A farmer in Cambridgeshire, England, discovered a massive 44-foot-long oak log in a peat bog last February. The wood had been perfectly preserved for 5,000 years! Cabinet makers Adamson and Low specialize in processing bog wood, and recognized that this one is special, and made special plans for it.
Besides, bog oak is beautiful and historical, but it’s first and foremost a carpentry wood, prized for centuries as England’s only native black timber. (The tannins in the oak react to iron in the subsoil to turn the wood dark brown or black.) Because the giant oaks were so much larger than they are today, bog oak wood has medullary rays far wider than in modern oak. That makes for a thick stripe grain that looks particularly gorgeous on quarter-sawn boards. Traditional drying methods couldn’t preserve it in thick pieces, so its main use was as inlay wood or in the making of smaller decorative or furniture items. It’s only in the past 20 years that drying technology has advanced enough to allow the preservation of substantial hunks of ancient wood.Hamish Low had the ambitious idea to preserve the majesty of this trunk while still tying it into the hundreds of years of British carpentry tradition. He could go ahead and plank the trunk, but instead of dividing the planks into more easily dried boards, they would be kept in their 44-foot lengths. Once dried the planks would shrink, but they’d still be massive and could be used to make a giant table. That huge tabletop could then be exhibited as an example of and tribute to the arboreal giants that once dominated the English landscape. There isn’t a single piece of bog oak as such on public display in the UK. Here was the perfect opportunity to rectify that oversight.The log became known as the Fenland Black Oak as the plans fell into place. A special kiln was built big enough to dry the wood, and the log was removed from its peat bog in September. The table is expected to be ready in the summer of 2013. Its final destination is undetermined, but it will be available for the public to see. More | Project blog