Short write up in the new magazine for the Kaka’ako neighbor in Honolulu where our shop is located.
After filling all cracks with epoxy and other resins we used a electronic hand planer to flatten both sides. After the slab is flattened we normally run it through our wide belt sander but since the slab exceeded the 44” max width we got out the hand belt sander and got to work. This is a long process since first all the planer marks need to get sanded out and once that happened we go up in sanding grits, from 40 to 120 grit. When we reached the 120 grit we switch to a an orbital sander and work our way up to 220 grit. Now we are ready for lacquering. Often after the first coat we find some more imperfections from the sanding process. So we get our sander back out and work on those areas. Than we apply three more coats to the top and bottom. The last step is to fasten the legs to the slab, making sure the table sits solid on the ground and than it’s ready for it’s new home. Over the course of the years building many slab table I am still fascinated how every slab has is own characteristics and is beautiful in is own way. I feel like my job is to let the wood take center stage and shine in it’s full potential.
With wood slabs you will find often holes and cracks which go all the way through the piece. Sometimes we leave the cracks alone and just stabilize the loose parts within the crack. But often we seal the cracks with resin. To do so we cover up the underside of the slab with newspaper + resin to create a seal. Once that is dry we flip the slab around and pour resin from top. The picture shows the underside with newspaper + resin combo.
Cleaning up a portion of this massive 60"x 90" monkeypod slab to show the beautiful colors and grains to a client. This was an old tree and I am happy to honor it by turning it into an heirloom table for many generations to enjoy. Oahu grown lumber. Custom made furniture. Made in Kakaako.
How did I get into Woodworking?
I grew up in Germany where we have the option to continue with high school or attend a trade school. I chose the latter at the age of 16. After 3 years, I received my journeyman's license and continued for another year building furniture. I took a break from woodworking for 4 years to explore other career options, but got back into it when I moved to Hawaii.
How did I get into Woodworking in Hawaii?
In 2004 I moved to the Big Island of Hawaii, where I was installing high end cabinets up and down the Kona coast. 4 years passed and I moved to Honolulu where I started working at re-use Hawaii. While helping them with the setup of their current warehouse I was also asked to build some furniture pieces. Here I discovered my passion for building furniture using reclaimed materials. What started out of a garage at my then home on Wilhelmina Rise turned into an official business in 2009 with moving my small woodworking operation into a Kalihi warehouse. My first business name was Wuttke Werks which evolved in 2011 into Honolulu Furniture Company after joining forces with my previous business partner. To that time we opened our current workshop in Kakaako on Cummins Street.
Why I am passionate about working with local material:
Sustainability played the major role of why I got into woodworking in hawaii in the first place. I discovered old growth douglas fir from home deconstructions which are unmatched in quality and beauty. You plane an old board and the smell of sap fills the room and it looks new again as well. After joining forces with my previous business partner who came from the koa side of furniture building we decided on using monkeypod wood as a good compromise since Koa is considered an endangered species and I didn't want to support this. Since monkeypod on the other hand is considered an invasive tree but has all the beauty of koa wood and beyond, is termite resistant and not to mention a lower price tag, this seemed to be the wood to work with.
It was difficult to find monkeypod lumber in the beginning and even more difficult to sell it. Most people associated monkeypod with mass produced bowls and other kitchen ware from the Philippines. Our first purchase of monkeypod turned out to be even a different wood, (so much about knowledge on our side and the others). After making it our mission to educate the people through our website and other craftsman started utilizing it, monkeypod slowly found its way into consumer awareness.
I am happy to see that so many new woodworkers are utilizing this invasive but beautiful tree these days. I still get excited about this wood and take great pride in hand picking all materials and turning it into heirloom furniture by knowing that I am doing my part of sustainability here on this island.