6) The Woodcaller
by, 02-21-2010 at 12:23 PM (784 Views)
“Daddy?” said Samuel Jr. as he tugged on his father’s pant leg. His father was working on a table leg. Sam pumped his other leg on the pedal to keep the unfinished work spinning as he held the thin file in place. The groove was perfect and he picked a Rough cloth to smooth it even more, holding it against the wood with just the right amount of pressure as the wood spun beneath his hands.
Sam lifted his foot off the pedal and the soon-to-be table leg’s rotation began to slow immediately. “Sammy, I told you not to come in here when I’m working. It can be dangerous. See these?” he said, pulling the glass-fronted goggles off of his head. “Flakes of wood, or splinters can lodge in your eyes if you are not careful. You need one of these on when nearby any of this equipment when it’s operating.
The boy’s mind seemed to be focused as he simply ignored what his father was saying and launched into the reason he came into the shop. “You promised to show me how to shape wood daddy!”
Taking a deep breath, Sam bowed his head in defeat. “Yes, indeed I did. Ok, lets see what you can do.” He got up and went over to a bench of tools. He withdrew two whittling knives from the lot, picked up a new set of gloves that he had purchased not three days ago, and then led his son outside into the sunlight.
As he led young Samuel over to the wood pile he gave his first instructions. “You need several things to shape wood, young man. First you need a good knife.” He said this as he held up the two wood-handled knives. Both had slightly curved blades so that they almost looked like hooks. “Then you need a good pair of gloves.” He tossed the new gloves to his son. They were a bit big for his hands, but only just so. He had purchased the smallest pair of work gloves the leatherworker had in stock. “Next you need a good piece of wood to start with.” And by this time they had reached the wood pile.
“Take a good look at the wood here, my son. I was six, two years older than you, when my own father began teaching me how to carve wood. That is the first skill you need before you learn to truly shape wood. You must learn to carve it and to make the wood into something worth owning. So look carefully. You see, the fourth thing you need is a good imagination. Look at the wood and see what it can be, what shapes it can take.”
Sam reached down and picked up a short log. “I think this could be a goblet, easily. But I cannot carve it into a goblet, for that I would need the spinning lathe. So what do you think I could carve it into? A statue? A small stool?”
“Daddy, I think it can’t be a stool, a statue, or a goblet. It has too many cracks running through it. Until you fix the cracks it can only be firewood, I think.”
“Ha!” Sam snorted, a large smile on his face. “How would you know it has cracks running through it? You would have to remove the bark first. And both facings” he said as he turned the wood to show the cut ends. “are smooth, flat, and show no evidence of cracks. And we have no way of fixing the cracks anyhow.”
“Why not?” Samuel asked. “It’s only wood. Just tell it to fix itself and then you can make it into anything you want.”
This brought another laugh from his father. “Unfortunately I have not mastered the art of, um, woodcalling. I cannot speak to the wood and simply ask it to do my bidding with any hope of success, any more than I could with a rock. But if I use my hands I can shape it into whatever I can imagine. Go ahead and find yourself a bit of wood. I will work on this one.”
“That’s just silly dad! Stone doesn’t listen like wood does. It’s never been alive to begin with.” But he left it alone and found himself a short branch.
Together they sat on a bench near the woodpile and Sam began teaching him how to use the knife. It was thirty minutes later and Sam had removed all of the bark from his small log. He leaned back and threw the log back into the pile of wood. “You were right, son. It was cracked through and through. Can you pick me out good piece of wood?”
Sammy returned from the pile with another small log, though it was a bit bigger than the other and he had to roll it along the ground. “This can be my treasure chest, daddy! It is perfect and strong all along its length. No worms, nothing. Isn’t that what you need for a chest?”
Examining the wood in his own hands, he nodded slowly with a smile. “Yes son, it is perfect for a start. But a chest requires far more than one piece of wood. How about I make you a stool? You can sit on it while you work with wood, just like this bench. What do you say?”
“That’s fine, I suppose.” Said Samuel. He sat back down and continued working on his own stick with his tiny, four year old hands. His father had told him to examine the grain carefully and to use its pattern to try and determine what the stick was supposed to be. He stopped running the blade along the length of the wood. He had stripped the bark from the branch and shaved off several slivers which lay upon the ground around his feet.
First, the gloves were uncomfortable. He looked at them closely and tried to imagine what would have to happen to make them fit. As he did this he saw lines appear in the air around him. This was nothing strange to Samuel since they appeared whenever he concentrated hard enough on something. He had asked his mother about them, but she thought he was seeing things…which he knew he was, the pattern or web, or whatever it was. He could plainly see that the gloves were part of the pattern of lines, but they were tightly woven into the pattern. He concentrated, trying to shift the pattern of lines within the gloves.
