Skinny Legs and All
Materials: cherry & walnut
The design for this sofa table was inspired by the bridges of Minneapolis/Saint Paul. Specifically, the new Lowry Bridge, the Intercity Bridge (Ford Parkway), and the Stone Arch Bridge. These structures display their strength and elegance in different ways and my goal was to create a piece that followed the simple mantra: graceful, elegant, strong.
Recently, I have been intrigued by the technical and creative methods for making non-rectilinear shapes in wood. Exposure to several wood-shaping techniques over the years prompted me to give it a go. One of those techniques is the very old technique of steam bending. Technical gratification came from shaping the 93-inch leg blanks. It took the effort of myself and 3 other woodworkers to bend the blanks after they spent three hours in the steaming box. I also finally found the right project for the nicely figured Cherry board I had been saving for years.
A Very Slender Clock
Materials: cherry & soapstone
While working on another furniture project, I needed some thick straight-grained test pieces. I located the lumber that would meet my needs and I went to work. Completely by a stroke of truly odd luck, there was a symmetrical triangle of timber left over after I cut away the wood for my test pieces. The swath of sapwood (cream color) and remaining bark captured my attention. But more intriguing was the shape of the 'scrap'. It made me think of stone obelisks. Research revealed there are obelisks remaining in the world known to be as old as recorded human history. An obelisk was also used in the first calculation of the circumference of the Earth by Greek philosopher and scientist, Eratosthenes.
The themes of permanence and calculation were integrated into this work by creating a clock that uses a simple stone ring to measure the time. Tactile feelings of age and distress one might feel on ancient fractured rock are instead inferred by the carved texture on the sides and end grain of the clock's wooden body and foot.
Zed's Dead, Baby
Although the name if this piece was culled from a line in a famous Tarantino movie, it has nothing to do with the movie. It is, however, symbolic of the challenge I had overcoming how to use a funky slab of walnut. Although it was oddly shaped, had an unfortunate straight cut on one side, and deep cracks in the ends -- the subtle hues of purple coloring and grain patterns made it a beautiful keeper. I did not want to simply make a slab bench out of it but couldn't divine the right purpose either.
After many daydreams, sketches, and failed models, I quit pondering. Then, of all things, an annoying ad in my email caught my eye and sparked a new idea! The result was a nicely sized occasional table with some complex hand-cut dovetail joinery that stretched my skills. So, the figurative nemesis was finally foiled and a piece of furniture was created.
Bow-back Windsor Chair
Materials: red oak, hard maple, eastern white pine
I built this chair primarily as a skill builder and exploration of traditional hand tool techniques. Many things were learned about shaping wood. It was also my first experience with steam bending and pretty much what got me started on the path to using that method, rather than laminating, to achieve curved forms.
The stock for the bow and spindles was riven out of a green (freshly cut) oak log. A variety of specialized and common tools were employed to shape the seat and the spindles for the back. To this day, I use skills learned while making this chair.
If you have never had the opportunity to sit in a traditional Windsor chair (not the many knock-off designs for kitchen chairs), I encourage you to seek out a modern day maker and visit their shop or studio. These chairs have been made since precolonial times and are exceedingly comfortable, lightweight, and strong. There's that mantra again.