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Help Complete the Vision of George Nakashima

comments (30) September 26th, 2012 in blogs

Ed_Pirnik Ed Pirnik, Senior Web Producer
thumbs up 36 users recommend

Launch of a dream. George Nakashima with his first completed Peace Altar in 1986.
Carrying on a family tradition. Mira Nakashima (2L) looks on during the sawing of a massive slab at the 2011 Hearne Hardwoods Open House.
One serious slab. Last years open house event at Hearne Hardwoods featured the sawing of one gargantuan English walnut slab.
Launch of a dream. George Nakashima with his first completed Peace Altar in 1986. - CLICK TO ENLARGE

Launch of a dream. George Nakashima with his first completed Peace Altar in 1986.

Photo: George Nakashima Woodworker, S.A.

New Year's Eve 1986 was a particularly auspicious one for George Nakashima. The celebrated woodworker's vision to transform a massive tree into a symbol of peace-which had begun three years earlier on a Long Island estate-had finally come to fruition. Before an audience of about 5,000 people, Nakashima, then 81 and still going strong, arrived at New York City's Cathedral of St. John the Divine for the consecration of his first Altar for Peace. The massive heart-shaped slab of black walnut had been felled on Long Island, milled in Philadelphia, dried for two years, and shaped over the course of some two months. Back in 1986, Nakashima was quoted by the New York Times as remarking that the altar was meant to serve as a "tangible" symbol of peace-"if we can contribute something to the stability of this world, it would be fulfilling." 

From the original Altar for Peace (photo-R) was born the idea for the Sacred Peace Tables: "consecrated by clergy, and aspiring to peace among peoples joining the American, European, and South Asian continents." Today, more than 20 years after his death, Nakashima's work goes on, managed by his daughter Mira. The next Sacred Table scheduled for construction will eventually reside at the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre in Cape Town, South Africa. The Sacred Peace Table project is a costly, time-consuming endeavor. Sourcing the material, constructing the table, and shipping it halfway around the world will require an enormous sum, and two upcoming events are meant to help offset those costs. But take heart, even if you can't attend either of these events, you can still help. The Nakashima Foundation for Peace is accepting tax-deductible donations via its website.

Read on for information on two upcoming fundraising events chock-full of woodworking demos, music, and more!

posted in: blogs, nakashima, peace altar, fundraiser

Comments (30)

user-2497298 user-2497298 writes: I'm surprised at all of you, maybe the woodworking community doesn't know this yet but if you plan on contributing to an actually constructive conversation on the internet, "don't feed the trolls". I had to read all 29 comments in order to find out that rather than a healthy debate, this entire thread is 28 people (29 if I count myself) responding to one antagonistic comment, that is in truth only reacting to one small element of the article (it's raising money for a project that works with an institution that is named for someone that at least one user has a problem with).

Whether or not it is appropriate (I believe it is) for FWW to include amongst it's countless articles on the techniques, tools and practices necessary to produce wooden objects of beauty and utility a simple reminder that the craft that all of us have a passion for has the potential to impact others in a positive way, it is without question less appropriate to turn the comments section of this post into a forum on the merits of Desmond Tutu's politics.

If someone's being obnoxious on the internet, feel free to ignore them. Because here's the trap; If instead one finds oneself so antagonized by a deliberately antagonistic (or just ignorant, practically speaking it amounts to the same thing) comment that one is compelled to answer it in a logical rational way then the responder has elevated what started out as a crazy person on the internet saying crazy things (this happens all the time by the way) to a rational debate. By responding calmly, logically and rationally to a comment that uses inflammatory language to inflate a fundamentally weak argument about a minor point, one not only takes attention away from the actual substance of the post but at the same time implicitly (and presumably inadvertently) gives the original comment an appearance of substance. A rational response is implicitly stating that the argument requires a rational response.
Posted: 1:09 pm on May 25th

LoggerRick LoggerRick writes: I would like to thank Fine Woodworking and all of those who exhibited or attended our open house and fundraiser this last weekend. The event was a big success and brought together a wonderful group of people who have a passion for wood ranging from beginners buying their first tool to the likes of Mira Nakashima, Chuck Bender, Bob Ortiz, etc. We are going to make this an annual event and will consider promoting other charities connected with wood. Every dollar contributed goes directly to the charities.
Thanks, Rick Hearne, Hearne Hardwoods Inc.
Posted: 9:27 am on October 8th

idahoknotty idahoknotty writes: I've found the responses to this post illuminating. I've learned that the spirit of Nakashima's peace altars are are still dearly needed.

