From one artist to anotherAfter months of hard work, Tom Wagner of Alexandria made a special delivery this past Christmas. He delivered a table that he custom-built for famed pianist and songwriter Lorie Line.
By: Tara Bitzan, Alexandria Echo Press
After months of hard work, Tom Wagner of Alexandria made a special delivery this past Christmas.
He delivered a table that he custom-built for famed pianist and songwriter Lorie Line.
Wagner met Line through his sister, Amy Wagner, who serves as Line’s personal assistant.
“She’s always been so nice to our immediate family, giving us tickets to her concerts,” Wagner said of the musician.
He and his wife, Cathy, showed their appreciation by welcoming Line and her orchestra members to their home in the spring of 2008 following a performance she gave in Alexandria.
Amy wanted to do something special for Line’s birthday, so she commissioned Tom, a craftsman and owner of Thomas Log Crafters, to custom design and build her a table.
Wagner willingly accepted the challenge. He visited Lorie and Tim Line’s rounded, Mediterranean-style house in Minnetonka to get ideas for the table.
“Her house is full of black walnut, including her cabinetry and trim,” Wagner explained.
After seeing the room where the table would go – which boasts a curved, windowed view of the lake – Wagner came up with the idea of building a curved table.
Line liked Wagner’s ideas, and agreed to pay for the black walnut if he would do the labor. Wanting to show their appreciation for Line’s generosity as well, the rest of the Wagner family contributed monetarily to the labor costs.
Wagner began the search for the right wood for the project.
“It took me quite a few months to find a piece of black walnut that would work,” he said.
His search led him all the way to Gilroy, California, where he found the perfect piece of wood.
“There is an individual there who has been collecting black walnut for 40 years,” Wagner said. “This was a one-of-a-kind piece.”
He explained how the man had cut the tree with a 6-foot-long chain saw, slicing through it to create panels 3-inches-thick by 40-inches-wide and 12-feet long. The tree had grown with a natural curve, that Wagner envisioned fitting perfectly into Line’s curved room.
The wood was dried for many years, covered in paraffin wax to create a slow drying process.
“It’s just an amazing piece of wood,” Wagner said. “It was naturally curved just like Lorie’s room, and coming out of the opposite side of the curve were five major branches.”
After finding the right piece of wood, Wagner got to work creating the table.
“I have more than 250 hours in hand-morticing and butterflying the table,” he explained. He was assisted by his son, Woody Wagner, and son-in-law, Brandon Rochel, who aided in the cutting, sanding and finishing of the table.
Wagner appreciated the rareness and beauty of the wood, and knew he couldn’t rush the project, despite some ribbing from his sister.
“She made a comment once about why it was taking so long, saying that it was just a top and four legs,” he said.
Besides the main piece of black walnut, Wagner purchased two smaller trees to use for the table supports.
He used hand-carved wood bowties to join the pieces together.
“You cannot make a mistake when working with such expensive wood,” he explained of the long hours he labored over the table. “It is very painstaking work. It’s like when a jeweler discovers a big diamond and stares at it for two years before making a cut. That’s what I had to do for about two months with this wood. I scribbled and scratched out my plans.”
He admits to having about 100 pages of “scribbled ideas” before making that first cut.
“I really relied on my wife, Cathy, to help me through the process,” he said.
Wagner is a craftsman by trade, building custom designed homes. He’s also used to working for famous people, having done work at the estates and ranches of stars like country music legend Barbara Mandrell.
But he admits this was like nothing he has ever done before.
“It’s stressful working with something as hard as walnut, but it was amazing to watch the wood come alive as we worked on it,” he said.
All his hours of thought and planning and hard work paid off on Christmas Day, when he personally delivered the table to the Lines’ home.
Wagner admits he was a little worried that the table may not fit into the room as he had envisioned.
His fears quickly subsided once the table was inside, and he realized the table and room went perfectly together.
“It was like it was made to be there,” Wagner said. “It fit the room perfectly, and being curved like the room makes it very interesting.”
The Wagners accepted an invitation to dine with the Lines on their new table at a future date.
About Lorie Line
Pianist Lorie Line grew up in Reno, Nevada studying classical piano. She received a bachelor of arts in music, piano performance from the University of Nevada, Reno.
Soon after, she and her husband, Tim, relocated to Minneapolis. Line was a full-time pianist for Dayton’s from 1988 to 1993. Her shopping fans encouraged her to record a CD, which she did.
Since then, she has turned piano playing into one of the largest independent record companies in the world, Lorie Line Music, Inc.
She has sold more than 5 million albums, has published more than 20 books of music, and has recorded 27 CDs. Along with her Pop Chamber Orchestra, Line performs to 100,000 people on more than 85 stages a year.