CAW George Washington's Mount Vernon White Ash Project

Click on this picture to show a picture where you can click on individuals to see their work on this project.

This is a pictorial of the finished products for this project. There will be some background and some comments from me and the other participants. But mostly this is a collection of pictures.

The CAW (Capitol Area Woodturners) has been pursuing historical wood individually and as a club for many years. This is the first time that the club has had the opportunity to turn historic wood. Through the efforts of Don Riggs and CA Savoy the CAW has it's first opportunity. In February 2004 CA talked with a representative of Mount Vernon. A White Ash tree at Mt Vernon lost a limb during hurricane Isabel. The club was asked to turn some bowls from some White Ash for a function at Mount Vernon. The bowls would be given as gifts to those who had donated money to Mount Vernon. CA and Don Riggs turned a few small samples to show Mount Vernon the type of work that could be expected from the club. At the next meeting club members were informed of this opportunity and members were selected to participate.

The turning was from green wood and the turning would have to be completed and turned in at the May meeting. That was two months which isn't enough time to "twice turn" a bowl, so natural edge bowls were suggested as a good form. There was also an indication that the use of Waco for at least the first coat was desirable.

We could keep and turn whatever we liked from the off cuts. We could NOT sell any turnings we make as having come from wood that came from Mount Vernon.

The wood was a White Ash limb that came from a White Ash tree that George Washington planted in 1795. The age of the wood (counting rings) from this limb appears to be around 80 years old. As the pith was removed from the wood, it is possible that the limb first emerged more than 100 years ago. Mind you I don't know a whole lot about such things so that guesstament could be way off.

There was a particular singing that was desired which you may see in many of the photos.

I spoke with many of the participants about the project. What follows is some of what I heard.

When I first heard of this project at the March meeting I was thrilled and excited. This looked to be a terrific opportunity.

I thought this was a great opportunity for the club.

I could see that, if this opportunity was done right, that many more opportunities would occur.

Wood tells stories and this wood has the opportunity to tell interesting things.

Those were representative of the comments I received when I asked "What were your first impressions of the project". I want to point out that everyone thought this was a terrific project and all were happy and eager to participate.

I also asked if there were any surprises.

Most people found no surprises and indicated that their turning went as they expected. CA found a "lightning bolt" nail in one of his pieces of wood. Phil Brown found a branch in the bottom of his bowl which could not be detected from looking at the piece of wood. I (Richard Allen) found the end of the turning very difficult to complete. I didn't have a vision of how the piece was going to end.

I asked when they knew what they wanted to make from the wood. Some people selected a particular piece of wood because they had something in mind before seeing the wood available. I picked up my piece of wood and I knew what I wanted to do. Some people decided on a natural edge bowl so the design criteria were decided for them and they could concentrate on execution.

One person said that the announcing of name for those selected to participate in the project reminded them of a high school football coach announcing who had made the football team.

When I brought in my piece there were already many pieces on display. I was struck with how much everything looked the same. So many natural edge bowls, so much bark, all the same watco colored White Ash. I put my piece down and noticed that as different as it was it blended right in with the rest. The color of the wood joined all the pieces together. I noticed that each of the turned object showed some of the woodturners and that there was a good deal of diversity within the same color. Different fairs tot he natural edge bowls. Different shapes and textures as well as many different types of objects. Mostly natural edge bowls but also some hollow forms and platters.

I think the best description of how everyone felt about this project is shown in the faces of the people in the group photo. The two group photos shown here are two of the last 15 pictures taken of the group. This is to say that everyone if happy to be there and to be a part of this group. The smiles are not forced. The smiles reflect the happiness of these talented woodturners.