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Hidden treasure

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Part of the process of working on my shop redo was emptying some boxes that had been stored in the old cabinets. Inside one I found buried gold.

I tend to store things very, very well. So well, sometimes, that things I store are forgotten and/or disappear, sometimes for years. That’s the case with what I found in stuff once too valuable to throw away. (For discussion purposes, “too valuable to throw away,” in this case, means “stuff I have no immediate use for, but I’ll really want it someday.”)

This particular stuff was some walnut burl measuring about 3/8” x 8” x 10”. I’ve had it since, get ready for this, high school shop class in the late ’60s. I’d found it in the scrap heap in woodshop class, thought it was way cool, and just had to figure out something equally cool to make with it. I stashed it in my locker till I thought of something cool, but forgot.

When school dismissed for the year I found it in my locker and took it home, where it landed on my bookshelf – it’s perfectly sized for that type of storage – and planned to pull it out the following school year. But I forgot about it.

Then it was off to college, and I forgot about it some more. Heading out to start a career in radio I found it while packing stuff from the bookshelf and took it along. I wasn’t doing much woodworking then – no tools, no shop, no time – so it ended up on another bookshelf in my first apartment. And in my second. And third. It traveled to my next job in another state, and in another. By the time I moved to yet another radio job in Ohio, the piece of burl had landed in a box with other Important Stuff. Not sure I ever even unpacked that box in Ohio, but after moving to what would be my last radio job in Connecticut before switching to writing I rediscovered it and made sure it ended up in my shop where I’d think of something cool to make with it. It ended up in another box of random woodworking stuff where I’d be sure to remember it. I didn’t. Fast forward 18 years and that box – unopened – moved here to West Virginia, where it was stashed in the bottom of one of those rolling cabinets I recently eliminated. Most of the stuff in that box was once-Important Stuff that somewhere along the line transformed into disposable junk. But not that little burl panel.

As it happens, I recently sketched out a box for a new book I’m working on that would have a paneled lid, though I’d not decided on what type of panel. Stumbling across that box, and the small piece of treasure therein, proved providential. That burl panel is perfect and almost exactly the right size – I’ll have to change one dimension of the box by about 3/4” to make it work.

That burl waited a long time – more than 40 years – for the right project. Glad it was patient.

Till next time,


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