When I said in my last entry that I am a master craftsman, I did not expect people to take notice so quickly! If you’re looking for some quality reading material, let me suggest a pair of articles featured in the DC Examiner and the Baltimore Examiner.
The first, in the DC Examiner, is an interview I did about our furniture donation initiative with ACTS, which I discussed in a previous entry. Sorry if it sounds choppy… I only had three minutes to interview!
The second, in the Baltimore Examiner, quotes Alison–that thirty-something Marketing Director of ours–about our Murphy and wall beds. Speaking of which, last weekend’s Post ad featured the Library Wall Bed. I think they make excellent guest beds… nothing beats a real mattress for comfort, not to mention the inherent space-saving features of being able to fold a bed into a wall.
We typically sell a lot of these beds around the holidays to families expecting out-of-town visitors, and I have to imagine other furniture retailers experience a similar phenomenon. I’ve also seen some pretty innovative guest solutions out there, though in my house we just put rocks under the mattress to get guests to leave early. In your house, where do your guests go?
I like to think of myself as being good at what I do. I work for a company that has been in business for 32 years, and I’ve been a part of it for the last 22. And yet every day I learn something new as a woodworker. In this field, it is very hard to be a “know-it-all,” no matter how hard I may try. So, as you can see, today when I make a piece of furniture for a customer, there are many things–collected over my 25 years as a woodworker–that I take into account. You might even consider me an expert furniture maker… even a master craftsman.
My extremely talented Marketing Director recently coerced me into writing down some of my sage knowledge in the form of an article, which we submitted to DesignLine magazine. Today the mail arrived, and with it came the magazine, with my published article on pages 16 – 17! “The new phone book’s here! The new phone book’s here! I’m somebody now!”
So, what do you think? Did you learn something? Bonus points if you can guess which movie I’ve quoted.
Wow! We’ve received a lot of interest in a product we’ve not even debuted yet… our Linnaea dining set! We’ve already drawn up plans for a table, and we’re working on the chairs as I type. Here, you can see two of the table drawings. It’ll be at least 4 weeks until we even have a picture of this never-before-seen item!
However, we do have one Linnaea dining item you CAN see now: the Linnaea credenza. This great piece is diminutive in size and works great as a small server or even as a living room cabinet which stylistically matches other items in the Linnaea Collection.
Do you have any other ideas for items we ought to add to the Linnaea Collection? If so, please leave a comment below!
Jason and me with “the slider” cabinet. The top doors slide to the center or the far left and right to reveal a jewelry drawer in the top middle. The drawer is on metal glides for full extension and is fully lined with a complete jewelry organizer. The drawers are curved fronts, like the case and top. These pieces should be in the showroom within two weeks.
I’m working on the pedestals for the Linnaea cabinets. We have been making decisions on the size of it, and it has been growing progressively. Seems like each time we work with it, the pedestal grows about 1/2″.
The pedestal has legs that are set at angles to the case. The legs are actually 5-sided, with a beveled interior area for the skirts to connect. They are 8″ high, and step out about 3 1/2″ in two directions. This is fairly involved as far as pedestals go.
The concern over structure here is pretty big. Many people are not kind to their furnishings, myself included, and I have a genuine concern of these legs getting sheared off from the piece, getting dragged, hit with large objects, dropped, etc. I’m always thinking of the worst case scenario when I design and build furniture. We originally were going to use a metal corner bracket to help support the joint. We found that the screw needed to provide the majority of the strength would need to run through the intersection of the two skirts, and would actually diminish the joint’s integrity by possibly fracturing the glued joint. If you have ever run a screw into a piece of wood and had the wood split, imagine running a screw into the intersection of three pieces of wood. Hard to imagine a good outcome here.
We decided that best approach to the problem was to do what they would have done in 1960, a good old-fashioned corner block that was glued and screwed to the skirts. You can see the difference between the metal corner bracket and the corner block in the photo. The effect is that the skirts become much more rigid, and thereby don’t allow any flex in the leg joint. The real test will be when I stand on top of the chest to “stress test” the pedestal. I’ll keep you posted.
I was asked to write about wood, or more specifically, the way wood is cut. This opens up a whole bunch of doors, but for the purposes of this blog, we’re only talking about the way our lumber is cut for our uses.
There is a much better description of the way wood is cut in an article I was reading, so rather than bore you with my description, check it out. I will explain the basics here.
Plain sawn lumber is just as it sounds. It is cut flatly from the log, and is the most common way wood is cut. The net effect is a “cathedral” type grain pattern that is very pleasing aesthetically. Our cherry, red oak, birch, maple, walnut, and mahogany are all plain sawn.
Quarter sawn lumber is wood that has been taken from the tree very differently. The tree is first quartered, or cut into four sections. The boards are then taken from the tree in one of several different ways. The net effect is a straight grain, often times creating interesting patterns known as ray flecks.
There are two basic reasons why wood would be quartered, either for stability or looks. When you quarter lumber, it becomes more stable than plain sawn wood. It will expand and contract primarily the thickness of the board, not the width like plain sawn. The look of quartered lumber, or specifically the ray flecks, is the desired effect. It gives the lumber depth and interest in a different way.
