Information about the wood was collected through a Computed Tomography (CT) Scan. This technology is traditionally used for visualizing structures within the body. The CT scan takes X-rays of the wood in section using increments as small as 5 millimeters. The scan of curly maple (above) reveals the grain of the wood.
This data was translated into three-dimensional information by tracing a single grain line in Rhino. The resulting vectors were lofted to create a surface which represents one year of growth in the tree’s history. This process was incredibly time consuming; over 125 sections were analyzed to produce an outcome that was as accurate as possible. Once the surface was generated it was translated into G-code using Mastercam for our three-axis CNC router. Due to the complex nature of the grain, the milled surface did not precisely follow a single grain line as we had intended. A sanding process was necessary to remove imperfections and smooth the surface. The final piece was finished with Tung oil which protects the wood, enhances the patterns in the grain, and expresses a much richer wood tone.
Although the results from the curly maple were beautiful, using a wood with a looser grain would have been a much better fit for this process. The challenge came from manually interpreting the imaging data into vectors; because the grain was tight it was easy to confuse the grains from one image to another. The juxtaposition of the natural form of the tree’s curvatures and the rigid edges of the sawn lumber makes a statement about the conflict between industrial processing and the materials natural tendencies.