Natural Flats - a journey from the woods to a unique heirloom for your home.
The wood used at Natural Flats originated from tree forks Bill salvaged while conducting sustainable woodland harvests in Iowa. The forked sections of a tree contain beautifully figured wood that is the result of the annual rings from two limbs growing together in an interlocked manner. Lumber mills reject this portion of the tree as it is more difficult to work with and considered a defect.
As Bill brought the tree forks to his Janesville acreage, he cut them into slabs or "flats" with a chainsaw sawmill. The slabbed forks were then stacked outdoors, weighted down and covered to slowly air-dry and cure for at least two years. 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. Each piece was placed in a dehumidifier kiln for at least three months. The slow and careful kiln-drying releases tension of the wood fibers to minimize contortion within the interlocked zones. The flats are stored in buildings to stabilize the moisture content at the
9 to 12 percent range (appropriate 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.
The next steps are slowly and carefully conducted to reveal and preserve the unique grain pattern and details within the wood. Each flat is hand-surfaced multiple times with a router to remove any warping or buckling incurred in the drying process; this is repeated on the underside of each flat. Edges are trimmed, as needed, with an effort to maintain the natural edges. The finishing process consists of hours of hand-sanding to a satin finish. Danish penetrating oil is applied and allowed to soak into the wood in order to reveal and highlight the grain pattern. To harden the wood fibers, multiple layers of a Danish oil/wipe-on polyurethane blend are hand-rubbed and worked into the wood. Each coat is allowed to dry thoroughly and buffed prior to adding the next coat. The result is a unique, extremely durable and richly-detailed flat that made the journey from the woods to an heirloom by way of one man's hand.