Posted: 2:13 pm on October 4th

dbopp1997 dbopp1997 writes: Bravo to Fine Woodworking! Thank you for sharing this beautiful work and a woodworker with a dream beyond his/her shop. This article has a well deserved place on this site. I am saddened to see the negative postings. We may not always agree with another's dream but that does not give us the right to detract from it. I also find it sad that any would denigrate peace in our world. You may not agree with another's methods but in today's world we need all possible solutions for peace. In order for us to find peace as a country we must be willing to lead with peace. Nakashima was pursuing peace in his way. Bravo to Nakashima and to Fine Woodworking for featuring this.
Posted: 9:39 am on October 4th

SharpToolss SharpToolss writes: I am growing from the same root stock as Oaken and Kerkwerks, those who feel threatened by views that differ from theirs usually have shallow beliefs and are afraid to expand their horizons. Celebrating peace anywhere is worthwhile, one of the altars is in Russia, God knows they need peace. I think it is worthwhile to know the person behind the furniture to better understand what the art is expressing. No one is being forced to contribute anything, free choice is a precious thing as is charity. You contribute to what you believe in but don't tell me that I don't have the right to do the same. As for FINE WOODWORKING I say bravo for bringing some life into my passion for wood instead of rehashing one more router review, it's not the router it's the hand that's guiding it! Meanwhile I am supporting the peace altar.
Posted: 6:43 pm on October 2nd

kerfwerks kerfwerks writes: I'd like to echo the thoughts of Westerncraftsman. How does a suggestion for a contribution for art for peace create such cramped and provincial responses. No one is holding a nail gun to anyone's head here.
Posted: 9:58 am on October 2nd

kerfwerks kerfwerks writes: I'd like to echo the thoughts of Westerncraftsman. How does a suggestion for a contribution for art for peace create such cramped and provincial responses. No one is holding a nail gun to anyone's head here.
Posted: 9:58 am on October 2nd

kerfwerks kerfwerks writes: I'd like to echo the thoughts of Westerncraftsman. How does a suggestion for a contribution for art for peace create such cramped and provincial responses. No one is holding a nail gun to anyone's head here.
Posted: 9:57 am on October 2nd

candlebox candlebox writes: You talk of peace--leave the getting of it to those of us who defend it. We've made the sacrifices--you make the altars.
Posted: 5:26 pm on October 1st

Oaken Oaken writes: Some of you readers need to get back to work and try not to stick a chisle into your hand while you are fuming about this article. While the article is a little outside the norm for a woodworking mag, woodworkers all around the country often engage in charitable work, and the 'Peace Table' is not much different. Those of you who thing it's better to "keep it home" are behind the times and very narrrow minded. Home is Earth, and when all people recognize this we'll all be better off.
Posted: 5:10 pm on October 1st

candlebox candlebox writes: What woodworker doesn't love Nakashima's work? But there will be no peace until the Prince of Peace (Jesus Christ)returns to this earth. Until then, we shouldn't be deceived by those like Tutu who can't understand that genocidal maniacs have to be stopped. The man would sit around all day and call for peace while defensless women and children are slaughtered in the streets.
Posted: 3:35 pm on October 1st

pecos1 pecos1 writes: Consecrated? Lets not lose sight of the real intentions, its just a table. Although a magnificent piece of work, could not the money be used more wisely.
Posted: 3:11 pm on October 1st

Pommele Pommele writes: Desmond Tutu is not Mother Teresa- he has his detractors and some of the issues they raise are not without merit. I think this publication got a bit carried away by going beyond the wood working angle. Well intended, but in hindsight perhaps not the thing to do.
Posted: 10:47 am on October 1st

Cedem Cedem writes: Like to last post I have never been so moved to comment about a magazine article in FWW. It is obvious from to previous posts that the Nakashima issue has stirred political sentiments on both sides. Not that it matters to any of the FWW readers, but I do not believe this event should be worthy of support by American woodworkers. Let the Foundation use its own monies for its causes.

It should be a lesson to the Editors of FWW to stay away from politically sensitive "news" articles and focus on what we all expect from the magizine--the best in woodworking techniques, tools, projects, and outcomes.

Get back to what you do best FWW.

Posted: 10:27 pm on September 30th

westerncraftsman westerncraftsman writes: I have never before been moved to comment about a magazine article, but I find I must in regard to this issue. I hope that Fine Woodworking continues to bring us the news of this type. I find the comments of some of my fellow woodworkers to be overly emotional and frankly disturbing. If some one tells you about such an opportunity, you don't need to insult them or denigrate the cause. If you don't believe in it then don't partake. Your opinion is not the final arbituer of the newsworthiness of information. Let's hope our heads and hearts are not as hard as the wood we work with.
Posted: 9:02 pm on September 30th

SNations SNations writes: Poor, poor choice to put in this magazine, wow...
Posted: 1:44 pm on September 30th

Kittu Kittu writes: I'll bet there will be many supporters of the Nakashima Foundation who wont be so vocal as those who write in magazines opposing this project. I'll further bet that who oppose were the same ones who supported apartheid by taking the stand that it is not Americas business to interfere.

