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The Nakashima Inspired Bench

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Project by TampaTom posted 07-30-2009 09:20 PM 2249 views 11 times favorited 22 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I have been a George Nakashima fan since my neighbor lent me his autographed copy of Soul of a Tree. Nakashima was a master at blending crisply-cut details with wild look of wood slabs cut from the log. Live edges, bark inclusions and all make his tables something much more grand than just a plain old table.

For the past few years, I had wanted to find a suitable piece of wood to use to build my own slab bench, but my hardwood suppliers here in Florida weren’t able to easily lay their hands on such a board. When I had mentioned what I was looking for to Eric Poirier of Bell Forest Products, he located the sweet board for me. Hard maple with both bird’s-eye and tiger effect in it. The wood makes the bench for me… And, the live edge of the board… WOW.

For the base, I used some mahogany and a strip of tiger maple. My friend Craig Andrews drew out the base for me on Sketchup, and it looked very cool. I used a jigsaw and my oscillating spindle sander to bring it to final shape.

The stretcher passes through two open mortises in the legs, giving some visual interest to the piece. There is a top stretcher that is mortised into the two legs. This provides a more than adequate surface to screw the top to the base. Yes, I used screws. The thought of cutting and chiseling through that board’s surface for through tenons didn’t do anything for me. Maybe for a more ordinary looking piece of wood on a later project…

I had to start the finish at my hardwood supplier, Weiss Hardwoods in Largo. They had the big Powermatic wide format belt sander that took the wood from rough to baby’s bottom smooth in about three minutes. I gladly paid the very reasonable fee to have this done for me instead of trying to scrape and sand it smooth myself.

Once I got it home, I used card scrapers and my cabinet scraper to fine the surface up even more. A coat of 1# cut shellac sealed all of the wood on the project, and I sanded that down with 400 grit wet/dry paper to make the wood velvety smooth. I followed that with three top coats of my finishing mix on the entire project, sanding with 600 grit paper between. Then, two coats of wipe on poly were added to the top to provide additional protection. This was finally followed by some paste furniture wax.

This was a very rewarding project. I love to watch people run their hands over the polished top and the live edges when they see it for the first time. That tells me that I think I may have done Nakashima proud.

-- Tom's Workbench - http://tomsworkbench.com





22 comments so far

View dustyal's profile

dustyal

1200 posts in 2131 days


#1 posted 07-30-2009 09:34 PM

Yes, you did him quite proud. Deceptive to look at the grain in the photo and think of it as being smooth to the touch. Fascinating job. Excellent leg design. Honestly, I can’t make up my mind if I like the edge as it is, or perhaps tapered and smoothed to match the ends… don’t think it matters… just thinking it through a little as in, what if? Also, for whatever it is worth from a compete amateur… screw it … I couldn’t bring myself to cut and chisel that top.

I hadn’t heard of a George Nakashima until I saw a piece of his on Antique Roadshow…uh, his pieces are quite nice not to mention pricey !!

-- Al H. - small shop, small projects...

View blackcherry's profile

blackcherry

3161 posts in 2478 days


#2 posted 07-30-2009 09:53 PM

Drop dead gorgeous!!! The bird-eye top with the live edge dose it. Will have to look into more of Nakashima work…thanks for posting…Blkcherry

View SnowyRiver's profile

SnowyRiver

51451 posts in 2136 days


#3 posted 07-30-2009 10:35 PM

Thats a terrific looking table. Very nice job.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View patron's profile

patron

13034 posts in 1996 days


#4 posted 07-30-2009 10:41 PM

beautifull bench .
i’m sure nakashima would be happy
that you are inspired by his work .
i read an article of his ,
where he said the best way to store slabs of wood ,
is standing up on it’s side ,
not flat to the wall ( how it can bow )
it required brackets to keep the slabs from
fliping to flat .
this way both sides could dry evenly ,
and not have sticker marks in the finished piece.
it really works well !

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View jimp's profile

jimp

207 posts in 2416 days


#5 posted 07-30-2009 10:53 PM

That’s a beautiful bench! I like how you added the maple to the legs.

-- - Jim, Carroll, OH

View TampaTom's profile

TampaTom

74 posts in 2409 days


#6 posted 07-30-2009 10:57 PM

Adding the maple was fun… I basically added the strip between the mahogany halves and glued the through mortise into place. No fuss, no muss!

-- Tom's Workbench - http://tomsworkbench.com

View cwdance1's profile

cwdance1

1143 posts in 1914 days


#7 posted 07-30-2009 11:18 PM

Stunning piece of wood, beautiful job.

View Casper's profile

Casper

45 posts in 1885 days


#8 posted 07-31-2009 12:10 AM

That looks great Tom. That is a beautiful piece of wood for sure.

View grampata's profile

grampata

74 posts in 2399 days


#9 posted 07-31-2009 12:57 AM

I really like it….alot

View Ben Kahmann's profile

Ben Kahmann

231 posts in 1927 days


#10 posted 07-31-2009 01:16 AM

Beautiful slab table, I love figured maple

-- Ben Kahmann Dayton, OH

View zarno's profile

zarno

28 posts in 2062 days


#11 posted 07-31-2009 01:48 AM

Fantastic job Im nuts about live edge stuff and a big Nakashima fan Im also nuts about wood with crazy figure! Wow did you ever find a great piece. Wish there were a few more pictures.

View kolwdwrkr's profile

kolwdwrkr

2821 posts in 2246 days


#12 posted 07-31-2009 06:07 AM

she’s a beauty

-- ~ Inspiring those who inspire me ~

View JoeinDE's profile

JoeinDE

373 posts in 1979 days


#13 posted 07-31-2009 02:19 PM

Nice table.

-- A bad craftsmen blames his cheap #$%ing tools

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 2955 days


#14 posted 07-31-2009 04:32 PM

Very nice craftsmanship, & beautiful.

Welcome to the competition.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN. http://www.woodcarvingillustrated.com/gallery/member.php?uid=3627&protype=1

View TampaTom's profile

TampaTom

74 posts in 2409 days


#15 posted 07-31-2009 05:02 PM

Hey, I’m just happy to be in it! :D

-- Tom's Workbench - http://tomsworkbench.com

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