Updated: Mar 13, 2020
A couple of years ago I went to the Morikami Gardens, where I happened upon an exhibition on Japanese design. The Morikami is a beautiful center for Japanese arts, culture and gardens in South Florida. When I walked into the temporary exhibit I was transfixed by a table. It was the most fascinating combination of natural materials to depict both the beauty and strength of a tree in a functional form for use as a table.
I snapped this photo before being told no photos were allowed by a very pissed off guard. When I got home, I started researching the guy who had made this dinning set - mostly because I wanted to have one and wondered how much they cost to purchase. I was depressed by the hefty price tag of the ones that had sold at auction, but thought maybe someday I'd figure out a way to have something this beautiful in my home.
A year or two later, I was up in New Hampshire and my father-in-law took me to this mill, where he has purchased some great wood in the past. I asked the owner if he had any large slabs and he took me over to see one he'd had buried at the bottom of a pile for years. I wiped it off and could see it was something special and bought it on the spot. Never mind how I was going to move this 400 pound piece of wood from the middle of nowhere New Hampshire to my home in south Florida (my wife as not pleased).
After finding out how much moving companies wanted to charge me to move the slab south, I talked my wife into renting a pick-up truck and road tripping the wood down the east coast.
When we arrived back at home in Florida, I recruited my dad to help me get the slab inside, and set about getting my "dining room workshop" up and running.
After letting the slab rest in its new environment, I began the process planing and sanding the top. Although this is probably the longest, most boring part of getting to a finished table, I also get really excited when I start to see the beauty of the natural wood come through.
Finishing the slab also requires stabilizing any cracks or splits so that they don't continue to spread the entire length of the table. The traditional way to do this is to insert a bowtie shaped piece of wood called a butterfly. My wife wasn't a huge fan of the butterflies I put in her desk, so I wanted to do something special. I decided to shape my butterflies like actual butterflies made from contrasting wood.
Inspired by a traditional Japanese method of joining broken pottery back together by filling in the cracks with gold dust, called Kintsugi, I decided to fill in the wood with gold dust mixed into the epoxy.
In addition to working the slab, I also had to build a base that could support the rather substantial weight of the solid top. I calculated the size of the horizontal and vertical supports required to provide stability. I used joinery techniques to bring the whole thing together without any nails or screws, and stained it to match the top.
The result is a stunning piece of furniture that friends and family will sit around for decades to come.