I am always on the lookout for interesting wood. Some of the first interesting boards I received were from Bob Gernandt, a luthier in Bryson City. My one and only solo art exhibition in Swain County resulted in trading a pastel drawing for some lumber Bob couldn’t use in his guitars and other stringed instruments. One board was gray and very old looking on the surface, including lead shot from a shotgun years prior. It had apparently come out of a barn more than one hundred years old.
Judging by surface appearance one might have discarded this board as weathered and useless, but the swirly grain suggested that there was something hidden beneath. Bob told me the board was cherry, and I was skeptical at first, but after a good deal of planing I saw that it was indeed cherry and curly at that. Curly wood is unlike other wood in that the cells grew in an undulating fashion, transitioning from growth parallel to the surface to growth that is perpendicular. This results in a naturally shimmery, even holographic effect, desired by woodworkers. I’ve seen curly “figure” in almost every domestic hardwood including walnut, oak and especially maple. Rarity of these sorts of boards contributes to their considerably higher price.