Time for Design: The Process of the Amicalola Base

Time for Design: The Process of the Amicalola Base - Alabama Sawyer

October 27, 2021

Designing new products tops my list of things I love about running Alabama Sawyer. I try to be present in and around the factory and not get stuck behind a screen. But, I spend a whole lot of time looking at spreadsheets, talking to vendors and clients, planning social media and marketing and answering emails. So, it’s hard.

Cliff also designs, but he’s training and managing our team, transposing 2D directives  to 3D programming, and perfecting the wood finishes in the new spray booth.

Cliff in the Finishing Booth

When is there time to design? The best case scenario is a  client who isn’t sure what they want, but wants something unique. Sometimes, that client is us, ideal because we are flexible on timelines, but hard to satisfy.

With the Amicalola base, Cliff had been wanting to make a mid-century modern style base. Birmingham, The Magic City, was built on steel. We wanted an American, hand cast pedestal. When we moved from Los Angeles in 2016, we moved from having a rectangular dining room to a cozy breakfast nook. In other words, we needed to go round.

There was a second interested customer, also wanting a pedestal base. The journey began. 

We hoped to replicate our collaboration with Sloss Furnaces for the Legacy Base. With our “I-do-not-know-what-I-am-going-to-get-but-trust-you” client, the results were not only beautiful, but it won Garden and Gun’s 2017 Overall prize for their annual Made in the South award.

Casting the Amicalola Base

The process alternated from sculpting by hand and rendering on the computer. The final iteration was created from plywood, using our CNC machine. That positive was used by the foundry to initiate their back and forth, from wood to sand to plaster to steel. The casting is followed by welding and grinding, surfacing and finishing.

Amicalola Process in Plywood

For the wood tops, we used walnut and spalted pecan,  two of our favorite species. Both can be hard to source. The boards utilized for both the prototypes could not have been more ideal specimens. 

Pecan and Walnut

Lastly, we couldn't think of a name. On a rare getaway, with both kids at camp. Cliff and I started hiking the Appalachian Trail and climbed 604 steps up Amicalola Falls and hiked 8 miles to Springer Mountain. A bit of a tongue twister, Amicalola is fun to say, challenging to accomplish, and the silhouette of the table base emulates lines of falling water.

I heard a saying that there are only two types of jobs. Ones that you shower before and ones that you shower after. When do you think we took our shower?

Cliff and Leigh Spencer working on Furniture Design