Since about 1977 we have been making the Platform Pedestal Bed. This classic Danish Modern bed has been done and re-done by many furniture makers. I still believe we do it better than most.
The first versions were doweled together at the corners, running a series of dowels through a mitered corner diagonally. The slat supports (what held the bed up) were doweled through the band as well. The effect was a series of small round dowel peg ends seen from the outside of the bed bands.
We made a few changes, and settled on essentially a version of how we do the bed today. The corners are mitered still, but we use a butterfly dovetail spline to connect the corner. It is a bit more time consuming to fabricate, but the joint saves time in the end as it requires only light clamping and sanding after. The bed slats use a dovetail rout that is stopped inside the band. We also have changed the connector that holds the band after we “split” it into two section for moving. We have been building the band of this bed the same for 25 years. It is still our most popular bed.
Something that has changed dramatically over the years has been the headboards that connect to the bed. These headboards have gone from a simple plain headboard to an elaborate wall unit tower/slope headboard with connecting light bridge and scalloped shell work in the hatch doors.
When I first started working at Hardwood Artisans, I made beds (and only beds) for two years. We made three beds at the time: the Loft Bed, the Trundle Bed, and the Platform Pedestal Bed. I have probably built a couple thousand of these beds over the time in the shop. Perhaps I built yours.
I remember back in the early nineties working with GregGloor on an Arts and Crafts style entertainment center for a customer named Dr.King in Potomac, Maryland. It was interesting because it was an exact match to a very nice original armoire from the Arts and Crafts Movement.
The reason I can remember this piece with such clarity after more than 20 years is because of what no one else knows except me and Greg. An error was discovered after the unit was assembled. The opening was too small. Now, it did have a large (4 inch) wide face frame. For eight hours I used a hand saw to cut the face of the cabinet down to increase the opening. My arms took on a Popeye quality! This became a terrible but memorable and successful day in my otherwise repetitive woodworking career.
The most amazing thing about Dr. King’s piece was that it was huge – I’m talking 5 feet wide, 8 feet tall, and 2 ½ feet deep . It took four of us to carry it into the house. It was designed to hold a 52” diagonal projection TV that was actually mounted on a TV swivel. We had to bolt the cabinet to the wall to keep it from tipping over when the TV was pulled out.
We participated in a home show shortly after we made Dr.King’s piece. Greg, with a little help from me, made this colorful unit. There are 7 or 8 different woods in the piece, creating an eye-catching effect. This unit was designed to hold, well, just about everything. This throw back is to all the old monster sized entertainment centers of the 70’s , 80’s and 90’s that have since been repurposed into pantries, armoires, and shelving units.
I am reminded of this entertainment center often as I design new furniture pieces for customers. I use it as a reminder that I never will design furniture around specific technology if possible. Printers are the worst! Never design a cabinet around a printer. In two years it will surely be in the recycle bin, and something a third the size will be in its place. It is difficult and not always possible in this world of technology, moving at warp speed, to know what is on the horizon. Sometimes the luddite in me tells me to just go lay down….
I met Julie Taboh of Voice Of America when she came into the Rockville store one Saturday about three years ago. She wanted to do a story on Hardwood Artisans. She is a lovely, kind, soft spoken woman who is hard to say no to.
Fast forward about two years and 49 months later…..she got in touch with me to actually do the story. Seeing her schedule and story lines, I can see how our story would get buried pretty quickly in the pile. This time, the story’s angle took a modern twist.
“How does a high-end furniture company survive The Great Recession, when 90% of the furniture businesses have gone under?” We have gone through several recessions since 1976. This one has been the hardest, deepest, and the longest to boot.
I didn’t fully answer her question about surviving the recession. I suppose the single best answer would be that we survived by doing right by the customers. We did this by never compromising on quality, happily handling problems, and extending ourselves to accommodate the particular needs of our customers. It shouldn’t take a recession to wake a business up to these basic points of customer service.
A while ago Ricardo and I decided to come up with some ideas for “wall art”, or wall storage that was artistically done. We came up with a few ideas, and have put some in place in the stores.
