Walnut bench after Nakashima
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.
Walnut slab that I left as sawn. Maple spindles. Curved back and legs fit in through, tapered mortise.
smaller crotch figure