quartersawnThis was the first time I’d attended the AWGB biennial seminar, held at Loughborough University, and probably also the last. Not because it’s not any good, it was very informative and I came away from it with new techniques and ideas aplenty. Not because I’m female in a group of primarily male woodturners – there were other women there. Not even because of the pompous parading of credentials and one interminably boring after-dinner speech.

No, the reason I won’t go again is that I can’t keep my mouth shut.quartersawngoblet

So when one of the demonstrators, showing us how to bend the thin stem of a goblet, tells us that this 5mm diameter piece of wood has to be “quarter-sawn, you do all know what that means don’t you?” I can’t help saying, “well, I thought I did, but…”

For an excruciating twenty minutes I was treated to ‘the lecture’ about what quarter-sawn means. It refers to the orientation of a board, where it came from in the tree. He drew ‘the diagram’ on the whiteboard. He showed how the rings are different on a radially sawn board and a tangentially sawn board. The rest of the audience joined in, trying to explain this concept to me. What they were not explaining was how a ROUND, THIN piece of wood can be ‘quarter-sawn’. A few people sitting near me did twig (to coin a phrase) that they were all answering the wrong question and tried to help me explain that. We were drowned out in the rush to explain ‘quarter-sawn’ in the clearest possible way so that this poor woman might get it in the end.

My humiliation was complete when, after it was all over, a man comes up to me and says, “Do you understand it now?” and proceeds to turn my favourite 0.1mm fibre tip pen into a 0.3mm fibre tip pen by drawing the diagram AGAIN! He then led me to one of the stands to show me the rings in pieces of wood.

I believe the expression is WTF???

So from now on, incidents like this are referred to in our family as ‘quarter-sawn moments’.


2 thoughts on “Quarter-sawn

  1. Pity we weren’t sitting together for this slot. I could have explained with a simple diagram without raising the testerone (spellings?) levels in the lecture room!

  2. Thinking about it afterwards, which I have, a lot, there are two other questions I wanted to ask, and as one does I answered them myself. The first is, do you want to have as many rings (pardon me, representations of years of growth, if I say rings people might try carefully and patiently to explain to me that I mustn’t have the pith in this tiny cylinder of wood) as possible in the stem? I would imagine that you would, which means you want your goblet turned from somewhere near the bark of a slow-growing tree, like laburnum. A lot of trees have rings that are more widely spaced than 5mm. The second question is: how do you make sure that the same rings (years of growth) are represented throughout the length of the stem? Do you count the rings from the bark inwards and set your centres accordingly before you start turning? I suppose that’s what I would do. The man (whom I won’t name) didn’t make any comment on the subject at the beginning of the talk.

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