Apricot Mistakes….

Apricot wood turned by Father Theophan Mackey. Courtesy photo

St. Job of Pochaiv Orthodox Church
Los Alamos

After the success I had a month ago with the wooden practice chalice, I decided to take a shot at turning a small piece of apricot wood that I had been given a few years ago. 

When I got it, the tree had just been cut down, and so the wood was damp and green. Some experts advocate turning green wood, some others warn against it. 

Once a tree is cut, the wood, “green” at that stage, starts drying out. The pores that allow water and nutrients to travel through the tree are full, but now cut, it starts to dry. During that drying, shrinking and warpage occurs. Some species hold more water and thus checking (splitting) and twisting are all but inevitable. Those who advocate for green turning often do it in two steps. They turn the bowl or other shape green but leave it thick and generalized. Then they let the piece dry, do the warping and checking, and then turn the piece again to bring it to its final form. 

I have neither the foresight nor the patience to do that sort of thing. I’m ususually attempting to avoid doing something else I need to do more when I pick up a piece of wood to turn. It gives me the satisfaction of making something without all the steps that throwing pottery requires. 

Just FYI, pine is really full of sap and checks really badly. Fruit tree woods are usually good if you can find a piece big enough to turn what you want to. They have beautiful swirly grain too.

I saw a snarky t-shirt the other day that I was sorely tempted to buy. It said, “Well, well, well, if it isn’t the consequences of my own choices.” I love the sentiment, and we are hardly ever that self-aware. 

 We make decisions all the time, most of them are less than conscious, and the results and ramifications are even less apparent. Most decisions are “toss ups”, nothing life changing or earth-shattering. But even the little things, over time, add up to be big things. Attention to detail is important in so many facets of our lives and the smallest improvement can make a real difference to the quality of our lives when multiplied over time. 

The good thing is, the hope is, that everything is salvageable. Good can come from almost anything, no matter how bad the mistakes.  

This past week I was desperate to avoid working on the self-study I was tasked with, so I grabbed the piece of apricot wood and put it in the lathe. It’s a hard wood and responds beautifully to the chisels. The cuts are sharp and there is no tearing. However, after getting all the bark off, it was evident that the piece had checked badly, and the crack reached all the way to the center. So it won’t be the piece that I would like. It is only four or five inches in diameter, and so splitting it and turning pieces perpendicular to the original would render very small bowls. 

After removing the bark and pith, the grain of the wood is visible, and it is beautiful. I think I’ll split it and cut some crosses out of it instead. No sense it letting it go to waste, or into the fireplace. 

Nearly everything is salvageable, even me. 

Thank God.