A Lead Bullet and a Piece of Oak

I was preparing some American oak timber when I cut through a piece of metal. Upon closure inspection realised that I’d cut through a solid lead bullet, and there were 2 more lodged into the same board.

A friend and I spent the next day trying to identify, date and speculate the story behind it all. The bullet I cut through, fortunately, left intact it’s widest diameter - measuring as a .36 caliber. The second bullet, I managed to expose by splitting the oak whilst still keeping the bullet lodged into the grain. It’s a real moment in time trapped inside timber. The third bullet had to stay untouched buried inside a board. To dig it out would mean I’d have to replace the entire 2m board for a clients dining table and I preferred the idea of leaving it in.

I’ve had next to no experience with guns or ammunition, so I took to google. I managed to find some info on dating solid lead bullets. Almost all the resources I found point that a .36 caliber bullet made of solid lead in this shape, indicates it was likely shot from a US army revolver from the 19th century - a civil war era gun. I’ve tried to find more modern guns that fire similar bullets but couldn’t find anything.

Obviously, I really want this to be from the civil war. A battle, a shootout. Maybe this piece of oak saved someone’s life?  But my more rational self recognises that it was probably some kid in the modern era using their grandparents gun on an oak tree.

I’ve realised finding the era of the bullet was the easier part- calculating the tree's age from one plank is comparatively harder. I’ve counted 16 growth rings from where the bullet entered, but being only one plank of a tree it’s hard to tell how deep this was from the outer layers of the tree. I imagine it would have to be pretty deep to date it to the late 1800’s.

These bullets highlight something us wood nerds contemplate better than anything - that every piece of timber has engrained into it the story of it’s life. Gum veins in our more local Eucalypts teach us the trees battle against fire, invading bugs, or the scars left over from machinery piercing it’s bark.

You can read from the grain a story of struggle against drought and hardship, and that of a comparatively easy life filled with nourishment and care. Not all Heimur products come with bullets lodged into the grain, but they all come with their story and you can dive as deep or shallow into that as you want.

If you have any knowledge or wisdom to solve the mystery I’d love to hear it.