Plugging a Bolt Hole

by | Jan 22, 2016 | Cabinets, Wood Sourcing | 0 comments

I’m looking at a bolt hole in a piece of old growth redwood.

This wood was recycled out of an old bridge somewhere in Northern California and was expensive when I bought it several years ago. The bolt hole is 3/4″ across, with the surrounding area heavily blackened from contact with damp steel. This bolt hole is now in a cabinet door, part of a new tincture cabinet I am finishing up this week, a piece made primarily of recycled old growth redwood.

This redwood is remarkably fine-grained. I just put a tape measure on the board with the hole and counted 23 annual rings in the space of one inch. Redwood like that is a rarity today.

I thought briefly about cutting around the knot, but that would be wasting not only a bit of expensive material but an aesthetic opportunity as well. So the bolt hole is a feature in the door. However, it seemed practical to fill the hole, so I plugged it with a dowel. One thing led to another, and I painted the dowel in a bright blue-green color, inspired by the color of some tinted epoxy I was using decoratively elsewhere in the piece. But my wife and creative partner Evelyn convinced me that my bright blue-green dot stood out too much, and we wound up adding a wood button in the center, so that the effect of the unusual color is more subdued.

bolt hole in redwood plank
The effect is to make an event, almost a celebration, out of the bolt hole. After all, the material is something special, something once common that is hardly being produced today, so its history is something to appreciate.

Wood like this old-growth redwood has a unique charm. When I came to lay out this cabinet, the pieces I had available were originally from several different beams, and as it happens there are at least three distinct color shades in the redwood. I used this variation consciously in the overall composition of the piece, and I think the color variation only adds to the piece.  Making this piece had two opposing sources of pleasure: the pleasure associated with interesting pieces of wood, and the pleasure in making a new thing out of them: the object you found and what you do with it.

On a different subject, I had an unexpected moment of admiration for a skilled craftsman the other day. There is a tailor in downtown Napa named Mr. Cervone, and recently he altered two pairs of new jeans for me, which I had not been able to buy in the right length. He made them 2 inches shorter. I looked carefully at the hems; you can’t tell the pants didn’t come that way, at least I can’t. I am envious of his skill. At $15 a pair he can’t be getting rich, but he seems like a happy man.


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