when I’m 30).

We made what I’ll call a shelf because it was just two pieces together.  Hefner gave my partner Summer  the built dovetail as a  souvenir from the shop, and we bragged all weekend about how we were allowed to handle a saw.  WV Uncovered is one of the reasons I love my major.

Dovetails are actually the goal of Mike’s daughter Elizabeth, who is probably one of the more awesome little girls I’ve met in the last ten years.  Elizabeth is a blonde, soccer-playing, 4-H-er who created a food bowl for her puppy out of wood scraps in the hours we were interviewing and taking pictures on Saturday.  She’s fantastic (which makes sense since her father is freaking awesome.) I’m a daddy’s girl, I will always believe we come out more well-rounded and stable.

And she had a puppy.  I may have been a little obsessed. His name is Rox and he got a little fresh for this being the first time we met, but I’ll forgive him.

Advertisements