How well do you know your own style?

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Forum topic by Monte Pittman posted 03-24-2014 03:43 AM 1703 views 0 times favorited 26 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Monte Pittman

29968 posts in 2512 days

03-24-2014 03:43 AM

Topic tags/keywords: resource question

I think that all of us have had “throw together” projects. They aren’t built in a certain style, only made to fit a need at the time. These are not what I am asking about.

Most of us here follow certain styles of woodworking. These are usually referred to by the most notable woodworkers performing them (or creating them). For me, I love the look of live edge furnishings. Thus I love the work and the writings of George Nakashima. However, there are those who follow Sam Maloof (my second favorite), maybe Green & Green.

My question, do you make items that simply resemble the style, or have you spent the time to research and understand their thoughts and why they did it the way they did. I do not even slightly say I now everything about George Nakashima. But I continue to study his ways. He was more than a woodworker. He was an engineer and a horticulturalist. I find his approach to his projects fascinating. I have done some reading on Sam Maloof. I try to understand what their approach was to their work.

So am I the odd man out, or do most try to understand their style? I am far from where I want to be, but I am loving the journey.

Thanks for reading.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

26 replies so far

View LyallAndSons's profile


66 posts in 2771 days

#1 posted 03-14-2014 06:51 PM

Great post my friend! I have given this a lot of thought as well. Most of my customers come in with a drawing or pictures and I have to stay in the parameters they dictate. The projects I LOVE are the rare times someone walks in and says, “I want a pie safe but do it anyway you like” Other than rough size, I get turned lose to do what I do.

My style is early English with some French thrown in for the most part. I love raised panels and it shows in most of my furniture. I’m doing a curly cherry blanket chest due out Monday and will have a Project and blog entry showing the build but its the most typical of my style of anything I’ve done in quite some time.

I have a set of store displays up next but I’m doing a nursery room after that and have been give the green light on it as well. The customer did give me some specs and ideas they wanted tied in but they are pretty loose.

To answer the question, I don’t think I follow a particular woodworker as much as a period in time when it comes to design.

-- Lyall & Sons Woodsmiths...Custom handcrafted woodwork since 1989

View mahdee's profile


4006 posts in 1942 days

#2 posted 03-14-2014 06:58 PM

To be honest, I had never heard of those folks until I joined LJ. Since then, I haven’t done any research on them either (One of these days). I find it interesting that there are so many engineers in here that are woodworkers or getting into woodworking. I also love natural edge designs and try to incorporate it into the things I make. Few things that bring my design together are french curves, Fibonacci retracement and Pi. I assume the people you mentioned thought of an idea, put it on paper and went to the shop and created their masterpieces after many lessons learned and needed modifications. One of these days I will put my thoughts on paper before going to the shop to building; not there yet.


View KnickKnack's profile


1094 posts in 3740 days

#3 posted 03-14-2014 07:11 PM

Interesting question.

I am, and have always been, in 2 minds about this.

One the one hand – it’s awesome that Beethoven wrote his 9th Symphony when profoundly deaf – that, surely, undeniably, makes it an even greater achievement.
On the other hand – it’s a piece of music, that’s all – you listen to it, it affects you or it doesn’t, and who wrote it, why they wrote it, and their physical state when they wrote it should be irrelevant.

So you see a piece of furniture, or a box, or a whatever. You like it, you don’t like it, you think it’s well made, you think it’s badly made – the piece is a piece on its own. I now tell you the guy who made it is blind. Now, the thing changes in your head, surely it must do. But is it really fair that it does? It’s still the same box.

And then you have “modern art” – that big red blog in a black canvas. You look. You don’t get it. You read what the artist was trying to say – the mist lifts and you understand more about the red blob on a black canvas. But, surely, if you had to read about it, the artist failed in the first place?

Perhaps I got off track a bit – if you’re looking to make pieces “Nakashima style” (or Saposhima-style even), I guess it’s possibly a good idea to look into what his mind was up to.
On the other hand – surely his pieces should stand on their own?

