Friday, August 26, 2011

The Dog Days of Summer

It's hard to believe it's been over a month since my last blog post. I ended up slipping into vacation mode, and haven't found reason to return until now.

At the end of July we went on vacation to a lake near Haliburton. As much as I had grand ambitions to use the downtime to either design new furniture pieces or sort through my images folders, deep down I knew I'd be using my time off to do little more than absolutely nothing. Basically I just shut down mentally, to the extent that I could barely find the motivation to even check email (which, incidentally, would have meant driving into town to find some place with Wifi). Aside from a bit of swimming and a few long walks about the only thing I accomplished was putting a daily dent into my stash of Diamond Crowns, Macanudos and Arturo Fuente Hemingways.

In my mind there is nothing that caps off a lazy day on vacation quite like an excellent cigar under a star filled sky.

About the only real accomplishment I made all week was reading a book, which happened to be "Life" by Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. One thing I found fascinating was the way in which Richards describes the creative process of song writing. In his mind he doesn't really write songs, so much as act as a conduit for pulling songs out from the proverbial aether. In many ways his description parallels experiences I have had creating some of my more unusual furniture pieces and details.

Speaking of furniture I had to laugh about the near fatal experience Richards had with some built-in bookcases in his home. Apparently he was reaching for a book on an upper shelf one time, and the shelf pins fell out causing him to fall under an avalanche of tomes. The incident resulted in serious injury including broken ribs and a punctured lung. Apparently Mr. Richards has need for a good cabinet-maker, and if he's looking I know of a good one I could recommend.

Perhaps the best part of the book was Richards' explanation of how the bluesy guitar riff came together on my all time favorite Stones song: "Can't You Hear Me Knocking?"

Even after all these years, this tune still rocks.

Hat tips to the late Andy Warhol for the iconic album cover.

(Yes, kids, there once was a thing called albums, and the album covers were a form of art).

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Spalting Maple - The Horse Poo Experiment

In recent months Kevin has made considerable effort to purchase some figured wood that is commonly known as Spalted Maple.

Given the difficulty he has had finding quality examples of this wood, he has started to explore ways of spalting his own Maple.

What is Spalting?

When most woodworkers refer to spalting, they are usually describing the introduction of dramatic color or black into specific grain lines of wood. This is sometimes produced by mold growth in live or cut wood, or various types of wood disease or rot. Spalting can include myriad forms and colors, depending on the wood, the cause, the chemical elements introduced, etc.

When different types of mold of fungi are present in a piece of wood, black lines are often formed as an interaction zone where different fungi have erected barriers to protect their resources.

Somewhere along the way Kevin found a do-it-yourself recipe that claims that Maple can be spalted by smearing yogurt over chunks of the wood. The wood is then wrapped in plastic and buryed it in the ground for 2 months. Kevin gathered up a variety of 6/4 Maple scraps from around the shop and used them to conduct his experiment.

While it makes sense that the bacteria naturally found in yogurt should have the ability to spalt Maple, I question whether kiln dried solids are wet enough for the spalting process to work. Given that he buried the wood in early June, we'll find out in a couple of weeks time how well the experiment worked.

In the meantime some relatives ended up cutting down a small Maple tree at their cottage recently, and they asked whether I'd be interested in the logs. I saw this as a perfect opportunity to explore a different theory of spalting.

For this experiment I used a recipe found online at a site called WoodCentral. It calls for a mixture of 3 parts dried leaves, 1 part water, 2 scoops Miracle-Gro, 1 part fresh horse manure, and 1 bottle of beer (in this case an Upper Canada Dark Ale).

The photo above shows the ingredients ready for mixing. The dried leaves are already in the pail with the water.

The brew is stirred and ready.

To better expose the wet ends of the logs it was necessary to cut 3" off each end. My father came by with his chainsaw to do the deed. For a 79-year-old he continues to be quite limber and adept with handling tools.

Applying the "poo brew" to the ends of the logs.

The remaining mixture of manure and leaves was placed on top of the bark.

The logs were then wrapped and sealed in plastic, where they'll remain in the Sun for about 2 months. The skid below keeps them elevated, so ground rot doesn't set in.

Check back in 2 months time to see what happened.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The "Big Ass" Desk

About a year ago we received a request for quotation for a number of furniture pieces going into a large custom project. One of the pieces quoted was for a custom desk.

At the time I remembered feeling just a little bit nervous about the prospect of making a massive one piece curved top that would measure almost 14' corner to corner. Not knowing whether the quote would actually materialize as an order, I didn't end up spending too much time figuring out how, exactly, we'd do it.

Well, the order did materialize, and we did figure out how to make the top.

This is the credenza that will be located on the left side of the desk. There are a total of 6 box drawers over 3 files drawers. The drawer boxes will all be dovetailed solid maple running on Blumotion self closing linear ball bearing slides.

This image shows the addition of the side cabinet for CPU storage. There will be a removeable angled back added to this cabinet to allow for wiring access.

The curved modesty panel is bolted to the CPU cabinet.

The end gable is added to the far side of the modesty panel. The removable panel for the CPU cabinet can be seen on the right.

The "big ass" top is added to the "big ass" desk. It goes without saying that putting an undercut bevel edge around all 3 sides was more than a little challenging.

This view shows the inside of the desk, including the knee space.

I'm not certain whether this is the biggest desk we've ever made, but this is definitely the biggest desk we've ever made for a home office.

