I recently posted this new piece of woodworking on various social media sites, forums and blogs, and I asked if anyone would like to guess on how it was made. I will do the same here: it is a simple section of a log forming a “C” shape with bark on the inside of the curve.
The piece is entitled “Inside Out” and was a fun exploration for me. I created it to demonstrate some of my techniques while teaching at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking this past spring.
I was astonished by how many people responded. Some simply enjoyed the piece by “liking” and complementing me on the work and creativity. Many people though, literally hundreds, responded with a variety of reasonable guesses, all within the first hour of posting. So shows the power of social media!
I spent hours responding to every comment with “good guess, but nope.” Some took the request very seriously and others had fun with it, while quite a few seemed to get angry that I wouldn’t reveal the process and actually started to hound me. I explained that I would reveal my technique in a couple days as I didn’t want to spoil the fun for others who were really working trying to figure it out. (Patience is a virtue of woodworking, right?)
There were some good ideas: soaking, boiling, steaming, cutting wedges, carving, anhydrous ammonia, burning, lighting, cactus, and natural growth, although I am confident most of them would have not worked. I also received witchery, aliens, and black magic, so I knew I was onto something!
Some wanted to know what is for and/or if I was going to make it into something functional like a clock or light. I found that to be curious and it raised a question for me: Does all woodworking have to be functional?
In any event, as promised, two days later I ‘fessed up and explained the process.
Note to editor – we could only include how I did this on Popular Woodworking’s site to help drive traffic there.
I cut the C shape out of a section of a log, took a mold from the bark, removed the bark and cast it onto the inside using Bondo automotive putty, my favorite dirty little secret every woodworker should know about.
This caused another flurry of comments from Bravo! to You cheater! Which brings me to another question: At what point is a woodworker cheating?
What really surprised me was that a number of people were quite upset and even insulting. Maybe they felt fooled, faked out, or tricked? Who knows? But it made me ask myself: why are these people so angry? Where is the line that can’t be crossed? My personal credo is: Find the line and then cross it. But for some, there seems to be a definite line that should not be crossed.
Woodworkers often “cheat” by staining one species of wood to look like another; some use CNC machines to carve; we apply wood filler to hide poorly cut joints; we use veneer. Is this all cheating?
Discussion, dissension, and debate is vital to keep our craft honest and forthright. Personally, I find it very difficult to find any line that I can’t cross over, and I’m not even sure if there IS a line. But for some, it definitely exists. But my advice is: the next time you stain a piece of poplar to look like walnut, and post it on social media, beware! Is it faux real?