Archive for the ‘design’ Category

Don’t stain my wood!

I was watching TV recently and two different shows reminded me of my greatest woodworking pet peeve.   But before I go into that detail, let me offer some back ground as to what my issue is and where it originates.   My love of woodworking really exploded when I was introduced to the world of exotic woods through a show called “Woodworks”.  The host of the show, David Marks, was always using woods that I had never heard of.  Each wood was uniquely beautiful and boasted colors and grain that I had never seen before.  From that point on I was sold, and decided to only offer things done in natural wood with a clear finish to protect it.  “Stain” is a dirty wood in my house, because stain is just that…. Dirt.  I don’t want you to rub dirt on the finely crafted work that I created, so why would you want me to?

It is probably one of the most common questions I get asked: “what color are you going to stain it.”  The question is asked as though staining is how wood is always finished.  So I make it my goal to educate people to not cover up their beautiful wood, but rather appreciate the variety that exists in nature.

Now, this leads my pet peeve.  I was watching a recent show of “Son’s of Guns” on the Discovery Channel were they were building an old fashioned looking gun called a “blunderbuss”.  As part of the build they were restoring an old walnut stock and they used a walnut stain to “bring out the natural beauty of the wood”.  Really?  You are going to take a piece of beautiful walnut wood and then use a “walnut” stain on it?   You are already at your end goal of a walnut colored stock by virtue of nature and dirt in the stain will actual hinder some of that beauty, not highlight it.  I can’t be too mad at them, they are gun people not woodworking people.

The other show was “The Vanilla Ice Project” on DIY network (yes, the 90’s rapper).  They are rebuilding a million dollar house and bring in 3 huge and beautiful African Mahogany planks and promptly gave them a “nice dark stain.”  Mahogany is one of my favorites to work with and has a beautiful color and grain pattern.  Mahogany will naturally darken over time, but rubbing dark dirt on it is no way to do this.  If their end goal was to have some dark wood, they could have slopped some stain on some cheaper Oak wood.  I have worked with design and styling people before, and to be honest, they aren’t known for their practicality.  They are just trying to make real life match their vision.  I can respect that, but I bet they could have achieved their vision with another species of wood had they known, maybe they should consult me next timeJ.

Even professionals can fall victim to this as well.  I remember early on in my woodworking “training” watching an episode of “The Old Yankee Workshop” were Norm made a “Mahogany poker table” and the last step involved “mahogany” stain.  That pained me greatly!  Although, I also don’t pump finish nails into my project either, everyone has their own style – it is just not one that I agree with.  Maybe when PBS offers me a show we can revisit that table and do it the right way.

So the moral of the story is, don’t stain my wood.  If you are looking for a Mahogany/Walnut/Cherry finish, then I’ll start with those woods.  Also, stain can’t alter the look of the wood grain, so you end up with a similar color, but not the natural hues and features that come from nature.  The natural wood will look better and stay looking better longer then some colored dirt rubbed into the surface.  If you want something that stain can’t match, use some exotic woods like Cocobolo, Zebrawood, or Wenge (just to name a few).  No stain will ever match these woods and while pricey, they are truly spectacular!

-Derek

http://handmadewoodgifts.com

http://www.etsy.com/shop/HandMadeWoodGifts

http://www.facebook.com/pages/HandmadeWoodGifts/

Custom Umbrella Stand

I just wanted to share with everyone my latest unique creation.  This came as a custom request from one of my repeat clients.  We designed it together going through several variations before we found one that worked.  Thanks goodness for CAD!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The end result was this Art Deco inspired stand made from Mahogany and Australian Lacewood.  While the piece itself may not appear overly complex, the challenge was in the compound angles on the sides.  Each of the sides needed to have the exact same tapered angles and needed to be the exact same length.  The edges of each piece needed to have an exact 45 degree miter cut down the entire length each edge.  I actually ended up making this twice because I was so unhappy with the results from the first time.  The joints were not tight and the angles made the whole top look more like a diamond then a square.  The second take was much better!  Check it out:

The bottom of the stand is constructed of a mahogany veneered piece of MDF which is more stable than solid wood.  A solid piece of wood would expand and contract with the varying moisture levels, and this could split the stand.  To further eliminate any effect of standing water from a wet umbrella resting on the wood, the top surface of the Mahogany veneer was coated with a thick clear 2-part epoxy.  The rest of the piece is finished with 4 coats of a gloss wipe on Poly.

