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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Fall is just around the "bend"

What will this become?
The summer is definitely the slowest time for most woodworkers, myself included. Between vacations and outdoor activities, it can be hard to justify solitary confinement in a dusty indoor shop. But with Labor day around the corner, I’m already feeling the itch to get back at it. Usually, I’ve had some vacation time to really nail down my first Fall project, but this year things are not so cut and dry.

You see, I’m at a little bit of a crossroads right now, since there are a few factors that will dictate which project out of four or five that I currently have in the hopper will make it to my bench first. I have a screen door and a sideboard project that I have already committed to, but I have also been noodling on a design for a small side table that has had me completely stumped. I’ve always said you should never let your tools or your techniques dictate your designs, but this one has had me scratching my head on both of those fronts. But I think I have figured out the solution to my “bending dilemma” if I can just figure out the remaining tool problem. But more on that later.

As if I didn’t already have enough going on at once, last weekend I ended up connecting with a new one-man lumber mill. This guy started out in the firewood business, but realized he had some great walnut, cherry, ash, and maple that was criminal to be chopping into logs. So he started milling wide 8/4 boards to sell, and I was more than happy to go through his entire selection! I did get some fantastic 16” wide wet ash that was what originally drew me to this supplier (which is a big hint to solution to the “bending problem” I referenced) but I also stumbled upon a fantastic piece of walnut that I just couldn’t pass up. The ash turned out to be very reasonably priced, so I had an extra $100 or so burning a hole in my pocket. And now I’m the proud owner of this fantastic crotch slab that I have no idea what to do with.

I still don’t know which project I’m going to start off with, but I do know my mind has been going 100 miles per hour on ideas for that board. Usually, I start with a design, and then go after the materials that will work best with it. This is the first time I’ve really been confronted with a piece of stock that clearly needs to dictate the project. Aside from the obvious coffee table, I’d love to hear other folks ideas about what this slab can turn into. It’s about 5’ long, and 20” at its widest point. And it’s VERY heavy.

Anyway, look for lots of brand new episodes this Fall. I have plenty of projects lined up, and I’ll be exploring some new and even experimental techniques. And maybe, I’ll even figure out what to do with that slab along the way!


Anonymous said...

Hey Rob, that's an awesome piece of walnut, maybe you could draw some inspiration from Krenov, I know he used to work with all kinds of pieces like that. Anyways, I was wondering if I could get a little more information about that guy you bought from. I am in your neck of the woods and would be interested if he was local. Does he dry the wood as well or is that up to the buyer? Thanks

Rob Bois said...

I had every intention of sharing the info for this woodcutter. You can check out Higher Standard Woodcutting on Facebook at

Jem said...

Can't wait to see what you do with that slab of wood. Always enjoy your blog and builds. Thanks Rob, from an armchair woodworker ( one of these days I will get into my empty garage and build a shop ). Your an inspiration on what can be done in a relatively small shop.

Philippe Jean (Qu├ębec ,Canada) said...

This walnut slab have such a nice
Organic shape i think it would make an awesome
Nakashima inspired bench.
By the way i realy enjoy the blog

Jim A said...

Rob you have three(!!) live edges on this so it would be a bit of a shame if you didn't use all three. That limits your options. I can't think of anything vertical that would work (unless you resaw and use it for the sides of something) so that makes it a natural for a top. Besides, you want to showcase this piece. What I'd love to see you do is make a side table with a frame and drawers that contour to match the natural contour of the top. Not an easy project but you do very little that is easy. Whatever you decide on, I'm anxious to follow along.


Rob Bois said...

Jim, I do believe you have just thrown down the gauntlet. I'm always looking for a new challenge, so I might just have to start doing some sketches. That's way better than my original idea of using the slab for drawer slides ;)

Jim A said...

Wrong wood for drawer sides. I always use ebony because it is so waxy. Doesn't everyone?

Jim A.

Brian said...

Love the blog, Rob. It is an inspiration to those of us just starting out in the craft. Also, I work just down the road in Natick! Maybe its just the Irish in me but that looks like it would make a mean bartop! I also thought it would look cool vertical with some feet and a few small decorative shelves to hold either small plants, curios or even small picture frames. Its such a beautiful cut of wood, it IS the final project. Even in your capable hands, the less you can do to it the better.

Rob Bois said...

Funny, my wife always gives me that exact same advice. Less is more. I think often times as woodworkers we are tempted to "show off" by adding detail that showcases our abilities, but doesn't add to the piece. With a piece of walnut like this, the wood definitely needs to speak for itself. Brian, as a local guy I'd also encourage you to check out Modern Woodworkers Association ( We have a good local chapter with fairly regular meetups.