Friday, May 05, 2017

A short history of steam bent wood rings

Touch Wood Rings
Touch Wood Rings are steam bent wooden rings. While steam bending wood is an ancient art, David is the originator and pioneer of the steam bent method of building a wooden ring.

A wooden ring is hardly an oddity anymore. There aren't many people nowadays who haven't heard of or seen a wooden ring and lots of people wear them. When I first introduced David's bent wood rings online in 2003, a wooden ring was considered a bit of a joke.

That was then.

David and I are humbled and honoured to have started "a revolution in the jewelry industry", as a very early client of ours predicted.

There was only one other wood ring maker when I introduced David's work online. Dale Randles of Artistree Wood Art has offered his wood crafts online since 1998. The main difference is that Dale's rings were (and still are) carved wooden rings; not bentwood. 

Every other bent wood ring maker you find online now (and there are hundreds) came after David. We trained and mentored some of them and we've watched a whole industry grow up behind us. It's been pretty incredible really. Humbling.  

A Touch Wood Ring as a Work in Progress

Natural materials have been carved into objects of personal adornment ever since humans began adorning ourselves. Materials like shell, bone and stone have of course survived the ravages of time better than tiny carved wooden objects.

One carved wooden ring that has survived is in The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. They have in their collections a 'carved' Bog Oak Wood Ring from Ireland dating from about 1775. The museum doesn't have a picture of the ring online but here is a photo of a set of Irish Bog Oak Rings David made for couple a few years ago. The light wood in this set is Australian Huon Pine.

Irish Bog Oak Wood Rings with Huon Pine inlay and liners

Through my research, I've found references to a wooden finger ring (recovered) from an Egyptian mummy, and carved wood rings found on the battlefields of WW1 and WW2; sad reminders of too many young men who loved someone back home and quite likely lost their lives; leaving their little mementos of love to molder in the trenches.

Apple Wood Ring with Braided Birch Bark inlay

Finnish folklore of long ago offers a song about a young fellow making a birch bark ring for his beloved after he drank away all his money. This song was sent to us by one of our early clients who wanted a birch and birch bark ring for his Finnish girlfriend. Here is a rough translation of that song:
Heisuli hei, my song sings, I am a trouble free vagabond rascal! This boy drank his last coins, one cannot live rich. I made a golden ring out of birch bark, I will engage a girl for myself. This birch bark ring and my love lasts one night at a time. 

So, what is steam bending exactly?

"Bending wood dates back to antiquity in the form of baskets from willow branches. Fresh growth willow twigs are readily bent in practically any shape.

When wood has been separated from the tree and dried, it is more rigid, difficult to bend and breakable. Bending drier wood with the help of heat and water is centuries old. Fishing hooks, barrel staves, and planks turned into boat hulls are examples." Source

"There are three basic ways of softening wood fibers. The first is to heat moisture already in the wood. This means using already moist, green wood, or soaking dry wood to replace the necessary moisture, then using a fire, or other heat source to turn the water to steam. The second method is to create steam first, and then force the steam into the wood. The final method is to use boiling water to penetrate the wood fibers." Source

If you are interested in learning more about bending wood, Steven Edholm has an excellent blog post titled: Bending Wood: What you need to know.

Touch Wood Oak Rings featuring the natural figure and grain of the Oak wood.

And so it goes. 
Wooden rings would not be a reality if people like you didn't find them beautiful and have a desire to wear one on your finger. And we thank you!

Touch Wood Rings has always been just the two of us. David is the artist and craftsman and I (Nicola) do the other stuff. Talking with you is what I love most about my work.

We live remote and off grid on 48 acres in the Cariboo Chilcotin area of BC. Our nearest neighbour is 10 miles away and town is a 45 minute drive on a good day ~ over active logging roads. David's brother has a cabin here as well. Our 48 acres is precious to all three of us. We consider ourselves stewards of this little corner of the planet and we take that very seriously.

We live a good life. A quiet life. The real difference I find about living remote is that our lives are mostly uninterrupted. This uninterrupted time allows us to focus on the natural world around us and to focus on you and fulfill your desire for a hand crafted Touch Wood Ring. 

We are truly blessed. And ever thankful.
And we invite you to be in touch.
Please drop me a line at ~ I'd love to hear from you.
Visit our website (currently being updated, thank goodness)
And join us on social media is you like  Instagram,  TwitterFacebook and Pinterest

In closing, here are some snapshots from around our off grid homestead.
As always, thanks so much for dropping by!

The little log cabin that overlooks the creek

Wildflowers in July

Our place from overhead ~ the creek and hayfields

Nick and Kali on walkabout

On our walking trails, looking over at the homestead

Dandelion delight and solar panels

Mom and the young Mister with a cowbird along for the ride