If a person is asked to describe what it is that they do, it can be very useful to have a label to answer with. The problem with labels is that they can be very vague. To say that you are a doctor doesn’t really help to describe what you do. That could mean that you are a podiatrist, a heart surgeon or it might mean that you have a Phd in literature. The label needs to be specific and give an accurate picture.
So when I tell people that I am a woodworker it can be a bit misleading. For some, a woodworker is a person with a big shop and lots of noisy, dangerous power tools. That doesn’t describe me. To others a woodworker is someone who works only with hand tools, using exotic wood to create elaborate pieces that are steeped with historical references and nuanced with obvious influence from the great masters. That doesn’t describe me either. To some a woodworker is a person who programs a CNC machine to create parts for whatever it is they are making. That certainly doesn’t describe me.
Green woodworking is a term that was I believe originally credited to Jeannie Alexander. She reintroduced the world to the idea that chairs were made from wood and wood comes from trees so in fact it is possible to make a chair directly from a tree. Revolutionary I know. At that point in time furniture was made with kiln dried wood and heaven help you if you tried using anything that didn’t have a moisture content below 6%. Who knows what the wood would do otherwise.
Green woodworking says, “Look we know wood moves, we know wood shrinks, let’s not be scared of that, let’s use it.”
This is what I do and who I am. I harvest a tree from the woods around my house and I turn it into furniture. There’s no need to truck trees from the forest to a mill where it is sawn into convenient dimensions with no regard for the direction the grain is running. The lumber created in the mill is then “cooked” in a kiln. This may force the moisture from the wood and make it more stable but it also permanently alters the structure of the wood, making it much less fun to work by hand and very difficult to bend. Green woodworking avoids all this by going directly from the woods to the shop. (We will look at some of the myths surrounding the dangers of using unseasoned wood at another time.)