Planning ahead – Benches and Wall Sculpture

When preparing to design and make a new piece, one always should make an effort to estimate materials carefully, so as to reduce waste. Of course, there are a number of ways to accomplish such an effort, but occasionally, the demands of the design do not allow for small amounts of waste. Such circumstances open the door for yet further design creativity, using the “waste.”

Last fall, I decided to make a pair of “African Benches,” which is a design that I have used on nearly a dozen occasions. I love the design and the process; this is the first time that I have made the bench in cherry.

African Benches in cherry and ebonized cherry.

The design of the African Bench (some see an Asian design influence in it, but its origins are indeed African) requires 12/4 (3” thick) stock for the top and support arches, which must be 10”-12” wide. That is substantive lumber, and quite expensive! Looking at the image immediately above, one can see that shaping the arches leaves two “half circles” as “waste.” Moreover, shaping the top leaves a prominent recess piece, flat on one side, with arcing ends.

So, if those “cut-off” pieces are to be burned, it would amount to very expensive firewood!

Rather, using the top recess pieces,I decided to make two large cherry cutting boards (an easy decision).

The “half circle” cut-outs were a different matter. In recent years, I have be expanding my work to include not only art furniture, but also sculpture – both free standing and wall mounted. Because I had four half circles in cherry – and two half circles in sapele (from an earlier African Bench), I decided to re-saw all of that material into 1/2” pieces, and then cut them to various heights.

I mounted all the pieces on an ebonized base of poplar; the entire piece is finished in tung oil, and is titled, “Gratitude.”

Here are some images, showing various parts of the process.

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© North Light Art Furniture • Douglas Nimmo, Designer/Builder/Principal
Plymouth • Minnesota • 55442 • 507.382.2129 •