Archive for October, 2014

This fall the focus is on furniture! With the boat finished (more on that soon), I’ve been able to shift the focus of my basement shop to other sorts of projects. Following in that theme is my participation, starting tomorrow morning, in an online coffee table build-off.

I love the premise of the event: To build a coffee table starting on November 1st and finishing (with a bit of luck and work) on November 22nd. The event was designed, as I understand it, to help foster a sense of community among woodworkers online. Last winter I followed a similar build-off organized by Chris Wong over at Flair Woodworks and thoroughly enjoyed seeing the results. That event was a Shop Stool Build-Off and I was struck by the variety of designs that participants created. I first became interested in this build off through a post on the Flair Woodworks webside last month (here), and immediately started sketching potential designs. What a fantastic opportunity to push myself to create a design and build it quickly as well as to share my own creative process and design in a way which may serve to inspire someone else, just as participants in the Shop Stool Build-Off inspired me!

Earlier this fall I built a small step stool as a prototype for a larger bench I’ll probably get around to building at some point. It integrates what I would call open tenons and a bridal joint to create a piece that I think is elegantly simple as well as being immensely strong. Below are the joint before assembly and the finished product.



I thought about using this style of joinery as a starting point for a coffee table that reminded me in some ways of the work of George Nakashima. I like the idea, but whatever I build will probably end up in my living room, and I didn’t think it would fit.


Last week I finally got around to finishing a three legged stool based on a design by Tage Frid. I like the elegance and sense of lightness that long straight tapers can create. The height of the stool was limited by the length between centers of the lathe I was using. I did a quick sketch of a coffee table with the tapers and stretcher arrangement of that chair in mind.


As some point I did some rough sketches of a coffee table built like a timber framed structure. I still think that idea could be an awful lot of fun to build.


Recently, I have also started work on a chair inspired largely by a chair designed by Wharton Esherick (Hows that for covering the most prominent studio furniture makers of the 20th century? I suppose I haven’t mentioned Sam Maloof yet. Alright, done).  I’ve recently acquired an old Rockwell/ Delta lathe, and I’ve been putting it to good use turning the pieces and learning the finer points of using a skew chisel.


With all those ideas in mind, I think I’ve decided on a nicely simple design based on several benches shown in a book I picked up recently called We Sit Together. In the book, the idea of woodworking as a potentially subversive activity through its rejection of consumerism is considered, and its an idea that appeals to me. The specific benches that I am considering as a starting point feature minimal framework below the top surface, turned legs that taper towards the floor, and end up having a surprisingly modern look in many ways. There is a timelessness to the gentle tapers and utilitarian joinery that interests me. The simple forms remind me of many mid-century designs. Adapting bench designs to something with a surface as wide as a coffee table will require additional thought in order to take potential wood movement into account, but I’ve got most of the design roughed out, though currently it all resides in my head.


As I move forward with this project, my goal will be to post updates each week. Check in for to see how things progress!





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