Thursday, February 28, 2013

Mike Jarvi's Bentwood Table

One of my students, Chris T, stopped by the shop last Saturday, to work on a small table he's been designing. He's a bright young man, with an even brighter design future ahead of him. He came up with this joint that I wrote about, a few weeks ago. 

As we were talking throughout the day, he brought up a video that he'd recently seen on YouTube. I'm glad I wrote down the name of the woodworker he mentioned - you gotta see this!

Mike Jarvi designed this table, made of a single board. He slices it in a few strategic places, steams and bends it, and then clamps it into shape.

Call me a wood nerd, but even though this video is a quarter of an hour long, I sat and watched it - spellbound by its images. This - to me - is what woodworking is all about - finding your niche, and perfecting it. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A different type of hand-skill

You really can find some of the most amazing things when trolling the Internet at 2 AM. This young woman has some skills!

For her final in a college level sign language class, Anna performed Cee Lo Green’s “Fuck You” using sign language.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Finding the Forest - Part Two

In the previous post, I highlighted some of the pieces I recently viewed at the "Finding the Forest" woodworking show in Hawaii. It has been difficult to get all of those images out of my head! Especially this one!

It was taken on Big Beach; that island in the distance is Kahoolawe, a mostly deserted island off the southwest side of Maui. This island was used as a training ground and bombing range by the military, but after decades of protests, the Navy stopped these practices in 1990.

Here is my most place in the world, don't you just love photo-stitching software? 

Here is part two of the "Finding the Forest" woodworking show in Hawaii. I've saved the best (in my friend Kai's and my opinion) for last. 

Tai Lake's piece - It's hard to see the forest for the needs - voiced his feelings about our interdependence upon forests. 

He included small vignettes showing how wood is harvested

and often wasted. This mixed media piece included woods, metals, glass and milk paint, and was quite a lovely statement of man's forest abuse and the need for creating a balanced and bountiful forest. 

Similarly, Ricardo Vasquez's work, entitled "Gift of Life" explored the connection the forest and life. 

In his statement, he mentioned that tree growth rings kept coming to his attention while designing this piece, and his use of stacked marine plywood illustrated this beautifully. 

This piece flowed nicely, and reflected the "wisdom of the Hawaiian people and their connection with the physical and spiritual world of the forest."

Mats Fogelvik took a more traditional woodworking approach, designing and building this lovely Koa burl veneered table. 

 The manner in which he veneered the top was amazing, his use of this rare material was stunning. This wood was salvaged from a downed tree! Add to that - his finish was impeccable. This was a lovely piece, fully utilizing the beauty of this lumber.    

I loved the playfulness of Chris Reiner's "Incisor Debris Finder," which started with a 1960's Electrolux vacuum cleaner. In one end - a twig is fed, 

and out the other comes batches and batches of toothpicks and small logs. And sawdust - lets not forget that. 

This piece spoke volumes about the dwindling resources in our forests, and - as Chris writes - " our insatiable appetite for wood." 

Finally - the best for last. At least, in my head.

Jay Warner's piece in Murray River Gum is everything in a piece of furniture that should be. Murray River Gum is in the Eucalyptus family, and is commonly known as a widow-maker tree, likely to drop huge branches on unsuspecting people who happen to be standing in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's Mother Nature's way of tree-trimming, but with deadly results. 

This sideboard, entitled "The Gift" was understated and nothing short of spectacular in its simplicity. 

Trust me, if life was simple and money not an object, this piece would be sitting in my home right now.  I've always felt that a true sign of a successful piece is if another woodworker would want to purchase it. In this case - hell yes.

This piece featured a live edge front, as well as knobs hand turned, with bark still on them. 

The wood had a tiger-striped figure, and almost glowed from his treatment to it. 

The backsplash had three roughsawn panels on it, and the contrast if texture was stunning. 

The drawers were made with sliding dovetails, and it was all I could do to keep myself from touching this piece all over. Of course, the gallery monitors kept and eye on us, and we couldn't sneak a single feel. 

I didn't plan this vacation around the scheduling of this woodworking show, but I sure am pleased that I was able to catch it while in town. It was interesting to see these woodworkers' use of precious materials, and it bought up two thoughts - it's a shame that they're working with such limited resources. 

But - at the same time, it's nice to know that  they're not blind to the conditions and availability there. Every woodworker I've spoken to there seems to be working hard to do their part to replenish the forests.  That  awareness in itself is a huge first step to solving this shortage. 

Congrats to all of these woodworkers. I'm humbled to be in their company!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Finding the Forest - Part One

One of the best things about traveling is investigating the local woodworking. While in Hawaii last week, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend the "Finding the Forest" show with my friend, Kai. 

This exhibit features woods of Hawaii while showcasing the talents of 20 woodworkers. Their work explores the dwindling natural resources of local woods, a troubling fact given that much of Hawaii is covered in tropical rainforests.

The dwindling supply of wood has forced many artists to tweak their building techniques - many of the pieces in the show features veneered work, or used found materials. 

Is this the new norm in woodworking? I don't have an answer to that, but I do know that these artists were thoughtful in their use of material, savoring it for specific uses.

Shaun Fleming's untitled cabinet was stunning - and featured found and salvaged Koa and Camphor. The bookmatched doors, with live edges added a lovely organic quality to this piece. 

 As she noted - the natural edges of the base remind us of the rustic beginnings of lumber, which was left in it's slabbed state. 

 This piece truly embraced the concept of dwindling wood supplies in Hawaii, savoring small solid wood components and highlighting their beauty. Look at the grain in that front stretcher!

