Today, I finished 2 beautiful “natural edge” magnolia slabs that will serve – at least for now – as bedside tables in our home. A decade ago and just after I purchased the Lucas portable sawmill a friend called me and told me about a giant magnolia, the state tree and arboreal symbol of the state of Mississippi, that had died and been cut down at an old plantation home near Greenville, MS.
We all met on a cloudy day just outside theplantation home of the downed tree near Lake Washington, an oxbow lake that became separated from the main channel of the Mississippi River around 700 years ago and figures prominently in the history of the agricultural development of the Mississippi delta. The tree lay in the side yard in a pile. The person that cut the tree for the home owner sawed it into 4 foot sections ruining any possibility of cutting any large slabs. We set up the sawmill and began cutting the smaller sections into 2″ thick slabs. I kept 2 of the slabs and stuck them in a corner of my shop where they collected a thick layer of sawdust until I pulled them out and dusted them off a couple of months ago.
When we first cut the wood, the colors exposed in the grain were incredible and included spectacularly bright reds, yellows & greens. Unfortunately, these beautiful colors were lost during subsequent drying. It was like seeing the bright colors of a freshly caught northwest steelhead trout fade with each minute out of the water. What remained in the wood was still impressive and the light oil finish brought much of the original grain.
I didn’t see it at the time but a decade later, I can appreciate how special these slabs are. Cut from a tree that is the iconic symbol of the state of Mississippi, grown in the front yard of an historic antebellum “style” home on the banks of Lake Washington, they now – in small part – live next to our bedside. If they could talk, the stories they could tell.
P.S. : I asked my cohort in this endeavor, David Linden about the home where the tree was cut. Quoting David, “it was [called] Linden Plantation. Not kidding. No relation and not named after a person. The owner was Nancy Bridges. She died and passed it to her son. Her dad, whose name was Mann, built the house in 1911, and it is assumed the tree was planted about the same time, making it ca. 100 years old when it was struck by lightning and died.”
Here are the slabs