The Wood Whisperer

Dave Stine is in Baltimore at the American Craft Council Show. I try to go with him to his shows, but the winter ones are tough to make. The kids are in school, and someone has to stay on the farm to keep the home fires burning (literally — we heat our pipes and buildings and water with a wood furnace, which must be stoked twice a day).

This morning I popped into Dave’s woodshop to make sure everything was ok in there, no random lights or equipment on, no cats accidentally locked in, etc. I didn’t turn on all the overheads, and I ran right into a giant slab of red oak, four feet wide and eight inches thick:


It looks all innocent, just leaning there...

It looks all innocent, just leaning there…



At four feet wide, it's no wallflower.

But at four feet wide, it’s no wallflower.



One very thick red oak slab.

It’s also eight inches thick. And yes, I carry a tape measure.


That slab has been there for — wait for it — 10 years. Dave Stine harvested the log in 2004, sawed it, and it’s been hanging around the shop ever since. I must walk past it 20 times a week, and yet I’ve never really noticed it, let alone crashed into it.

I called Dave to tell him everything on the farm was A-OK, and I mentioned that I had run into his red oak mascot. I asked him why it was still there. His enigmatic reply: “It’s still trying to figure out what it wants to be.” My less-enigmatic reply: “I know what it should be — out of the way.”

But it’s not in Dave Stine’s way. In fact, it’s there for a reason, along with the many other massive slabs and boards leaning against walls and posts and doorframes. They are there for inspiration. They are there waiting. When they are ready, when the right project or client or design comes along, when the time is right, they will become what they are supposed to: A dining table. A countertop. A vanity. A coffee table. A headboard. A desk. A conference table.

There’s no hurry. The wood can wait, and so can Dave Stine. That’s why he’s the wood whisperer and I’m not, which is why I need to turn on the lights next time.