Samuel had met with some success at this before. It was very easy to make the lines glow with heat, light, or both. Though he never made anything glow in front of his parents. It was very difficult to make the lines move, though not impossible. He tried this now with the gloves. He looked at the gloves from every angle as he moved them about in front of his face. He could see some pattern within the lines, though they were far more complex than wood, or metal. The threads were denser in some places and difficult to distinguish from each other. And they went off at strange angles, also unlike wood or metal which were more easily understood. He thought harder on some areas of the gloves, some of the leather that would have to be removed in order to make the gloves smaller. He worked at this for several minutes before he gave up. The lines would not move. The gloves had once been part of some living thing, a deer or cow or something like that. He tried to understand why, when things had been alive once, they had lines that were far more difficult to move than things that had never been alive.
He suddenly noticed his father staring at him.
“Like the gloves, huh?” said Sam. The boy seemed to have some guilty expression on his face that made him smile even more. “I got them at a good price so take good care of them, ok? Don’t be careless with that knife. It may be easier to replace the gloves than your fingers, but let’s not needlessly cut them up, huh?”
“Sure dad.” Said Samuel. Then he looked at the stick one more time. What he really needed was something to help him manipulate those itty bitty, tiny lines. So he took another real, good look at the stick. What did he really need? Did it have what it would take? After looking at it for a couple of more minutes, he decided that it did not. He threw it back onto the pile and began searching for another.
It was several minutes before he found what he was looking for. It was only about seven inches long, two inches thick, but it felt very heavy in his hands. The dark wood had already been worked and looked to be some scrap from a project his father had finished long ago. The growth lines were extremely close together, so close that it looked like there were no growth lines at all. One side was perfectly flat and smooth. The other was curved inwards, almost concave. He looked deep into the wood and saw its incredibly dense center. Yes, this was perfect. He sat back down and slowly began working on it.
The boy soon paused in his work to examine the knife. It was far too dull a blade, too thick. What he needed to work this wood must be sharper and thinner than any blade his father owned. And metal was much easier to work with than wood or leather. The lines were simpler, easier to understand, much easier to manipulate.
An hour later Sam stood up from his own task. The bark had been removed from the log and he was already carving out what would be the seat. “This is a most excellent bit of wood you found for me Sammy. But this project will have to wait. I have a table I must complete. What’re you making?” he asked as he watched his son move the knife along the wood. Each piece of wood that came up was perfectly straight, even, the same exact length, and paper thin. The blade did not so much as cut or carve, as slide through the wood like soft butter. He shook his head and tried to think of how his son was doing this. He knew that this particular piece of wood was Oakheart, the hardest wood to be found in a hundred miles, and very expensive. It had taken him nearly a month to complete the desk commissioned from those logs. It was a very expensive piece of furniture and one of his best. He wondered now if the weather had softened the wood since it had been here in the pile, or was the wood somehow defective.
“I am making a tool daddy.” He said, picking up one of the long, thin, needle-like slivers of wood. This one he had already cut lengthwise off of one of the flat slivers so that it now looked thicker on one end than the other, though it appeared delicate. He took off his gloves and ran his fingers over this tiny bit of wood. He pressed his fingers together as he did so. “See? I can use this to move the threads around and change the way things look or do. But first I have to make it sharper and longer, and harder.” He then gripped the thicker end between the fingers of one hand and began pulling it through the tightened grip of the thumb and forefinger of the other. It almost looked as if he were both polishing and trying to stretch the wood at the same time.
Sam opened his mouth to ask what the hell he was doing when he saw the wood change, ever so slightly, and then quite dramatically. The wood lengthened and began to change color. Instead of the rich, pale-golden color of the Oakheart, it was turning darker, grayer. It doubled in length before his eyes and slowly changed to the color of purest silver. It looked impossibly thin and sharp as it glinted in the sunlight. It was tapered ever so slightly until it seemed to vanish from sight due to its thin-ness or sharp-ness rather than end due to a limitation of its length.
Sam sat back down and looked at his son. “How did you do that?” his heart was pounding hard in his chest. How did he do that? What did he just do? He was also looking at the knife in his son’s hand. It was straight now, and thinner, although it was not longer or wider than it was before. Unless he found a new knife somewhere…
“I’m not sure, daddy. I needed a tool to help me move the threads around so that I can change things. And these tools will help me move the threads around and make these gloves fit better. They will also help me change things into whatever I want. I needed something hard and really thin and able to touch the threads that won’t do what I want. And this wood works perfectly for that. But first I had to change the knife. I hope you don’t mind. I had to make it thinner and harder, and sharper to cut the wood just right. It had to be a perfect cut to keep the threads that make up the tool, unbroken all in one direction. The threads go in all directions you know. And they all have to be together, stay together so I can make a tighter…um, bond I guess. It’s really hard to explain, daddy.” He poked the silver needle into the bench seat and began repeating this with another sliver of wood.
In minutes he had five silver needles sticking out of the bench. Then, he took three of the needles and started working with the sharp end of one of them. He spoke to his father as he worked. “I don’t know if I can make the end curved, but I might. It sure would help.”
A few moments later and the expression on his face told his father that he had succeeded in doing whatever he was attempting to do, although the altered needle looked exactly the same as the others. “Now I think I can make anything daddy!” Said the four year old boy, smiling brightly at his overawed and shaken father.