This display case is twenty feet and ten inches long. The center unit is eight feet tall and eighteen inches deep. In cabinetry, “deep” is the dimension from the back to the front of the face frame. The units, each side of center, are reduced by three inches in height and depth twice, making the end units ninety inches tall and twelve inches deep. It is made of Kentucky Coffee Tree. Coffee Tree is seldom plentiful in any area but is found from Southeastern Canada to the northern part of the Gulf Coast states. I never attended a university that offered a course in Dendrology and can only wonder how or why trees and shrubs are found in the locations where they are native. I think one of the factors that influences their distribution is the fact that Kentucky Coffee Trees are not bisexual. Each tree either produces male or female reproductive flowers but not both. The blossoms are delicate and quite different but the casual observer might not realize they are different. The Kentucky Coffee Tree was named by early settlers that ventured to cross the mountains to the new frontier. One of the staple items many of them carried was coffee. Without a “Git-n-Go” market on every other corner, they soon used all of their coffee. I am enjoying my afternoon cup of coffee as I write this and can only feel sorry for them when they no longer had coffee to enjoy, morning, afternoon, or evening!

These were tough resourceful people that knew the dangers of traveling to the new frontier but loved adventure and the possibility of finding new wealth. Somewhere, sometime, one or more of these hardy travelers saw a tree that had strange looking seed pods that resembled a huge butter bean or lima been. These pods range in length from about four to ten inches long and are wider than the usual butter bean. They cling to the tree until the “beans” are dry and form seeds that look like two to six “bumps” in the pod. The seeds or beans are actually nearly round. Most fall from the tree by the time spring arrives. I have gathered coffee beans in several states and without fail, they will germinate even when the pods are about rotten and the seeds are lying on dried leaves and grass. Apparently most wildlife does not relish the taste of coffee beans as I do not remember ever seeing evidence that an animal had attempted to eat them. They are quite hard when dry and difficult to extract from the strong and tough pod. Few animals are equipped with the necessary means of opening them. I suspect these travelers wondered if they had found a new variety of nut to supplement their monotonous diet or perhaps a new vegetable to add to their bear or venison stew. Finding that they were not suitable for consumption, they decided to crush and roast them in order to make a substitute for coffee. Do not bother to look for coffee beans in order to make coffee! More than once I have tried them only to find that the flavor is much different and actually not as tasty as other substitutes used by our ancestors.

Kentucky Coffee Tree

A description of Kentucky Coffee Tree lumber often includes adjectives such as “course”, “tough”, and “hard”. All are correct! If you are lucky enough to find some lumber and desire to make your tater bins or favorite woodworking project of it, I would advise you to make proper preparations before starting. Use only carbide edged tools that are either new or have been sharpened recently. Anything less will “burn” the wood it cuts and leave black marks that are very difficult to remove, even with course sandpaper. Also, when feeding the material into a cutting or edging tool, make sure you do not stop, whether to reposition your feet or to catch a second breath. That will always result in having to do a considerable amount of sanding!

Kentucky Coffee Tree is a member of the Legume family, a very large family with members found in many and varied habitats around the world. Some of the members I have samples of includes, black locust, water locust, honeylocust, mesquite, mimosa, and red bud. Red bud is probably what i would name as my favorite wood! It is a bit softer and easier to work than coffee tree and black locust. It is subject to having more than one insect destroyer and a fungus but its beauty and varied color and luster when finished, make it a desirable species for small projects. I have never found Red Bud for sale anywhere but I have worked diligently harvesting trees that many woodcutters would ignore. To me, the beauty of Kentucky Coffee Tree and Red Bud are worth the effort required to deliver a finished project.

Sixth-three years ago I built my first items of wood. Our house burned in March, 1958. By August, Dad hired a finish carpenter to build cabinets and put trim around the doors and windows. He brought his table saw to the house and placed it in the basement. I still have an oak chest and a one-in-twelve scale model wood wheel farm wagon I built after promising the carpenter and Dad that i would not remove any fleshy portions of my anatomy! I have not outgrown the desire to make “objects of wood”! Mother taught school in a one-room school house before she and Dad got married. She always wanted her three children to be school teachers. When I reached high school I wanted, very badly, to take “shop” but she thought I ought to “enjoy” the more scholastic subjects. God blesses all of us with gifts! I consider woodworking to be the greatest gift God gave me! The only time I have not had access to woodworking tools were the years I earned a degree and a teaching certificate. Many times I have had to stop work on an item and ponder how to complete what I needed to do. God has always answered my prayer! Thank you Lord!