On Woodworking


Introduction to Woodworking 

Hand turned wooden pieces are in Umber & Blue’s DNA. We’re very passionate about the products we sell and wholeheartedly believe in our master carpenter Kenan Cosgun’s ability to create beautiful pieces that will become a cherished piece of our customers’ lives.

Below, we provide a brief introduction to the art that is wood working, starting with the importance of trees to the human experience, how it fits into our contemporary way of living, Umber & Blue’s unique approach to sourcing our products, and our love for one of the most unique expressions of woodworking: the use of burl wood.

If you share our love for woodworking and would like a piece for yourself, please check out our woodworking collection for some truly unique items fit for any home.

Trees, the importance in woodworking of mankind

The tree. Having accompanied the human journey from myth into the modern age, it was sometimes considered holy and other times symbolic, becoming the most human-like and respected piece of nature.

Buddha is famously told to have been seated under a pipal tree, known today as the Bodhi tree, as he sought a path to awakening and wisdom. Buddhists now treat the tree as a holy artifact, with many additional myths and religions using it as a symbol of immortality, infinity, rebirth, and fertility. With its roots reaching into the depths of the earth, body aboveground, and branches facing the sky, the tree was believed to be a bridge between our world and the beings beyond its immediate reach.

In ancient societies, trees often became the entity with which individuals identified. This went as far as to equate the death of that tree with their own impending end, often resulting in saplings being planted for babies just born and believing that their fates were one and the same. On certain occasions, trees would provide families with hope that their sick loved ones would soon recover; on others, they convinced folk to believe that fruit growing on trees meant that goddesses gave their grace to humanity. Memorably, it is said that Sir Isaac Newton formulated his theory of gravitation after seeing an apple fall from a tree. 

Sometimes witnessing human history, other times clinging to life despite being chopped down centuries ago, trees make the very air we breathe livable. Taking in the endless supply of energy from the sun, adding water and nutrients from the ground, and combining them with carbon dioxide freely floating in the atmosphere, trees labor tirelessly to imbue the earth with the defining catalyst of aerobic respiration: oxygen. It is not a stretch by any means to claim that as humans, we owe our entire existence to the unequivocal bounty of trees.

Trees as wooden objects in our daily lives 

While some trees can survive for hundreds of years, others are not so fortunate. Umber & Blue strives to ensure their lasting legacy by working them into beautiful shapes and designs. One of the most natural and unique parts of the tree, called its “burl”, often features the ultimate expression of our creative process. In working the burl, we take special care to preserve its original form to craft lasting products for use in the home. Ultimately, our end goal is to reflect nature’s untainted beauty by crafting a product that captures its original spirit.

All of our wooden pieces are hand turned by our master carpenter Kenan Cosgun, who has been practicing wood restoration, laminated wood construction, and related arts and crafts for over 40 years. All of our trees and their burls are individually chosen by Kenan in a way that highlights the uniqueness of each piece and emphasizes its form. In order to make sure that the pieces are useable in a practical sense of the word, we use 100% natural polish that does not adversely affect human health.

Kenan Cosgun
Kenan Cosgun, working on a wooden bowl

As his area of expertise, Kenan Cosgun chose wood construction and reconstruction, applying these techniques throughout his career. Following his retirement, he continues to focus on his hobby of crafting decorative pieces, as well as dining and coffee tables. His passion for nature organically pushes him to pursue ways of designing and crafting pieces that seek to perpetuate the natural form and beauty of the trees from which they are derived. Exclusively at Umber & Blue, we are privileged to feature a selection of his works.

The joy of working with wood

A particularly eye-catching characteristic of the pieces featured on Umber & Blue is the extensive use of live edges. This design feature is expressed in pieces that don’t have straightened edges but continue to display the original look of the burl. Pieces with straighter edges tend to be crafted using a hand-operated turning machine and are usually made from the trunk or the thicker branches of the tree. As a result, these pieces tend to have a more uniform look.

One of the most enjoyable experiences of the woodworking process is the search and discovery of suitable trees, taking in the sights of the forest as you make your way deep into the woods. Taking in the sound of the wind and the smell of the trees reinvigorates many memories we lose track of in our contemporary, and for many, cosmopolitan lives. As you wander around, you will often notice a multitude of tree types that all look slightly different from one other in color, texture, leaves, and fruit.

Among the more difficult to process are walnut, chestnut, and beech, which are denser than trees like pine, fir, and limba. Working with the burl from each of these various kinds of trees requires not only creativity and vision, but skill and experience. Being able to recognize different kinds of trees, their structure, and composition is the most important asset a master woodworker could hope to have.

Rare Beauty: Burlwood for decoration

The burls featured on our website are best described protrusions that appear on the tree trunk. Unlike the rest of the trunk, the texture of a burl tends to be very complex and often contains bulbs that have not yet matured. Quite rare to come by, burls are generally not too large and as a result are mostly used to make small- to medium-sized pieces. The most vital features of burls are the facts that they do not have a typical shape and contain color and texture variations across the material. These aspects of a burl are reflected on the finished piece in the form of dazzling colors and unique designs.

Burl wood is very difficult to work with by hand or on a lathe as its texture is often warped and intertwined. In the course of turning burl wood, it’s all too common for an unskilled woodworker to chip and even unexpectedly shatter the piece. That being said, the warped and intertwined nature of burl wood also makes a properly finished piece extra dense and resistance to breakage, making it a very valuable material to use in bowls.

EDITOR’S NOTE

All of our products are obtained from legally and sustainably sourced trees and burls. No trees were harmed or damaged while obtaining the burls; the pieces were created from trees that had reached the end of their lifespans and were certified by the appropriate official agencies for use in woodworking.


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