In Shirlington, we did floating shelves. These have been done before of course, but we like to think that our shelves are great. They are solid wood, 1 ½” thick and 6 ½” deep, and come standard in a set of three at 18”, 26”, and 34” long. The cost for the set of three is $450 (any wood). They, like everything, are of course customizable. The cost to customize is $7 per additional inch of length.
In Fairfax, I did two projects. First, I took our Suzy Cubes and cut them in half, making them 6 ½” deep. I then added a wall mount strip. I formed the cubes around the secretary and chair we have on display. The cost for these cubes is $230 per pair (striped) and $205 per pair (solid).
The second project I did in Fairfax was what I call my shabby chic loft look. I took trim scrap from the shop, all the drop created during the rough milling of the lumber, and attached it to the wall. Irregularly spaced on width and height, this look adds texture to any wall. I really like the way this turned out. Sadly, this is just for inspiration and ideas, and is not for sale.
What would you like to see in our showrooms in the future? Also, what wall art have you created? Share your wishes and wants with us.
I was desperately searching for an old photograph for a customer, working on some new design, and not wanting to reinvent the wheel on it since we have built this idea several times before. Going through a huge stack of furniture photos and shop pictures, I came across this old photo, which was used in a Washington Post Magazine advertisement.
The tag was “when these boys are done being boys, this furniture will still be furniture”. It was very clever and very cutting edge at the time. We got many responses, some salutatory and some critical.
The two guys pictured are David Harbaugh and Mark Bain. The picture is from about 1984. Mark Bain still works for us as our maintenance foreman for the shop.
I turned 50 this year. I remember 1984 like it was yesterday, though it was 30 years ago. Remember the vibe………George Orwell, Ronald Reagan, the boycott of the summer Olympics in Los Angeles, and the movie Ghostbusters.
I was working on some new designs recently, and wondered about where the inspiration for new design comes from for me. I do my best thinking in the shower in the morning. I am at my best then. I believe I am brilliant, for at least 5 minutes. I think I need one of those underwater marker boards to take notes while I shower. After that, the day spirals downhill pretty fast! I believe everyone feels the same as me sometimes. We are just afraid to admit it. We are supposed to be grown ups, remember?
I believe buying from Hardwood Artisans is experiential. I believe we perpetuate this by informing and educating our customers with as much information about the wood, construction methods, and finishing techniques. In keeping with that effort, I have three related subjects today.
We have a table making class coming up next weekend. Everyone is pretty excited (and nervous) about the event, so much so that we were very concerned as to if we could actually build a table in 16 hours………..suppose we should have thought about that before!
Last week, I built a 42” x 60” fixed dimension table with tapered legs. We timed all the steps out, and discovered it takes (me) 8 ½ hours to make a table. I have been doing this for 30 years, so this is not a fair comparison, but it gives us a pretty good idea of how long things will take for customers.
The most time consuming element of building a table is sanding. Everyone says they hate to sand. I like it. I fall into a zone and really tune out from everything around me and into just the thing right in front of me. I use all my tools (touch, sight, smell) to monitor the progress of the sanding. Sanding like this is more of a discipline than a skill.
Here is my “almost finished” table, in maple:
We are having a series of furniture care lectures. I will be going to each of the stores on sequential Saturdays. In the month of February, I will be in Fairfax on the 8th, Rockville on the 15th, and Shirlington on the 22nd, all from 11:00 to 1:00. We will be going over general care of the furniture, special problems like dents and scratches and water rings, and answering any and all questions to alleviate some of the fear associated with fixing your furniture.
I have been running this lecture for several years, and each time I give it I believe it gets a little better. I learn how to present the issues and resolve them better. Attendance is larger and larger, which tells me there is more demand for this sort of education. Come prepared. There will be a quiz.
To see me in action if you can’t make the dates, go to our Hardwood Artisans YouTube channel and look at the various videos we have put together.
Finally, in this education blog, we have what we refer to as the Log Blog. Sometime early last year, Greg had a log shipped in from one of our lumber suppliers. We had a project in mind. We thought it would be interesting to show people where the wood comes from. The project falls right into the philosophy of educating the customer.