Peter Naramore's Monkeypod and Toon Bench utilized wood from a tree-trimmer's hoard, and his own stash of locally foraged lumber.

 The carving on the back and sides gave this an almost "lace-like" feel to it, and once again - the grain management on the front piece was incredible. 

The seat hinged up for storage within, and the contents of the stored area are visible through the branches craved into the sides.  An amazing piece!

On a lighter note, Scott Yoell chose to playfully juxtapose Koa and particleboard into his sculptural piece,  incorporating the two together.

The particleboard "drips" out of the Koa slabs; the fluidity of this piece reminded me of old Wendell Castle carvings. 

Tom Calhoun's Art Deco waterfall cabinet was gorgeous, but - and this is just a personal preference of mine - felt like it had TOO much going on in it. 

I counted eleven different woods that he used in its construction, 

and while I understand what he was trying to accomplish, it made the piece feel busy to me. I loved the simple carved pulls he made for the drawer knobs, though. 


This is only about half of the pieces I wanted to talk about, but I'll close for now and will write about the others (including my favorite piece of the show!) in my post. Stay tuned!


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Hawaiian Tiki Carving

It's amazing what a vacation will do for your outlook. 

I recently spent a week in (or is it on?) Maui - it's the only place in the world that fully recharges my batteries. 

What's not to love? 

Every day that I would leave the beach, I'd pass a small stretch of road where various tables were set up, and artists would sell their work. On my last day, I pulled over to check out the woodcarvers.  

It's there that I met Moe, a giant, gentle man with hands the side of baseball mitts. He and a buddy sat by their van, sketching and carving on small blanks of wood - Monkeypod, Milo, and Koa. 

You can read a bit more about the various woods here.

Moe took the time to explain the various imagery of his work - the names of the Hawaiian Gods and what their poses meant. Pretty fascinating stuff!

Some of the tikis provide protection, others ensure good luck. 

 Turtles were a popular subject for their carvings, too. 

This unfinished piece was carved into a log that had been infested with some sort of bug - the back side was covered with worm holes and odd voids in the wood. Moe really wanted me to buy this piece, but I was concerned it wouldn't have fit into my suitcase!

Their tools were remarkably simple - his chisel resembled a thin bar of metal, with a sharpened end. And his mallet was little more than a small log of wood that they'd shaped into a striking tool. His "workbench" was a log stump.

I'm sorry to say that I didn't get a picture of Moe - but here's an amazing story. 

Now you've heard about six degrees of separation, right? It's the idea that everyone is separated by just six steps or less. A friend of mine suggested that in Hawaii, there are really only three degrees. Smaller area, more connections. Everyone knows someone who knows someone.

Makes sense. 

A few nights ago, I was at a party and one of the other guests had an interesting walking stick. I went over to ask him about it - and he said a fellow named Moe had carved it. He described the carver as a bear of man, gentle and polite. Hands like bear paws. Now - tell me - what are the chances that we both met the same woodcarving Moe? 

Damn, it's a small world!

Of course, I had to bring home a piece of Moe's - here it is, spreading its protection.

The color of this wood is really incredible - deep oranges and reds. All Moe applied to this was a wiped on coat of glossy lacquer.

Yesterday in the shop, Eric, Richard and I had a discussion about tools - about woodworkers spending ridiculous amounts of money on simple things, like marking gauges or chisels. Moe's work reminds me of how simple your tools can be, and how tools really aren't a gauge of anyone's work. Its is truly a mark of skill when you can produce excellent work with the simplest of tools - tools that you understand and know how to use properly. 

Sending much aloha to all the artists I met while on the island. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Mortise and Tenon Joints

The Intermediate Woodworking course which is just wrapping up had some of the most creative people in it - that's something that's I really enjoy about teaching. You give the students the nuts and bolts of woodworking, like how to make a simple mortise and tenon joint, and then sit back while they let their imaginations run wild. 

There is a young an in one of the classes who hopes to go on and study architecture, and I can see the wheels spinning in his head every time he gets his hands on some wood. Here is a good example of what he came up with in about a half hour.

This corner joint could be used on anything from a table or desk leg, to a chair. The interlocking tenons add some visual complexity, as well as strength for holding this joint together without the need for glue. 

Even though I usually design my pieces in MacDraft, a simple software program, I decided to try to draw this joint in Sketchup. It took a few attempts - first the corner leg with its top tenon.

Here I added some intersecting tenons coming from the aprons. I haven't drawn the aprons yet 

The apron on the left side is added.

And then the top and right apron are added.

 This is a terrifically complex joint - but easily accomplished in the shop. Couldn't you just see a small end table with this joinery on each corner?

This is truly one of the best things about teaching - learning as much from the students as they learn from me!

Friday, February 08, 2013

Turning a carving mallet

We've caught the turning bug at the shop - everyone wants to turn something on the lathe. 

Can you blame them? It's 100% fun. 

Someone stopped by the shop last weekend and asked if I would cut some logs - and in the course of things, I scored this piece of Hickory. 

We've started collecting logs - you just never know when you're going to need to make a rolling pin or a mallet. Or a club. Or a bowl. Or... 

This old Lee Valley mallet is nice, but small. Still, it's the tool we all grab when something need a little whack.

Here I'm comparing the two pieces, so that I can make the new mallet a little larger.

One of the reasons people really like the lathe is the instant gratification part - you can mount, shape, sand and finish a piece in one session. 

What's not to like?

This mallet received a coat of shellac, then some oil and wax, 

making it as soft as...
well, you know what. 

In fact, I liked it so much, I made a second one, out of Ash. 

If you've never seen a lathe up close, you should stop by the school and check out the turners there. I'm guessing - you'll catch the bug, too!