American Black Cherry
The discovery of a raw chunk of a baldcypress knee presented a challenge: to artistically design a petite display table around this unusual timber.
The basis for this piece of wood art began with the discovery of the magnificent baldcypress knee (Taxodium distichum) that has been used for the top of the table. One very unique feature of the long-lived baldcypress trees growing in Southeastern US swamps is that their root systems include horizontal members as well as knees like the one before you. The knees, also known as pneumatophores, are cone-shaped growths that grow upward from the horizontal root members just enough to poke their heads up through the water. Although the exact function of the knees is unknown, they are thought to function as the trees’ means of obtaining oxygen for the roots during flooded conditions. To the extent possible, the natural surface has been retained to enhance the overall effect while retaining much of the rustic features of the tree of origin.
To artistically balance the overall design as well as stabilize a natural check, a hand-cut butterfly key fabricated from American black cherry (Prunus serotina) has been added.
The fully tapered table legs and upper spreaders have been fabricated from a single slab of American black cherry to complement the cypress knee’s shape and overall design. The cherry’s natural warm color blends nicely with the knee’s light-brown tones while highlighting the complex areas of the top.
To add strength and stability to the table precise hand-chiseled double-wedged (two cherry wedges per joint) mortise-and-tenon joints (Japanese jigoku-kusabi joinery technique) have been used for attachment of the legs to the upper spreaders. A housed (blind rather than through-tenoned) version of the same mortise-and-tenon joint has been utilized to permanently attach the spreaders to the knee.
The table has been hand finished with a durable oil-varnish to highlight the natural color and protect the beautiful character of the various timbers while giving the table a warm feeling to the touch. As with all of his wood art pieces the title of the piece, creation date and artist information has been permanently stamped on the underside of the piece. This piece has been entered in the artist’s permanent registry.
Dimensions: 15 inches in diameter (approx.)
31-1/2 inches in height
Artist: Gary A. Leake, Coupeville, Washington
Provenance: Exhibited in Arts at the Port “Next” Juried Competition, 49th Annual Anacortes Arts Festival (2010)