Cherry Bowl

Treasured Wood

from local fallen trees...

Tom Pleatman

Monroe, GA 30656



Sewn and Grown header


Legacy for Big Red


In the summer of 2009, while working at the Ambler Arboretum of Temple University, I had to make a tough decision. The campus had a huge Red Oak (Quercus rubra) specimen that was in severe decline. Many efforts had been made to save it, but nothing was helping "Big Red." Eventually, there was only one living limb. It was hung over one of the classroom buildings and was cabled to a dead trunk, making it severely dangerous. Though there was opposition from campus alumni and current students, I had to make the decision to cut it down. Since the much-loved tree was such an icon to the campus, I wanted to honor it in a special way.


Big Red standing

Big Red at the end of her life, hanging over Cottage Hall


Crane with a piece of Big Red

A Valley Crest arborist sawing through one of the large limbs


Crane with a piece of Big Red

Cranes were used to lift each large limb as it was cut


Grace on top of Big Red's stump

Despite my smile, this was a sad day. I'm standing on the stump for scale


I thought that a good way to honor the tree would be to use it as a teaching opportunity. I had the arborists cut a 12" slice of the trunk to save for me. Then, my dad, Jim Chapman, came up from Florida to smooth out the surface of the wood slab with a router and sander. He volunteered his time for 40 hours to beautifu our slab. We then used it at Temple's annual Earth Fest celebration as a teaching tool for youth. You can read more about my dad's wood working adventures on his blog, Wooden Bees.


A slab from Big Red's cross-section

The finished slab was used as a teaching tool at Temple University's EarthFest


Seeing many examples of his work at other botanical gardens and arboreta, I also called wood working artist,Tom Pleatman, from Treasured Wood. Tom uses fallen trees to make beautiful wooden turned bowls. Tom came out and collected large chunks of the branches as the arborists were cutting down Big Red. He loaded them all into the trunk of his sedan, which ended up riding a lot lower when he left than we he got there! After the wood cured for about a year, Tom turned the bowls on his lathe and sealed the bowls, eventually presenting us with 19 gorgeous pieces of art; a true legacy of Big Red!


A log ready to begin making into a bowl

A rough-cut bowl will rest for about a year before it is turned


A bowl is being created on the lathe

The rough bowl is then turned on a lathe


Bowl soaking in a solution

The bowl then soaks in a solution


Sampling of finished bowls

A few of Tom's beautiful finished bowls.


About a month ago, I got an email from Tom saying that he had found another rough-cut bowl from Big Red curing in his shop that he had forgotten about. Even though I had left Temple, he said that he would like to give it to me as a gift for connecting him to our project. A week ago, I received my now treasured bowl in the mail. I can't describe how thrilled I am with my bowl! It is such a fantastic reminder of my three years working at the Ambler Arboretum and the wonderful plant collections that were under my care. I'll always treasure this memento!


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Mar 07, 2015