The Ohio River’s water level is low enough this week (about 27 feet) to expose a swath of slimy garbage, an encrusted Lime scooter and thousands and thousands of branches and tree trunks.
This morning I walked the shore thinking about the book “Mudlarking” by Laura Mialkem and her fascinating form of archaeology along the foreshore of the Thames river. (She is definitely worth following on Instagram if you like history.)
While I didn’t spot any relics this morning on the Ohio, my eyes were drawn to the weathered branches that were piled up a foot high in places. Some of them were shaped like a chair leg. Others had enough bend to be the crest rail of an armchair.
If you’ve read Christopher Williams’ great book “Good Work: The Chairmaking Life of John Brown,” then you know a bit about Chris’ “one square mile” approach to making chairs. Like many Welsh chairmakers before him, Chris regularly searches the woods and hedges of his surroundings for curved branches that could become chair components.
I picked up a few branches this morning to see how sound they were. Hmm, strong enough for a chair perhaps?
Or would that just be stupid?
— Christopher Schwarz
28 thoughts on “7 Chinese Brothers Swallowing the Ocean”
Don’t take this the wrong way, but – I love you, man.
Seriously, as one who has been a ‘wish’er, rather than a’ will’er most of my life, I very much appreciate the energy and enthusiasm you put into life and living.
Thanks for sharing your musings.
I would be right beside you being stupid.
Stare into the abyss long enough, and, as you well know, the abyss stares back at you!
Interesting shot of the river. In “The Pioneers” by David McCullough, he gives early accounts of how the levels on the Ohio River fluctuated wildly. In the Spring it flooded so high it was impossible to navigate. In late summer it dropped far enough to walk across in many places. Those accounts are from Marietta, just upriver from you.
Hi George. Before they added the dams on the Ohio, the river would be too low for navigation about 100 days out of the year. Now they can (sort of) regulate it to allow navigation most days. There are amazing historical shots of the river at 1′ – you could wade across.
I’ve never seen it terribly low here in 25 years. But I was here for the 1997 flood. Which was incredible – 64.5′. I stood on the Roebling bridge and the river was right beneath me.
Go for it. If commercial loggers do it you can too. Here’s a thing about a company in Oregon: https://forestnet.com/timberwest/archives/Jan_Feb_06/harvesting_sunken.htm
Reinforce the rotted areas with neon epoxy and called it a River Chair 😂
Great idea, Chris. I’m sure there’s some sound wood in there of all sorts of species. Some of the decay resistant stuff like white oak, locust, heartwood cherry, could be perfect!
I am now thinking I should make a shop stool and see how it holds up. Thanks Dave!
One of my friends who a lumber milling service regularly checks the logs that jam up on the St. Charles riverfront. His favorite finds are the black walnuts that have been in long enough to slough off the sapwood, but the heartwood is solid as can be. But he also gets plenty of sycamore and white oak from there.
I harvest wood that the Mad River, near Springfield, Ohio, brings to me. Most of the promising “lumber” is defective in some way, but occasionally I drag a real treasure out of the water. Have at it.
Hi Chris, I’d love to see you go wild and make some flotsam furniture!
Ummmm . . . After that stump throne chair you made, why are you still talking about this? Grab a couple of pieces, and start hewing.
You might want to do a little searching on the best way to dry out the lumber. Apparently the cottage industry of harvesting submerged logs has developed some drying schedules that are a little different than regular logs/wood.
Can’t wait to see what come up with! And thanks for links on Mudlarking. I watched a short BBC program on it a year or so ago, and have been fascinated ever since.
Around these parts (near Vancouver, BC, Canada) anything out of the Fraser River or the Pacific Ocean would ruin fine edge tools quickly due to the sand and salt embedded in the wood. It’s fine for chainsaw carpenters, but not for hand-planes and spoke shaves.
How about that good looking bridge in the background. Would those towers be John Roebling”s precursor to the famed towers on the Brooklyn Bridge ?
Sort of like a chair maker’s chairs that precede his masterpiece design ?
Yes. That is the Roebling bridge. One of my many favorite architectural works here in the Queen City.
Bernard Cotton, in Scottish Vernacular Furniture, covers some early chairs (and creepies (stools)) that had parts that were reclaimed driftwood
Great book, that…
Go for it! I’ve found some fairly interesting shapes of wood. Currently living in Oregon, not far from a creek used by loggers over 50 years ago, I’ve found some discarded old growth red cedar/Doug Fir that’s more than usable. Good luck hunting…
That’s interesting. Another form of repurposing. From drift wood to ???
… Sh&t Stool….
Can’t wait to see what you make out of it. Also, now I’m going to have that REM song in my head all day. Thanks!
I can’t get the book out of my head. I must have read it 100 times when I was little.
When I hear the song I wonder who the other two brothers are. Or if “seven” just sounded better.
I think you could find some great wood that would make some great chairs. Made me think of an acquaintance in the metro Nashville area that makes things out of wood found along rivers. You have to know the laws, though. In certain parts of PA picking up wood along certain rivers is a state, and possibly a federal, offense. But, Curtis does some great work. https://www.builtontherockdriftwood.com/reviews
Free wood, is free wood.
The real money in driftwood reclamation is cat trees. A women here sells them for about $800 a pop.
So I dragged a branch out of the water got some scrap ply and carpet, and made one for our cat in half a day.
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