infinite mini, or three notes on a koan


What people see in the koan mini coffee table is a mystery to me. And maybe it is best that way. But from hunting the raw material, and from navigating the weird, truncated conversations with post-lingual men of the reclaimed lumber trade, I can, like an emperor’s attache, report back what I have learned. I understand that maybe all the rings, and just the counting of them, is enough. Or the pure weight and density of the thing. But there is more, more! And in this case, because it is a Friday morning, almost but not yet the weekend, I will limit this deposition to just three things:

The black vertical shadow is mineral stain from a massive bolt that passed through the beam there, where more recently my borrowed chainsaw passed, through space that is now part of the room. Awesome industrial evidence. In close, you can see that the rings persevere through the black. But in the black there is a granular, pebbling texture to the wood, from the way that it reacted with the steel, and to the rusting of the steel, over time. As though rust could be hot, if time could be compressed, and burn.


This beam was what they call F.O.H., or “free of heart.” The heart being the core of the tree, the sapling that was. Which actually, you can see in this koan, as negative space. The first ring is there, just barely, as the inside curve of year two. It anchors the koan, gives it its compositional gravity. But what they mean when they say FOH is, the wood as milled is of higher quality. And they charge more for it, because heart in the middle of a beam often makes it more prone to cracking. Not prone to failure. But aesthetically, and structurally, beams with the heart right out in the middle aren’t quite as stout as FOH beams. And comparatively anyway, to get FOH, you need a much larger tree. So the tree that this koan is from, a century or so ago they probably quartered it at one of four or five sawmills on Puget Sound, into four massive beams of this dimension – 11-1/2 inches X 13-1/2 inches. So you could say, this koan has three sisters out there in the world, maybe still doing duty, in a warehouse, maybe in a barn with horses.


The dark brown of the tabletop is from the process of oxidation over the years. It almost reads as bark, or as a hide. But initially, when the beam was first cut, the tabletop would have been the same light orange tone as all the rings. And as far as this dark brown goes, often people in the reclamation industry refer to it as a chocolate tone. It is amazing to touch, like it is now, after being burnished with steel wool and beeswax. Because it really does read as an exterior, both to the eye and the touch. But it is just air, elements and time.


So, there they are, three notes from an infinite koan mini. This one is on its way to Detroit. I crated it and sent it off yesterday. In a few days, a woman who rides horses will travel over the Canadian border to retrieve it from her brother’s house, and bring it back north.


To get to birdloft’s home site,

For koan mini availability and pricing,

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