Saturday, August 15, 2009

Geometry in Rosewood-My Love Affair with Kingwood Rosewood

My love affair with Kingwood Rosewood started when I was too young to really know what it was, or what it looked like. I only knew that I loved the rich, dark, polished beauty of it. My grandmother had a small secretary made of it, and I can remember sitting at it, tracing my fingers along the lines of the grain in it, in complete and utter awe. I do not know whatever became of that secretary, but it stirred something in me that was to last a lifetime.

Then, many years later, I married a woodworker. He was obsessed with wood, of all types and varieties, but especially exotics, and bought what he could when we could afford it. He was on Ebay one day, and found some Kingwood up for auction. This Kingwood was found in a now defunct factory in south Florida from the 1920's. Obviously cut during pre-ban times, he felt he was obligated (of course) to have some of it, and he had it shipped to the house. The flame was kindled again, with me. I fingered and admired it, and proclaimed that I wanted him to construct a jewelry box from some of it for me. Little did I know that years later, I would be shaping exquisite jewelry pieces with some of the scrap Kingwood he had leftover from his heirloom quality boxes.

I started with thin 1/2" wide strips, which I cut on my jig into one inch pieces. I then took them to the drill press, and drilled vertically through probably 20 or better pieces. There were enough to make a 20" chain, which was my ultimate goal. I wanted a break in the chain to add a little interest, so I drew two circles onto a larger piece, cut them with a hand saw into squares around the circles, and I used a grinder to round off the corners. I learned the hard way to drill the holes through the pieces BEFORE sanding to round, lol. I took those circles to the sanding belt, and used the softest part of the belt to take the square edges off of the circles. Using 80 grit all the way down to 150 grit sand paper, I kept at it until I had the right circumference I wanted, and they looked like discs, pictured. All the while, I had been thinking that I was making geometrical shaped pieces, and I needed a focal piece for the center of the necklace. I had a fair sized piece of Kingwood left over, so I measured and squared it, allowing enough room to angle off the edges into >'s. I did this on the belt sander as well, making certain that all sides were evenly sanded, and it ended up measuring about 60mm, from top point to bottom point on the diamond shape I chose. When I had all the pieces cut, shaped and sanded to avoid splintering, I then took them to the sanding wheel, which will sand the pieces so finely as to make them look polished.

The finishing process was simple for this necklace, as the Kingwood polishes and takes a finish extremely well. The sanding wheel polished it so finely that all I really needed was a simple paste wax to finish bringing out the natural beauty and color of the wood. I used Johnson's Paste Wax, applied three separate coats to each piece, allowing time to dry and polish inbetween each coat.

Now for the assembly. I couldn't decide whether to string these pieces together, or to use head pins and make it sorta like a rosary type chain. The focal piece, not having been drilled yet, decided that for me, as I was in a quandry as to how to attach the focal to the would-be chain. I had some large goldtoned jumprings that would work in getting them through the thickness of the focal, so I took the diamond shape back out to the shop, drilled two holes through opposite corners of the diamond, sanded off any roughness, then applied another coat of paste wax in case of any removal during this process. This started what would soon be a trademark rosary type chain for me and my jewelry pieces. The jumprings enabled me to attach a string of looped 20 gauge headpins (they add strength) and rectangular shaped Kingwood pieces, forming the chain. I attached, if I remember correctly, a goldtoned hook and eye closure, and voila! There I had a beautiful, wearable piece of artwork.

I have included some interesting facts on Kingwood Rosewood for your reading pleasure. Kingwood is a member of the rosewood family. Throughout the world there are hundreds of different species of Rosewoods, including Bolivian Rosewood, Brazilian Rosewood, Cocobola, East Indian Rosewood, Honduras Rosewood, Kingwood, Nicaraquan Rosewood, Brazilian Tulipwood & Santos Rosewood. The heartwood has variegated colors with a background of rich violet-brown, shading almost to a black with streaks of violet-brown, dark violet and black, sometimes with golden yellow, presenting an unmistakable appearance. Usually straight grained, uniformly fine textured and lustrous. It is stable, easy to work, and has a pleasant smell when being sanded. No wonder Kingwood Rosewood was such a popular choice among French and European kings for their furniture pieces in the 1700's.

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