It’s been a pleasure to be featured in issue 9 of the wonderfully produced Ernest Journal.
Woodworker David White carves spoons, jugs and other objects out of oak that he’s salvaged from abandoned Welsh slate mines – which has to be one of the most Ernest projects we’ve ever encountered.
“It was going underground on a tour of the slate caverns that opened my eyes to how much wood is still down there,” says David. When he whittled a sample into some cups, he was delighted by the unique colours running through the wood – partly the product of all the rusty metal that’s down there.“It’s made an iron-rich water in the mines, which reacts with the tannins in the oak, leaving areas of black flowing through the grain like dark clouds in
Dragging 30-kilo chunks of sodden oak out through hobbit-sized tunnels is hard enough for a six-foot man, but back in his workshop, David faces another challenge. “However carefully I dry the wood, it often splits,” he says.Working with axes and carving knives, he uses green woodworking techniques to minimise and anticipate splits, sometimes filling the cracks with contrasting metals.
The history of David’s reclaimed oak influences the form of his designs, too. “The rugged, industrial-looking jugs are a reaction to the rough wood, the massive landscapes and the industry of the mines,” he says.
He has plans to develop his work with mine oak, and to venture further afield in his search for connection with the Welsh landscape.“ I also want to look to the coast – perhaps shipwreck oak?”