Saturday, April 20, 2013

Christ Hansen, Master Craftsman

In the space between nature and art there is sawdust.  That’s where Christ Hansen lived and worked, sawing and sanding, transforming wood into objects of beauty and utility.  Running his eyes and fingers over a rough log, he sensed the potential of the raw wood.  Trees offered him a gift.  The master cabinetmaker responded with inclination and skill.

Christ loved and respected trees.  Some photos of his young daughters feature the trees rather than the children, placed seemingly just to give a sense of scale. [1]

One tree in particular caught his eye.[2]  During its seasons of growth disease had caused bulbous growths called burls along its trunk.  Christ knew burl wood to have unique, interesting grains, so the odd, deformed tree, an imperfect specimen, had potential for his work.[3]  What would the grain look like under the protective bark?

Sometimes, rather than purchasing wood, he prepared his own.  In this process he could anticipate the thrill of discovering a beautiful grain behind the bark of the misshapen lumps.

Christ’s friend and patron David French (above) shared his passion for trees.  Older by over twenty years, the retired minister was an avid collector of California wood specimens.[4]  He accompanied Christ on this outing to harvest the burl oak tree.[5]  He may have used one of Christ’s tree saws, a crosscut saw made specifically for this purpose. [6]

Falling a tree and cutting it into manageable chunks were the first steps in the process of preparing the wood.  The tree’s growth pattern determined how it was sawed into smaller sizes and shapes.  Drying allowed the wood to shrink before the final product was carved or built, sanded, and finished.

In over sixty years of cabinetmaking, Christ Hansen built a large body of fine craftsmanship. From the oak tree’s burl his trained eye and skilled hands created these bookends, the master craftsman’s expression of gratitude for nature’s gift of trees.

Christen “Christ” Hansen
  Born 14 June 1878 in Kirkebak, Romlund, Viborg, Denmark[7]
Married 4 June 1913 in Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, to Jensine Vestergaard[8]
Died 21 February 1963, Inglewood, Los Angeles County, California[9]

[1] Tree with Florence and Margaret Hansen, photograph, ca. 1922; Christ Hansen photo album, 1913-1930s, Fox Family Collection, privately held by grandson Larry Fox, Aloha, Oregon (2013).
[2] California live oak with burls, photograph; Christ Hansen photo album.
[3] White oak burl veneer, digital image courtesy of Veneer Supplies ( : accessed 20 April 2013) and Joe Gorleski.
[4] His occupation and 1853 Illinois birth are recorded in the 1900 U. S. Census, Penobscot County, Maine, population schedule, Hampden, ED 106, sheet 10, dwelling 222, family 232, David E. French entry; digital image,  ( : accessed 20 April 2013); from National Archives microfilm publication T623, roll 598; Family History Library microfilm 1,240,598.  See also “Local Resident Maker of Inlaid Wood Furniture,” Inglewood [California] Daily News, undated clipping, mid-1950s; photocopy, Fox Family Collection.
[5] David French sawing tree, photograph; Christ Hansen photo album.
[6] Christ Hansen tree saw; Christ Hansen Collection, privately held by grandson William E. Fox, Golden, Colorado. Digital photograph taken in 2013 by Sue Fox, Golden Colorado.
[7] Romlund Parish (Romlund, Viborg, Denmark), Kirkebog, 1865-1884, Fodte Mandkion [Male Births], p. 18, no. 3, Christen Hansen entry, 14 June 1878; digital images, Statens Arkiver, Denmark, Arkivalieronline ( : accessed 19 April 2013).
[8] Los Angeles County, California, Marriage License, Christ Hansen and Jensine Westergard, 4 June 1913; Fox Family Papers, photocopy privately held by Larry S. Fox, Aloha, Oregon, 2013.
[9] Christ Hansen funeral program, Inglewood (California) Park Cemetery, citing services on 26 February 1963; Fox Family Papers, photocopy privately held by Larry S. Fox, Aloha, Oregon, 2013.

© 2013 Judy Kellar Fox, 9395 SW 190th Ave., Aloha, OR 97007-6733;