Olly Writes

Woodwork, writing, walks, DIY and more!

Mmmmm… Maple!

Last week, I received a surprise visit form Nick Gibbs (editor of British Woodworking magazine), not long after I’d finished an early shift at work. Nick was (sort of) passing by and wanted to hand-over this odd length of what he believes to be “ripple maple” (…or is it fiddleback sycamore?!).

Whatever species it may be, it certainly has something lovely figuring with those medullary rays predominant on both sides!

Dimensions are: 28in (710mm) long x 11in (280mm) wide x 1in (25mm) thick.

When we met prior to last week’s visit, Nick had suggested that he had this length lying around and that it was so nice, he wanted to keep it – yet, at the same time, he didn’t know what to do with it and it was getting in the way! A Catch22 situation, if you will… Having looked at this length (which has been thickness-planed to clean up both faces), I’m still not quite sure what to do with it myself. It’ll probably turn in to some kind of box or a small, ornamental item. It’s a little bit like the 4″x2″ Challengewhat can you make from a single length of wood?

By the way, any thoughts are always welcome. 🙂

Thanks for reading.

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4 responses to “Mmmmm… Maple!

  1. Bongo 16/11/2010 at 10:43

    Ha! I have a few bits like this, that a absolutely lovely, but not enough to make anything moderately sized. I keep saving such odds bits from bonfires and things. Finding a use will come later 😉

  2. correawoodworks 21/11/2010 at 12:20

    That is a great board with a bright future I am sure. If it were from North America I would place my bet on soft maple (Acer rubrum). If it is from your neck of the woods I would have no idea.The curly grain is biologically different from the medullary rays you see in some quarter-sawn woods most often associated with QSWO. Medullary rays are bundles of cells (parenchyma) that transport nutrients and water radially throughout the ground tissue of a plant. Medullary rays usually have much more contrast between the neighboring cells.

    As I was taught in school, there can be a number of sources for the curl, tiger or “fiddle back” figure in wood but the real cause in not 100% decided. I have a few ideas but some say it is caused by excessive movement from wind or perhaps genetic. I have a theory that the cell walls are somewhat thin (perhaps due to a specific genetic allele) and as the tree gains mass the force of gravity acts against the vertical development of the tree causing the cells to mature in somewhat of a collapsed form, as the cells die and become woody (aka sclerenchyma) the curly figure is locked into the tree. Medullary rays are certainly present in maple but most often appear as random thin lines and often bright white lines most visible in the end grain.

    If you consider the figure you see in the crotch of a branch or near the root of trees like walnut, you will almost always see the ribbon or curly figure. The curl found in the crotch section of a tree is from the stress of gravity forcing the cells to collapse and develop their unique figure. As the young shoot sprouts from the trunk it has normal “un-curly” growth. The cellular arrangement starts out normal and as the branch becomes larger in mass, it increases the force acting on the cells at the connection to the trunk, as woody tissue forms the curl is locked in for we woodworkers to exploit. I think similar forces cause the flame to occur in soft maple and other woods like ash.

    If I had that board I would be inclined to re-saw it and make a nice book-matched panel for a cabinet stand. If my old plant morphology professor had that board he would put it under a microscope and go off on a 2 hour rant about vascular arrangement and its implication to the devolution of angiosperms into their earlier cousins from the miocene epoch…..blah blah blah. I am looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

    -Sam

I welcome your thoughts.

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