How the Organic Bench came to be

How the Organic Bench came to be
December 12, 2015 Jonathan Hale
In custom furniture


Sometimes the materials decide the design.

When designing a piece of furniture normally the original state of the raw material is not a consideration. This was not the case when I made my organic bench pictured in the photos. When I collected the rough lumber I had no idea what I was going to make with it. The boards sat patiently in my basement close to ten years before I got around to using them. As the boards slowly air dried, one unfortunately developed severe twisting. The end result was a board that would normally be destined for firewood. Rather than consigning it to a fiery fate, it became a feature of the bench I eventually made.
After freeing the boards from the basement and inspecting them I thought they might make a decent sized bench, however the one twisted board threw a wrench into those plans. While staring at the warped board the idea of using the defect as a design feature took hold. In a lightbulb moment I realized the crazy twisted board was an opportunity to make something unique. I decided to use the curves in the board to make the bench legs. Thus the idea of a natural organic looking bench.




Once I had the idea to use the defect to my advantage, I had to figure out how to turn a twisted board into usable legs. Wood working saws like to cut straight flat boards, they will happily cut and trim flat pieces all day long. Saws do not like when you try to cut anything twisted, the end result is usually not pretty. They make their displeasure known by sending wood flying back at you faster than your eye can see, we call this kickback. I’ve had the unpleasant experience a few times with small pieces of lumber.  Not relishing the thought of a large maple board flying into my head, I choose a smaller miter saw to make the cuts with. Using a miter saw gave me a fighting chance. With a miter saw your feeding a spinning blade into the material, it offers more control than pushing the lumber into a table saw blade. In the end both myself and the miter saw survived the process, and I was rewarded with two nicely curved legs to match the bench top.
The result was a bench that looks simple and natural. I left as much of the original state of the lumber as possible, the saw marks on the ends of the boards and the edges are preserved. I’m happy I gave the “defective” board a longer look than usual, as it allowed me to make a true piece of art. The bench has since found a home in our living room, and a purpose. Our daughter loves to use it as a small stage to put on ballet recitals, and our one year old son is using it as a means to scare us as he climbs on while learning his balance.