Ready for First Cuts


The actual, physical labor on my desk began today. It was a joy to stop by the woodworker’s shop to prioritize the timbers and specify those I liked the most. The wood is cherry and very colorful (at this point), swirling with lavenders and greens, and chocolate veining. The colors will deepen as the wood is exposed to light, and I’m going to spend the next year clearing the desktop every evening so that my materials don’t leave permanent shadows.

It’s a small price to pay for something I’ll love.

0215161423We arranged the pieces, inspecting each for particularly beautiful sections. I admired heartwood and grain. We propped the pieces on their narrow edges to see how much each piece has bowed as it dried in our scant humidity.

He pointed out “the center of the universe,” a spot that is dead center in the tree, with everything radiating out from there. That will be right above my keyboard, exactly where I sit when I work.

I have no delusions.

He calculated lengths. Could we dodge that knot? Can he make cuts so that we can use the ends on each side of the bow? What’s the drop-off? Do we try to make the swirly grain align, or do we break it up? If the colors bounce too much, do we want to add a glaze?

Then he drew the desk, labeling each pattern piece to match to a board.

0215161438The most exciting moment was wen he laid the timbers in place so that I could confirm the dimensions. I had settled on measurements that roughly matched my arm span, but realized that I needed another six inches on the longest (right) side. International suspense is a research-heavy genre, and I’ll stack reference materials—books and articles, maps and atlases—all the way to the right edge.

0215161407In so many ways, building this desk is like writing a manuscript.

The process begins in the imagination, fueled by everyday situations, data and information that crosses my radar. Bits and pieces, characters and scenes—all need to be vetted, just like each of these timbers. Then the chosen ones must be arranged in a cohesive manner to maximize every element, again just like the timbers that are making up my desk. Then everything gets woven into a storyline, creating one solid experience that functions as intended, and hopefully inspires beyond all expectations.




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