|Project by WMD2006||posted 01-30-2014 11:48 PM||1165 views||3 times favorited||9 comments|
To talk about walnut in the context of my woodworking adventure, I’d have to literally start at the very beginning.
Shortly before I was born, an ice storm brought down a massive black walnut tree on a family member’s farm nearby. When my parents helped with the cleanup, they were given the wood in the hopes that it could be turned into lumber and one day be made into a desk for me. About fifteen years later, I don’t think anyone would have guessed that I was the one who’d be using it to build a computer desk in preparation for high school.
It was the biggest project I had undertaken to date and has since been surpassed by a number of others, but it still stands out as a monument to my progress.
A significant way into a career with the US Air Force later, walnut has again been a defining piece of the adventure: Over the last few years, I’ve been asked again and again to build flag cases and shadow boxes for retirements and going-away gifts. While each one of them has been an honor, they don’t stand out equally. I turned a simple one around in three days but also built one for my grandfather, a lifelong carpenter and WWII Air Corps veteran, upon his passing (using wood from the private stock of black walnut plus my great-grandfather’s tools; think about that for a second).
Last month I was asked to build our Wing’s going-away gift to our 2-star General. This was the first time I had been asked to build anything for a flag officer so I wasn’t going to cut any corners.
The requirement was to hold four fragments donated from each of the wing’s four groups. I came up with what I thought would be an interesting design, however, I didn’t count on not receiving all of the parts at once (the last one showed up 3 days before it had to be finished), nor that they’d be different sizes. I originally wanted the cross, which I had never seen before in a shadow box, along with four smaller boxes tucked into each corner.
Nearly every tool in the shop saw service in its construction, along with almost every skill in the LJ dropdown box. Each of the five boxes was constructed with through-dovetails for strength but since they all had different depths, each one required separate settings and needed to be built individually on the jig. Face frames made of highly-figured walnut required flawless miters and were attached to the front of each box. The circles behind each coin were turned using a screw chuck on the lathe, with thin lines on each face to prove they weren’t built on a router. Additionally, each coin had to be individually sized to fit.
The intarsia flag/guidon was similar to what I built in 2012 for another commander, but this one tripled the number of pieces and added a dozen tiny stars to be shaped. Each piece was stained or dyed individually and then glued into place.
The lines burned into the back are from the prelude to Aer Vis, the Air Force tribute written by TheWarriorSong, which I highly recommend to all of my fellow veterans.
All told, this was one of the most technically demanding projects I’ve undertaken to date under an extremely pressing schedule and the realization of a goal to build something for a flag officer. I don’t think it could be a better testament to walnut or American woodworking without integrating the stock from a M1 Garand.
Thank you for your interest.