Making use of Windfalls

During last winters record rainfalls and high winds a few of our trees in the yard sustained damage through broken limbs. One of our multi trunked Melaleuca trees took a turn for the worst and a whole trunk ended up separating from the rest and came crashing down.

A hand carved Welsh Lovespoon from Melaleuca, depicting hearts, vines and lovebirds

The Melaleuca tree is easily recognized by the papery bark and the white bottle brush flowers that it displays. This tree is often found here in Southern California as an accent to a courtyard or landscaped garden.

Residents of Florida would probably look upon it in a different light as it is regarded as an aggressive invader. This tree which originates from Australia, New Guinea and New Caledonia prefers wettish conditions and poses its greatest threat to the Florida Everglades ecosystem where one paperbark tree can produce a dense island hammock nearly 600 feet in diameter in one year.

The trunk that had toppled over in our yard was approximately ten inches in diameter and twelve feet tall. With these ideal conditions the trunk was immensely heavy for its size due mainly to the amount of water that had been absorbed. To actually shift the limb it had to be cut into manageable pieces.

Details of the hand carved vine leaves

Eventually I was able to salvage about eight feet of usable timber from the trunk, after removing the bark, which was as much as two inches thick in places, the trunk ended up at a nominal thickness of six inches. This trunk was allowed to dry for six to eight month in the garage before I attempted to saw any material from it.

I decided to remove a twelve inch length from the trunk and cut it into slices of one half an inch in thickness. This was allowed to dry again for another month and during that time the timber did curl and crack a little due to moisture evaporation.

With these slices reasonably dry I took an outside slice that still had a ghosting of bark left and decided to design a Welsh Lovespoon that would incorporate Lovebirds, Hearts and Vines. I thought it would be a unique design and yet challenging because of the intricacy of the vine design.

Details of the spoon bowl with the vine and vine leaves growing from it.

I was hoping that the moisture content was now stabilized as I didn’t want any additional cracking once the carving was in progress. I found carving this timber that it tended to feel a little spongy and yet hard. Maybe I was a little anxious as the vines were delicate and always apt to breaking.

Finalizing the Welsh Lovespoon is always a relief as the most difficult part is done but care still has to be taken when sanding with fine sandpaper. Several coats of paste wax follow and a good buffing brings the best out of the wood grain.

The end result, a satisfactory and unique Welsh Lovespoon.

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