Bogged Down

After a bunch of searching around, I found a bog oak broker (I don’t know what else to call them) who ships in logs from Ukraine and saws them up into boards in a mill in New Jersey.

What’s particularly great is I can email and say “I’m looking for a chunk about so x so x so high” and they’ll set one aside if they have one. Perfect. Of course, being a packrat like I am, that is dangerous: I want all the bog oak.

Turning a piece like this is tricky. For one thing, you have to worry about catching a chisel in the gap and ripping the whole thing apart. When I work on a piece like this, I take advantage of the ridiculously long chisels I made, which allow me to stand off to the side so I am out of the line of fire. For the other thing, sanding something with a gap is problematic. It beats the shit out of your hand and there’s the very slight chance that you might catch a finger in the gap and lose the finger. To sand a piece like this, I approach the cut carefully with my carbide scraper and get it as clean as possible, then sand it with sandpaper wrapped around a spongy sandpaper block. If anything snags, the usual failure mode is that the sandpaper block gets launched. And the sandpaper block absorbs some of the vibration and shock.

The interior hollow is smaller than usual, but that’s because the crack actually goes right down into it. If I had snagged the inside of the crack with a chisel, the whole thing would come apart. I could have resolved this problem by soaking the whole piece in resin, then turned it much thinner, except I feel it’s somehow improper to soak such an ancient piece of wood in plastic.

That’s 5,000 year-old bog oak. Babylon was a big thing when that tree grew. Bronze was the hot military technology of the day; steel hadn’t been figured out, yet.

I turn this thing around in my hands as I wax it, and the grain sucks me in, hypnotizing me.

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I may be quiet for a few days. The elephant in the room is the election and whenever I think about it, I want to start punching people.

Today is my 59th birthday. I remember when I was a kid, people would say “you can do that when you get older!” Well, I’m older, now. I think that the way the world should work is that, as we age, we “level up” and unlock new powers, better spells, and improved stats. Instead, the stats move around (wisdom +1, dex -2, str -2, char -1, etc) In World of Warcraft you can unlock flying mounts at Level 100. This does not seem to be arranged right.

When I was a kid, I read P.V. Glob’s book The Bog People. It fascinated me because it was the first view I had had of photos of decomposed bodies. It was also a good view into the mysteries of archaeology: nobody will probably ever figure out why people were formally strangled and buried in a bog – was it religion, politics, a serial killer? Nobody will ever know (probably). My copy of the book was on the bookshelf at my parents’ house in France, and it appeared in a mail envelope a few weeks ago. My dad must have thought I’d want it. And, as usual, he was right.


  1. says

    The elephant in the room is the election and whenever I think about it, I want to start punching people.

    That has been my experience too. I just get so furious about things that I can feel my blood pressure rising. I have to compartmentalize like crazy to not succumb to fury and / or anxiety.
    The bog oak bowl is interesting, what do you plan to use it for with that crack in it?

  2. kestrel says

    Happy birthday! The world kinda sucks etc. but hey… you made it around the sun again. Pretty cool.

    Yeah, this whole situation has just sucked the creativity right out of me. May it get better at some point. I’d just like to be able to sleep through the night.

  3. says

    I also forgot to add a Happy Birthday to my previous comment, I blame the slow caffeine intake this morning.
    Happy birthday, may your next year be less depressing than this one.

  4. Reginald Selkirk says

    Relying on international suppliers introduces complexity and uncertainty. The solution is obvious: you need to build your own bog.

  5. Reginald Selkirk says

    When I was a kid, I read P.V. Glob’s book The Bog People.

    I read and enjoyed that. In fact I just went into the den and verified that I still have my copy.
    I see the original copyright dates to the 1960s. I wonder if there have been significant advances in bog science since then.

  6. johnson catman says

    Happy Birthday Marcus! I have a couple of years on you, and I feel the ravages of time also. May you live a very healthy long time more.
    re Reginald Selkirk @5:

    you need to build your own bog.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think Marcus (or any of us for that matter) will be around long enough to reap the benefits of the products of a newly formed bog!

  7. says

    The bog oak bowl is interesting, what do you plan to use it for with that crack in it?

