I've recently procured a very large willow tree stump and am in the long process of making end tables of slabs that were cut from that. The story of how I came about having this log and the ability to get it cut is a journey that actualy started years ago and none of this would have happened if we didn't live in the country.
Establishing our home in Metamora, MI was one of the greatest decisions we ever fell into.
When Hollee and I were first married we lived in a nice little second floor apartment in Milford. It was directly on Main Street and the vibe of living there was great. The apartment itself was very chic’ with 12 foot ceilings & brick walls and was very nicely remodeled throughout with solid oak floors. I often wondered what the retail space downstairs thought about Meghan, about 7 years old at that time, when she would ride her roller blades in circles around that apartment floor. But being in a downtown location, there were not many safe alternatives for her and we recognized that relocating was going to be necessary.
We both worked in Oakland County and searched for a very long time for suitable housing there. Everything we found in our price range was rather old and run down and, while I don’t mind doing home renovations, they felt overpriced for what was being offered. One day our realtor friend surprised us by suggesting that we look at a home he found in Metamora. Neither one of us recognized the name of the town but a quick search of the map told us it was certainly too far from our jobs to seriously consider. Nevertheless, we were curious about this fabulous find he claimed and agreed to pay a visit.
Ironically, the home we originally went to visit had a "sold" sign on the yard but the one across the street was available so we arranged to visit that one instead. I’ll never forget Hollee sitting on the couch in that living room, looking at the woods in the back yard and, with a very confident and contended smile, declare that she was home.
12 years later we’re still in love with our home and the town we've come to call our own. We love having breakfast at Sundance Grille and the fact that the waitress there knows us and what we will likely order. I love the slow pace of seeing a neighbor on the road and stopping to roll down the windows for a conversation instead of driving on and avoiding eye contact. Those same neighbors are eager to help when you have a need and know that you’re there to help them in return.
Just recently I met and befriended one of the many life-long residents of Metamora, Dale Walker. Dale is a stereotypical country man with an affable yet quiet manner. He rises at 5:30 each day to tend to his farm chores and then drives the back roads of the Boy Scout camp which borders his property looking for ways to contribute there. Just last Saturday Dale gave me a tour of his beloved camp and spent nearly two hours telling me of his history with it as well as helping me to learn to identify trees from their bark patterns. It just so happens that I met Dale because of another neighbor friend, Big Al, who introduced Dale as someone who could help me saw my willow stump on his saw mill. (Who own his own sawmill just for kicks??) And to drive the point of my story home, I came about this stump because yet another local farmer was cutting down his huge willow trees on his property and when I approached him to ask what he was doing with the lumber he eagerly told me to take all I needed and even offered to help me load what I needed in my truck. I spied a choice burl log and soon after Dale helped me slice it into two inch slabs. By the way, Hollee never blinked when I asked to dry it in our oven for 4 hours to kill any insects. Ya gotta love a woman who supports your passions! Now, a week later, I have waxed and painted slabs drying in my garage. In just two more years these will go to the shop to be milled and eventually they will make gorgeous end tables. All thanks to the generosity of a few good neighbors in my wonderful village!
Dale then cut my willow burl into 2" slabs on his woodmizer. Note, he has one of these "just for fun" in his words.
I baked the slabs at 170 degrees for 4 hours to kill off any insects that love the sweet sap wood. Given these were cut in the spring with the sap rising, I expect the outter rings will rot over time and the final end tables will be smaller than this. Gotta love a wife who supports my love of wood work!!
Finally, the slabs are painted or waxed to slow drying and hopefully prevent cracking. These will dry for two years before they are ready for the shop. This is a process that requires patience!