Updated: Apr 2, 2020
This image shows the first of two stools that I am making for our kitchen. It's incomplete and still requires sanding, finish, and a properly weaved seat. I don't know if the design will appeal to the masses, but I enjoyed making it, and I think the design's evolution is interesting.
A couple of years ago, I went to Amsterdam. While visiting I had the opportunity to go to the Vangogh Museum, where I got to see the exhibit "Inspiration from Japan"
I've been exposed to Vangogh's work since Elementary school. I'd always thought of him as an under appreciated genius that had created his very own unique style right from the beginning. This could not be more incorrect.
Vangogh was like you and I - his inspiration came from the beauty he saw in the world around him. In the case of this exhibit, his inspiration had been Japanese Prints. The realization that someone as great as Vagogh, pulled his design inspirations from the work of others, was eye opening, to say the least.
Then, about a month ago, I repaired some broken caned canoes seats. The frames where in pretty bad shape, as well, so I ended up making complete new seats for the canoes. I liked how they came out, and thought they would look cool as stools for our kitchen.
My first step was to find materials. I place high importance on working with materials that are sourced locally, and ethically. I get a thrill from finding unique pieces of wood in my local hardwood lumber supplier's scrap section. A few months back I purchased several boards of 8/4 (2" thick) white oak when I came across them. White oak is an affordable domestic species that is extremely dense and strong. Traditionally, it is used for making wooden boat ribs because it holds up to moisture. It is a sustainably managed species of wood as well.
Next I needed inspiration. I already knew that I liked my canoe seats, but needed to figure out how to turn that concept into a kitchen stool. I decided to look at some examples from woodworkers that I really admire; Maloof and Nakashima. How did these guys design their stools?
Maloof's Leather laced stools and benches had a lot in common with my canoe seat.
Nakashima's Grass seated stool was also an inspirational combination of wood and lacing.
With my design homework complete, I drew a sketch and got right to work. First I milled the oak into the appropriate sizes. Then, 18 hand-cut, mortise and tenon joints later (about 8 hrs), I had the beginning of my own stool.
From Maloof's design I pulled the leg bracing and laced seat, from Nakashima the Seagrass material. I also sculpted the seat boards similar to a classic Windsor chair to increase the comfort.
My stool was certainly looking different, but my choice of wood species, and the stools dimensions, simply made it too heavy. When my wife said, "does everything you make have to be so heavy?", I knew i had to do something.
Pulling inspiration from my other background: boats. Whenever weight is a consideration, in boats, planes, bicycles, etc., lightening holes are used. Why not add lightning holes to furniture? I did a Google search and found no examples of lightening holes in furniture. Has this never been tried before?
I decided to go for it, but I had my reservations on drilling the legs. I drilled all the cross braces, but I decided to pause before drilling the legs. What if a leg broke when someone was sitting on it? I did a lot more reading and was trying to teach myself the physics behind my design when I found this academic paper on the strength of columns with holes. I reached out to the main author of the paper in Manchester, England via e-mail and received a reply from Chris Johnson one of the co-authors.
Mr. Johnson is also a woodworker and was interested in my project. He even went so far as to do some extreme testing on english oak by drilling 1" holes in 1.25" square stock. He subjected his test to load, and even with his extreme hole size, his sample held almost 1000lbs.
I too conducted my own test. Mine was on 2 inch square material with 5/8" holes, exactly the same design as the legs. I could not break my sample even when I clamped it in a bench vice and hit it with a 3 lb sledge hammer.
Back in the 70's elite cyclists used to drill holes in their bikes to lighten them for racing. The called the practice drillium. I like the name and technique, so I'm claiming it for these pieces.
The "Drillium Stool" was inspired by the work of master woodworkers, my maritime background, and physics. They are truly unique and 100% my own, but are extremely labor intensive.
If you have questions about the stools, pricing, or would like to see some of my work displayed in your home or business please reach out.