Sunday, November 14, 2021

Back to my ceramic roots... sort of...

Back  in the day, I used to make a ton of ceramic tile - utilizing the amazing glazes that came from Mastering Cone Six Glazes... a book that changed my (ceramic) life.  I was mixing my own glazes, and developing some variations of the Waterfall Brown glaze that was featured so prominently in the book. 

I was completely focused on developing a blue and a green version of this glaze - and my experiments were pretty successful. Here are my blues 

and a couple of greens - both colors compliment wood so well. 

I made this tile medallion using a green version of this glaze many years ago, and frankly, I'd forgotten about it. I'd inlaid it into a walnut tabletop, and it was floating around my shop, moved from shelf to shelf, awaiting the perfect project. 

So when one of my friends spotted it and asked if I could turn it into a table, it was the true definition of serendipity.  We agreed on a few design decisions (size, and the addition of a drawer and a shelf) and away I went.  

Now - I've made dozens of tables - maybe hundreds - who knows?  One of the first things I consider is grain. (Thanks to The Fine Art of Cabinetmaking!) Seriously - if you want to become a better builder, you need to read this book. 

The legs were first - one inch boards laminated to highlight bookmatched pieces of wood, since I couldn't find solid lumber that was a full 2" thick. Not only do I mark where they will eventually land (left front, right front, and so on...)

 but I mark the edges that all be tapered. The white lines indicate the surface that will be shaved. 

Taper jigs make short work of this! I've always felt like taper jigs are a little dicey for a novice, but it seems like everyone I know owns one of these cheap $20 aluminum jigs. My advice - build your own, using toggle clamps, and make a safer version. There are thousands of plans out there for safer ones. 

Once tapered, I set the legs on the top, which allowed me to choose the right overhang. 

Some measuring, cutting and a few hours later, This table was coming together quite nicely.... here's a shot before the top and the drawer face were attached. 

And finally - the finished table - a lovely foyer table that will greet my friend every time she walks in her front door.

 I am finally getting caught up on some projects that have been in the pipeline for a while - am SO psyched to start a few new ones.  I need to start researching guitar humidors, as that's my next build. 

Stay tuned...

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Happy Fall!

My favorite thing in the Fall is tree-watching... in fact, I think this is the best time of the year. 

What's not to love? 

There's football on Sundays, cooler weather, and Thanksgiving is right around the corner. The best holiday, IMO. I spent the morning out at an orchard near my house - it's an extension of the University of Nevada, and a hidden gem in the northern part of town. 

There are so many varieties of trees, it's insane.  It's open to the public on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and they sell amazing produce. 

Well worth the drive! 
They have rows of grapes, perfect for winemaking. 
But the colors was what I wanted to see - glorious oranges and reds - both in the fruit, and the leaves. 
Everything is labeled, and you get an agricultural lesson just walking around. These Tamopan persimmons were practically falling off the limbs. 
Just peek under any tree and you can read about it. 

These Fuyu persimmons were so sweet, 
you almost felt guilty eating them. They're like candy! 
And the pomegranates - well, they might be the biggest ones I've ever seen. Almost the size of small cantaloups. 
Seriously, they were almost a hazard, and could drop on your head at any minute. 
I love how this one tree was labeled. 
But the leaves were my favorite... such amazing color that we almost never see here in the desert.

Finally - I was driving back to work and heard this amazing story on NPR. 
It's definitely worth a listen if you're fascinated by trees.  Enjoy!

Saturday, October 09, 2021

It's been a weird start to October

Holy hell, I've been working on a nice variety of projects, large and small, but one area is standing out from the others - furniture repair. 

In the past, I wasn't fond of repairs - I just don't like working on older pieces, unless they're really interesting, like mid century modern furniture, or possibly something that was handmade, but damaged. I'm not sure when I changed my mind, but I like doing repairs these days. It keeps me on my toes, skill wise, and challenges me to make the piece better than it was before.

So when this chair leg found its way into my shop, 

the owner suggested I turn a new one on the lathe. And I had every intention of doing that, but honestly, the leg was in decent shape - all that was broken was the top, where the corner braces screwed into it. 

As I was searching around for a blank of wood, my buddy Jeff suggested that I just cut off the broken area, and glue on a new piece. That saying - two heads are better than one! - is so true! 

So I marked off the area to be cut, and set up the table saw.  

Getting the blade height was important, as I didn't want to cut into the turned area. 

Some tape on the tablesaw top gave me the precise location of the cut, 

and a few stop blocks on the fence held the leg in place. 

It took longer to set up the saw than it did to cut the piece off! 

Once it was cut, I sliced the remaining area off with the bandsaw, 

revealing a clean, flat surface for the repair. 

