Crafting Our Table from fallen MSU campus trees

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A rendering of the proposed table

Nathan Shaver hand-built his family’s 10-person dining room table. His wife’s family is spread across the state and their home is the midpoint. He said he wanted to create a space where the family can unite to celebrate food, each other and community.

His most recent project is working with the Michigan State University Shadows Collection, within the Department of Forestry, to construct a one-of-a-kind table that will connect people across the globe. It is the centerpiece for “Our Table,” a kickoff campaign to create engaging conversations on food and food’s impact on health.

Shaver owns a Charlotte, Mich.-based woodworking studio. He regularly works with the MSU Shadows Collection, an initiative to repurpose fallen campus trees into works of art. His aesthetic is rustic modern. The imperfections in recycled materials inspire his designs.

“I was raised by my dad and my grandpa and we would pound nails straight and reuse everything we could. It’s some of the Depression-era thinking,” he said. “This makes sense to me. I don’t like to waste anything.”

This ethic is evident in his studio. He salvaged the lights, cabinets and walls of his studio from various construction projects. For Shaver, creating a project for MSU is personal and mission-driven.

“I want ‘Our Table’ to reflect your values and my values as a carpenter and as a person,” he said.

He said he’s designing the table as simply as possible. It’s being purpose-built to inspire clear communication.

“I want it to reflect our intentions, principles and ideas on speaking openly,” he said. “It’s a simple, solid, dependable table that conveys trust and thoughtfulness.”

He hopes this table will unite people and facilitate honest conversations about food and health.

“People can make assumptions based on their life experiences, perspective or the information they’ve heard,” he said. “I hope people sit around this table and have healthy conflict about these ideas, and it inspires them to have a positive impact on our situation.”

Our Table is expected to be finished in July. Stay tuned to food.msu.edu to see the completed project.