Joint Concept

A Master Furniture Maker Lets You in on a Secret

Board by Design’s new device lets you easily create custom-made pieces.

By Naomi Havlen February 14, 2019 Published in the Midwinter/Spring 2019 issue of Aspen Sojourner

Brad Reed Nelson constructed this custom, leather-netted piece, which he jokingly refers to as the "bling-pong table," with the signature Knuckles.

Image: Ross Kribbs

Custom furniture-maker Brad Reed Nelson uses a painstaking process based on a long tradition of craft and functional design. But don’t call him obsessive. “I love well-made and well-constructed things, but I don’t like to get hung up on the craft element,” says the Carbondale-based artist. And now, he’s helping the rest of us get in on the process, albeit in a much easier way.

Nelson owns Board by Design with his wife, Ann. Besides building a new studio south of Glenwood Springs, they are introducing an intuitive, versatile product for DIYers.

This deceptively simple metal joint was conjured by Nelson’s late business partner, Garner Lee Britt. The two had built the well-received Windsorrondack indoor/outdoor rocking chair, and Nelson encouraged Britt, an engineer, to try inventing a design concept. “He said, ‘I want to eliminate the wood joinery from a piece of furniture with something that will be stronger and much tougher,’” Nelson explains. “It’s a brilliant idea, one that makes you go, ‘Really? That doesn’t exist?’”

Britt’s prototype was inspired by bicycle construction. But rather than steel tubes, one sleek, minimalist Knuckle joins two pieces of a table skirt, or frame, to the leg. The joints come in various sizes and finishes. Nelson also uses them to create benches, stools, bed frames, and more. 

Now Nelson has created the adjustable Insta-Knuckle, which allows anyone to create pieces with premilled lumber and even change them later on. He hopes to have the product, manufactured in Kansas, ready for market by June. 

“I want these to be really accessible,” Nelson says. “They’re designed so you can use them to make, say, a dining room table, then later cut the legs down, change out the skirt, and make your kid’s bed.” How handy. 

Bauhaus, Observed

In addition to teaching a woodworking class at Anderson Ranch in June, Nelson is curating the exhibit “100 Years of Bauhaus” at the Launchpad’s R2 Gallery in Carbondale, June 6–July 5; both are part of the short-lived but celebrated German art school’s local centennial celebration. He asked 11 American craft furniture makers to each contribute one object that riffs off a classic Bauhaus design. Explains Nelson, “Every one of these artists teaches, has a rich connection to this valley, and is continuing the idea of what Bauhaus was.”

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