Late last year I cut up the log into sections with a chain saw. Well, finally “the shop” (as I like to call them when I don’t want to single out blame……Kevin!) finally decided to get these log sections done. Each store has one, and we are busy embellishing the log and counting rings and time stamping growth rings. We also can use it to show customers how wood is harvested from the tree. Here is what we have so far at Fairfax.
I decided to go to the Washington Post Digital Holiday Party, which was last night at Rogue 24 in Washington, DC. First off, you need CIA quality tracking devises to find the place (which I am told is part of the charm). Its address is 922 N Street, but not really. The building is two blocks down an alley behind 922 N Street, in what was probably the carriage house for the row house up front. It is a very old, exposed brick building, probably with a total of 1000 square feet. Add in the kitchen being placed in the center of the restaurant, concrete floors, modern decor, and you have a very cool atmosphere for sure.
Lauren Taylor runs a large part of the Digital side of the Post. She is a lovely, hardworking, smart woman who is just as comfortable working a room as she is spewing out web analytics. I really respect her abilities. Plus, she makes sure that her group, with the help of Nathan Boone (event planner for the Post), always puts on a terrific spread.
I met some very diverse and interesting people. I met a marketing manager for Next Day Blinds, as well as a marketing manager for Unisys Corporation. I met the woman who does the web and social media for Corcoran College of Art and Design. Her boyfriend, who rides his bike 16 miles one way to work, is re-building a carriage house from the ground up just around the corner from Rogue 24. Hearing stories of jacking up floors, re-creating wood doors, salvage yard hunting, etc. made me miss those messy old days. It reminds me that this sort of thing really is a young man’s game. It was a very good talk about design and creative ways to bring something really old into a modern focus.
The most interesting person I met was Ronnie Mervis, of Mervis Diamond Importers. He was pleasant, easy to talk to, and surprisingly candid. I have always respected his “high-road” marketing approach to selling diamonds and product, and who doesn’t love the accent?
Ronnie and I (I think I can call him Ronnie!) discussed the similarities of our businesses. We both are selling a luxury item to people with disposable income. He pointed out that he has something I don’t that is built in to each sale from the very beginning – emotion. He really pegged that idea. I spend a lot of time creating ads and tag lines that try to evoke interest and excitement, but mostly emotion.
I am very passionate about furniture and design. I try to get others to share my passion. I honestly believe that if we surround ourselves with only people and things we truly love and want around us, our lives will be enriched and simplified. Ronnie reminded me of how important that idea is. So, it was a great night and a lot of fun. I am glad I was prodded into putting on a jacket and driving into DC to attend.
What sort of design ideas create emotion in you?
In the1900’s, it was the arts and crafts movement.
In the1930’s, it was art deco and art nouveau.
In the1950’s, the mid-century modern movement began.
In the 1970’s, Danish modern was all the rage.
In the 1990’s, the arts and crafts style kicked back in with a lighter, modern interpretation.
In the 2010’s (that just sounds wrong and funny) mid-century modern has really started back up again. This time around, it has taken on a more textural interpretation. Monochromatic color schemes using a variety of mediums (wood, metal, glass, and fabrics) blending hard and soft-scapes is the trend. Furniture styles give and take from the architecture and decorating trends surrounding them.
We have been working on our mid-century modern collections for a few years. The Linnaea Collection (and the Baton Rouge Collection to a lesser extent) has been developing for several years. I began the Linnaea collection by making the living room items, starting with the sofa and chair.
Lately, we have been making some very modern cases, specifically for kitchens and bathrooms. Sharp, almost hard lines, with interesting finishes, are so totally the rage. Espresso, ebonized, blue stain (stain, not paint, so more like a glazing), what I like to call a “guash” (grey wash stain), and any other color under the rainbow are being created. It is little sad for me, as a woodworker, to color over the natural wood, but the designer in me likes the total effect. These shapes and colors make the furniture flow better with the total room of grey tones and softer statement.
We will be putting pieces in the stores soon that showcase these styles and finishes. In our Fairfax store, we have already installed a modern home office/guest room. Be on the lookout for other pieces in the showrooms.