I’m extremely happy with the end results, especially after seeing how a small amount of variation can have a huge impact on the overall fit.  This solid umbrella stand will be greeting its new owners in their entryway with a collection of umbrellas at the ready for many years to come.

If you have a need and just can not find a solution, or just want something that no one else can purchase at a regular store maybe a custom piece is right for you!  See some additional pictures below.

-Derek

http://handmadewoodgifts.com

http://www.etsy.com/shop/HandMadeWoodGifts

http://www.facebook.com/pages/HandmadeWoodGifts/202991473994

Slight segway…

I’ve been pulling some ideas together for a blog posting on the reasons why people should purchase high quality handmade items, as well as situations on when it doesn’t make sense too.  This article on Yahoo today regarding things to NOT buy really highlights one of the thoughts that I had: http://shine.yahoo.com/event/financiallyfit/what-not-to-buy-at-ikea-2482669/

It touches on 2 points, the quality of “wood” furniture (point 2) and the joys of assembling said furniture (point 5). Take a read, hold on to that thought, and take a second before you make your purchase.

Thanks,
Derek

Graduation time

So last year I answered a custom request on Etsy.  This person was looking for a way to display her sons high school diploma along with the tassel and a picture of him.  I immediately understood her dilemma, what do you do with your tassel or diploma/degree after a while?  It either sits in a drawer or box to be forgotten about or eventually thrown away, mine are somewhere around here… I think.  After several conversations we figured out the prefect design:

The frame itself is 12″ tall, 27″ long, made from 3/4″ thick solid hardwood that is 1.5″ thick, and is comprised of a mixture of miter and half lap joints.  The only fasteners use on this frame are the screws that hold the hanging wire on the back of the frame and the points used to hold the matte and backing in place.

As it turns out that the height of the frame is really determined by the length of the tassel, and not the pictures.  The frame can accommodate a picture up to 7.5″ wide and 9.5″ tall.  Since this isn’t a standard size, custom mattes can be used to any size that you want.  It also allows you to do the same with a high school diploma which is about 6″x8″ or a full size 8″x10″ college degree.

Made from Mahogany

The picture and the diploma/degree have a plexi glass fronts to keep them protected, while the tassel sits in a box that has an open front.  I found that having glass in the front of tassel would smash it, there just wasn’t enough room with a standard frame thickness.  So I opted for an open front that allows the tassel to hang unhindered.

Made from Walnut

As always, these frames are available in a variety of domestic and exotic woods such as: Walnut, Cherry, Mahogany, Jatoba, Zebrawood, Lacewood, Bubinga, Padauk, and many other – just ask for pricing with your favorite wood.

This frame is a great time capsule, a way to capture the memories of your high school or college accomplishments.

-Derek

http://handmadewoodgifts.com

http://www.etsy.com/shop/HandMadeWoodGifts

http://www.facebook.com/pages/HandmadeWoodGifts/202991473994

Checkmate – step 4 – it all comes together

This is it, we are in the home stretch now… After the holes are drilled then you just need to shape the bodies and tops.  This is where your initial sketch and the realities of the project meet, and sometimes don’t match.  You need to be aware of the inner diameters of the holes that you just drilled so that you don’t cut areas too thin and destroy all your hard work.  I couldn’t thin the body as much as my sketch showed because of this.

While you are shaping the mills refer to your sketch for reference, it is easy to lose your place while turning.  Looking at the drawing will remind of your ultimate end design.  Once you get the mills shaped how you like them, sand them to remove all the tool marks and smooth them out.

The top of the queen had to be cut with a hand saw off the lathe, that added a bit of complexity, but I’m happy with how that turned out.  On the head of the king I left the cross round so that whatever angle you look it the cross will look the same.  I actually ended up making 2 heads for the king and having the buyer pick the one that she liked the best… just another advantage of buying custom!

 

At this point I would apply a finish, but since these are going to be painted I need to skip that step so that the paint will stick to the wood.  After the sanding I move on to the installation of the mechanisms.  Each mill manufacture has their own instructions for this, so follow those.  If you have made it this far then you should be able to figure that out!

