#90: Rotten oak

Bird number: 123
Date: December 1, 2012
Wood: Rotten oak
Source: Friend’s ranch

I know that this is from an oak tree of some kind, but I don’t know the exact species. I cut the blank from a six-inch-thick branch that was hanging dead on one of the oak trees at Mike’s place near Ranger, TX. I know several species of oak that it isn’t, but not exactly what it is. Oh, well.

The wood from this oak, at least up there, tends to rot from the inside out. I suspect that the decay process actually started before the limb was dead. I say that because in trimming some live branches, we found signs of decay at the core while the branch seemed plenty healthy on the outside. Whatever the case, I was somewhat dubious about my ability to create a bird that would hold together.

The result is, I think, rather interesting.

There was a lot of fungus in the wood; almost all the cracks were filled with it. The first thing I did after cutting out the blank was put it in the oven for three hours at 200 degrees. That removed a lot of moisture and made it easier to remove the fungus. I then carved the figure, removed more of the fungus, and put it in the oven for another couple of hours. After one more pass with the pick to clean up the remaining bits of fungus, I sanded the figure and cooked it for the last time. Two fairly heavy coats of Watco Danish Oil should ensure that any fungus that remained is gone, or at least unable to continue feeding on the wood.

I had to be careful when carving the bird because there are many very soft sections of wood, and in some places not very much thickness between the outside and the hole that runs right down the middle of the figure.

I considered making up a story about how I found this bird in the burned-out remains of my grandfather’s barn. I think I could make a pretty convincing case, except for my name and the date that I carved on the tail.

This is what I consider a true “found wood” carving. It’s an interesting challenge, trying to make something recognizable out of a piece of wood that’s so far gone. Loads of fun, and a unique piece.

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