Wood Impregnated with Evil Resin
Just when you think you understand how a particular species behaves under the chisel and saw, Mother Nature smacks you upside the head. I have built a lot of things out of White Oak in the past including the matching flip side of this gate. It is a harder species but usually you can take advantage of the ring porous nature and split off much of the waste when cutting joinery. The upright in this gate had very different ideas and has to be the hardest, most disagreeable wood I have ever worked. The last 2 feet were curly, reaction wood with granite like hardness, and impregnated with mean. It wouldn’t split at all, saws bounced off it, and my chisels fled in fear. I kept expecting to find a knot buried in the wood or some switch in the grain to justify the ludicrous nature but no explanation ever came. This wood is just evil.
I headed back to the saw vise and touched up the teeth of my backsaw, then spent some time honing my chisels on the oilstones. I think this was more of a stalling tactic than anything as I ended up sharpening 4 more chisels than I really needed from the wall rack. Finally, I headed back to the bench and went to work on the demon wood. Slowly, slowly I made progress. No shortcuts here, just meticulous sawing and chopping as the wood chipped away and fractured more than split much like sculpting quartz. Several more trips to the oil stones were in order before I would be done.
I must say it was a humbling experience that took all of my experience and knowledge of wood and laughed at it. I swear I could hear it chortling! In the end I finished the bridle joints and slid everything together. Boring the peg holes fortunately was easier than the bridles and the gate was finished. I appreciate a challenge and love that our chosen medium as woodworkers is so full of surprises…but I sincerely hope I never run into White Oak like that again!
PS: what do you think of my Scrub plane finish? My shop mate thought it was superfluous since the temperature and humidity was skyrocketing but I’m digging the scalloped finish and it certainly feels better to the touch than a splintery rough sawn surface.