Revisiting Thoreau’s Tray

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Our life is frittered away by detail . . . I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail . . . Simplify, simplify.

— Henry David Thoreau, Walden

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Last spring, I wrote a post about my hewing of a maple serving tray inspired by an entry in Thoreau’s journal.  Thoreau wrote that the miller recommended three months seasoning, but I allowed this one nine before completing it.

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The former post documents all of the axe and adze work from log to the piece in the photo above, ready for drying.  I rubbed a chunk of wax on the end grain before putting it up in the ceiling of the shop.  When I came back to it last month, things had moved around a bit.  I flattened the top and cleaned up the sides and ends with a hand plane.

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Once flat, I placed the tray top side down on the bench.  The benchtop now served as a reference surface for marking the lower edge of the tray and the feet.  A compass works for this, but in this case, I rested a pencil on a couple sharpening stones that were close by and ran them together around the tray.  Then maybe it was a scrap chunk of board as a spacer for the upper line.

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I planed the areas for the feet then worked across the board with a gouge to leave loose rows of texture.  This silver maple didn’t feel very “soft” during that process.

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Now it’s all oiled up and ready to serve.  Trays similar to this could be made by starting with a dry sawn plank in less time, but it was a lot of fun tying this in with Thoreau’s description.  My last tribute to him with this piece was designing and carving the word “simplify” in a corner of the top.

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The dimensions are 17″ long, 7 3/4″ wide, and 1″ high.

This entry was posted in drying, figure, green woodworking, historical reference, Lettering, quotes and excerpts, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Revisiting Thoreau’s Tray

  1. Scott Thomas says:

    Simplified is often better. And beautiful. Thoreau had a way with words and you have a way with lettering (and greenwood), making words come to life.

    Like

  2. Wendy Owen says:

    Beautiful in its simplicity – though often the ability to simplify so successfully is the result of much previous work I suspect.

    Like

  3. Bob Easton says:

    Simply, beautiful.

    Like

  4. Jed Dillard says:

    I like that I have a footed bowl image in my head similar to that.

    On Sat, Mar 7, 2020, 8:40 PM David Fisher, Carving Explorations wrote:

    > Dave Fisher posted: ” Our life is frittered away by detail . . . I say, > let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; > instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your > thumb-nail . . . Simplify, simplify. — Henry David Thoreau, ” >

    Like

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