Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The smell of fir

One of the things I love about wooden boats is all the ... wood ... involved. I like wood. It smells good. It's eco-friendly. I can work it with normal tools and rarely have to get suited up in a Hazmat suit or put on a respirator.

When I take a very, very sharp Japanese handsaw and cut through the end of a 20mm-square strip of Douglas fir, it smells like Christmas. I look at the fresh end, ribboned with tiny growth lines, polished caramel and salmon-pink, one for each year, and am humbled that something that grew in a forest, using sunlight and water and the loamy food of soil, is now going to be part of something else: a curved, angled shape that slips through the ever-changing barrier between water and air, the wave-roughened surface, the whale path, where the long ships and dreams have gone for millennia.

Or so I ponder, standing in my dusty garage in my boatbuilding clothes, staring at the piece of fir that will become the middle layer of my port chine. Months from now, knock on wood, it will be sealed in epoxy and paint, and tucked into the back corner of the under-deck storage space.

But I'll know it's there, knit together with bronze and epoxy and other wood into a thing somehow more than the sum of its lumbery and metal components: a wooden sailboat. Magic.

1 comment:

Barbara said...

What a great description of the wood! I can smell that fir and see those rings and lines with character and stories of their own. I love the writing! New pix of the boat in progress?