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REDWOOD TABLE

Symmetree Design 1670 Barlow St./PO Box 706 Traverse City, MI. 49685 Email: pswingparadis@yahoo.com Phone: 231-883-8371


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NOTE: This booklet is an overview of the ideas and process behind the creating of this table, and others like it. It is meant to convey a general understanding of why it stands as an exceptionally unique piece, and is far from a complete record of every step and procedure involved. Paul Paradis

For any questions or inquiries, please contact Paul Paradis at: Symmetree Design 231-883-8371 or pswingparadis@yahoo.com


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THE STUDIO

A corner of Symmetree’s studio with pieces waiting for the right project

Symmetree Design is a highly specialized wood working studio based in Traverse City, Michigan. Established in 1998 by Paul Paradis, it has the dual purpose of obtaining wood of soul-stirring beauty and dimension, and from these pieces creating one-of-a kind furniture pieces, architectural elements, and objects d’art. Symmetree’s mission is to utilize pieces which, unaltered, are striking artistic expressions upon which we execute a design process dictated by the level function they are to have. Our work and artistic life can be defined as a dynamic interplay between these striking expressions of the natural world and the process of creating the pieces they become.

Symmetree Design 1670 Barlow St./ PO Box 706, Traverse City, MI. 49685. Email: pswingparadis@yahoo.com Phone: 231-883-8371


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Our existence and everything we do stems from a reverence for natures creative abilities and no material conveys these abilities better than wood. Wood lives up to its greatest potential as a natural material when it is left to represent the life of the tree from which it came, complete with all the inherent character and flaws unique to its life. We believe that ultimate artistic expression unfolds through an organic process which integrates the specific design requirements of a proOwner Paul Paradis with a highly figured slab of old-growth redwood ject with a “living� material having its own voice. The two must mutually guide and inform each other to artfully capture and translate these supreme expressions of the natural world into functional artistic form. It is design that strives to retain the elemental simplicity of the material itself while displaying elegance and sophistication in the overall piece.

Symmetree Design 1670 Barlow St./ PO Box 706, Traverse City, MI. 49685. Email: pswingparadis@yahoo.com Phone: 231-883-8371


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OLD-GROWTH REDWOOD Perhaps no tree on earth is as revered or awe-inspiring as redwood. Redwood in particular has special meaning when found in old-growth form. Entire forests made up of trees able to dominate in a completely survival of the fittest environment defines what it is to be old-growth. Any tree reaching maturity did so by enduring intense competition for hundreds of years in a process so deliberate and slow it is difficult to appreciate. In the case of redwood, it is perhaps impossible considering the time scale for these trees is in thousands, not hundreds of years. It is worth noting that redwoods, like all other old-growth trees, grew very slowly. It is only through their unique ability to survive for millennia that enabled them to reach spectacular sizes.

Symmetree Design 1670 Barlow St./ PO Box 706, Traverse City, MI. 49685. Email: pswingparadis@yahoo.com Phone: 231-883-8371


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Considering these circumstances, we are in the fortunate and unique position of possessing an inventory of pieces originating from what were ancient redwoods—trees commonly 2000+ years old. Being remnants of trees

A staggeringly large, but not uncommon, redwood being cut circa 1900. This shows the time frame and scale of trees cut from which our redwood comes.

cut about 100 years ago, these pieces are typically from the bottom 6-10 feet that was left behind as stumpage. Fortunately for us today, many of these “stumps� were probably just too big to cut. Often, the pieces we receive, weighing in excess of 15,000 lbs, are usually small sections of the original stump. Even from these, however, it is apparent that if those trees were standing today, they would rank among the worlds largest. Equally impressive to their age and size is the quality of the wood. The base sections, as these are, yield the tightest, clearest, and most figured wood of the whole tree.

Reclaimed pieces derived from stumps like that pictured above. Although massive, they are mere fragments of the original.

