A few years ago I went to India with the daughter that we had adopted from there nearly twenty years ago. She and I spent a month together over there meeting the biological side of her family. Her bio prents were gone but she had three brothers and countless aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins. For a while we stayed with the family of her sister in law who happened to live in a house next to a woodworking business where I spent a good deal of my time. Of course the owner didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Tamil but we both spoke wood and that’s all that mattered. His shop was an open air garage with three to four employees working non-stop. There was a table saw but I never heard it running. Most of the work was done sitting on the ground in front of the shop, holding the wood with their feet instead of a vice, and working with chisels, planes, knives , saws, and mallets, and a well worn sharpening stone. I learned a lot about woodworking by spending time with these craftsmen. At the time, they were making an order of frame and panel doors but they also made furniture…the stuff that you see in Pier 1 Imports for $100. They get ten or less. I wanted some Indian wood to take home but I was warned that customs, both Indian and American, might give me a hassle about it. But I had bought a rather large piece of art as a gift and I asked them to make me a packing crate for it. Of course, the packing crate was my wood supply. I have no idea what most of it is but it cuts like butter and is a pleasure to work. The tray itself, I’m pretty sure, is Jackfruit. The actual jackfruit is about the size of a watermelon and grows high in these trees. (Had Newton been sitting under a Jackfruit tree instead of an Apple tree gravity would have to wait for someone else to come along to discover it.) Anyway, the packing crate didn’t give me a lot of wood and what I did have was in odd shapes and sizes so it was hard to come up with something to make from it. Then I heard that she wanted a breakfast table/tray for Christmas which would need a lot of odd shapes and sizes. Perfect. All of the wood is from India and there are nail holes left over from its days as a packing crate. The finish is poly/tung oil.
-- Rick Hackett