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Cherry wood music stand made by Rende Zoutewelle

Cherry wood music stand made by Rende Zoutewelle

This summer, my fine woodworker husband has been working on some music stands. The one pictured above is made from solid cherry. We designed it together early on in our marriage (which is also often a working partnership) and two previous ones have been made and sold, one in mahogany, and a lighter coloured one in beech.

Rende’s workshop is next to the house, so I get to see from close by the magical transformation of planks of wood into works of art. I thought it would be nice to record and share the creation process since most people aren’t familiar with the different skills and the amount of patience involved.

The project is imagined, designed, and drawn and the wood is selected. It needs to be seasoned – dry enough to cut and plane without warping with changes in humidity. Some wood lays for months/years in humidity controlled environments before it can be used.

Rende started with the more labour intensive top- the surface that holds the music. The design was traced on the cherry plank and holes were drilled in the parts needing to be cut out so that the saw blade could be inserted. Note all the hard edges at this stage, it looks like a flat cut-out. Later it will be carefully shaped into the softly rounded, sculpted form you see in the finished version above.

The top is set aside while the base is glued together. It starts out square, and the moveable middle part for adjustable height is already planned in and placed.

Working on the base

Working on the base

Then, the body is mounted on the lathe and turned using razor sharp chisels and gouges.

In this next series of photos, the joints for the legs are made. Slots are routed out of both the leg and base, pins are inserted, and legs are fitted and glued. Like everything else in this process it is precision work. Being even millimetres off at any step will result in something looking crooked or not standing straight.

Once the base is ready, it is time to do the finicky finishing on the top piece. This is where a lot of the patience comes in. The curves are painstakingly carved and smoothed to look like curling branches and leaves. Deadly sharp- (you could shave with them) chisels and knives are used. The forms are sculpted and worked until the craftsman is satisfied. Then they are worked to a still greater degree of perfection, until you really couldn’t find a nick or scratch or chisel mark.

Next comes the laborious hand sanding process. Rende uses strips of sandpaper in a low grade (rough) to get between the tight curves of the design. After having gone over the front,back, and sides, the insides and outsides of all the curls, he sands it all over again with the next finer grade. And finally, when it looks smooth to me, he goes over the entire surface again with the finest grade of paper which is so fine, it almost polishes the wood.

Using narrow strips of sand paper to finish the rounding process

Using narrow strips of sand paper to finish the rounding process

Note all the used strips of sandpaper on the workbench

Note all the used strips of sandpaper on the workbench

Finally, the top is glued onto a support attached to the slender middle column running down the centre of the base. The little knob on the side for adjusting the height is turned on the lathe and slipped into one of the holes on the side.  Then everything is oiled with several coats of Danish oil- a mix of natural oils and varnish. The light looking raw wood warms up into a deep honey coloured shine.

The process takes about two weeks of steady work. Whoever buys it will have a beautiful functional music stand to grace a music room or living room, but also an heirloom that will be in the family for generations.

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James Krenov at work, please see below for photo credit

Photo comes from this site

Continuing quotes on the craft life from ‘A Cabinet Maker’s Notebook’:

The good thing is to develop your habits and discipline and get a flow in the work so that it all makes long-term sense. There is no way of making it easy though you can make some of it easier and most of it enjoyable by being friends with what you are doing. You learn more that way, and the work shows this. Which in turn helps to keep you going, without thinking about all the time and effort it takes: a large part of the battle is getting to the point where you no longer worry about the time and work involved.

Still, for some of us it is too much. In the long run we can’t do it. This is understandable.

And this is why, when we see a fine piece of cabinet-making, we should look closely, and think about what it means, and remember that it is not just pieces of wood put neatly together, but a measurable part of an honest craftsman’s life.

(James Krenov died at the age of 88 in 2009).