My second commission – part 2

12/10/2015

If you want to read this epic tale from the start, go here for part one.

The stock for this Nakashima-esque table has been sitting in the shop for the past 2 weeks. It should have acclimatised adequately by now for us to take the next step. Having said that, we’ve had a heatwave warning were they expect temperatures to go above 45ºc on a regular basis in the next 5 days or so. That might mean that the stock will need further acclimatisation, but what the heck.

I still remember vividly how we were waiting in eager anticipation for the  so called ‘heatwaves”, while living in Yorkshire UK. Usually we would ask the locals when the heatwave was supposed to hit when it got up to 18ºC (if you are lucky) and they would say that we are in the midst of it! At that stage we usually noticed that all the locals were halve naked in the streets. We would still be wearing jerseys and only venture outside if absolutely necessary.

Clearly it seems Namibia has a different type of heatwave. Anyway, it seems as if I went on a wee bit of a meteorological tangent there.

In the pictures below you can see the Kershout (Candle wood) boards we chose for the top. This stuff is exceptionally hard and the tree that the board on the right came from must have been close to or more than 900 years old. These trees spent all that time in the pristine surroundings of the Knysna-Amatole montane forest. Since being harvested the boards has been air dried and seasoned for at least 11 years, possibly closer to 16.

I spent quite a bit of time trying to work out what would be the best way to join them into an aesthetically pleasing top, while allowing the natural ‘defects’ and cracks to take centre stage, as per George Nakashima’s famous mantra: “Every part of each tree has only one perfect use.”

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I used my Festool TS55 with it’s guide to cut as straight as possible. Another variable I had to keep in mind is the maximum width of my planer, which is 300 mm. The wood is so hard that you will simply toast all your hand planes and yourself in attempting to plane these by hand. As you will know by now, I am not one to shy away from ridiculous hand planing tasks, but to attempt it in this case would be absolutely mental.

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I plane the boards in two very tiring sessions down to the appearance in the pictures below. As you can see there is still some way to go, but it needs to settle down for a while before I can do the rest. If one does too much at once, the wood tends to move all over the place.

The wood was so hard that the planer really complained while removing as little as 0.1 of a millimeter. You can just imagine how many passes it took to get it down to the current state of play.

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By Sunday night I clamped the boards to each other and the top of my assembly table to keep them straight while they wait for probably 2 weeks before we touch them again.

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4 thoughts on “My second commission – part 2”

  1. That is so cool! Amazing … and an enormous privilege to be part of this process! … because I want to be like Gerhard Marx…..

    1. Thank you Heidi, you make me blush. I feel privileged to be able to build this table for you guys, but lets not count our chickens just yet. There will be quite a few technical challenges to overcome before we can sit around it and have a glass of champagne.
      Thank you for your comment.
      Gerhard

  2. Hey Gerhard,

    18° sounds like perfect weather to me. A nice summer day!

    45°??? Wow… I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like trying to woodwork in that. Your shop is nearly completely exposed to the outside, isn’t’ it? My hat’s off to you if you can continue to woodwork in the summer.

    I’m looking forward to seeing what you do with this project.

    I hope all is well,

    Jonathan

    1. Hi Jonathan

      Sorry for the slow reply, we went to the Okavango for a few days. There were Elephants at the camp the night before we arrived. Apparently they are being poached on the Angolan side, so they came across to our side as the river is very low at present. They ended up injuring a woman a few kilometers from camp according to the locals. Exciting times in Africa.

      The “heatwave” turned out to be a hoax from what I heard. We actually had a few very comfortable days, maybe 32-34 degrees. My shop is exposed to the elements (especially afternoon sun) and has no insulation under the tin roof. Between October and April it would rarely go below 35 degrees in the shop during the day. You already know that saying about the gypsy with the mortgage. That applies to me most of the time while in the shop.

      Nice to hear from you brother.
      Gerhard

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