Live Edge Table: Letting the Wood Speak
Sometimes a particular plank of wood makes its way into our shop and takes on a life of its own. Such was the case with this single board of western yew (taxus brevifolia). It was hands-down the nicest example of this native softwood we'd ever seen, showing all the characteristics that make yew so beautiful. Creamy yellow, almost white sapwood that was curvey and bumpy, running in a beautiful ribbon down the edges, pin-knot clusters, mild figure, and perfect colour.
We stood the board up against the wall in the shop where the pretty boards are kept in the hopes that potential clients will walk in and NEED to have something made out if them. That's what happened when a couple from Chemanius came in looking for a coffee table. The piece was too long for one coffee table... so we made two!
We trimmed as little as possible off the ends to preserve what length we had. The original plan was to bring the round legs (limb-wood Joe had salvaged over 15 years previous and hoarded) through the top. When we got to work, however, we couldn't see interrupting that beautiful edge, so we formuated plan B. I think the base is quite complimentry, its interesting without being too busy or distracting to the top. It may look simple, but the legs are splayed in two directions, and the end assemblies follow the curve of the top. So what looks easy was actually quite a technical rollercoaster. But if we'd chosen the easier route you'd surely notice the difference. Here's more pictures, our photographer had an easy time shooting this project, the tables were so photogenic.
A few facts about this wood: it's technically a softwood (coniferous) but is extremely slow growing and very hard. It grows in low density, meaning you won't find yourself walking in an entire yew forest but spot the trees growing amongst other conifers. It's more of a 'low spreading shrub to a small tree, 5-15 meters tall', and requires abundant soil nutrients which is why I think you most often see it growing beside rivers and streams in our region, especially the fish-bearing Cowichan and Chemainus Rivers. It is not harvested commercially, and when areas are clear-cut logged, the yew trees, cut along with everything else, are left in the cut block to rot. Yes really. People with salvage licences will pull them out and mill them, so at least there's that but they shouldn't be cut in the first pace. Some years back it was discovered that the bark of the western yew tree contained a compound called taxol, which was being used for cancer treatment. Trees were being harvested for their bark (killing the tree) causing concern as the species is so slow growing and not quick to regenerate. More on the western yew can be found here.
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