Thursday, January 29, 2015

Draw What You See, Not What You Know

 Woodworking is a brutally honest work.

There are many truths in this life.  For me, the whining sound of a 10” carbide tipped saw blade spinning toward my face driven by a 3hp motor, is one of them. It is very real, tangible, and responsive.

The number one thing to remember when running wood through the table saw is to hold the wood down flat to the table as you glide it along the fence. NEVER LET UP. Dust and particles are spraying at your face; chips of wood are beating at your stomach and chest. Never let up. Once you commit to the cut you must stay true to your course until you have cleared the blade. There is no room for wishy-washy indecision. It can be life threatening and certainly is limb threatening with every cut. Hold it down and push the board through without turning away.  

When building, I have to do the same. Assemble and look over every aspect. Proportions, color, grain and texture either work together or fall short of intentions.

Side Table
I have to say that I try very hard to make the best possible furniture, art, box, whatever it is at the time. I do apply pressure to be honest with myself when I look at something I’m making. I recall in one of my first drawing classes my instructor would repeat in every class, “Draw what you see, not what you know” To see the thing in front of you, you have to look and be brutally honest.

Recently I was commissioned to re-create a box that I had made and sold years ago. This was a very strong piece. I really anguished over every detail. It took forever to make! Now, I have to make it as fast as possible, from memory. I gave it my best shot. It took long hours to do in a time crunch. I pulled it together and sent it off. They loved it. But back to being brutally honest . . . when I finish a piece I photograph it to make a record of what I’m doing. Photographing also helps me see what I made. I knew something wasn’t right. I looked and looked. Day after day I would look at the photos of the two boxes to try and see what the differences were. Finally I noticed that the shape of this one part was different. When I looked at the original, my eye was drawn to a particular curve. The second one didn’t have it quite right.

Instantly I realized that I had stopped looking and questioning when I was pre-occupied with time and the reality of getting the project out the door on schedule. I was copying my own work but not remembering all of the right questions. When all of this came together for me, I knew exactly what I needed to do to get back on track and it felt so good. Well, first it felt scary and kind of rotten, but when I could see the path back to my true course, those feelings disintegrated.

It takes deliberate action, thought and focus to face the truth of my life. The question worth asking every day is: are you really looking at your truth without turning away? Then, what are you going to do about it?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Vibrant Life!


There's NO STAIN on this Outside Dine Table made from Reclaimed wood by Perfect45Degree

The reclaimed wood in this gorgeous dine table has literally been around the world. It has crossed the mighty seas. Yes, somewhere around the globe someone cut down trees and milled this beautiful hardwood into 4" x 4" sticks so they could stack heavy railroad rails. They shipped the rails from the other side of the planet. Still an amazing concept for me when I visualize our globe and all of the land and water between me and the South Seas.

Just think of all of the conversations that have taken place next to, over and under this wood. How many languages? Were the trees near a path or road?

Somehow this wood has ended up here, in my town, for sale, thrown randomly into a plywood box as if it were Popsicle sticks. Five dollars each.

36"wide, 9'2" long (divided into four sections) with an angle iron base
It was wet. Unless you want all of your work to be completely ruined, you have to let it dry before you work it. After it has dried to the right moisture content you have to deal with what happened to it while it was drying. Some twist, some crack some remain stable. Movement is related to the stresses within the wood and, just like me, internal pressure makes me get all twisted!!

I sitckered the wood for well over a year and rotated the stack several times. Some of the more stable boards I re-sawed just to see what would happen. Marking the ends of the boards as center and outside you can take all the boards that are in the center of the stack and rotate them to the outside and visa versa. This helps all of the boards get the same drying opportunity. The table was designed to be placed outside so I didn't need to dry it for interior conditions. I won't delve into the science, it's enough to understand that when you cut into it, see and feel the water, you have to wait.

How long would you wait for your custom built table?

Waiting is unheard of for us Americans, isn't it? We don't like to wait for anything. It is especially difficult as a woodworker to convince clients to wait. They see their table and they want it to appear immediately, or very soon if they think of themselves as patient people!

celebration time

Over time the table will darken as all wood goes brown with exposure to the sun and if left unfinished, oxidation. Each species will retain its own shade of brown, some will look red next to others that will look like amber honey. I have seen the table over the past six months and although it's not as brightly colored like the first shot above it is so sensual and vibrant with deep, rich color.

The size is perfect! 

I had the wonderful opportunity to dine at this table with 9 other friends. We all felt close, even the 9' end to end. There was plenty of room for food, drinks, candles and centerpiece with the 36" width. It will gather many friends and family around it for a very long time, generate interesting conversation and enrich the moments of silence.

Installation process

Layout before glue up

The first panel, first coat of finish

Thank you...

Laurie for hiring me to build your inspiration and Lisa for all of your milling and installation assistance! Thank you both for holding design close to your heart and joining with me to create something so beautiful. I especially note this table to be a symbol of your core value of gathering friends, creating community and celebrating the abundance life has to offer.
This fine table holds the energy of the people who harvested the trees, stacked the rails, shipped the cargo, purchased the dunnage,  the oceans it floated upon, our collaborative building process and now the community it serves. That's one powerful table! Cheers!

Little Flame

Little Flame
Prize winner in the NWFW 30th Annual Box Show! SOLD