Masters of the Craft

Masters of the Craft

Seth Rolland: Slicing Maestro

comments (14) June 3rd, 2010 in blogs, videos

JonBinzen Jon Binzen, senior editor
thumbs up 244 users recommend

Video Length: 4:47
Produced by: Jonathan Binzen

Fine Woodworking featured Seth Rolland's work on the back cover of the August 2010 issue (FWW #213). Online members can download the back cover  page and find out how he makes his unique "Oxeye Hall Table" in a feature  by Anissa Kapsales.

In his sliced furniture, Seth Rolland combines a gift for technical innovation with a great eye for aesthetics. Working alone in the shop he built in Port Townsend, Washington, Rolland builds these pieces by bandsawing boards into multiple--sometimes dozens of--bendable elements. But like a master of decorative paper cutting, he never cuts the workpiece all the way apart. This slide show explains how Rolland built the table on this month's back cover, and then presents a wide range of other pieces he has made using the same techniques.

Raised in Rye, New York, the son of an architect and a landscape architect, Rolland was exposed to museums and design throughout his childhood. His mother (the architect) taught him to use a hammer when he was five, and he remembers building a raft from driftwood and Styrofoam when he was six.

After college he had jobs building boats and furniture and then moved west to New Mexico, where he began making simple folding patio chairs to sell at small craft shows. He made scores of them, getting by with a small tablesaw, a router and a drill. With proceeds from the sales he gradually equipped his shop. Over the years he began branching out in terms of technique and design and sold his furniture at more prominent craft shows. In 2001 he and his wife, who have two sons, moved to Port Townsend. 

Rolland's sliced work is just one aspect of his output. He's made a range of tables with cantilevered tops that incorporate large, smooth stones found on the beaches of the Puget Sound as counterweights. And many other pieces, which display Rolland's skill with more traditional woodworking techniques and materials, have a vocabulary of organic shapes and curves inspired by nature. All are displayed on his website:

More Masters of the Craft Slideshows

Adrian Potter: Thinking Furniture
Hank Gilpin: Exploring the American Forest
Doug Mooberry: Kinloch Woodworking
Michael Hurwitz: Planks into Poetry
Brad Smith: Story of a Stool
Hank Holzer and Judith Ames: Labor of Love
Michael Fortune: The Clever Chair
John Cameron: A Musician in the Woodshop
Allan Breed: The Past Recaptured
Kintaro Yazawa: Joint Wizardry
Grant Vaughan: Subtropical Virtuoso
William R. Robertson: Micro Maestro



posted in: blogs, videos, pro portfolio

Comments (14)

Shavins Shavins writes: Ingenious and so efficient with the amount of wood available. True artist.
Posted: 11:55 am on December 31st

LocoJoe LocoJoe writes: If you think it is amazing to SEE his work (and it truly is!), you should try attending one of his classes. I've been blessed to be able to attend two of his classes and would highly recommend them for anyone wanting to learn more about wood, technique, design, you name it. A true professional in every way. Hats off to Seth!
Posted: 1:55 pm on November 16th

goodguy goodguy writes: Beauty!
Posted: 4:11 pm on November 14th

1pizza 1pizza writes: beauty in every way, I ejoy the bandsaw, but this. I just keep repalying and sending to everyone I know
Posted: 8:03 pm on July 8th

rpk rpk writes: As a amateur woodworker for 40+ years, I must rank Rollands work one of the most creative and inspiring projects ever seen in this, my favorite woodworking magazine. I'm anxious to get back to my shop, sort through my wood stack and go tomy bandsaw.
Posted: 9:00 pm on June 12th

starryNight starryNight writes: I'd like to point out that part of any creative process is the puzzling and resulting discovery based on personal EXPERIENCE. To be truely inspired by someone's creativity is to use your own creativity to conceptualize what someone else has done. If you want to be hand held through the process like a paint by numbers coloring book then you're just satisfying your curiousity without any understanding of how to use your creativity. Creativity requires effort. 90% perspiration, 10% inspiration. The explanation is this video is more than enough to grab a piece of scrap and start making cuts on the band saw. What are you afraid of?
Posted: 4:05 pm on June 9th

foglemam foglemam writes: Truly inspiring and exactly why I continue to subscribe to this magazine and web service!

There is a link in the body of the decription for a little how to:

Pipe clamping a Multitool upright to a 2X4 and sanding the inside of the splines is a great idea!
Posted: 8:00 am on June 9th

saschafer saschafer writes:
I have to disagree with those who want to see "how to" instructions for Seth Rolland's designs. At best, they would allow you to create copies of his work. But what's the point of that? Taking the time to examine great works--and to develop the skills required to generate ideas of your own from them--is a major part of finding your own "voice" in woodworking (or any other creative activity, for that matter). This isn't nuts and bolts stuff--how to cut a mortise and tenon, or anything like that. This is pure INSPIRATION.

The purpose of art is to make you think. And pieces like Rolland's REALLY make you think! Work like his inspires me, not to imitate him, but to strive to become better, to be able to do more than what I am capable of doing now. That's exactly the way it should be. And since it's not practical for me to see every piece I'd want to in person, I'd like to see more, more, more photos, examining every detail, every nook and cranny, of work like his.

And yes, I do wish that _Home Furniture_ were still being published...


Posted: 10:09 pm on June 8th

mvflaim mvflaim writes: With the passing of Krenov and Maloof last year, it's nice to know that the next generation of masters are already among us.
Posted: 7:03 pm on June 8th

Stephen81 Stephen81 writes: Wow
Posted: 11:05 am on June 8th

RobertPrevost RobertPrevost writes: It is a great accomplishment, and Seth rolland is an artist. But i feel the same way
as gsmyth'comments, I am leftwith so many questions? I too would like to see how it is done Seth Rolland could write a book on the subject that would become
a best seller
Posted: 10:45 am on June 8th

gsmyth gsmyth writes: The work is exceptional but a slide show? I was expecting more. Frankly, much more. I wanted to see the layout and cutting. I wanted to know more about the strength of the piece and the sanding the interior and finishing. How is the center leg joined? What happens if someone places a stack of books on the edge? For me this slide show was a lot like the defunct Taunton "Home Furniture" magazine (will you ever learn?). All show and no go for info or details. I don't want a picture book here. I want to know how it was done!
Posted: 8:23 am on June 8th

swenson swenson writes: All I can say is WOW and wonder why the cuts don't split right out the ends upon opening. I was expecting to see holes drilled at the ends of the cuts in the close-ups but there aren't any. Another example of the most powerful tool in the shop... the human mind.
Posted: 7:20 am on June 5th

a_Furnitologist a_Furnitologist writes: a friend of mine turned me on to this slide show this that's a good feature. Super presentation emphasizing Rollands experimentation over time. Something all the good ones do.

You can obviously see Rollands architectural exposure as expressed in his slicing technique.

Another good Binzen production.

Thanks Chuck!!!!
Posted: 1:41 pm on June 4th

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