A note about “grain” and “figure”. In these posts I take a point of view which I believe is the “correct” one, but I want to acknowledge that it may incorrect to what some other people believe.
Figure — the “look” of a piece of wood. There are numerous wood characteristics that go into creating the figure, and there are numerous specific types of figure that are created due to one or more of those characteristics.
A three dimensional wood figure that very closely resembles a stream of cascading water.
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Well in the process of moving around some inventory we found 4 more HUGE Bubinga Slabs that we never posted! They are just like the slabs from Rocky and Kim’s table they made. These are HUGE and BEAUTIFUL slabs of wood. We just listed them on our website today…and I don’t anticipate they will last long. If anyone is interested in a 14′ slab call us today!
After patiently waiting more than 12 months for artisan Ken Kirschner to be available to make our dream table, the time has come to assemble the finished pieces. The top is made of a single waterfall bubinga slab which measures 12 feet long, 49 inches wide and 1 1/2 inches thick. It weighs well over 500 pounds. Ken decided to finish the top at our warehouse as it was just to big to move more than once!
First the Ken assembled the base in the dining room prior to bringing in the top. He had coded all the pieces with a number so putting the pieces together was fairly easy.
Now it was time to bring in the top…
The Waterfall Bubinga top was too big to come in the front door so we went around to the back deck and came in through the back of the house…
Well, it was a long time coming but Rocky and I have finally had a Waterfall Bubinga slab table made for ourselves. The amazing slab is 12 feet long, 49 inches wide (1 piece!) and 1 1/2″ thick. It is nearly perfect with consistent waterfall figure all along the board and a double-sided live-edge that has very nice sap running down both sides of the board. We had been saving this piece for a while, waiting for an amazing furniture craftsman, Ken Kirschner, to become available to make our table.
Ken has had a lot of experience working with fine woods and makes a ton of mission style furniture, mainly working with cherry, oak, and maple. This was his first experience working with waterfall bubinga and while I think it was a different kind of challenge for him, he rose to the task and created a masterpiece!
Figured Bubinga is becoming more and more rare as the African nations of Cameroon and Gabon are restricting the export of all logs. This means that all wood products will need to be sawn in-country prior to export. While this is good for those countries in that it creates jobs, the problem is that these countries do not currently have the facilities and saws big enough to saw these slabs. What they end up doing is cutting the big logs up into smaller, more manageable sizes that they can further process into lumber and turning stock. We can only hope the German, French and Chinese presence in these countries will bring in bigger sawmills so we can get more slabs as in the past. But for now if you have the opportunity to pick up a waterfall bubinga slab like this, you should grab it…you may never see one again!
Ken used a steel wire rotating brush to smooth out the live-edge, and while it still looks rough it is actually very smooth to the touch. He applied 8-9 coats of tung oil to the top of the slab. Underneath and on the base he did 4-5 coats. We love the design of the base he came up with. The base has a v-shaped support on each end with a central supporting board running down the middle. For the ends of the top slab we had seen straight ends and slightly curved ends, but Ken suggested doing a slight wave on the end, which looks perfect. He also gently tapered the cut so it looks very natural and free formed.
Because of the size and weight of the waterfall bubinga slab, Ken made the base components in his workshop but came to our warehouse to finish the top. Watch for my next blog post to see the completed project!
Many of you may have read the article in the April 2008 issue of Woodworker’s Journal, about how this now famous bubinga log made it’s journey from Africa to Minnesota with the help of Rocky Mehta of West Penn Hardwoods. I thought I would share some more behind the scenes details of how long this journey actually was and the trials that happened along the way…
Rocky has travelled to Africa several times to purchase bubinga and ebony for our company, West Penn Hardwoods. His trips to Africa can be very stressful and there have been moments when he has thought of giving up. This has made for some interesting stories!
I remember the first trip he made to Cameroon, on his first day’s journey into the jungle. He was amazed at how deep they had to trek into the jungle where there was no electricity and yet, the small village they came across had COLD BEER!! He still hasn’t figured out how they keep the beer cold with no electricity…
Now Rocky is from India where it can get quite hot and yet when he came back to his hotel from the jungle, he called to tell me how he had to wring the sweat out of his underwear! He even had sweat on his eyelashes…Now that is HOT!!
Although he stayed at a five-star hotel, Douala is not a very safe city. He was told by the staff that he should not leave the hotel after dark and during the day you must carry your passport and shot records with you at all times. The military police can stop you at any time and if your documents are not in order they will arrest you and detain you for in indefinite period of time.
After buying the log, it was sent to Germany. Many people have asked us why send it to Europe instead of the USA? The Europeans, especially the French and Germans have strong ties in Africa and are sawing these kind of big logs on a regular basis…no lumber company in the US can handle a log this big. This particular log was so big that even the saw mill in Germany couldn’t slice through it completely. They actually had to saw off one edge of the log to make it smaller so it could fit in the saw. Rocky spent several days from morning until night standing in front of this huge saw overseeing the cutting of this very special log.
At one point, the log got stuck in the saw and it took several hours for a crew of men to unjam it. This was a potentially dangerous situation and luckily they were able to get the log back on track.
When the log finally arrived at our warehouse in Olean, NY, we were just amazed. The figure is among best we have come across and there are boards that are up to 60″ wide! This is definitely a one-of-a-kind log and we are so happy that it is going to be accessable to the whole country through the Rockler Woodworking Stores.