    I am thinking it’d make a nifty candle holder. I haven’t gotten far beyond that.
    “Pripet Marsh”-scented candles could become the big thing of 2021.

  8. lorn says

    Love the bog oak bowl. I love the sense of age and history.

    I agree resin seems inappropriate. I don’t know how you feel about it but museums tend to preserve ancient wood with various forms of polyethylene glycol (PEG). It stabilizes and proofs it against rot, humidity related cracking, and insects. Short of fire it will be here for centuries longer even not protected by a bog. I don’t know if that might be a step, or three, too far.

    “I may be quiet for a few days. The elephant in the room is the election and whenever I think about it, I want to start punching people.”

    I know the feeling. Like I want to show the corrupt and needlessly convoluted and cruel people I’m still here. Advice: Get a heavy bag, hang it up and beat on it. It feels good to punch it. Assuming I don’t wrap my hands even the sting of lightly skinned knuckles feels right and good. It is good exercise. And it reminds me how punching things, beating on things to change them, is really hard work. I can spend an hour punching and kicking and nothing changes except me. I’m tired and sweaty, and I stink … the bag, on the other hand, is scarcely dented.

    A valuable lesson. A visceral recognition that while force has its place it is profoundly limited, and wildly inefficient. Planning, tactics, talking and persuasion are usually far more effective and efficient. But, then again, sometimes punching and kicking feels right.

  9. voyager says

    I like the crack in the bowl. It shows that imperfect things can still be beautiful and that age adds character. As for candles, Pripet Marsh sounds like a nice organic fragrance – much better than Gwyneth’s vagina.

    Happy Birthday.

  10. cvoinescu says

    Happy birthday, Marcus!

    Pripet Marsh sounded familiar, so I checked: they’re also known as the Pripyat Marshes, and they’re on the Pripyat river, same as Chernobyl.

  11. says

    I have a golf ball on a string hanging from a beam in the shop. The sword rack has bokken and a French smallsword. Sometimes I tap it or poke it. A bag is a cool idea, and I may have to do that in the new shed! It’s probably be a great movement to make after hammering.

  12. springa73 says

    Happy Birthday!

    If the bog oak is 5000 years old, it’s actually older than Babylon, which was a city from about 4000 – 2000 years before now, I think. 5000 years ago was contemporary with Sumerian and early Egyptian civilization.

  13. Bruce says

    Marcus, is that the $900 version of Glob’s book? Your family knows good books when they see them. Happy Birthday.

  14. René says

    Happy Bowl! Happy Birthday!!

    Does Mr. Standard Error know any dendrologists? If I were him, I would try very hard to find out the exact year of the fattest year-ring (half a nail above the tumb).

    Enjoy your evening, i.e., don’t watch the news. :P

  15. says

    Happy Birthday, young man. (I beat you to 59 by four months!) Don’t let the aches and pains get you down while there are still things to make. Maybe get yourself an exercise bike that you can power something in the shop with.

    It’s a pity that what progressives really wanted in America was a Blue Wave, what they got instead was a Blue Rinse.

  16. Jazzlet says

    The bog bowl is beautiful, I’m glad you didn’t go the resin route for it, it is perfect as it is. I know what you mean about anciennt wood, there are places on the UK coast when if the tide is low enough, and the sands have moved just right, where you can see remnants of ancient forests. If you didn’t know better they’d just look like collections of stumps, blackened with age yes but the roots and twists of the remaining trunk are still so clear after thousands of years. We managed to see one on the Welsh coast a few years ago, and confused the dogs mightily wandering from one stump to another, feeling the wood, just amazing.

    Happy Birthday! There have of course been celebratory fireworks here ;-)

  17. grahamjones says

    Happy birthday from NW Scotland, home to much peatbog, and one of my oldest friends, P.V Glob’s daughter Lotte. I think you’d like Lotte Glob’s work.

  18. says

    Belated Happy Birthday!
    That bowl is amazing. Some things like 5000 years old bog oak really show us how small a fraction in time we inhabit, and it’s all we have.
    I live in a place that has been continuously inhabited for at least 2000 years that we know of. The Celts lived here, and the Romans settled right here, and I can still see their traces when go for a walk.

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