Interesting question.
I’m very confused.
Luckily, I don’t have a style :-)

I’m watching this thread carefully for mist-lifting comments.

-- "Do not speak – unless it improves on silence." --- "Following the rules and protecting the regulations is binding oneself without rope."

View CoachSchroeder's profile


97 posts in 1778 days

#4 posted 03-14-2014 07:24 PM

I may be in the same stream as Knickknack here. Certain styles appeal to me
(right now I’m not ready to claim a style for myself, I just haven’t turned out enough projects)

It doesn’t go terribly far beyond that.
But maybe down the road it will.
Right now I’m obsessed with trees and the idea of milling lumber. That wasn’t the case until I got tired of buying hardwoods from big box stores. I purchased a jointer, a planer is on the way. I want to buy rough lumber and suddenly BAM. I want to mill my own logs.
Maybe one day I will move beyond those things and start being more concerned with the craftsmen who pioneered various styles/techniques.

-- -Sam, in Wisconsin

View Hammerthumb's profile


2902 posts in 2149 days

#5 posted 03-14-2014 07:29 PM

Interesting topic Monte. I’m not particular to any style. I’m sure there are a lot of LJs that are. I like Nakashima and have one of his books somewhere, but never built anything in that style.

-- Paul, Duvall, WA

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

29968 posts in 2512 days

#6 posted 03-14-2014 08:31 PM

I will say for knickknack, I have been known to over think things. Yes sometimes it is best to just listen to the music and not worry about how it was written.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View jinkyjock's profile


488 posts in 1748 days

#7 posted 03-14-2014 09:15 PM

Wow Monte, you don’t go for simple, that really is a philosophical question.
Personally I think as designer/makers our “STYLE”isn’t fixed, and is an evolutionary process dependent on the influences we encounter on our (as you put it) journey. So in essence your style is merely a reflection of a snapshot of your life/time. In my own opinion I think James Krenov and his example/philosophy epitomise all that is good about furniture making, so thinking and questioning how and why you favour certain practices is no bad thing.
I shall now return to my whisky…........

View doubleDD's profile


7772 posts in 2217 days

#8 posted 03-14-2014 09:58 PM

+ one for KnickKnack. The design or style we use may not come from anyone in particular. We get an inspiration and go with it. If it happens to imitate someones style its a plus for them.

-- Dave, Downers Grove, Il. -------- When you run out of ideas, start building your dreams.

View bowtie's profile


990 posts in 2520 days

#9 posted 03-14-2014 10:44 PM

I started with very basic furniture that could be built with few tools and readily available lumber ( big box store ).
I now mill my own lumber and have sufficient tools for most projects so those limitations are behind me.
I like to sketch out my own ideas and create rough drawings, I HATE plans. I think one of my biggest shortcomings is that after years of working as a flatrate mechanic at dealerships I’m in too big of a hurry, too rushed, too interested in production and I fail to spend enough time on the art of woodworking. I like what I like and hate what I hate. I sometimes build items for people I personally don’t like but hey I gotta eat.
Monte, Sam and George did beautiful work also but if you had been born a hundred years earlier they might be writing about the great Monte Pittman!

-- bowtie,.....jus passin thru....

View Rick S...'s profile

Rick S...

10768 posts in 3207 days

#10 posted 03-14-2014 10:55 PM

“Yes sometimes it is best to just listen to the music and not worry about how it was written.”

Totally Agree! Personally I’m not influenced by Anyone’s Designs or Procedures.

I’m a “Hobby Type” of woodworker. What I make is for my Personal Use or for a Friend as a Gift or something they’ve asked me to make for them.

A Basic set of Measurements or a rough drawing is all I ever use. From there on it’s “Build It” and “Fly By The Seat Of Your Pants” if you prefer.

I’m also a Glider Pilot and that’s where that expression came from because “The Seat Of Your Pants” is the first place you fell a Thermal exerting Lift on one of your wings and you turn into it QUICKLY!

