Tuesday, July 28, 2009


I've been thinking of the word authenticity as a result of seeing Ed Stilley's guitar and fiddle. They are authentic, original, unusual and the creation of a single man's unique vision and intent. If you are comparing them with a Yamaha, or Taylor, or one of the fine hand-crafted guitars in the luthier's tradition, they might not measure up to some set of preconceived standards. But so what?

When I was at the furniture design opening at the Historic Arkansas Museum, I met a fellow woodworker whom I have admired for many years but had not previously had a chance to meet. As he described his deep interest in getting computerized tools to do his craftsmanship, cutting costs, but also increasing visual interest, I mentioned, "I think we are moving in exactly opposite directions." My comment was not intended as an insult. For some, getting computers to take over more of the craftsmanship involved in their work work might be authentic. It was in his perspective, but not in mine.

As we talked, we were standing by the bench I made for Crystal Bridges Museum and there were signs all over the museum stating "do not touch." His hands were all over my work caressing it and ignoring the warnings. Who could blame him. Wood is irresistible. And I was honored that another woodworker with such a completely different objective would find what I presented as being of such interest.

Today (as yesterday and the day before) I am sanding away all the milling marks on the mountain of parts that will become 6 tables in walnut and cherry. The object is that the beauty of the grain and color will be revealed without distraction. As a reflection of my interest in authenticity, each piece is cut from solid wood. In this design I find it important that wide pieces are not glued up from narrow stock, but reflect the authenticity of the materials used. This severely limits my selection from available materials, but also makes even more certain that each table is unique.

The parts as shown above go through 4 sanding operations. Edges will be routed, then slots will be cut in the tenons for contrasting wedges to fit.

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