Symmetree Design 1670 Barlow St./ PO Box 706, Traverse City, MI. 49685. Email: pswingparadis@yahoo.com Phone: 231-883-8371


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THE RAW MATERIAL This is the actual piece from which this table started. This, as well as all others in our inventory, sat exposed in stump form for 100 years before finally being cut and shipped to Northern Michigan. Remarkably, the wood underneath the decayed and dirty exterior is perfectly preserved and fresh as the day it was originally cut. Although the exact location is unknown, all of our redwood originates from Indian reservation land in Northern California, where the terrain is rugged and largely inaccessible The same piece after being cut into slabs and carefully stacked. After the large investments of money, time, and effort required to obtain these slabs, they are then allowed to dry for nearly five years before being utilized in any way. This series of slabs represent the best of a 50,000 pound shipment in terms of size, figuring, and physical condition. The slab used for this table is the third from the bottom and arguably the best of the series. Symmetree Design 1670 Barlow St./ PO Box 706, Traverse City, MI. 49685. Email: pswingparadis@yahoo.com Phone: 231-883-8371


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THE TABLE Starting with the rough and raw slab, and after aging five years, the first step is planing off a thin layer to discover the incredibly high degree of figuring found throughout the piece. This initial step also allows us to orient the faces for top and bottom.

Using a machine custom made for leveling very large and irregular pieces of wood, the slab has just been milled perfectly flat and to a uniform thickness which is always one of the first steps of the entire process.

The nature of pieces like this is to have voids, splits, or any number of defects that must be addressed in order to create an even, flat surface. Here, bark had extended into the tree leaving the large cavity which is open on the top, bottom, and the end. In most cases, epoxy is an ideal material for filling these voids. Symmetree Design 1670 Barlow St./ PO Box 706, Traverse City, MI. 49685. Email: pswingparadis@yahoo.com Phone: 231-883-8371


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The fill nearing completion. Because of the large space, it must be done in layers. In this case, it required 5 separate pours to completely fill the void.

A long cavity being filled from the bottom side. Depending on the void, it can require twice the amount of epoxy needed to fill the actual space due to absorption into the surrounding wood, having to overfill, and other factors.

Finished with the rest of the slab, the epoxy becomes clear revealing the character of the “defect�. It is now a highlight or point of interest.

Symmetree Design 1670 Barlow St./ PO Box 706, Traverse City, MI. 49685. Email: pswingparadis@yahoo.com Phone: 231-883-8371


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The epoxy work extends down to very small cracks as well. While not necessary for usability, it ensures nothing will draw the eye other than the extraordinary figuring inherent throughout the piece.

Routing out a recess in the bottom to accommodate a plate for mounting the pedestal base.

Nearly ready to begin the slow, deliberate process of finish sanding down to 400 grit.

Symmetree Design 1670 Barlow St./ PO Box 706, Traverse City, MI. 49685. Email: pswingparadis@yahoo.com Phone: 231-883-8371


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The moment of true discovery and immense satisfaction. The top minutes after oiling. There are several different oil blends used in the finish process. Initially, a lighter, or thinner Danish oil is used so the slab will absorb as much as possible. The more oil the top can take in, the deeper the color and greater the character it will bring out. Once it has reached a saturation point, another type of oil blend is used with a higher solids content that will offer more surface protection.

A stunning looking bottom. If only both sides could be visible all the time. Symmetree Design 1670 Barlow St./ PO Box 706, Traverse City, MI. 49685. Email: pswingparadis@yahoo.com Phone: 231-883-8371


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THE BASE The stump four years after harvesting and a complete process of being peeled, cleaned, and leveled. It is highly sculptural and perfectly sized and configured to be the ideal base for this slab.

The bottom requires nearly as much work as the rest of the stump so it will function well in supporting the weight of the table for many years.

A very large and irregular surface area requires that nearly all of the sanding, shaping, trimming, etc., be done by hand.

Symmetree Design 1670 Barlow St./ PO Box 706, Traverse City, MI. 49685. Email: pswingparadis@yahoo.com Phone: 231-883-8371


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Going from Northern Michigan white cedar to appearing like redwood requires several steps. The first is applying a base color of brown tint.

From there, a mix of stains can closely approximate the deep reddish brown coloring of redwood. The procedure used enables us to obtain a rich, dark color without hiding any detail or grain.

Minutes after being sprayed. The wet, glossy appearance is greatly reduced once the finish is cured.

Symmetree Design 1670 Barlow St./ PO Box 706, Traverse City, MI. 49685. Email: pswingparadis@yahoo.com Phone: 231-883-8371


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THE FINISHED TABLE 47”-50”W X 8’6”L X 30”H

Completed table together for the first time. The top will only turn a deeper and richer color with age.

As seen at the

Main Street Gallery 307 S. Main Street Leland, MI., 49654

231-256-7787


Redwood Table  

This document is about Symmetree Design studio and the making a very unique redwood table.

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