Brad Smith’s studio (Wednesday, July 11)

On the way back from the Esherick Museum, we stopped by the studio of a furniture maker that Peter knows, Brad Smith, of Bradford Woodworking. He makes furniture from turned axe handles, croquet mallet handles, pitchforks, and more, and he has two 100-year-old-plus lathes to do his turning.

Stacked stools and bedposts.

Detail of pitchfork bench.

Pitchfork tables.

This belt-driven lathe duplicates the form installed in the foreground. By using a set of dado blades as the cutter, Brad gets the ridge pattern characteristic of the axe handles he uses in his furniture.

Turning axe handles.

The axe handle being turned.

As we were preparing to leave Brad’s place, Jean-François noticed the red dirt bared by an excavator and collected some to try in a finish.

Jean-Françoiso collects some red dirt.

Mark Sfirri’s studio and home (Sunday, July 8)

Mark has a Oneway with two bed extensions, allowing him to turn pieces up to 13 feet long. The farthest extension runs under the table in the background.

Mark's lathe.

Mark does a lot of off-center and inside-out turning. Here is a sample he has turned with the two halves still joined. For those who don’t know, inside-out turning involves joining two pieces of wood, turning them, separating them, reversing them by putting the two outside faces together, rejoining the pieces, and turning them again. Mark further complicates the shape by offsetting the centers he uses to turn each face.

Sample of off-center, inside-out turning.Another view of the sample.

Mark is also well known for turning pieces that appear to be bent. This is an example of the blank he uses to turn such shapes, next to the kind of shape it will yield. The trick is to cut the blank and mount it as shown in the second photo below.

Blank and turned 'bent' form.

The mounted, spinning blank.

Mark keeps on hand a lot of samples to help him recreate forms.

Some of Mark's samples.

Mark showed us how he uses a mirror to simulate the absent opposite leg of a model for a piece of furniture.

Mark uses a mirror to simulate the opposite leg of a model.

Mark has many beautiful turned and other wood art works in his home, some his own work, others by fellow turners and furniture makers.

A collaboration between Mark and artist Brooke Schmidt.

One of Mark's famous bats.

An assortment of work by Mark and many others.

The highlight of our visit was a fruit salad Mark made for us, a creation for which he seems to be known. He told us that one year he had a card made with a photo of such a salad (but even more elaborate), clearly identified as a “kitchen creation,” and sent it out. The first five or so recipients called him asking him about the availability of the piece, assuming it was wood! He says he wishes he could create a piece that looked so realistic!

Mark's fruit salad.

The salad was very refreshing, perfect for a steamy summer day. Peter, of course, couldn’t resist playing with his plate.

Peter's arrangement of his fruit salad.

Nakashima studio (Saturday, July 7)

Today, we visited the studio of famed furniture maker George Nakashima in New Hope, PA, where his daughter, Mira, continues to make furniture in the same tradition. Mira began our tour by telling us about her father’s life and work.

Mira Nakashima talks about her father.

The first building we visited was the wood barn, filled with enormous slabs of wood cut from whole trees and stacked together for drying in the sequence in which they were cut from the log. Mira explained the challenges of storing, keeping track of, and accessing the wood, much of which is stored for many years.

The wood barn.

Stacked slabbed trees in the wood barn.

Mira talks to us about the wood.

Many slabs were marked in chalk with customer names, measurements, cut lines, and other information.

A marked slab of wood.

The door of the wood barn.

This dining set was in a residence built by Nakashima in the early 1970s.

A dining set in the so-called bath house, because of its large Japanese bath.

A detail of the dining table.

What is known as the art building is also the home of the Nakashima Foundation for Peace.

Detail of the exterior of the art building.

Chairs in the art building.

The silver appearance of the table edges in this photograph is caused by the camera flash. The edges are actually the dark, barkless natural surface of the trunk.

A table in the art building.

Notice how the concrete wall at the top of the stairs follows the same line as the right edge of the stairs.

The stairs in the art building.

I liked the way the stairs looked viewed sideways just as well.

The stairs viewed sideways.

The loft in the art building held samples of many types of chairs.

Upstairs in the art building.

Jean-François enjoyed speaking French with Kevin Nakashima, who learned it in high school from a native French speaker.

Kevin Nakashima with Jean-François.

The pond outside the showroom had very vocal frogs among the water lilies. I thought their croaking was some sort of squawk from a walkie-talkie until I squatted down and looked.