Too Much of a Good Thing?

Chris Marshall photo

Early in my woodworking hobby, I got caught up in the desire to start stockpiling wood — especially when it seemed like a great deal. At the time, Joe, my mailman, would drive by the house and see me in my garage, busily working away on something or other. He could hear the whine of my woodworking machines and put two and two together.

“Hey, I cut down a walnut tree a couple of years ago and had it sliced into boards,” he informed me one day. “Want to buy some?”

It was the siren call I really didn’t need to hear, but her alluring voice was just too sweet to resist. The next afternoon, I was in his backyard shuffling through a stack of grayed walnut boards. The board price was low — around $1.50. Before long I was tossing boards into my van with almost reckless abandon. I bought to my price limit.

But reality sunk in when I got home. I had purchased far more than I could fit in my crowded garage, and looking at each piece more carefully, the bows, twists, cups, splits and loose knots I had failed to notice in Joe’s backyard were suddenly obvious. What had I done?

My thrill of a great deal turned out to be a humbling experience. In the end, I made a fair number of smaller projects from that walnut, and much of it was decent quality. Some of it was even exceptional! I relished every board that revealed beautiful heartwood, and I gained a new appreciation of all the creamy sapwood on other pieces. I still have a little of that walnut left today after all these years. It serves as a reminder to keep my enthusiasm in check … and to only put on my plate what I can actually eat.

Have you ever heard the same siren call? Please share your story and any lessons you learned from it!

Chris Marshall, Woodworker’s Journal

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