Minnesota Woodworkers Guild

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Column Making

with Nathan Stanley

A snowy, drizzly Saturday March, 18th brought a small crowd into Nathan Stanley’s large second floor shop to see just how Greek and Dock style columns are made. Nathan has been woodworking large interiors for commercial and residential rooms but he has been tackling column making for only three years. Most of his work is carving but he also supplies the pan cling, arches, and doors to make a complete room. His most public piece is the interior of a bar, right below his shop. The Local is located at 10th street and Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis.

Upon first look, the bar’s inside looks like any baroque style interior but upon closer inspection the carvings are whimsical and thought provoking. Behind the center back of the bar is a mirror fronted by three carved lizards similar to the ones in the now-famous Budweiser commercials. Two lizards sit at rest while one has his long tongue flicked out snaring a bug. It’s the allowance of imagination that Nathan insists on for each project he takes, “I only want two things with my projects: to be paid and complete artistic freedom”. A hard thing to ask for but his clients have been very happy with his demands.

Nathan took us through the mathematics required to build up a stave column and then showed us the nervous process of gluing up the column. An assistant is a great one to have around but not required. Marie Flauve, who helps in Nathan’s shop, aided him this time. Once the column staves have been glued, clamped with band clamps, and the glued completely cured, he knocks off the corners and glue with a power planer. End caps are screwed to the column ends and the assembly is mounted on a lathe. The column is turned to size and (much to the audience’s surprise) he hand planes the surface smooth while the lathe is running! Holding the plane at a skew angle reduces the possibility of it catching. Sanding through to 180 grit rounds out the column. Nathan turns a notch at each end of the column to set the length and then removes the column from the lathe. The waste ends are removed with a reciprocating saw. The capitals are glued up into blanks and turned to shape and size. Finally, they are attached to the column with dowels.

Nathan’s latest project stands in the corner of his shop: a fireplace mantle and surround of exquisite quality and carving. Fellow Guild member Leonid Zakurdayev carved all the details on the mantle and has been helping Nathan for the last four years with other projects such as a series of barley twist columns.

Nathan comes from a long line of wood-workers. Both his grandparents and father were woodworkers. He studied in London for five years as a joiner. Woodworking is music to his ears. It sings to him every time he gets his hands on wood.