Anyway it is a woodworking magazine there is no point discussing this topic and bringing in extraneous stuff. If one does not want to contribute for whatever reason just don't do it. There is no need to turn it into a extraneous discussion.
Posted: 1:06 pm on September 30th

budh17 budh17 writes: Here's my wish. I wish other people would stop asking me for my hard earned money. My wish is to keep what I've earned and support my family. What happend to woodworking articles? What's next political campaign money requests? American heart fund? etc.
Posted: 11:04 am on September 30th

perisher perisher writes: As a South African Australian I can find no objection to Tutu as a man. He has, and still fights injustice. However as a FWW project I believe that this is outside of the scope of what we as a woodworking community should accept. There are more issues to address at home - both US and Australia - that should command our attention.
Besides, the project is housed in Cape Town and until the South African, and indeed Africa as a whole, can rid itself of the blatant corruption and discrimination that exists, we should not support it.

Posted: 7:19 pm on September 29th

GYnot GYnot writes: Ya, lets send some more money off to God knows where and how it'll really be used. Let's save the world and forget about our own. We're so big, fat and rich that everyone has jobs and doing great.

This makes absolutely no sense at all. Will we ever look at reality and see what's going on here at home? How about giving your hard earned extra cash to the family down the street that's living in their car or about to lose their house. Please wake up and look around.

There so many better places to spend our money than, again and again sending it over seas when it does no good in the end when we get spit on. When will people learn that we can't keep doing this and expect our government to bail us out? Only we can do that. Only we can get us back on track.

Keep our money here at home. Buy American goods, help American people first.
Posted: 2:32 pm on September 29th

stjones stjones writes: I doubt Tutu is anti-Semitic (though he is no friend of Israel). He did indeed claim that "the Iraq military campaign had made the world more unstable 'than any other conflict in history'” ( Since Tutu is an educated man and had at least heard about the two world wars, I can only assume that this lie was deliberate. There are many honest people seeking peace, so I won't be supporting this particular man's efforts.
Posted: 1:43 pm on September 29th

theCPA theCPA writes: Frankly, I'm a bit surprised by all the opposition to the donation funds to a charitable organization that's named after Desmond Tutu. I looked up Tutu's stances on various issues, and don't see anything offensive or objectionable whatsoever:

As a Canadian (yep, one of thooose people), you Yanks really crack me up sometimes.
Posted: 1:30 pm on September 29th

lindhrr lindhrr writes: "No to TuTu"..........And let the Nakashima compound/Foundation,pay for the table with the millions of $$$ they are worth!......Sell a couple of the hundreds and hundreds of slabs they store in their warehouses at New Hope,Pa. And lastly,please no more political items on the Fine Woodworking Web site.

Posted: 1:23 pm on September 29th

DanMcGarigle DanMcGarigle writes: For those criticizing others, and continuing rancors, I simply recall my teacher who taught me that the best approach to peace is to forgive and forget.
Posted: 1:12 pm on September 29th

dutchmansgold dutchmansgold writes: It is great to see a man stand up to ALL apartheid regimes and I will be making a contribution.
Posted: 12:17 pm on September 29th

usafchief usafchief writes: Concur with Tom, TuTu is not my idea of a representative for peace... At least not world wide
Posted: 10:38 am on September 29th

pawunder pawunder writes: May I correct my prior posting re Desmond Tutu. I referred to "Wood Magazine". Obviously, I meant to write Fine Woodworking magazine.

My apologies.
Posted: 10:38 am on September 29th

pawunder pawunder writes: I am disturbed that Wood Magazine would permit a blatantly political and unsupported and potentially slanderous posting on a forum that I use to learn about woodworking. I hope that the Editors will review their policies for the future.

Having said that,I would urge those readers who have an interest, to review Wikipedia's extensive biography on Desmond Tutu which discusses the rumors of Anti-Semitism and reports that according to The American Jewish Committee, the allegations are unfounded.
Posted: 10:35 am on September 29th

Grantman Grantman writes: Thank you, Tom, for an accurate description of the Archbishop. While this is a woodworking site, not a political one, our community should be made aware of this man's true character and not what is whitewashed by the media.

A brief bio can be found here:

I would like to believe the Nakashima Foundation is unaware of the difference between "today's" Tutu and the anti-apartheid Tutu of decades ago.

This beautiful altar will in no way detract from my love and admiration of George Nakashima's work.
Posted: 10:14 am on September 29th

T_om T_om writes: I urge all American woodworkers to refuse to help donate any item, let alone a "Peace Altar", to Desmond Tutu. He is both anti-American and a raging anti-Semite.

This is the same moron that said "The Iraq military campaign had made the world more unstable “than any other conflict in history”. Really? He conveniently ignores World Wars I and II?

The Nakashima Foundation can do as they like. But I urge all American woodworkers to refuse to be a part of advancing Tutu's anti-American stance.
Posted: 8:10 am on September 29th

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