We all know about curly maple, but how about curly oak? I didn’t know it existed until I started salvaging wood down here in Alabama. One day I found that some brush had been cleared across the street from my house, and I picked up the bole of a small water oak tree
The water oaks, sometimes called swamp oak, are common around here, and they often go down in storms because of their shallow root systems. The wood is much more close-grained than your usual oaks, so it’s about the only oak that I’ve found suitable for woodenware.
I split the log open, only to find that the whole tree was a knotty corkscrew. The grain spiraled around the whole trunk, so it wouldn’t split straight. There were a number of other defects, so I only managed to get a few usable pieces, one of which you see here. I wasn’t sure how to handle the twisty grain, so I sealed the ends and set them aside to dry. This piece sat around for years until I dug it out last week.
The natural twist, I decided, would make great stir-fry spatulas. Following the grain, I could make a wide spatula with a natural scoop without any grain running out. The resulting utensil would be both light and strong. So I drew out two spatulas on the blank and sawed them out with my bow saw.
The wood worked easily, though the curly figure resulted in much tear-out. I spent more time than usual scraping and sanding. As with other curly woods, I found that sometimes cutting perpendicular to the grain was the best approach to avoiding tear-out.
The results were well worth the effort.
These spatulas were some of the first things to sell at last week’s craft show.