Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Mies van der Rohe said it best- God is in the details. I might be the least religious person I know (too many years of Catholic school) but there are times when I can't help think of that quote when working in my studio.

When I'm designing a piece of furniture, I try to think beyond the nuts and bolts of it. Sure, a desk is just a desk, but I like to include a few details that make a piece a little more special for the person who uses it. If I know someone likes a cup of coffee or tea, I might inlay a small tile into the top of a piece, functioning as a built-in coaster. I once built a media cabinet for a photo journalist, and incorporated a hidden drawer into her piece, perfect for storing some of her prized negatives and prints. (This was before we entered the digital age.)

So I wanted to include something different in this simple table that I've been building. Nothing beats a hidden compartment, and in this case, the compartment is actually a small box that locks into place, but can be removed.

The hidden box is variation of a simple pencil box, with a lid that slides across the top. There are dissenting opinions about whether a box like this should be finished. An oiled box often imparts a slight odor, and can possibly bleed some finish over the years. This doesn't happen often, but because it can occur, some makers prefer to leave their drawer boxes unfinished. So for this piece, I chose to leave the box unfinished.

I like to "lock" these boxes in place, so that it can't fall out when the housekeeper moves it the when vacuuming. A low-tech method for keeping it in place is a small wooden handle. Swing it down, snuggled up to the side of the box, and it's held in place. Even the shape and curve of this little handle lends itself to the task at hand. There is a slight flair at the end, allowing it to be easily grabbed.

When I'm making a commission, I like to send current status photos to the buyer. A shot or two during the process allows for some slight tweaks, if desired. And frankly, I've had some people remark that they've never seen a piece of furniture in various stages of completion. So it allows them to have a better understanding of how it all goes together; it might seem trivial, but it helps explain what I do.

Finally- the top. In this last picture, you can see the slight dip in the tile that I made. It's not much, perhaps a half inch or so. It's as if someone pressed their thumb down into the center, causing that impression. It's perfect for burning a small candle, or placing your watch or ring during a workout. Like the eBay commercial, it's meant to hold "it" - whatever "it" is for you.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

One of the most popular pieces I've ever built is this Mahogany table. Many people comment about the legs, in this case, the legs have Oak "socks" on them. It's an interesting little detail, and well worth the trouble.

Gluing end-grain to end-grain (like this) is often risky. End grain doesn't hold glue very well, instead it soaks the adhesive up the pores of the wood, and starves the joint. With this kind of lamination, I use a polyurethane glue, and pre-treat the wood for better adhesion.

Polyurethane glue is moisture activated, so dampening the surfaces that will be joined ensures a better bond. Notice the spray bottle on the left. A quick spritz of water dampens the wood, and later, when they're surfaced and trimmed to length, I'll strengthen that joint even further with a long screw.

I finished the top yesterday, using one of the tiles that is shown below in the last blog post. This photo of the top shows it installed in the top, as well as the additional carving that I did around the perimeter.

Once the legs are finished, I'll make the aprons and assemble the base. This particular table will have wider than normal aprons, as I am planning on installing a secret compartment in this table. I guess it's not so secret any more!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

I've been making these small Ritual Tables for a while, they're usually about 16" square and about 36" tall. In the top, I inlay a handmade tile. I used to work with flat tiles, but over time, I found myself bored with them. Experimenting with some plaster molds, I started making tiles with a slight impression in them, perfect for burning a candle or incense, or perhaps holding your watch at the end of the day. Here's a typical table, in fumed White Oak.

I've started experimenting with some more colorful glazes on the tiles, here are a couple of examples of some newer pieces.

Friday, March 02, 2007

These are some lovely test tiles that were unloaded from the kiln yesterday. The blues are vivid and gorgeous, and best of all, this doesn't seem to run on vertical surfaces.

I tested this on 3 different clay bodies, it looks best on a dark clay. On porcelain, it's muddy and yellowish, and reminds me of bodily functions that are best forgotten.