The Magic of Wood
For thousands of years, wood has been a mainstay for humankind’s creations—for our tools and homes, the beds we sleep in, and the chairs we sit on; for our gardens, fences, and musical instruments; and for weapons as well as works of art. Sometimes we’ve honored this magical material, which can assume massive size and strength from nothing but a seed fed by dirt, water, and sun. And sometimes we’ve abused it. This issue, we hope, does justice to all of wood’s twists and turns.
After suffering a year of twin terrors—historic floods and the Covid pandemic—the makers of Venice’s legendary gondolas are struggling to survive. To understand the unique design, history, and mystery behind this much-loved boat, our correspondent spent a year with Roberto Dei Rossi, one of the city’s last master gondola makers.
By ERLA ZWINGLE
Over the years, the technology for rifles, scopes, and other hunting gear has gotten so powerful there’s little challenge left in the sport. Hunting with a bow and arrow, therefore, has been steadily rising. But now that even hunting bows have gone high-tech, a small band of purists — like Gabriel Miossi — have turned to a traditional Native American weapon: the stick bow.
By MEGHAN WARD
Of all the wind instrument players in an orchestra, oboists are among the few who have to spend more time making their reeds than playing their music. As the comic monologist Josh Kornbluth has painfully learned, just one of the myriad micro-adjustments that reed makers create will make a world of difference in their music.
By JEFF GREENWALD
Photography by SCOTT CHERNIS
In his new book “Material: Making and the Art of Transformation”, master furniture maker and designer Nick Kary explores the roots of craft, through stories of makers and their essential materials.
By WILLIAM BRYANT LOGAN
A review of “Material: Making and the Art of Transformation,” by Nick Kary (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2020)
Brian Boggs is a fine furniture maker in Asheville, N.C., and he just can’t seem to leave a good idea alone. The result has been a lifetime of tinkering and experimentation, leading to a line of innovative woodworking tools, and some of the world’s finest, and most comfortable, hardwood chairs.
By JANINE LATUS
Photography by MICHAEL OPPENHEIM
Since the 16th century, Cremona’s luthiers—including Stradivari himself—have been using an unusually resonant wood from Paneveggio, known as Italy’s “violin forest,” to handcraft the world’s finest string instruments. Then a 2018 storm decimated the forest. A band of experts in Cremona is now rallying to save this iconic tradition. A documentary short.
Film by LUISA GROSSO
Centuries ago, a fleet of rowboats called Whitehalls plied the waters of the San Francisco Bay, helping the chandlers at their helms ferry goods to and from the giant sailing ships working the city’s port. Today, descendants of those early crafts are being built, rowed, and occasionally put to work on the same waters.
A documentary short by WENDY “PEPPER” SCHUSS
Story by TODD OPPENHEIMER