I’m outta here now. This WAIT & WAIT & WAIT is driving me around the bend!

-- It is not necessary for Some People to turn OFF the LIGHT to be IN the DARK! (Ontario, CANADA)

View MalcolmLaurel's profile


298 posts in 1797 days

#11 posted 03-14-2014 11:32 PM

I can’t say I “follow” any style; I only follow my own vision. I guess it could be called “rustic” and I’ve used that term for my lamps because people like to pigeonhole things, but I’m not deliberately making “rustic” items; I find an interesting piece of wood or a branch and think about what I can make out of it.

-- Malcolm Laurel -

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3477 days

#12 posted 03-14-2014 11:41 PM

nice thoughts here, i have always loved rustic woodwork, by that i mean i love live edge and i love to use wood as it is, i want to celebrate the wood, Nakashima was the same way in many aspects, i just didnt know about him until a few years back, when i saw his work i was amazed, and loved it all, but i tend to follow my heart and try to use different woods that will compliment each other, color and texture…so i hope i helped with what you were asking…i have watched everything that i know of on Nakashima, his daughter is running his business now, he had an immense supply of wood when he passed away, and they are using it still..maloof was the same, he collected wood and stored it, and his men have it all today that they build with, i also have a huge collection of wood, and wil add to it very shortly, i cut down a very large walnut three weeks ago, waiting to hear from the sawyer…cant wait…good luck monte, wish i could come and help you for awhile..really do..i know you will do well…

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View barringerfurniture's profile


224 posts in 1886 days

#13 posted 03-14-2014 11:56 PM

“Loving the journey” is what it’s all about for sure, I think.

I immediately felt an attachment to Shaker furniture as soon as I knew what it was. There are both practical and philosophical reasons for this; As a carpenter with no formal training in “fine furniture” building, I could understand it’s construction fairly readily. Once I taught myself to cut dovetails, I was off and running! Figured I’d learn the rest as I go.

I identify personally with styles that are not ornate. I like unadorned functionality – working class furniture. It appeals to my working class pride which becomes stronger, the older I get.

I have no personal connection to Shakers and I live in Sacramento, CA, far from the origins of the style. But I’ve always shared, or at least aspired to many of the basic philosophical values they seemed to have; an uncluttered, clean and purposeful life, simplicity, self-sufficiency and work as a form of worship.

I’m no historian in any sense but I’m always trying to learn more about the origins of this style that, for reasons only now apparent to me, drew me in from the beginning.

-- Scott Barringer, Sacramento, CA

View DocSavage45's profile


8706 posts in 3016 days

#14 posted 03-15-2014 01:19 AM


When I first came onto LJ’s I had been influenced in many ways.Nakashima for his originality. I lived in Japan for 2 years so I am influenced by the culture as was Frank Lloyd Wright. Speaking of listening to the music James Krenov wrote about the symphony experieced in being with the wood.

Seth Stem’s book on furniture design and workshops locally have helped me see and understand why I like something, but making it is different.

Thomas Moser wrote two books about his evolution. He rehabbed furniture for people while going through graduate school.

As I was saying, when I came on board I was seriously investigating “Studio Furniture” makers.

So far I am” helter skelter” and woodbutchering, and appreciating everyone else s journey as I find them.

Benji Reyes to name drop. LOL! And watching LJ’s grow like yourself or Greg the Cajun Box Sculptor, Blackie, and Keifer is a trip all by himself! Andy Halewood, Andy the Box Maker who produces Joan Miro type art boxes. These folkschanged my concept of what a box is.

Still putting things together.

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View Roger's profile


20949 posts in 2978 days

#15 posted 03-15-2014 01:33 AM

I think I feel as you do Monte. We all have our own styles/ways, or whatever you want to call it. I know, well, I don’t know what “style” I have. It takes me a long time to do anything it seems, so, I could say, my style is s…..l….....o….........w. :) Work/Play safe. Let’s all keep makin dust, no matter how we do it.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

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