As I begin working on the 1707 Philadelphia Escritoire (the English also call this a scriptor, if you lack confidence in your French pronunciation), I am scrambling to find material of sufficient thickness. The case parts on this are really heavy as are the bun feet. At 4 1/2 inches in diameter, these feet have to come out of a substantial block of walnut. Unfortunately, our inventory of seasoned walnut only goes up to 4 inch thick stock – we are not timber framers after all. When Hurricane Irene shoved through Williamsburg three years ago we ended up with quite a bit of walnut to be sawn and seasoned. At the time, Mack Headley decided that we ought to have a few heavy timbers cut and set aside for those unusual projects that come along now and then. So out there in the stacks are some really heavy boards (8 inches square) and some less heavy, heavy boards (5 inches square). That is good news for my feet, but you know the rule for air drying lumber: one year for every inch of thickness. Hurricane Irene was in 2011, it is now 2014, this board is 5 inches thick, and it has been at the bottom of the stack – raised off the ground, but next to the soggy Williamsburg earth nonetheless – sucking in moisture while it is losing moisture.
Well I think we’ll be able to use one of these five inch boards, but I need to treat things a little differently than usual. Because the feet are independent of the case itself, it should be reasonable to work them somewhat green and have them get along with the more seasoned wood in the case. I wanted to get this stuff inside and cut up as soon as possible then do something to retard the drying somewhat. Here are some shots of how I am handling this.
In other words, I got some material that looks sound and inherently stable. I have roughed it out and will now leave it in the shop environment to adjust. Because there is such a big risk of checking, I took steps to reduce it (sealing the end grain and packing them in shavings). If this doesn’t work, the odds are that I will find out when I take them out of the box and not after I have turned them…I hope.