In the Studio: 28 April

Not ceramics or sculpture this time, but furniture. My brother asked me to build a bed; he gets married this coming weekend. As a wedding gift I’m throwing in some side tables to match.

I like building furniture, but don’t make a habit of it since I really don’t have the necessary space or tools. I have friends with table-saws, but my garage is narrow and the ceiling short. Somehow I manage, but the tables above aren’t as square as I’d like. The door I’m currently using as my workbench top is anything but level. For clay this is fine; not so much for building beds. Of course, only I, the builder, will ever notice such details.

This is soft maple, which I haven’t used before — at least not on this scale. It responds pretty nicely to the tools, but I’m learning it doesn’t take stain very well. This has become problematic as my brother and his fiance are adamant about a dark stain. It was hard enough to find maple in the first place. They would have been OK with another wood, but I kept looking and finally found a place here in Northwest Arkansas that sells hardwoods other than oak and poplar. So I ran with the maple.

The other trick will be transporting it to Nebraska, where the wedding is and bride and groom reside. The pieces should just fit in our Camry wagon as I’ve measured. But paying for shipping didn’t seem like a reasonable option in this case.

I like my design for the side tables. The small shelf underneath the top acts to reinforce the legs, and essentially “floats” in notches I carved by hand. The hand-carving went really well, much better than in the past thanks to some better tools and more experience under my belt. I also mortised and tenonned the legs and footboard more or less by hand. I like working when I can without the aid of powered machines. I don’t have anything against a table saw or drill press (both of which I’ve used for this project), but there is something much more rewarding about taking a chisel and mallet in your hands and working the wood.

The tops of the table, as well as the stone detail in the center stile of the headboard as pictured above, will be travertine marble.


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

4 Responses to In the Studio: 28 April

  1. Pingback: Design/make on demand « The Aesthetic Elevator

  2. Tim J. says:

    Looks like nice work on your handmade furniture. I lack both the tools and the experience to attempt such an undertaking.

    You mentioned transporting this to Nebraska… may I ask where? My brother and his family live in Ogallala, in the southwest part of the state.

    Just miles and miles of miles and miles, up there.

  3. TAE says:

    I’m not very happy with my application of polyurethane on the piece, but otherwise it turned out well. My brother gets back from his honeymoon tonight.

    I grew up in North Platte, less than an hour east of Ogallala. My family is Grand Island and Omaha now though.

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