I came across this slab at my local Woodcraft and it reminded me of these words:
“The lumber is taken off the truck by hand, each board quickly studied for its ultimate use. Sometimes an immediate role is assigned; a coffee table, a dining table, an end table. Other planks are separated into general categories according to probable future use and stored. Size, shape, thickness, figuring and unusual graining, even defects, all contribute to the decision as to what the future life of each board will be.” George Nakashima, The Soul of a Tree, p. 112
I stood looking at this slab for several minutes trying to imagine what I would do with it (just in case I was able to offload a kidney). I couldn’t think of a single thing to make that seemed to honor the material. I posted the same picture on Instagram and a friend suggested slapping some hairpin legs on it and calling it done. My initial reaction was, really? That’s what everyone is doing. But then it occurred to me that perhaps the reason everyone is doing it is because hairpin legs are the least intrusive thing you can do to a slab like this. They allow the wood to be the feature.
This is upside down thinking from the way I normally approach a project. I don’t start with the material and let it “tell me” what it wants to become. I start with the design and then go find material that will work. But this was the first time I had stopped to take a deep look at a slab. I’ve always considered large pieces of wood, like this one, to be forbidden fruit; too far out of financial reach to consider and I didn’t want it to fuel my discontent. And, perhaps, I’ve always thought of “listening” to the wood to be a lot of baloney. Until now.
Where do you start? Design or material?
What would you do with a slab like this?