Natural Flats - the journey from the woods to a unique heirloom for your home
The forked section of a tree has a unique grain pattern. This is the result of interlocking of the annual rings
as two limbs grow together. Lumber mills reject this portion of the tree as it is more difficult to work with and considered a defect. Bill Haywood looked at the waste piles discarded after logging with a different perspective. Knowing this wood held profound character and beauty, he decided to salvage the forks and create table tops.
All wood used at Natural Flats originated from tree forks Bill salvaged while conducting sustainable woodland harvests in Iowa. This is the story of the process:
- Bill cut the salvaged forks into slabs or "flats" with a chainsaw sawmill. The flats were carefully stacked, covered and left to slowly air-dry and cure for a minimum of two years and, subsequently placed in a dehumidifier kiln for at least three months.*
- After kiln-drying, the flats were stored indoors to stabilize the moisture content at the 9% - 12% range (compatible for indoor use) until ready to surface and finish. The beauty contained in each piece is not readily visible or imaginable at this point - the surface is rough, drab, weather-stained and uneven.
- Each flat was hand-surfaced with a router to remove any warping or buckling incurred in the drying process; this was repeated on the underside. Edges were trimmed, as needed, with an effort to maintain the natural shape.
- All surfaces of the flat were hand-sanded to obtain a satin finish. Danish oil was applied and allowed to soak into the wood. The unique grain pattern is revealed and highlighted in this step.
- Finally, multiple coats of a Danish oil/wipe-on polyurethane blend were hand-rubbed and worked into the wood to penetrate and harden the wood fibers.
Each flat is mounted on locally-made steel legs or up-cycled metal bases. The result is a one-of-a-kind, extremely durable and richly-detailed flat that made the journey from the woods to your home by way of one man's hands.
*Wood within the fork is dense, brittle and warps severely as it dries. Extra time must be allocated for drying these slabs to minimize warping and preserve the natural beauty. The slow and careful kiln-drying releases tension of the wood fibers to minimize contortion within the interlocked zones.