- Associated Press - Saturday, October 10, 2015

BOYCE, Va. (AP) - Ron Light will bring new life to a 180-year-old sycamore tree that was chopped down last November at the corner of Braddock and Cecil streets in Winchester.

The retired U.S. Army Corps of Engineer commander - now a craftsman with a workshop at his house west of Boyce - hopes to replicate the magic he enjoyed when he used wood from felled zelkova trees to make furniture.

But, as two friends helped Light mill the wood on Oct. 6, the 56-year-old conceded that many variables outside of his control will determine whether the sycamore wood will lend itself to be handcrafted furniture.

Those include how the wood responds to being cut and dried; the damage inflicted from people stapling and nailing signs to the bark, as well as internal rot; and the condition of the wood’s grain - its individual design of growth rings.

And then there’s the species.

Light, who has been plying his craft under the name Lighthouse Woodworking, has never worked with sycamore.

“It’s not widely commercially used,” he said from the showroom above his workshop. “But people (who buy furniture) make a link to something built from their town.”

He recognized that after selling out of the furniture he made from the zelkova trees cut down during the Loudoun Street Mall renovation project.

In November, crews from Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative chopped down the tree that now sits in many pieces on Light’s driveway.

City officials feared that the 110-foot tree was badly damaged - which was confirmed once it was knocked down. “It could be seen that the tree was rotted on the inside and nearly hollow,” Amy Simmons, the city’s spokeswoman, stated at the time.

Its remnants remained at City Yards, off Cork Street, until Light picked them up in January and stored them at his house. On Oct. 6, area resident Rusty Sears brought his industrial milling machine to get a peek under the sycamore’s bark.

Hydraulic levers repositioned the pieces of the trunk before a blade sliced it into smaller pieces and eventually into planks.

“That’s what we’re looking for right there,” said Light, dusting shavings off one plank and revealing its grain, which looked like a series of fingerprints covering the length of the board.

For now, the newly sliced planks will dry, a process that will take more than a year. Then, he believes the wood can be used to construct some small tables that will hold greater meaning to someone who grew up seeing the wood in its previous life.


Information from: The Winchester Star, https://www.winchesterstar.com

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