I climbed down out of the Crow’s Nest and spent a recent Saturday afternoon worrying a pile of knotty red oak rounds with a maul and wedge, whittling them down to size for the wood stove. As I split them open, I enjoyed seeing the beautiful swirling grains in the wood, exposed to the sunlight for the first time. It reminded me of a verse from a song by Bill Staines:
There’s a tree that stands out back, waiting for the falling ax(written and sung by Bill Staines, copyright Mineral River Records, 1982)
To split its rings and show its secrets deep inside.
Years of drought and little growth, Years of good it’s seen them both,
And now it’s there and waiting only for the fire.
Of course, there might be better things to do with a beautifully grained chunk of wood than turn it into heat, like carving a useful utensil or an elegantly formed bowl.
Paul Fairchild has been coaxing beauty out of wood for many years, playing guitar and banjo, making furniture, building houses, and carving wooden bowls, spoons, and spatulas. The same artistry that Paul brings to his music releases the warm radiance in the wood creations featured in this article.
I have had the pleasure of sharing tunes with Paul for well over forty years, and now I have the opportunity to share with others photos of some of his latest works in wood. Bringing musical sensitivity to his woodwork, Paul uses his tools to encourage and allow graceful forms to emerge from walnut knots and pieces of cedar, oak and pine limbs. The captions beneath the photos are part of Paul’s stories about his creations.
Each piece, smooth in your hands, tells a story through its grain and luster. It takes a strong imaginative sense to see the possibilities hidden in a chunk of dense matter, and it takes a skilled hand to set them free.
Paul also shares personal memories attached to each piece, tales of travel, discovery, and provenance. In speaking of the bowl pictured above, Paul said, “My biggest one, kind of a dough bowl, is about 11″x18″. It came from a white pine limb at Barry’s Gays Mills house that we had to cut off to get the dump truck in while he was raising the house. We use it for a fruit bowl on the counter.”
Paul’s relationship with wood runs deep through the years. Through it all, he has kept the flow of music alive, sharing tunes with friends, working in his woodshop, and hosting a weekly radio show, the Train, on the local radio station in Viroqua, Wisconsin.
Hear Paul on WDRT-FM on Tuesdays, 10 -noon CST, The Train, broadcast worldwide on the web. Photos by Paul Fairchild.
More Photos of Paul’ work: