For each plank there's one perfect use
Synopsis: Wood planks near the heart of the tree reveal the complete history of a tree, and these were the specialty of woodworker George Nakashima (1905-1990). He had hundreds of colossal planks waiting for projects, some hundreds of years old. Fine Woodworking‘s John Kelsey spent time with Nakashima and examines his philosophy, work styles and ideas, his biography, experience, and his work catalog. The detailed article describes how Nakashima’s career grew, and plenty of photos illustrate the breadth of his vision and design perspectives.
From Fine Woodworking #14
Scattered all over the world are landmark trees of great age and stature, monuments as old as civilization. They are usually past their prime, in the ordinary commercial sense, when they fall before advancing asphalt or the simple weight of age. They are discards, unless a woodworker like George Nakashima gets them. His aim, he likes to say, is to give such trees a second life as useful furniture, perhaps to fashion beauty, and by this work to achieve harmony with the natural forces that grew the tree in the first place.
Nakashima says he has spent the last 40 years getting to know lumbermen all over the world, buying English walnut and oak planted during the reforestation directed by Elizabeth I, Carpathian elm from Turkey’s border with Russia, American black walnut from New Jersey, teak, laurel and rosewood from India. He buys hundreds of logs a year and ships most of them to a band-saw mill in Maryland to be cut into planks. He likes to be there for the cutting, this ageless Druid, standing hands-in-pockets near the sawyer.
The huge log is maneuvered onto the saw carriage, gripped by heavy dogs, while Nakashima quickly figures where to cut and how thick. As with a diamond, the first cut commits…