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Years ago, I came across a flitch of quartersawn sycamore veneer. I'd never used sycamore and really had no need for it, but the iridescent flecks and rays that covered each 14-in.-wide piece were mesmerizing. So I bought the flitch and took it back to my shop. The veneer was American sycamore, not to be confused with English sycamore, which is part of the maple family and an entirely different tree.
As America's largest hardwood tree, the American sycamore grows to an impressive size. These giants commonly reach 100 feet in height, with trunk diameters of 5 to 6 feet; record-setting specimens top 150 feet, with trunks over 15 feet in diameter.
Sycamores have an attractive but unusual bark that looks like khaki camouflage. The bark sheds in large flakes, much like a lizard shedding it's skin—and for the same reason. Unlike most trees, the Sycamore's bark doesn't grow with the tree. Instead it literally splits and falls off, revealing new bark underneath. And here's Some trivia for your next party: American sycamore seeds were taken onboard the Apollo 14 space trip in 1971, as part of a joint research project between NASA and the US Forest Service. Upon returning to earth, the seeds were planted. Some of the resulting "moon trees" were kept for research, but most were given as bicentennial gifts to various organizations across the US. At last report, these well-traveled trees are as healthy as their earth-bound relatives.
Although my flitch of sycamore sat on a shelf for a long time, its appeal never weakened. Whenever I sorted through my veneers, I was struck by its beauty. Finally, the right project came along. A customer wanted something special for the door panels of a maple cabinet. When I opened the drawer with the sycamore, he was hooked. A couple pieces of that splendid veneer remain, and I still open the drawer every so often, to sneak a peek. Fellow woodworker John English shares my appreciation for quartersawn sycamore and on page 62 you can see how he combines solid lumber and shop-made veneers to create a wonderful sycamore pantry.
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Wood finishing can be tricky and after spending hours on building your project you want to be sure that you get the best outcome possible. In The Complete Guide To Wood Finishing you will learn how to get beautiful, professional results no matter what your project is, even if you have never tried your hand at wood finishing before. You will learn about every step in the wood finishing process from a professional wood finisher with years of experience.