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Walnut slab that I left as sawn. Maple spindles. Curved back and legs fit in through, tapered mortise.
Several years ago I bought a walnut slab from a sawyer in Missouri. I looked at it for several years, off-and-on, and a couple of months ago put it in my shop. Having nothing wide enough to flatten such a wide board I planned one side by hand. The wood was far more beautifully figured than I could have imagined. It had two crotches; one over 3′ in length. I knew I could never saw up the slab. I bought “The Soul of a Tree” and was inspired by Nakashima’s work and philosophy.
I looked at the slab a while longer.
I began by flattening the other side and working in the butterfly keys as needed and looked at the slab some more. I left the shape of the slab mostly untouched and worked the edges down as it wished. The wood had no graceful curves; no shape unto itself – only the beautiful figure. Wanting curves I turned wide and thick legs with graceful, female curves, which removed some of the weight of the slab. I had never done a tapered Windsor leg and after consulting with a chairmaker (Peter Galbert) I made a tapered reamer and reamed through the slab. This is a departure from Nakashima, but I didn’t want a copy. And, I wanted to allow the connection to show – it seemed a bit more honest.
I lived with the bench for a while longer; afraid of going further. I was unsure. I next made the back and departed again from Nakashima. His small backs seemed to small, but I love the shape of torii gates used that basic shape while also including a gentle curve in the length similar to Nakashima.
Next, the spindles. With the robust legs the spindles needed to be a bit taller and slightly larger. I used maple after Nakashima. I departed from his spindle connections and actually had some difficultly sorting out how he created two angles; both looking like they continued through the back. This seems to be a missed detail in his benches…it is unnoticeable and that is its genius.
So, the bench is a grandchild of Nakashima…an Asian Windsor in the modern, natural sense, but masculine.
The taper on the legs is 7 degrees with 5 degree splay each direction. The back is 12 degrees.
smaller crotch figure
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What is the finishing process? I have similar walnut and want a similar finish.
Beautiful piece. I like the through tenon on the legs. are they wedged? Glue fit? they look to be about 1"? I ask because I am working on an eastern walnut slab coffee table and am considering through tenons but am concerned with strength. Your bench has given me confidence because surely it will have to hold more weight than my coffee table! any ideas on legs will be appreciated.
Well done! I like the effect of the natural slab and the bow ties. Nice piece!
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