Wood chips have a lot to reveal if you look closely. I think they have a beauty and fascination all their own, a feeling that is shared especially by children. At demonstrations, kids always pick up chips. It seems that they see something special, or at least free, in each one.
Here is a revealing example from the pile (above) that was forming as I hollowed a large walnut bowl last weekend (same chip, two views).
I described my hollowing method awhile back in this post. Rather than working gradually from the top down, I work in layers outward from the upper center — sort of like removing layers from a halved onion, but starting in the middle. The distance at which I decide to take my next bite with my adze determines the thickness of each “layer.”
On the face of this chip, you can see the tool marks left from the adze when the layer in front of it was cut away. It also shows the action of how the adze removes chips like this when hogging away material. As the adze cuts downward along the back side of the chip, the pressure ultimately splits the chip out along the grain and it pops free along the underside. The three partial splits within the chip result from the same pressure. By working from the inside out, space is provided for the chip to release and pop free, taking advantage of the weakness along the grain.
As the shaping turns to the exterior and the axe, more unique chips are produced: slabs of various shapes and sizes, and fragile end grain chips that fall apart when they land.
I think this vigorous sculpting is the most fun part of making a bowl, but much remains to be done….and each one of these little chips below takes as long to make as the big chunks in the photos above.
Chips have character. They’ve even drawn the attention of poets. In his Song of the Broad Axe, Walt Whitman described the axemen hewing a mast from a long pine log and “The butter-color’d chips flying off in great flakes and slivers.”
Smell them, cook over them, shim with them, write notes on them, mulch a path with them. Chips are fragrant, useful, revealing, even beautiful. They are one of the resultant joys in this way of work.