NK Woodworking Brings Boat-Building Expertise to Staircases
By Bill Esler | Posted: 06/30/2014 12:56PM
NK Woodworking is named for founder Nathie Katzoff. Trained as a boat builder in Maine, for a number of years, Katzoff says he honed his craft restoring and building classic and historic wooden vessels, large and small.
Now located in Seattle, Katzoff has a thriving business in boat restoration for the thousands of enthusiasts in that popular boating city. Seattle even has a significant number of residents who live on their boats, made famous in “Sleepless in Seattle.”
Out of a passion for design and art, Katzoff says he began building one-of-a-kind furniture, and other architectural woodwork. His award-winning designs are influenced by his love for the organic nature of woods, curves and colors.
“Coming from a background in boat building, we have a special understanding of the possibilities for wood in terms of curves, shapes, joinery and other design features,” Katzoff says.
This plays out in a unique specialty: staircases. Katzoff set a record this spring by winning four of the five awards at the 2014 Stairways Manufacturers Association’s national convention in Orlando. One of the winning trophies was for Most Unique Staircase, a dramatic open riser staircase. NK Woodworking also won for:
Best Straight Staircase
Best Stair Part
The awards were striking, too, because Katzoff is among the youngest members of the Stairway Manufacturers Association. “It’s a very supportive group, but everyone’s easily twice my age,” said.
Katzoff, whose four-man operation also handles residential woodwork, says many stairway builders assemble projects from manufactured wood components.
NK Woodworking makes its staircase project components by hand, giving each one a unique character that hovers somewhere between sculpture and architectural millwork.
“Our designs incorporate improvisation and the redefinition of established forms,” says Katzoff. “We use woods that are rich in character and color, metals that are distinctive, and joinery that is structurally impressive and visually stunning.”
Working in maple, walnut and sapele, “We actually get logs and mill them up,” Katzoff says. Frequently the staircase projects celebrate the underlying wood, revealing live edge, perhaps, or carved at times to closely track the natural bend of the wood. Splits may be stabilized by double dovetail keys – creating visual intrigue, but still delivering strength and functional performance. Because of the one-of-a-kind nature of the work, stair projects can run between $45,000 and $100,000.
Katzoff’s boat and staircase projects are also large in scale, requiring additional hands. “In 2011 we put together the team of craftsmen that is now NK Woodworking,” he says. The woodworking studio is at a separate location from the boat yard – where clients drop off their projects for NK Woodworking’s skilled work.
“We are the jazz players of the stair industry,” Katzoff says. “Like the best jazz music, our custom stairs are visually elegant yet technically complex.”
Design is so integral to the unique quality of its stairway projects, that NK Woodworking places strong emphasis on this aspect of its services. This intimate understanding of “what is possible,” says Katzoff, allows his team to stretch the possibilities on projects.
“We are designers, as well as artisans,” he says. “We understand the materials and the form. Our hands-on experience enables us to dream bigger.”
In addition to designing and building complete custom staircases, NK Woodworking also fabricates stairway parts, including matching historical hand rail profiles, hand carving newel posts, producing treads, risers, balusters and hand rails.
NK Woodworking also handles residential and commercial cabinetry and architectural millwork.
Its deep immersion in boat building allowed Katzoff and his team to turn their attention to another product line, and with dramatic effect: wooden bathtubs.
Having mastered the skills to keep water on the outside of the hull of a boat, reverse engineering the construction yielded this intriguing product offering. It is a show-stopper offering that has gained a following on Pinterest and other social media marketing channels.
The wooden bathtubs, which take 300 hours to build, are crafted mostly from sapele and sustainable domestic and exotic hardwoods, and finished with a specialized clear composite barrier. The success that NK Woodworking has attained so far is helping develop new business. Katzoff is planning to expand the shop to accommodate the sizeable pieces used in the construction of its staircases.
About the Author
Bill EslerBill Esler, Editorial Director, Woodworking Network Bill is responsible for overall content at WoodworkingNetwork.com Woodworking Network magazine, and related newsletters. Bill also manages event programs for Woodworking Network Live conferences at the Woodworking Machinery & Supplies Expo in Toronto and Cabinets & Closets Expo. He developing audience engagement programs using custom digital printing, live lead-generating events, custom websites, and custom digital and print content. Read Bill Esler's woodworking blogs. He can be reached at email@example.com or follow him on Google+.