Composing–figuring out which pieces of wood, cut which way, combined and arranged this way or that, will fulfill all the functional needs, celebrate the materials, and bring delight to an instrument or piece of furniture–is one of the best parts (and most crucial) of my work.

The wedge shaped end graft in the picture is some super-amazing myrtle from the southern Oregon coast, combined with oak from the historic Hackleman grove via the Lumber to Legacy project spearheaded by Mark Azevedo and Albany Parks and Recreation; see the story here: Lumber to Legacy.

Yes…it’s an oak-ulele, to be auctioned later this fall along with contributions from many other regional craftspersons and students to raise money for oak habitat restoration.

I love the way these look together, with a bit of black/white/black purfling to draw the eye to the transition. The oak has strong straight grain with squiggly pale lines called “ray fleck” (from the ray cells, which help make oak split easily for firewood); the myrtle varies the theme with squiggly dark lines, and adds a soft undulation to the dominant straight grain of the oak.

It often takes a shockingly long time to arrive at a satisfying combination, at least shocking when I’m fretting that progress only happens when cutting, joining, gluing, and shaping wood. But the time spent imagining the insides of planks or burrowing in wood supplies for yet another candidate pays back a thousandfold, not just in the finished project, but unleashing the energy and perseverance I need for the seemingly infinite number of operations, detours, false starts, and train wrecks that inevitably go with building things well.

All in all a pretty good return for a 3″ slip of myrtle, a fragment from an orphan ukulele side. It makes it darned hard to get rid of scraps though.

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