This piece has now been disassembled for sanding and finishing.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tekendoos Keepsake Boxes

The inspiration for these keepsake boxes comes from a “Tekendoos” (a Dutch word for “drawing box”) that was given to me by my Grandfather when I was a small boy.

I have cherished this gift for almost 50 years, and it still sits on my desk to this day.

The boxes shown here have been constructed from mitre folded Baltic Birch ply, with exteriors clad in various species of exotic wood that have been inlaid with purfling banding. The hinges are solid brass, and the interiors are felt lined.

The overall dimensions of each box is 10” by 5” by 2-5/8” high

The box shown above has been crafted from Karellian Birch Burl and inlaid with Mahogany, Maple and Indian Ebony.

The above box is made from Zebrawood inlaid with Mahogany, Maple and Indian Ebony.

This box is made of Kevazingo inlaid with Tulipwood, Maple and Indian Ebony.

The above box is made of Pommelle Sapele inlaid with Mahogany, Maple and Indian Ebony.

The keepsake box shown above is made of Bubinga inlaid with Tulipwood, Maple and Indian Ebony.

Several of these Tekendoos Keepsake Boxes will be on display at The Guild Shop in Toronto, as part of the "My Grain" exhibition which opens on July 16th.

Aquaria Console

The Aquaria Console measures 42-1/2" long by 10-1/2" deep by 29-1/2" high. The high gloss figured wood top appears to float over the base since it rests on concealed cross ribs that are set between the long curving aprons.

The aprons are attached to the curved solid legs by means of mortise and tenon construction. An optional drawer extends from one end by means of Blumotion linear ball bearing slides. The drawer box itself is made of dovetailed solid maple.

The console above is shown with a solid Walnut base that has been stained Dark Chocolate. The top is figured Crotch Walnut which has been center butt matched, and stained to complement the base - albeit with a high gloss finish.

The legs and aprons on the console above are made out of solid natural Bubinga. The figured wood top is rotary cut Bubinga, which is sometimes called Kevazingo.

The apron and legs on the console above have been made out of Curly Maple that has been stained a medium Chestnut colour. The figured wood top comes from a rare sampling of Curly Birds Eye Maple that has been stained Chestnut to match.

The console below has legs and apron made out of natural solid walnut, with a natural Crotch Walnut top.

The latter two consoles are currently on display at The Guild Shop in Toronto - ready for the "My Grain" exhibition which opens on July 16th.

Channel Cocktail Table at the "My Grain" Exhibition

The Channel Cocktail Table is one of the first custom furniture pieces that Kevin designed and made, while he was still in school.

Measuring 54" long x 21" wide x 16" overall height the main body of this table is crafted from a rare sampling of quartered English Oak veneer, which was sourced from my core stash of vintage woods.

The tempered glass top was set on offsets of satin stainless steel which were meticulously inlaid into the concave curve of the pedestal top.

This table was first displayed in juried "Studio North" exhibition at the 2010 Interior Design Show (IDS10). It was here that the table caught the eye of Gord Peteran, who teaches Furniture Design at the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD).

Peteran said he "was struck by the simple understated grace of the table. While the table was basically composed of three simple forms made out of three different materials, there was a sophisticated relationship between them that is not common in contemporary design nor is it usually present in young makers work. Upon closer examination the quality of execution was beautiful."

The Channel Cocktail Table will be on display at the upcoming "My Grain" exhibition at The Guild Shop in Toronto, which opens July 16th.

Chevron Console at the "My Grain" Exhibition

Many apartments and condominiums are notorious for having narrow entry areas at the front door. To address the design challenges of these spaces Kevin has created a narrow wall hung console called the Chevron Console that is only 6" deep.

Earlier this year Kevin had the privilege of displaying an example of this design at the Architectural Digest Home Design Show in New York.

This piece ended up being part of a group exhibit at The Furniture Society's display, where it was featured alongside the works of distinguished furniture makers such as Garry Knox Bennett, Wendell Castle , Michael Fortune , Vladimir Kagan , Silas Kopf, John Makepeace, Judy McKie, Po Shun Leong and others.

Kevin's Chevron Console was subsequently sold to a private collector.

For the upcoming "My Grain" exhibition at The Guild Shop in Toronto Kevin will be displaying another version of the Chevron Console . This piece measures 30" long by 6" deep by 6" high. It has been crafted from quarter cut Wenge panels that have been compound mitred to create a seamless monolithic structure. It is wall hung by means of a French cleat that is recessed into the back face. It is also signed and numbered on the back face: 2010-#022.

The "My Grain" exhibition opens at The Guild Shop in Toronto on Saturday July 16th.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Small Oval Keepsake Boxes

Every so often I'll end up with some lovely pieces of Black Walnut that are too small to make into furniture. More often than not I'll use this material to make into small Keepsake Boxes.

Each of these boxes gets crafted from a single block of wood. Elliptical oval in shape, they measure 4" long by 2-1/2" wide x 1-1/2" high. The wood surfaces are hand rubbed in a natural oil finish, and the inside bottoms are lined in Caiman leather.

The turtle image inlaid into the top of this box was inspired by an aboriginal glyph of a turtle.

Turtles are deeply revered in many ancient cultures and civilizations, in part because they are one of the oldest forms of life and their shells are symbolic of protection. Because of their great age and slow metabolism, turtles are also associated with longevity. A turtle also does not move very fast, which is indicative of the need for patience. This message is especially important for relationships such as marriage, because all marriages require patience.

The Goddess image shown here was originally designed for the Women's Health Research Awards in 2004. It symbolizes the image of the feminine divine, with the Woman represented as Goddess.