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Woodistry’s Tansu Shoe Bench in Red Oak and Jarrah

5 April 2010


“Pucker up, Gabriel”

TansuShoeBenchOakJarrahP2 One of the “perks” of having your own blog site is getting to sing the praises of your own work from time to time. And I say that even though I am actually going to sing the praises of Joe Dusel, my partner in this venture, but it comes to the same thing. Joe (he’s Joe; I’m Joseph) is a pretty soft-spoken guy who doesn’t like to make all that much noise about his accomplishments, but I keep telling him, “Joe, it’s our website! I write about other people all the time! From time to time, man, it’s just GOTTA be about you and me!” So, today it’s about Joe-and about time, really, because I’ve been begging him to send me stuff I could write about for months now! Of course, the problem is Joe is very busy with his business, and seeing the kind of work he turns out, it’s understandable. His is NOT factory-produced-banged-out-and-sold-in-a-hurry-before-the-crummy-thing-falls-apart schlock. He’s a wonderful woodworker, and it shows in everything he does.

Joe’s business is named Woodistry, which is especially well-named because it means artistry in wood, which is a fair description of the type of work he does. One of Joe’s interests comes from his Japanese wife. Because of her and his own interests-because the techniques used in Japan are fascinating to anyone who gets serious about woodworking-but because of all that Joe has developed his own line of getabako, which is the Japanese for shoe bench. At first it was just something Joe made for his own family, but then he saw the commercial possibilities of the product and began developing various permutations of this ancient design. The one I like the best, and the subject of today’s blog, is called a Tansu.

When I think about people taking their shoes off before entering a home, I think mainly of the Japanese, but they are not the only ones who do this. I think back to my own childhood in Montana, and in the winter months and early spring the one constant remark from my parents was, “Don’t track in that mess; take your shoes off!” In our case, of course, we just ended up with a bunch of dripping footwear in a heap, but several getabako (it was a family of seven!) would have been just the ticket.

The Tansu getabako Joe designed for his Woodistry can also add a wonderful touch of elegance to any room, which is exactly what happened with the one we’re showing here. It was sold to a very successful New York City businessman who wanted it for the entryway to his apartment. He has quartersawn red oak floors in his apartment and commissioned Joe to match that wood in a custom-designed Tansu.

TansuShoeBenchOakJarrahRearView For those who are not familiar with the various woods, I will tell you that the lighter wood is the quartersawn red oak, which was used for the legs, trim and top. The legs and side rails are all connected using mortise and tenon joinery, which, again for those who may not know, is the absolute top of the line for joinery in this kind of joint. There simply is no stronger or better way to join these legs to the unit.

The panels are of Jarrah wood, which is a type of eucalyptus found in Australia. The wood itself is hell to work with woodworking tools because it’s so hard, but everything else about it is a decided plus. It’s termite-resistant, which is certainly an important consideration in Southern California, and it is very durable, even in wet and weathered situations, which makes it just the thing for something like the current purpose to which it has been put. But Jarrah’s main feature-and the reason Joe chose it for his project-is its rich, deep-colored red. It’s the type of wood that just screams for a master woodworker to carefully book-match it into panels, which is just what Joe did. The combination of Red Oak and Jarrah, and the serene lines of the Tansu itself, have produced a getabako that looks good from every angle, so much so, in fact, that some of the purchasers have used them for coffee tables.

However, Joe’s client placed his Tansu right where people will see it when they enter his apartment, because he expects to field many questions about it, and as a proud owner of what he considers a work of art, he wants to! In fact he told Joe that the only complaint he had was that Joe hadn’t signed it. He went on to say that he had recently viewed some George Nakashima pieces at the Architectural Digest Home Design Show and considered Joe’s work as good or better, which is high praise indeed. OK, Gabriel, that’s your cue. On second thought, never mind. We’ll blow our own horn!


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