March 17, 2011

Trueblood Carves Trees Into Wooden Wonders

by Hannah Kiddoo

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, Missouri's forest region contains over 70 types of deciduous trees and several types of evergreens. As wood-working expert, chances are local resident Arlo Trueblood has turned more than a few of those varieties into pieces of art.

For about six years, Trueblood has been crafting wooden products, including bowls, vases, trays, cutting boards, stools, chests, and 'flowers', using mostly homemade tools and with no formal training. The process, according to Trueblood, has been "learn as you go"; still, you wouldn't be able to guess that from the quality of merchandise he sells.

Each one of his pieces is designed with a balance of skill and aesthetics. First, he chooses timber based on the customer's desired end look and if the lumber is at its optimal moisture level- wood with the wrong qualities is more likely to split when its surrounding temperature changes, so proper selection is critical. 95% of the wood Trueblood uses comes from Missouri forests, including varieties found on his own property. "Any kind of wood here is pretty and available," he noted.

While Trueblood has carved bowls and vases from single, solid chunks of wood before, he finds that stacking multiple types of timber together allows for a larger variety of shapes and color patterns. He has an eye for design and combines complementing shades of lumber, such as violet-tinted Purple Heart Wood with a light brown Hedge, that result in sophisticated pieces.

Using multiple types of wood also gives scrap lumber with no market value a purpose. Soft Maple with worm stains, for example, has no use in a mill but becomes beautiful at the hands of Trueblood who often makes the flawed grain into chests. Using his lathe and custom tools, he carves out his products. "I've bought a few tools," explained Trueblood, "but none of them were too good." Finally, he sands and covers each product with a finishing coat to ensure a glossy surface that highlights the splendor of Missouri's forest resources.

The process of drying, cutting, shaping, and finishing can take months, but because of careful planning, Trueblood has made close to 500 wooden creations since he first started. As a result, his work is highly sought after and can be found all over the world--his signature, hand-written on the bottom of each of his designs, graces pieces in Korea, Finland, Germany, Canada, and more than 15 states. Still, his most loyal customers are found in Missouri, and Trueblood caters to them by providing custom designs and a promise that if a product is unsatisfactory, it will be replaced. His attention to detail and passion for each piece he creates make him a truly talented craftsman.

For more information on Arlo Trueblood's products, contact 660-341-7703.

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