Instead of putting hardwood through saws to cut it to size, then dealing with joinery and finishing, why not just grow your furniture? An artist in Australia named Peter Cook is doing just that. He shapes trees as they are growing into a variety of furniture and sculptures, including a mirror, a garden table, and my personal favorite — a living chair you can sit in. He even makes wooden necklaces.
According to Cook's Web site, some of the pieces take as long as 10 years between the time he begins to shape the trees until the project is harvested (it seems he harvests some projects, but keeps others in a garden). With the harvested pieces, he lets them dry for months, then strips the wood of its bark and oils the piece. Here are some pictures of finished pieces.
Although this isn't the most efficient woodworking operation, the results are incredible. It seems he used plum trees for his original projects, but may have expanded to other species. Perhaps you could trade in your woodshop for acres of land and just grow all your projects?
As I said, this kind of project probably isn't for advocates of lean, just-in-time manufacturing, and probably doesn't provide a steady income like your shop. It does, however, make me step back from an emphasis on efficiency and appreciate the dedication it takes to work on a 10-year project. What's the longest project you've worked on (due to scale and complexity, not a terrible customer!), and how did it turn out?
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