Aquaria Console – Curly Birds Eye Maple

This example of an Aquaria Console was recently sold to a private collector.

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Measuring 42-1/2″ long x 10-1/2″ wide x 29-1/8″ high the apron and legs were constructed of Chestnut Curly Maple and fitted together using mortise and tenon construction. The single drawer at the end was made of dovetailed solid Maple.

Without question the focal point of this console is the spectacular grain pattern on the top, which has been crafted from a rare sampling of Curly Birds Eye Maple veneer that was stained and polished to a high sheen.

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Maple is a common species of North American tree, and in rare instances some of these trees will yield unusual grain patterns such as Birds Eye or Curly. Experts are generally baffled as to why certain trees will exhibit this kind of graining, although the prevailing wisdom seems to be that some kind of disease or fungus is the cause.

In reality there are two differing conditions which cause these types of grain patterns to occur.

Curly (or Fiddleback) is the result of tree ring compression, and this most often occurs in trees that are exposed to winds which cause them to sway. This motion, in turn, causes ring compression on the side of the tree opposite the wind, and this manifests as a distinctive crossfire figure to the grain. It makes sense that this type of figure is usually found near the crotch and roots of a tree, since these areas are the ones which experience the most movement due to wind.

Birds Eye, on the other hand, is caused by stunted growth and two primary conditions must exist in order for this type of graining to occur. Namely, a Maple must be growing on the north-east slope of a hill and be closely surrounded by a dense cluster of other trees which compete with it for essential nutrients, moisture and sunlight.

About 15 years ago, during a visit to one of my vendors, I was shown an unusual log of Maple that had both Curly and Birds Eye grain patterns melded together. Although the graining looked spectacular my supplier felt bewildered as to how to sell the log, since it was too Curly to be sold as Birds Eye, and had too much Birds Eye to be sold as Curly.

Needless to say I bought the log without hesitation, since it was too unusual and beautiful to be left behind. Although I had no current project for which to use this wood, I decided to squirrel it away in my core stash of rare woods for use on a select pieces down the road.

To this day this log of Curly Birds Eye is the only example of this type of grain pattern I have ever seen.

It’s unlikely that a log of this calibre and scarcity will ever appear again.

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