Sunday, October 05, 2008

My first piece

Let's talk about our first piece.

In this case, I'm referring to the first piece of furniture I ever built.

I received so many e-mails about my last post, about the humble beginnings of becoming a woodworker, and a few people asked about the first piece of furniture I ever built. Honestly, I don't even know how it got into my head that I wanted to build one, but the first piece I ever built was a hope chest.


I had to doctor this photo up a bit - to cut it from it's original setting in a hideous 70's room, with shag carpeting and faux wood paneled walls. It I were better at Photoshop, it would look better than this. But I'm not, so it doesn't.

And I had to sit and think hard about this piece; I couldn't remember where it is. I left it back in Ohio when I moved west. A friend back there has temporary custody, and assures me that if I ever want it back it's mine. I keep telling her that when I die, it might be worth something. Who knows.

What's interesting about this piece is that it was so complex considering the skills I had at the time. I'm not sure I would build a piece like that today, honestly.

The top of this piece is stave construction, meaning that it was built similar to the way a barrel is built. The top consists of about 40 strips of wood, all with a very small angle on them, built around a form. The strips were glued in place, just two at a time, until the semi-circle was complete. Of course, the very last strip in the center was the most difficult one, it had to be hand fitted, with a plane doing most of the work.

Once the top was glued, I had to go back with a variety of tools - a rasp, hand plane, and belt sander, to smooth out the facets and turn it into one giant curve. Pretty slick for a 15 year old. Like I said, I'm not sure I'd even attempt that today.

OK, well, maybe I would.
It would be a challenge.

Like I said, this piece was amazingly complex for a rookie. It was lined in tongue and groove aromatic cedar, and had handmade leather handles on each side. I even installed a mortised lock on it!

The brass trim on this piece was hand formed, to fit the curve perfectly, and I have to admit, my woodshop teacher mentioned in the previous post helped me out with this. I'd never done any metal work, but it's possible that forming all the brass trim for this piece started my love affair with mixed media.

Wood and metal? love it.

Concrete and wood? You betcha.

(This is the latest book I'm reading.)

And of course, I have a special place in my heart for wood and ceramic tile.

Talking about all work has started me thinking about my next post - my favorite woodworkers, with (hopefully) links to their websites.

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