More than ten years ago, my first bonsai teacher gave me some unfinished mahogany boards that had been used as shipping boxes from Central America. He said to me, 

“Here ya’ go kid, I’m sure you’ll find a use for ’em one day” 

The boards were probably ten years old or more at the time (I guess when it was cheaper down there to use mahogany to build shipping boxes than it was to use pine. Nowadays, mahogany is damn expensive to buy, anywhere from $7-24 a board foot)  

 And add the ten years I’ve had it, this is practically an antique piece of wood (at least classic). I’d say this piece, unworked, is at least a $50. Let’s see what I can do…… 

 As you can see, it’s totally rough sawn.  

 Which is what I want. I could take this and run it through my surface planer, use the table saw and make it uniform. But the idea I’m going for, the style or paradigm, is what I’m going to call it Fancy American Rustic (my first foray into the style was in this post, check it out).  You’ll see. It’ll work. Not everyone will appreciate it, but that’s fine. What a person likes or not doesn’t mean it’s not art. Kinda like the fact that I don’t like lamb myself, but many do. There is no accounting for taste. 

  Since this is a small piece, I’m going to use my mini angle grinder with a carbide burr wheel. 

  Or not. The wood is pretty hard. It’s a good rule of thumb that, as wood gets older, it gets harder (completely different than what happens to a man).  For example, I have a hundred year old house made from pine (pine, the ultimate soft wood) that’s so hard,  you can’t drive a nail through it. 
Time for the big boy tools  

My full size angle grinder and I’m using the carbide nugget wheel (the one that isn’t installed on the grinder in the pic). That’s better. It’s still hard as hell though. 

It’s at this point that I will warn against not using the safety guard on your grinder. I know that I’ve removed it but I recommend you keep yours on.  


Tis’ but a flesh wound. 
You see, I’m willing to bleed for my art. Are you? I also recommend safety glasses and a dust mask of some kind.  

I don’t recommend the beer though. Not until you’ve gotten to the sanding stage, at least. Hats are good for keeping the sawdust out of your hair too. 

Ok, I have feet.  

Now to shape them, make them a little more fancy, so to speak. 

Now to distress the newly carved area to try to match the rough sawn parts. It’s a matter of fire, and a wire brush. And elbow grease too.  

I’m liking the cracking, what the woodworking world calls “checking”.  

 Now the brush.  

   Nice! Now to use an old carpenters trick: to get a smoother finish, you wet the board and then sand it. The moisture causes the grain to expand  and, by sanding it then, when it dries and shrinks, the surface will be super smooth.  

If you’ve been paying attention, that’s not what I want, I am trying to make it look old and used and rough (like A Keith Richards as opposed to a Barry Manilow).  So instead of sanding it smooth,  I’m using the wire brush to expand the spaces between the grain.  

And now, some lacquer. Not polyurethane mind you, or gloss acrylic but old fashioned lacquer.  

 I like lacquer because it dries fast, you can recoat it often and you can buff it, either to shine or dull the finish. I’m using a semigloss today.  

That’s after about four coats with sanding and brushing  in between. 

I like it. 

Now, how do you display a stand? Do you put it on another stand?  

 No, that doesn’t work. 

I know, put a tree on it!  

   The tree is a ficus salicaria (Willow leaf ficus) that technically belongs to my daughter. The pot is by Jim Gremel. 
And the stand is by me. That sounds good.

 Keep an eye out for a series of these stands on the Facebook auction sites. There will be a limited supply because I only have so much wood and I’ll get bored soon enough. Once I exhaust the idea (like landscape painting) I tend to abandon it and move on to the next thing. I’m just not good at production work, which is maybe why I’ve kept up with bonsai, they are always changing and present the challenges I need to keep myself sane. 


8 thoughts

  1. Very nice. Looks rustic for sure. I had a couple cheap wooden plaques that I planned on staining to use for stands. Now I’m thinking about how I can age those like that slab or find something similar to what you were working with.


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