The reason we carry quarter sawn white oak and plain sawn red oak is largely based on history. Quartered white oak would have been the wood of choice during the arts and crafts movement, the original one, a hundred years ago. As a result, many of our customers own antiques that they want to match or compliment in some way, and the quartered white oak just foots the bill. Red oak has traditionally been plain sawn with large, dramatic cathedrals in the grain patterns, so much like the expectations surrounding white oak, there are similar demands for plain sawn red oak instead of quartered.
You can get any log quartered if you like. I have worked with quartered cherry, maple, sycamore, red oak, white oak, and several others. Some types of wood have more drama in them when they are quartered than some others.
What is the best wood for you? I get asked this a lot. I get asked a lot of questions. What most people mean is “This is how I live, how many kids I have, how often I move, and what I want the piece for. Which wood is best here?” The answer is always the same within the varieties of the hardwoods we offer, the durability, longevity, soundness of each wood is comparable, so……………..the best wood for you is the one you like, the one that makes you happy. This sounds too easy!
I was drawn to the idea because the program benefits others in need, but it also gives the used furniture a new life, new chance, much like its new owners. Seems apropos if you ask me.
The dump has a “trash to treasure” location. It is very popular. Drop off something that is no longer wanted or needed, and there is someone there who scoops it up, generally before you can even get it out of your truck. Erika and I have come to refer to these individuals affectionately as “lot lizards”. They will hang out all day, picking through the trash to treasure stuff, or just sit and wait for the next resident to pull up and give up their valuables. I used to really not like this. I felt I was being assaulted. It was a bit unsettling, and the idea that these lot lizards are probably profiting from my generosity did not sit well with me.
Now, I have come to believe that these people are in need, and they just need to make some money by selling these things to someone who will happily use it. So it’s charity along with a reasonable assurance that the thing I’m discarding will find a new life with someone else. This makes me feel good about myself. Give something away today and see how you feel. Just try it.
As an aside, I came across a very interesting article on “how to recycle anything.” This is from the September and October issues of Real Simple magazine.
I’m sure that several of you have wanted to know, and have probably lost sleep being so concerned about the welfare of the tractor. Here is an update for you.
After about $260 and six hours of time, old Betsy is back up and running, better than before. I got the new tires put on the rims, but before mounting them, I got in the “well, while I’m doing this, I may as well…….” So, I lubed the whole tractor – a job I hate. It seems I always sheer off a grease fitting, and end up wearing more grease than the tractor. Sure enough, I broke one grease fitting and had to repair that, and by the time I was done, I had to throw the shirt I was wearing away.
I Cleaned the engine, filters, etc. Scraped the mud off the underside before the wheels went back on – You know, while I’m at it!
Alas, Mudville is a happy little town once again!
Learning is painful!
Have you ever felt that you’re a kid in a grown up world? If you “fake it” long enough you might actually catch up with the rest? How did you possibly end up with all this responsibility, given how poorly your projects are going? Sometimes I think I’m brilliant, and other times I feel I’m the last dog in the pack, with the view that never changes.
Yesterday was one of those days. The Linnaea collection cases we are building seem to be kicking and fighting me the whole way. I’ve managed to destroy the side of one case, a dovetailed blade in another, and cause myself physical injury in the process of taking a mis-machined divider back out of a cabinet.
Somehow, I managed to find my way back into the shop today and give it another try. Things are going a bit better, and I see the cases developing, and this is what keeps me going forward. If it weren’t for this, I might just lose interest in the whole thing and give up.
Patience is the most valuable quality I possess. It’s getting a little thin these days, and I need to find a way of slowing down a bit and letting the design create itself for a while. This is something Greg (our founder) taught me. The answers come sooner or later, so be patient, stop faking it, and toughen up!
Without pushing it, the cases seemed to evolve better today. I think I’ve been trying too hard to get a “win.” So what is your most valuable quality? You know, the one that you think makes you special, but also is a bit of a demon for you.
So, I was in the shop most of the day Friday. I’m trying to push the Linnaea cabinets along, so I sanded all the parts to the first piece, a small credenza. I then applied the oil finish to all these pieces. I figured that I’d assemble the unit today.
Jason gave me a call to tell me the drawings I did were not accurate, and the case got made 1” too small. Oops. Crap. After several minutes of “what if we….”, he is re-making the case–the life of a prototype. It’s not so bad though, because we had already noticed a few things we needed to change.
Remember, I’m a professional. Don’t try this at home!
Now we’re in for two weeks of bumping around with the pedestal. I had thought we’d be further along. Honestly, I haven’t given Jason the help he needs to get the cases done in a timely fashion.
Creating something new isn’t just about design, prototypes, and re-makes. It’s time……lots of time. When someone asks me to do something custom, or different, they are paying a custom fee for time, not the wood. Custom is not all that different from creating new designs. You need to work all the bugs out before the first board is pulled, otherwise, it may end up 1” too small.