Route Baker

Mount Baker - CNC Route 01I’m just finishing up a Christmas gift for my parents: a CNC route of Koma Kulshan (Mount Baker) in Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas Fir).  It’s a sculptural piece, measuring about 20″ x 25″.  It was routed on a recently constructed 8′ x 4′ CNC router known as Frankenstein.  Before I go on, a big thanks to Scott Crawford for helping out with this little project.  For those curious: more details on Frankenstein are here.

Here’s the backstory: both of my parents devoted their entire careers to the National Park Service.  My dad’s first “real job” was with Olympic National Park and, a few years ago, he retired from decades of service at North Cascades National Park.  (He keeps coming out of retirement to do special projects for the park).  My mom was one of the first female law-enforcement rangers in the National Park Service and is still a seasonal employee at North Cascades.  As a park kid, I grew up living under tall trees and never far from the mountains and rivers without end.  Nearly all our family vacations were to other national parks…much to the annoyance of my sister and I.  I now see the National Parks as a sort of organized religion where the cathedral is the wilderness.  Those devoted to the protection of wild spaces fill their homes with references to the icons of their faith.  My childhood home was no exception.  I’m proud to have grown up in this sort of church.

Since my parents retired, they have been doing what retired people do in the Northwest: figuring out creative ways to escape during the most rainy, dreary months (November – June).  My mom is originally from Fresno, California.  Though she lived 30+ years in the Northwest and considers it home, she always missed the Central San Joaquin.  She wanted the best of both worlds (but Fresno?  FresYES!) so they built a house down south amongst the vineyards and orchards.  They are officially “snowbirds.”  Since they moved in, I’ve made it my quest to fill their new house with tokens of the Northwest: photos, maps, books…and now, a largish sculpture of a mountain that we lived beneath cut from the ubiquitous tree of the Pacific Northwest.  I feel this is only fair, as my childhood homes were filled with reminders of California’s great parks: Yosemite, Sequoia Kings Canyon…this list could go on and on.  Naturally, I wanted their new Fresno home to smell of Doug Fir and be filled with constant reminders of life passed beneath dormant volcanoes…

Mount Baker - CNC Route 02

I’m almost done finishing up the work – sanding, sealing, etc – and I’m happy with it.   It’s very tactile.  I think it evokes those aging plaster 3D relief maps – covered in fingerprints – that you typically find in the lobby of most National Park visitor centers.  The digital accuracy of the CNC tool paths works well with the analog imprefections in the wood.  The grain nearly follows the topo-lines of the geography and there are spots where the router carved through a knot and it reads as a tarn that may or may not exist.  It definitely smells of Doug Fir.  Most importantly, I think my parents will like it and remind them to  return north at the beginning of summer.

Here’s a quick video of the modeling and routing process …

So, what to route next?

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