Cutting the new piece was easy, 

and with a few clamps, the repair was complete.

I drilled the new holes, glued the piece in place, and made one fella pretty happy that the repair was cheaper than I'd quoted, and fit perfectly. 

Of course, I forgot to take a picture of the finished piece, but once it was stained - you couldn't tell it had been repaired. 


Speaking of - Bam! - one of my students inlaid her cutting board with a Breast Cancer Awareness ribbon for a family member who is battling the disease. 

How lovely is this!?!

And unfortunately - speaking of cancer, one of my students passed away this week. Ken was a great guy - full of life, and all about family. 

I will miss him... this is happening far too often, and it makes me so sad.

 RIP, buddy


Monday, September 20, 2021

Finishing up, and starting anew....

Autumn is definitely around the corner, and classes start back up this week. For me, that means prepping a ton of material for everyone - and if you'd visited my shop last week, you would have seen stacks of wood everywhere. 

Cue up the "short people" jokes - but here I am, buried in stacks of wood. 

Seriously, there was a butt-load of wood that had to be processed, and in that process, someone pointed out to me that there is an actual measurement referred to as a butt-load.  


Yes, in cask units, the largest barrel measurement is a butt-load. I learn something new every day! 

Judging by the phone calls I've been receiving, I'm also sensing that people are gearing up for the holidays. There have been quite a few calls from people who have started their home improvement projects, only to find out that building (or assembling) furniture is harder than they anticipated. 

In some cases - it's easier to simply use the box as a side table, rather than assemble the table. 

Let's hope this isn't an ongoing trend! 

And even though the prices for some woods have come down a bit, it continues to surprise me how expensive raw materials have become. If you add in the cost of hardware, wood finish, and labor - well... plan B becomes a more affordable option. 

Here's someone's "Plan C" - not too glamorous, but effective. 

I'll be buried in the shop for the next six weeks, welcoming around 40 new students, and building some kick ass pieces. 

What's your Fall project?


Saturday, September 11, 2021

Some people are SO creative!

Now that cooler temps are on the way, I've been looking forward to getting back into my studio at home for a little clay work. It's been ages since I threw a pot on the wheel, or rolled out some slabs for tile. 

It's still a little too hot to fire one of the kilns - but I've had visions of tile making in my dreams lately. Until I can post anything new, check out this hilarious ceramist, and his interesting wall piece.


♬ original sound - Liz

Some people are SO creative! 


Monday, September 06, 2021

Can I brag a little?

 The bookcase class is winding down at the shop, and I have to say - these students really rose to the occasion. It's so much easier to teach a class where everyone is on the same page, building the same design. But - my old woodworking teacher never stopped anyone from building what they wanted to build. I mean - isn't that the point? You want what you want!

So when some of these students came to me with their designs, I had some apprehensions about their projects. Especially since some of them had only completed the Basic Woodworking class, and didn't have much experience under their belts. But I'll tell you - they really surprised me with their pieces. And believe - some of them really struggled! 

This bookcase is constructed from 1" red oak, designed to hold a large collection of record albums. Those are pretty heavy, and although she had a few technical problems,  this bookcase is going to work perfectly for K's collection.

 JR's walnut bookcase was compact and solid; a sweet little design. when this gets a finish on it, the colors are going to pop and this will be amazing!

 Freya's cherry bookcase has a lot of detail and elements that really stretched her skills. This piece will (gorgeously) darken with age, and I suspect it's going to be a great addition to her home. 

Again - she had one or two technical issues that she solved, and well... isn't that what taking a class is all about? Learning to put out little fires while we build?

 One of the huge surprises in the class was Jen's corner cabinet - this was a pretty complex piece for someone right out of a Basic WW class. 

She had to learn a lot of new techniques, with tools she'd never touched before this class. She nailed every aspect of it! I can't wait to see how it looks with finish on it. 

Ama's energy and vision for her pieces are a constant source of pride for me - she is one of those rare students who works like the energizer bunny. She never gives up, has energy and technical skills for every piece she builds, and when she sets her mind to it - there's nothing she can't accomplish in the shop. 

I've lost count of how many huge pieces she's built - from this massive built-in desk, with upper cabinets,

to the cantilevered TV unit, to the Murphy bed. 

These two twin tower bookcases will be mounted next to the Murphy bed - all told, this piece is about ten-feet wide, and seven feet tall. She's only been building with me for a few years, and I can't wait to see what she comes up with next. 

And finally -  Luis designed this piece for his office -  six-foot wide bookcase with beefy shelves, and (eventually) doors on the front. He completed this piece in only four sessions, so about 12 hours in the shop. It still needs some work, but he's one of the most efficient woodworkers I've ever met. 



You bet!