With a dining table and chairs in mind I went to our local hardwood dealer—Helena Hardwoods—in search of wood and inspiration. Dave carries many live edge slabs and we are lucky to have this source right in our hometown. After looking through many with him I came upon two that grabbed me.
That is how this table started. I bought them and let them sit in my shop for a while. I knew that I wanted to make the table top using the live edge of these slabs and use the remaining wood for the seats of the chairs. Although the two slabs would open into a bookmatached pair, they would be too wide at one end and narrow at the other for the table I wanted. So I decided to flip them end for end and join them on an angle. With this decided, I soon realized I did not have enough wood for six seats. So back to Dave’s for more wood to match.
With the top flattened and glued up and the seat blanks made, I started on the structural parts of the chairs. The original design I came up with a few years ago and have refined it along the way—recently adding arms. These chairs use the joinery developed by Sam Maloof which allows for a very flowing organic design and a wonderful play of hard and soft lines. They are also very comfortable.
Then back to the table and deciding a base for it. This is always a challenge for me—to design a base for a live edge piece that supports it in every way—structurally and aesthetically—without detracting from it. My original intention was a four legged base, but it soon became apparent that would not work with the captain’s chairs at the ends. So I decided on a trestle base that made room for both the chairs at the ends and ample room on the sides.
Although I have a very good idea of what the wood I am using will look like finished, it is still somewhat of a surprise when I actually put the first coat of finish on and the beautiful grain reveals itself. I saw a large rather shallow river with beautiful ripples and color. When describing this to my neighbor—an avid fisherman—he reminded me that this describes the Madison River here in Montana.
A further connection came when I remembered that my father had built a cabin on the Madison just outside the Park in West Yellowstone many years ago. It still stands. Too bad it is not still in the family!
Working with wood—especially live edge slabs—is a process. For me it is a process of letting the wood speak to me when I first see it, interacting with it all through the construction, and still listening and delighting when it reveals itself completely during the finishing.