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Knot Hole Bowl

Red Alder
Handmade, one-of-a-kind
excellent display piece, fruit bowl, or other
finished w/ food-grade tung oil
made by Zach LaPerriere
Sitka, Alaska 2018
bowl measures 8" X 4"

Everyone sees different things in wood grain, but who doesn't see an eye in this knot hole?

I'm a big enthusiast of tree geology—which is just my term for what you're seeing in a piece of wood.  If you look closely you'll see the knot hole is surrounded in black, and that the wood grew around a branch stub.

So let's talk about tree growth.  A tree reaches higher, it no longer needs many lower branches.  Think about a big business: if one branch isn't making money, what happens?  The branch closes down.  Same idea in trees—and maybe this is where business got the idea?  Just kidding, though it's interesting that the language is the same.

So when a branch is no longer needed, the tree stops replacing leaves, withdraws resources, cuts off sap, and the branch effectively dies.  After rotting, there is often a stub left over, and of course a tree grows outward every year.  When that stub grows over, the wood is dark, with a thin bark layer.  You can often see these branch scars on the outside of a tree if you know what to look for.

And that's how I situated this knot hole in the bottom of the bowl.  Again: that's what's so appealing to me in the shaping and making of a bowl.  I can chase down the details in the removal of 98% of the wood.

What I strive to leave is a balance between this story, function, and an aesthetic shape that both looks good AND feels good in the hand.  If I were to get philosophical: I'd say that a poet chooses their form and tries to do something similar out of their life and experience.

Back to reality.  If you look at the exterior of this bowl you'll see the fine medullary rays that run through a good percentage of old growth red alder.

There's light spalting toward the base of this bowl that shows as lighter color.  That's another thing I love about salvaging trees that have come to the end of their lives naturally.  Colors are rarely uniform.  Colors vary with so many factors, and their is a richness that comes from age.  Again: I could be speaking metaphorically, the parallels are easy to draw.

This vessel is designed to walk the line between display and function.  So you can display the bowl prominently—especially with a stand as shown—or you can use the bowl to hold whatever you choose, and let the knot hole be a surprise when someone removes the last item.

Because this bowl is crafted from a single piece of wood, it will last for generations with minimal care.

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Story: In February of 2017 I cut two massive standing-dead alder about a mile up a wild river valley about five miles from my home and shop.  The official oldest alder in the world is recorded in Washington at 100 years old.  The two alder I cut were at least 120 and 130 years old.  Alaska is full of secrets!

After cutting and prepping the bowl stock, my family and I took three days to sled out material in 2-3 feet of snow.  We followed frozen creeks and bear trails in a magical winter wonderland.  It was our best snow in seven years, and I'm still grateful everything worked out just right, from getting my USFS permit to the weather so graciously cooperating with our effort.

You can watch a video of our alder salvage effort here: