Sunday, January 21, 2018

RIP Wendell Castle

Wendell Castle died yesterday. 

Look him up - he's as important to the world of furniture making as it gets. Often considered "the father of the art furniture movement," his influence on the world of woodworking is vast.  

His organic laminated and carved pieces morphed over the years into different shapes; his style changed. But if you knew his work, you could spot it a mile away. 

When I was a young furniture maker in college, I wandered into a gallery in Boston and was lucky enough to catch an exhibition of his work. It changed my life.  Not too much later, I carved my first piece of walnut - a log sketching desk, inspired by his work. 

His "My 10 adopted rules of thumb" hung on the wall in my last studio - a reminder to think outside the box. 

1. If you are in love with an idea you are no judge of its beauty or value.
2. It is difficult to see the whole picture when you are inside the frame.
3. After learning the tricks of the trade, don't think you know the trade.
4. We hear and apprehend what we already know.
5. The dog that stays on the porch will find no bones.
6. Never state a problem to yourself in the same terms it was brought to you.
7. If it's offbeat or surprising it's probably useful.
8. If you do not expect the unexpected, you will not find it.
9. Don't get too serious.
10. If you hit the bullseye every time the target is too near.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Pick your battles...

Spending New Year's Eve on a beach was good for some much needed down-time, but I'm happy to be back in the shop, working on commissions that are piling up. 

Beer and buckets of lobster? What could be better?

It actually rained here, after 116 days without any measurable precipitation.  This Adirondack chair had its first shower on the deck! (That's eucalyptus, if you're wondering. It weighs a TON.)

 I'm finishing up a low coffee table, and the buyer wanted some big and beefy turned legs. I ran the numbers in my head, and it was more cost effective to buy them, than for me to make them... go figure! 

There are some great table leg sellers out there, and truth be told - it's often better to outsource some components, than make everything yourself. 

So - pick your battles wisely, and concentrate on the things you do best.  This table should be ready to stain today, and I'll be happy to cross another piece off my list!

Sunday, January 07, 2018

This might be the year of ....Live Edge Slabs

Sometimes we have an idea formulating in our brain, a vague plan about life , or the coming year, like where our work will take us, how travel plans will shape up, or where we see ourselves in a year. 

I've been thinking a lot about things like that lately. We never know what the future holds for us - be it sickness or surprises, great accomplishments or disasters. 

We're suffered them all, in one way or another.

I didn't see last year being the "Year of Live Edge work" but sure enough, it turned out that way. Andrew Moore of Reclaimed Secrets taught a few classes at the shop, 

and mentored me, helping me produce some amazing slabs for projects I've been building.   Never underestimate seeking the guidance of someone who knows their craft! 

Because of the Live Edge movement, I recently brought in some amazing slabs from California, mostly Claro Walnut slabs. These are glorious - twelve feet long, in most cases, with gorgeous colors and grain. 

Most are extremely flat, there are even two  extraordinary bookmarked sets, which will make someone a fine dining room table. Some of these sets are already reserved, so if you're thinking of making a walnut table this year, you may want to stop by the shop and reserve one of these!

Speaking of Andrew, he and his other half, Nic,  donated a set of very nice slabs to the raffle that we held at our Sin City Woodworkers Christmas party. They have a huge inventory, including boards as long as 17' long and 40" wide. 

Luckily he's a big guy who can  handle something that huge!

These donated  Beetle Kill Pine slabs, as straight and flat as a slab can be, and the raffle tickets were briskly selling.

 In the end, a more deserving winner couldn't be chosen - Liz won them, and we can't wait to see what she makes! 

I picked up a couple of slabs from Andrew for a project I'm building - a low bench that will serve as a physical therapy table for a while, and once the therapy is over, it will transform in to rather large coffee table. (Of course, I forgot to take pictures of the raw slabs!)

After I straight lined one edge of each slab, I pulled out the Festool Domino XL and cut some slots to help facilitate the glue-up. 

 The glue up was easy, thanks to an extra set of hands. (Thanks, Esther!) 

Next step - epoxy to fill the cracks, knot holes, and voids.  I'm getting to the point where I'm actually enjoying this free form style of woodworking more than the more formal pieces I usually build.

 A  bit of sanding and some touchup with epoxy and this top is ready for its base, which I'll start this week. This is one of those dream pieces, with every aspect of it going according to plan, and perfect it its execution. That doesn't happen that often!

Speaking of more formal pieces, a few people were asking about a piece I finally finished this past year - the watch cabinet in African Mahogany. I struggled with that piece, no doubt.  This cabinet was designed to hold my client's Swatch Watch collection, and the only instructions were to ensure that the wood be unique.  

I found some amazing boards with pronounced sap streaks, and glued them together to form a lighter stripe down the middle. 

The cases were dovetailed, 

as were all of the interior drawers. 

I made a critical mistake that is somewhat common - running out of wood in the middle of a project. I had trouble matching the color and grain of the original boards, and it took months to find the right ones to complete this piece. 

In the end, the buyers couldn't have been happier, 

and I learned some lessons along the way.  A win-win.

 I 've got some challenging commissions in the pipeline, and 2018 is shaping up to be an interesting year already. I hope your holidays were fine, and the coming year is a healthy and prosperous one for all of us.

Fingers crossed...