Thursday, October 22, 2015

The evolution of a dresser

It's been so long since I started this dresser, I can't even remember the actual date. But I remember these two things - I wanted it to match this headboard that I made a few years ago. I carved this headboard during one of Dennis Patchett's carving classes, and used milk paint to highlight the carved area. It might be the most favorite thing I've ever built.

I saw this piece a few years ago in Asheville, North Carolina at the Grove Park Inn, and fell in love with it. I knew I had to build something based on its design. 

In fact, one of my students did the exact same thing. Ned built a version of this sideboard in Cherry, inlaying the top with two small areas of tile. 

He does amazing work!

So I started off with a few sketches, which is how I normally begin my design process. I usually just draw the overall size of the piece, 

and then play with small details about it, until I get something that I'd like.

This was pretty much seat-of-the-pants designing. It didn't really know where it was going, and I just kept playing with different versions of it in the shop, until I was satisfied.

Here it is before the drawers and doors.

 And now, a year later, the drawers and doors are complete. This was not a rapid project, trust me. Notice on the top, there is a small backsplash between the two posts... I knew I wanted to do some carving there, to match the headboard.  

So I started playing with some designs. 

I'm a big fan of Hawaiian petroglyphs, so I finally came up with this banner that I was going to carve on the backsplash. 

This area needed something long and narrow, and I just love the running men.

I was worried that the back might be too busy with the carving on it. So I made it reversible; it can be switched to the plain side, or the carved side, depending on my mood. 

Right about the time, my shop mate Denny bought a CNC machine, and we thought it might be a perfect opportunity to carve the petroglyphs with the new toy. 

The hardest part about CNC machines is the programming - and damn, we went through an awful lot of test pieces before we came up with the final sizing.


 But at least we have some cool things for the walls in the shop! 

Here is the backsplash, finally carved and ready for sanding.

The sanding sort of turned into a group project, as everyone around me started pitching in and sanding small areas. It was done in no time. 

Time for the milk paint. I used brown paint to match the headboard, and even though I was a little sloppy, it was no big deal. A little touch up sanding and it was ready for oil.

 Here's the back of it -  there's a beautiful knot with some swirly grain and even a few worm holes - it's just stunning.

And now the front - notice how the oil it really brings out the richness of the milk paint.

 I used a Scotch-Brite pad to lightly sand the raised grain. 

And finally – three years in the making - I finally have a dresser! It's a little hard to tell that the wooden knobs are painted that same brown color. 

The nice part is that if I ever get sick of looking at the little running men and the two paddlers, I can flip the backsplash around have a gorgeous plain backsplash. But after all the hard work that Denny put into carving that piece, I can't imagine that I'll ever tire of it. It's pretty damn amazing.

I've been asked by Wood Magazine to write a short article about using a CNC in my work, and this dresser is a perfect example of how a CNC is particularly helpful. It will never replace hand carved work, but for someone like me - for whom carving is quite labor-intensive, it allows me to add components to my pieces that really make them special. 

I don't feel guilty about using a Festool Domino to help me with floating tenon joinery,  so why should I feel guilty about using a CNC to do some carving? It's just another tool in my arsenal.

1 comment:

Julie @ followyourheartwoodworking said...

That is just fabulous, Jamie. Much better than the inspiration piece as well. I don't think you will ever turn that carved piece around!