Tribute to Nakashima

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Project by Div posted 11-22-2010 08:37 PM 3956 views 4 times favorited 36 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I had a slack day in the shop recently whilst waiting for materials to arrive. (Bad planning in the logistics department….!)I also had 2 almost book matching boards of Hard Pear that has been continually and persistently watching me from a corner of the shop for quite some time….

Hard Pear (Olinea ventosa) is indigenous to South Africa and grows in the Cape Province. The tree can grow to impressive proportions under the right conditions, reaching heights in excess of 25 m. Due to the uneven, wavy grain it is not an easy timber to work with but the striking grain pattern makes it worth it. Unfortunately the timber is scarce in supply.

What to do with just 2 short boards? I decided to pay tribute to George Nakashima by making a small version of his famous Minguren design. I recently read his book: The soul of a tree. So inspiring! (Yes Ken, I finally managed to borrow a copy from someone!) The little table measures 760 long x 580 wide x 430 high, too small to be a coffee table so let’s call it a side table. Off course I had to add the well known butterfly key! Mine was done with Candlewood.

The size of the table was determined by the size of the boards and proportions happened as I went along. Again, no drawings. Don’t I ever learn? In retrospect the vertical piece just looks too high/square. Your comments, critique is welcome.

-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."

36 comments so far

View BTKS's profile


1989 posts in 4926 days

#1 posted 11-22-2010 08:51 PM

Unique piece! I like it.

-- "Man's ingenuity has outrun his intelligence" (Joseph Wood Krutch)

View docholladay's profile


1287 posts in 4521 days

#2 posted 11-22-2010 09:01 PM

That is some really amazing grain on that wood. I have never heard of Hard Pear. Very nice project. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.


-- Hey, woodworking ain't brain surgery. Just do something and keep trying till you get it. Doc

View lilredweldingrod's profile


2496 posts in 4569 days

#3 posted 11-22-2010 09:06 PM

That is some beautiful wood. I just converted the metrics. That is a nice size table.

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 4498 days

#4 posted 11-22-2010 09:10 PM

A beautiful piece of work, Div. Very striking.

In the tinier UK this would qualify as a coffee table.

Oh I wish I lived in a bigger land.

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View Div's profile


1653 posts in 4402 days

#5 posted 11-22-2010 09:20 PM

Yip, it is an amazing timber. Many times it has the most amazing ripple in the figure, though not in this case.
Thanks for the comments.
Notottoman: You have the same problem dude? At least mine don’t speak yet. Can you imagine the noise!

Martyn, thanks. Living in a tinier land means it is easier and cheaper to make BIG pieces. :^) It was not for nothing that Einstein said all is relative to reference!

-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."

View swirt's profile


7693 posts in 4434 days

#6 posted 11-22-2010 09:30 PM

Looks amazing. Not too square at all. Extraordinary wood. Nice tribute to the man and the wood. (mental note to self to go get that book)

Of course again there is a structural nag in the back of my head LOL. What keeps some oaf from leaning on the unsupported side and snapping the large plank underneath somewhere near and parallel to that middle glue line? Seems like a lot of potential torque on that plank. Is it just that the wood is so gnarly of twisitng grain that it has no clear plane of weakness, or do you keep a trained dog under the table to scare oafs away?

-- Galootish log blog,

View AaronK's profile


1512 posts in 4926 days

#7 posted 11-22-2010 09:32 PM

nice work! i wouldnt worry about the proportions – it’s not so far off that it looks wrong, and it depends on where it is placed (room, next to something else, etc). anyway, the figure is awesome and the candlewood is particularly striking.

View Div's profile


1653 posts in 4402 days

#8 posted 11-22-2010 10:17 PM

AaronK, thanks for easing my mind!

Swirt:Ha,ha, me and you and structural snags! You can probably deduce by now that I like to play with designs that push the boundaries a little. First, there are 2 battens underneath the top, half lapped square into the top of the vertical piece. They stop short of the top’s edges and the ends are tapered, only visible if you look from a low vantage point. Second, I don’t mean to brag, but my glue lines are stronger than the wood itself, as it should be. I’ve destruction tested many practice joints and have jointed a gazillion edges in my time.:^)
Third, if the vertical board could have been 38mm, it would have been stiff enough, but because it is only 22mm thick, I was worried about flex. I ended up fitting a vertical on edge piece to the other non visible side. Attached to the bottom leg and screwed only to the upper edge of vertical board. No glue due to differences in grain orientation. It spoils the clean look a little but I had no choice….wish the timber was thicker….

The dog is not a bad idea, wish you told me earlier..

Get the book, it is worth it!

-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."

View swirt's profile


7693 posts in 4434 days

#9 posted 11-22-2010 10:44 PM

I play it too safe, so I like that your designs stretch my mind out of its comfort zone. I knew your glue line would be strong, that’s why I suggested it would break near the glue line but not at it.

I get it, a vertical spine on the back side. Perfect! I assumed it was symetrical.

Now I can go back to figuring out how your shop backgound just disappears into darkness. I wish mine was as good at hiding messes. ;)

-- Galootish log blog,

View dakremer's profile


2771 posts in 4553 days

#10 posted 11-22-2010 11:37 PM

hey Div, this table is awesome! Let me know if you want me to add it to my blog on tables (i know your connection is slow) – this is great. i love how you can make a modern looking table using ROUGH boards! Great job

Also your chair is awesome too!! and same things apply (if you want me to add it)

-- Hey you dang woodchucks, quit chucking my wood!!!!

View Div's profile


1653 posts in 4402 days

#11 posted 11-22-2010 11:48 PM

Dak, if it makes you happy, go for it! Keep in mind that the original designs is not mine!

-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 5590 days

#12 posted 11-23-2010 12:01 AM

Great looking table!
Nakashima would be pleased.

I spent a day with Sensei Nakashima once.

-- 温故知新

View Napoleon's profile


788 posts in 4271 days

#13 posted 11-23-2010 12:19 AM

Hard pear…first time i hear of it but WOW thats a nice piece of wood. I dont know this Nakashima but after what i can see you really payed your tribute to him.

I must contact the danish goverment,cause we simply need to start a forrest poduktion of hard pear !

Well done Div

-- Boatbuilder&blacksmith

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 5708 days

#14 posted 11-23-2010 12:37 AM


-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View rwde's profile


45 posts in 5020 days

#15 posted 11-23-2010 02:08 AM

The book is great inspiration (I own a copy), and I am a Nakashima fan. I like your table very much. Could I persuade you to post a couple pictures of the joint between the top and the support post? I have some matched oak pieces that I want to use for a Minguren-type side or end table, and would like to see how you made that joint work. Thanks.

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