Hershel Weiss

Hershel Weiss

A Cabinet From A Pear Tree

Here is the beginning of the cabinet, a single plank of European pear wood, almost twenty inches wide, two inches thick and ten feet long. Sawed near the center of the log it retains the full diameter of the tree.

The truck driver and I unload the plank onto saw horses under the portal. It is one of the last three boards from the flitch. I have about an hour before the sun goes down to determine where to make my first cut, in order to get the long and heavy plank into my workshop. With a good deal of fear, I make this cross cut about one third of the way up from the wider end.

At the lumberyard the plank was given a number. The tree is dead but the board is not.

Most commercially milled hardwood lumber is free of its live edge. The typical board has square and straight edges and the width is constant end to end.

But my pear was saw minimally. Its edges are the limits of the tree, minus the bark. Across the width, there is a slight taper from the end that was nearest the roots to the end that was nearest the sky. The edges undulate and the width varies depending on how much the tree grew in a given year. It has a lovely shape, tapering slightly in and out towards the middle. The natural edge is alive and beautiful.


It seems a shame to cut this extraordinary plank into small parts. The plank is so beautiful as it is, cutting it doesn’t seem right.


There is enough wood in this plank to build the whole cabinet, unless I make a mistake.


Through the rough-sawn and oxidized surface. I can see the subtle color variations, the uptake of minerals into the fibers, the promise of something good.

But I don’t want to turn on the machines and cut the plank again.

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