The oak in the acorn is felled.
says Dylan Thomas, in The Ballad of the Long-Legged Bait.
And the hawk in the egg kills the wren.
Dylan most likely thought of this as a retort to the philosopher, James Allen’s more romantic, less existential statement, –
The greatest achievement was at first and for a time a dream. The oak sleeps in the acorn, the bird waits in the egg, and in the highest vision of the soul a waking angel stirs. Dreams are the seedlings of realities
from,- As a Man Thinketh. 1902
I prefer Dylan’s view of the fatalistic truth of the matter. Destiny is defined at the point of birth. A thing, eventually becomes its purpose, to be a product for another interdependent thing
An ancient oak tree on our track dropped a large branch, from which I have turned these bowls. I tried to imagine the bowls as being the intended destiny of the wood, or at least as a worthy footnote to its lifetime. One hundred years in the making till it fell across my path. Its fate perhaps, as Dylan Thomas would see it, entirely intended for this moment
I wanted the bowls shape to somehow evoke the power and angular beauty of the oak. To make them sculptural, but functional. Maybe in some part I have succeeded. I think they will make grand soup bowls, having a solidity of feel and earthiness of grain, representative of the strength and majestic nobility of this huge oak.
From each cut section of the branch I could make two bowls, except if the heartwood centre (the part that cracks come from), was too close to one edge. Then only one bowl plus perhaps a plate.
More awkward, knotty chunks were turned into cake stands and bread boards, being thicker and less likely to crack
The wood itself is fabulous and bright and takes a clean edge better than with my experience of the darker and older oak found further up the track
From the biggest sections of the branch I turned some large, open bowls up to 45cm across. These are based on the old sycamore dairy bowl design, produced for centuries in Wales and elsewhere. They were traditionally turned wide and shallow, in order to settle milk overnight and so form a layer of cream, which is then skimmed off with a smaller dish and churned into butter.
My oak bowls would be considered not good for that purpose as they would impart too much woody flavour and colour into the milk. They would be better served as kitchen bowls, as salad bowls or fruit bowls
With respect to the wood’s value, the bowls shape follows the contour of the outermost annual rings, to minimise waste
The question of how well oak suits being bowls for eating from worried me for a while. You don’t see many oak bowls or plates. This may be because oak is strong and long lasting, so has better use elsewhere such as to for buildings and furniture. Also it has too much flavour and blackens with age or in contact with some metals due to its high tannin content
In my case I use oak such as this branch which are too knotty, bent and short to process into useful timber planks or beams and so is good for little else other than to rot or be firewood
As for the flavour and blackening, I have found that if oak is well seasoned, boiled and then oiled liberally, the potential for tannin black marks are minimised. Instead the wooden bowls then age beautifully. Likewise the more a bowl is washed the less flavour it imparts, until after a short time the bowls are flavour free.
Bowls like these could easily last for centuries