I may have related the story of the source of some of my wood-turning and bench joinery material on here. If you have heard this before, I apologise, in advance. Please allow your mind to wander freely.
Earlier in the year, a local Conservative club closed because it was no longer profitable for it to remain open, given that it was within a mile of the central Conservative club in Northampton; and subject to dwindling patronage.
Prior to the premises being a club, it was an hotel. And when it was built in the late 19th century, to provide overnight accommodation for the jockeys performing upon the local racecourse, two professional sized snooker tables were installed in the recreation rooms, on the 1st floor.
With the club in the process of closing, I was offered the two tables, in their entirety, for the purpose of woodturning the sixteen very substantial mahogany legs, twelve mahogany bounce cushion edges, and all of the associated unseen structural timber, used to construct the tables in the late 1800′s.
So, yes you are quite right, all of the timber is well in excess of 100 years old and was probably felled in the middle of Queen Victoria’s reign as monarch.
Oh, plus, there were as many as 60 quality snooker cues too, belonging either to the club or past members; many now deceased.
Many of these cues, which are made from a significant variety of hardwood species, once cut to length, will finish up as light-pulls, or pens; samples of which are available to view, under the Turning tab on the Home page.
It took me, with the assistance of a valuable friend, three days to strip down the tables and remove everything from the premises. And it required a considerable amount of space at my premises, to store all of the timber.
These three items are just a sample of pieces turned from one of the mahogany legs.
The top one - a presentation bowl.
The middle – a school trophy & pupils minatures.
The bowl on the left has an arrow piercing it which itself is turned from one of the snooker cues.
click on an image to enlarge – select the ‘back’ arrow to return
Well, yesterday I got some of the framework timber out of stock, believing it to be softwood, with the intention of making some stretcher bars. (I have a couple of 36″ x 24″ canvases to stretch, for a client)
You may imagine my surprise when I discovered that, upon running the first length of timber through the rip saw, it turned out to be not softwood at all, but obeché – a west African mahogany. Fairly soft, close grained, light in weight, but still adequately sturdy, in a framework, to do the job it was intended for – to support the slate top sections of the table.
Obeché is, however, one of the preferential timbers for picture framing.
Because of its light weight, its close-grained composition, which takes finishes very well, and its ease of use and stability. And I’ve got almost forty (yes 40) 6″ & 8″ x 2½” x 6′-0″ planks of the stuff in stock: which I thought was just standard European redwood (deal), and would be used for general purpose, low cost, bench joinery.
In my defence, I should point out that the timber used to construct the underside of the tables was darkened with a what I assume the Victorian joiners used for mahogany stain. (I have heard tales that they stained timber with the shredded tea-leaf dregs from the tea-pot ~ how true that is, I have no idea ) Plus it was coated in a century old residue of tobacco smoke and human drink – community laden dust.
Or at least, that is my excuse: and I’m sticking to it.
So now I can use this stock, not for mundane joinery, but to produce my own profile-designed, hand-finished, one-off, client commissioned, frames.
It feels as if several of my Christmases have arrived at once.
Note: I won’t be making any more stretcher bars out of the obeché either.
I’ll buy some general purpose softwood deal in for that.