Skip to main content Skip to footer

From the Forest to the Classroom: Shop Notes from Instructor David Abeel

David Abeel is a woodworking instructor from Traverse City, MI, who will be teaching several furniture-making courses this summer. In this post, David shows us the inspiration that springs from working with natural wood and its unique shapes. 

Posted on April 8, 2024
by David Abeel

I had a fun day yesterday sourcing slab materials for the natural edged Windsor coffee table and mini-settee classes coming up June 6-10 at North House Folk School in Grand Marais, Minnesota. 

Students in the Natural Edged Windsor Coffee Table class will get a chance to make what essentially is a natural edged bench and add an undershelf to make a very versatile piece of furniture for sitting, propping up feet while watching TV, or holding all your books and magazines ready for browsing. 

And, while the mini-settee chair seat is a bit more civilized to accommodate chair arms and spindle drilling, each seat will enjoy the same range of colors and surprises the coffee tables will.  

Moving away from rectangularity (square corners and edges) to work with wood that has unique shapes, rough edges, occasional knots, voids, bacterial color, and insect trails has become a favorite part of my work.  So many choices to consider for each project.   

Here is a sample of the dozens of walnut, cherry and ambrosia maple slabs I have been collecting to get ready for class.  The ambrosia maple are my favorites.  The ambrosia beetle left behind a bacterium that stained the growing tree.  Fish swimming upstream is how it’s often described.   

Inspecting each curve and swirl of color fires my creative juices.  No two projects are alike which is the key to what keeps me excited about woodworking.     

I discovered a long time ago that making multiples of anything felt too much like work! The wake-up call for me was when I had a guy say to me “I like your chairs, would you make me a half dozen to go round my dining room table?”  I thought about doing it but I could feel my heart sinking.  And then...


I didn’t want to make six of the same thing for this guy, heck, I wouldn’t want to make six of the same thing for myself.   

It’s the constant problem solving and challenges of making things just a little bit better, more comfortable, stronger, more pleasing to the eye—that’s what makes me eager to begin my work each day.       

Whether tweaking a design, making tools, or devising jigs or turning chair legs, no two days are the same.   

So, working with all the “imperfections” of natural edged slabs fits right into my pattern.  It’s a perfect fit for me and the reason I am eager for the next class to get started.