Now you’re done!  Pull off the top and load it with your salt or pepper corn, push the top back on and give it a twist!   This still has an adjustable knob on the bottom (most have it on the top) for adjusting between a fine or a coarse grind.

-Derek

http://handmadewoodgifts.com

http://www.etsy.com/shop/HandMadeWoodGifts

http://www.facebook.com/pages/HandmadeWoodGifts/202991473994

See it before you get it

I have had dozen of requests for custom work for all sorts of things.  Many of these request have been initiated, sight unseen, without any real knowledge of what the final project will be.  Granted some of the items are simple in nature, and others are not very big or expensive projects, but some of them can be.  It is an honor that people put that much faith in my work based on other items that they have seen, but not everyone is that brave.

So say you are looking for a custom piece of furniture made for your exact needs and are investing hundreds (or thousands) of dollars into a high quality piece of work made from exotic woods.  Wouldn’t you like to have an idea of  what you can expect the end product to look like, especially if the item is different than any of the other previous works done by the craftsman (hopefully that craftsman is me…).

I have a solution for you!   Working closely with you I can generate a scale 3D model of what you are looking for so that you can have a better idea of what you will be receiving.   I can even apply wood color for the specific woods that you are looking to use to give you an even more representative image of the end product.  Now this certainly isn’t exact because wood can vary from piece to piece, but at least is in the ball park.  An additional advantage of going through this step is that we can see if something just doesn’t look right, maybe parts are out of proportion with the rest of the piece, or something is too small to really make a difference.  We can make that adjustment before any piece of wood is cut and produce a better product in the end.

I also like to do this for my benefit because it helps me think through the joinery for the project and determine the length of parts, especially when working with mortise and tenon joinery, it is easy to forget to add the length of the tenons to the overall length of the piece that needs to be cut.

Here is an example of a custom table that I built, starting with the 3D model and ending with the complete table:

On this project the cross was too detailed to fully capture it in the 3D, so a more basic cross of the approximate size was used as a place holder.  Also, you can see how the wood grain generated on the front of the table doesn’t match the grain of the actual piece.

This works even for less complex projects like this 5 picture frame that I make.  See the before and after in mahogany:

So fear not!  If you would like to commission me to build you a custom piece I will work with you from start to finish to make sure you get exactly what you are looking for.

-Derek

http://handmadewoodgifts.com

http://www.etsy.com/shop/HandMadeWoodGifts

http://www.facebook.com/pages/HandmadeWoodGifts/202991473994

Checkmate – First steps

So here is a custom project that I’m excited to start for 2 reasons.  It is a set of salt and pepper grinders in the shape of a king and queen chess piece, which is something that I have on my to-do list.  Now I can say that I haven’t ever made these exact things, but there is no reason that I can’t!   The second reason is that when these are complete they will be sent to the other side of the planet… which is a pretty cool.

I plan to make several posts showing you the main steps in the process of producing a custom item.   The basic design requirements of these are that they are to be about 10″ tall and 2.5″ around.  My default woods for a project like this would be a solid piece of maple and walnut for the light and dark chess piece contrast.  However, in this case, the buyer would like to paint them herself.   So I will make them out of a less attractive wood called poplar, because no one will see it in the end, anyways.

The best thing to do when starting out is to put something on paper.  I usually start with a hand sketch like the 2 that I have below:

 

These are just guild lines to work out the basic shape and style, these aren’t to a true scale.  Also, the end product doesn’t end up lopsided (I never did do great in art class).   If I am really concerned about scale, I will sketch out ideas on graph paper.  If it is a really complex design that involves alot of thought I will draw in out in CAD ( I have a few projects in mind that might require this level of detail).

Of course the rough sketch is just a guild line.  As I get to turning the actual pieces I will often improvise and deviate from the sketch because in real life isn’t always the same as on paper.  Maybe an area looks to fat and needs to be thinned out, or a bead or detail look out of place… then it is up to me to do what I think looks best.

Check back soon to see what happens next!!

-Derek

http://handmadewoodgifts.com

http://www.etsy.com/shop/HandMadeWoodGifts

http://www.facebook.com/pages/HandmadeWoodGifts/202991473994