Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Smiling Faces

Show time is less than a week away and some are finished while others are still working hard to complete their projects.  Happy times ahead.

Garrett's wine cabinet

Garrett and my joonie

Justin's desk/cabinet

James' parquetry table


Chen's sideboard

Jess' two chairs

Max's desk

My fun with scraps box

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

a space that conceals

Along with color, I love drawers.  My coffee table will have five that will open from both sides.....thanks Jim Budlong.  When someone asks me what I'll put in them, I say nothing.  No remote, no keys, no magazines, or whatever one puts into a space that conceals.  The drawers will be functional but with their contrasting woods to show off the hand-cut dovetails and the parquetry bottoms, they will become the focal point of the table.  So why would I want to clutter up something that takes so much time and thoughtfulness to create? 

Keeping my drawers empty, keeps my life simple.

 The latest in student work:

Tim Lundholm

Jim Creger (photo bombed by James Meinders)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Whip it out

I went home for Spring Break and ran into a friend at the farmer's market.  He said "Hey I was just thinking of you the other day!  I have this table that needs a middle leaf and thought you could just whip that out."  Yes, I could....and it still makes me chuckle to picture him so excited as he shared this with me.  I quickly moved the conversation onto more relevant matters...."give me the low down on your recent break up."

I have these experiences a lot nowadays as I share with others that I'm going to a fine woodworking school. I don't think they hear the word "fine" and so I try to gently educate people on what we do here.  Yes, I can "whip" things out but I could always do that before coming here to school. It's actually what I used to do and I have many pieces of furniture in my house to prove it.  After nearly 8 months of 48 hr work weeks, spending most of that time on the smallest of details, I finally feel as though I've lost all desire to make something quickly just to get it done.  The pleasure really is in the making and my goal is for that to show in my finished piece.

One more:  While getting my hair cut and doing the usual chit chat, I mentioned going to a "fine woodworking school".  She responded:  "Oh, do you make those cut-out bear things?"  :-))))))

Works in progress by some very fine woodworking artists:

Tobyn McCormick

Justin Swent

Ben Cooper

Monday, March 31, 2014


Brian Hubel's hall table
I knew with my next project I wanted to make a coffee table and I wanted to use the padauk I had noticed in the first semester.  That's all.  But fortunately I collect a lot of wood people on Facebook and, thus, when I spotted a post showing Brian Hubel's hall table, I knew that was it.

What I didn't know was that my coffee table would take on a look of its own. Yes it has the same five drawers and trapezoidal sides but its very different than what I envisioned.  And that's okay.  In the end it will still be a coffee table but what I'll see when I look at it is all the time, energy, and thoughtfulness I put into creating something that no other person can duplicate. It will always be my baby.

Greg Campbell, former CR student
Andy Johnson is making two chairs based on Vidar Malmsten's design but he's chosen ash for the wood instead of oak.

Andy Johnson

Jess Osserman's chair is made out of kwila and below is the finished product.

More students's work in progress: 

Josh Smith is working on a rocking chair made out of walnut.

Max Macsai-Kaplan is hard at work figuring out the next step for his desk made out of beech.

Jake Hockel is  comparing his mock up chair with the walnut chair he plans to make.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Magic Stick

A lot of our box type joinery is made using a doweling jig. Because we make the jig out of a piece of hardwood lying in our scrap piles, it seems like they're nothing special. But they really are.  In my coffee table, I have a row of five drawers that need six dividers, square and parallel.  Since the drawers will be running through both sides of the drawer box, I can't slip the dividers in from the back using splines.  Dowels are my only choice.  Thanks Jim Budlong for that idea!

When I first made the necessary 208 holes and they lined up perfectly top to bottom, along with being square, I couldn't help but be amazed at how easily that little stick can do the job.  As a former teacher, I could never get my students to line up so perfectly!  And my apologies to boring every person who passed my bench that day.  I was so ecstatic, I kept telling anyone I could snag "I got square!"

The next day my bubble was burst, as it naturally is in this work, when I had to put all the dowels in and check for square and parallel.  Not so square anymore and the sides were definitely not parallel.  That was a very quiet day.  Most of my time was spent sliding a piece of plywood back and forth through the bottom of the drawer box, checking for wobble and tightness, planing carefully where it needed.

Toward the end of the day, it was looking futile and I was back to my whiny old self thinking of ways to get around this parallel business, wanting to change up the design.  But then Daniel Zenefski came by, a second year student.  His offering:  stick to the plan of parallel drawers because "we do Bad Ass work here".

Daniel Zenefski

Daniel's 1st year projects: side board and box

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

When Worlds Collide

At the beginning my project, I asked if I could ebonize the legs of my coffee table.  Jim Budlong said "it's never been done before" and David Welter followed with "some people believe the color of the wood is enough".  That took me back to thinking about the purpose of this school and what it is we are here to learn.  One of the most difficult yet most beautiful aspects of CR Fine Wood program is choosing the wood for each project.  The grain and color of the wood play such important roles in the look of a piece.

Note how Russell Gale, a former CR student, used straight grain in the linear parts of his chair but for the back splats, he chose a grain to compliment the curves.

Awhile back,  Laura Mays, made 10 boxes using a variety of woods of different colors. When I first saw these, I thought "she's using color so I get to ebonize my legs!"

A couple of weeks ago, some of us took a marquetry class taught by Greg Zall, another former CR student. His work is a perfect example of how one can use wood to paint a canvas.  And again, note how he wraps the grain around his piece.

And here is my attempt at marquetry.

On day two of the class, we had a visit from Michael Cullen.  Prior to starting school at CR, I took a class of his where we learned how to use milk paint and carving tools  to create a different style in wood...texture and color.

Michael's chest. 

So many different styles of work and, thus, so many paths to go down in this wonderful world of wood. 

Greg Zall, David Welter, Michael Cullen

Two more web pages by current students:  

and Tim Lundholm 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

My Favorite Day of the Year--March 1

Whine Cabinet
The mid-winter show is about to end and our First Friday in February was another successful turn-out of friends, family, neighbors, and former students.  I've been coming to these shows for too many years to count and to finally be on the other side of this wood world is an experience I never could have imagined for myself five years ago.  That's when I took my first class in the summer school workshopTools and Techniques.  And March 1 is when applications are first accepted.  There are only twenty-three benches available and every year when I would send my application in for another class, I impatiently waited for the email from David Welter saying "there's a bench here for you."

This year's line-up of classes is an interesting mix of the traditional classes:  Tools and Techniques and Plane Making and those taught by two former students:  David JohnsonDanish Cord Stool and Caning; Wheeler MunroeUpholstery for Furniture.  I'll be hanging around Fort Bragg for quite awhile so I'm looking forward to learning some more tricks of the trade this summer.

Congratulations to Garrett Grantham for selling his first piece!

Some students are getting their personal websites up and running so here is a list of a few so far:

Jess Osserman                                                                                          Max Macsai-Kaplan