What can we modernize for you?
For years I have been asked if Hardwood Artisans offers classes in woodworking, or if we would allow customers to “apprentice” in the shop. About 3 years ago, we did a test run for making tables in the shop. It was a successful test, and the customers and craftsmen were equally enriched.
Fast forward to this year’s Lemonade Social. We had Sergio and Freddie assemble a Simply Beautiful Secretary as part of our demonstrations. I watched the responses from customers, listened to the questions they were asking, noted the excitement they had in watching the process, and concluded that it must be time to try this class idea again.
We needed to decide on something relatively simple, but large enough to have a sense of accomplishment for the time dedicated to the project, and get it finished in just 16 hours. These are three tough specifications, especially the 16 hour constraint. We decided on dining tables, but when surveyed, many people wanted drawers (either for the kitchen table, or for a table desk).
We worked out the specifics on getting drawers made as well in the same 16 hours. What that meant in real high tech terms is that Kevin Carlson and I sat down and doodling over a legal pad, working out the timing of the project. Very complicated stuff…This is how most things get done around here. We have all been doing this for so long, we know exactly how long it takes to get through any particular cycle.
People ask me how long it takes to make this piece or that case. In our shop, it takes on average 60% of the time to construct the piece, and another 40% of the time to sand and finish off the details. We tend to spend an exhaustive amount of time doing the finishing details, but that is what gives the furniture that special look and feel.
The Table Making Class will require many machining steps. All the legs are two halves that are glued together. They will be rough cut, ripped, book-matched, run through an 80 grit sander, and then glued up into a larger blank. Later, these blanks will be trimmed down into perfect squares, cut off, mortised, drilled, and finally tapered. Lastly, all the finish sanding needs to be done on the legs.
The tops need to be pulled out to a rough length, ripped, marked, and glued in two separate gluing cycles. Afterward, the tops will get planed down to a little over final thickness, and then run through a wide belt dual head sander. After, yes, more finish sanding with pneumatic sanders, starting off with a180 grit, and finishing out with a 280 grit sanded piece.
The aprons will be ripped, planed, edged, and tenoned to fit into the leg mortises. Further notching and top clip grooving takes place, and then, yes, more sanding.
In the case of table desks, there will be drawer parts, half blind dovetails, dados, and notches to be done. When making a drawer, there are five parts involved per drawer. There are also two side walls, two upper runners and two lower runners, drawer stops, etc. Each drawer adds about 13 additional parts to the project.
There are lots of parts and lots of joints. This class will rock, and we will certainly roll through the entire process at a pretty good pace. So, if you are game, come on down. We would love to share this experience with you.
If you’re interested in the class either call our Fairfax showroom, or e-mail Erin (erin@hardwoodartisans) or Mark (email@example.com). We hope to see you in Culpeper!
Exactly how hard is hard?
I get asked every week which of the woods we offer is “better”, which wood lasts longer, which wood is harder. I remind people that we are the Hardwood Artisans, not the Softwood Schlock. All of our woods are durable, and we use the same time-tested methods in the joinery regardless of wood type.
The best wood in the world is the one that you like. There really is no other answer here.
That said there are some scientific methodologies behind determining hardness. The flooring industry created something called the Janka Test. Being under foot, the flooring industry really got asked that question, to the point that they wanted to truly quantify their answers.
The Janka Test takes measures the amount of force it takes to push a 3/8” diameter ball bearing half its diameter into the face of a piece of wood. The pressure exerted is the Janka density measurement. The higher the number on the Janka Test represents the larger force that was needed to push the ball bearing into the wood; which, represents the greater density of the wood. This test is excellent in that it quantifies the density in a consistent and reliable manner that is easily understood.
Click here to visit a good site to look at Janka Testing results.
Below are the Janka Test results for some of the woods we offer.
Sweet Birch 1470
Sugar Maple 1450
White Oak 1360
Ash (white) 1320
Red Oak (northern) 1290
Black Walnut 1010
Black Cherry 950
Honduran Mahogany 800