Friday, May 8, 2009

Table 1

Spent the winter learning about table construction and designing and building my first table. A worthy project considering my shop was now operational & needed to stretch it's legs. This one is made of all kinds of wood that I had resting on the lumber rack; bubinga, ash, oak, alder, walnut, with a copper veneer & cold rolled steel thrown in for good measure. Despite the shotgun approach to wood selection, the different tones & grain came together without looking like too much of a circus. and I inevitably find a component better suited to steel than wood, like the table top landing strip which acts as a trivet. I didn't build a mock-up for this project, feeling that it was mainly a learning exercise and so the piece itself would be a mock-up. I milled the wood from rough stock, and also slabs from locally harvested fallen trees. The joinery was easier than expected, incorporating floating mortise & tenon; live double mortise & tenon; handcut dovetails. The leg shape was borrowed from famous woodworker James Krenov, cut free hand on the bandsaw & cleaned up with a spokeshave, a very pleasant way to spend a day in the shop.

Marriage of metal & wood

A perfect example of design using the strength & beauty of both wood and steel. I'd like to continue exploring this relationship where traditional crafts of fine woodworking and blacksmithing are blended. These pieces are backrests/headboards that I designed and built for a bed that I had made with my dad a couple years earlier. The wood comes from a locally harvested slab of Elm that I milled in the shop into two pieces with bookmatched grain. My son had just been born, and I wanted a comfortable backrest on the bed for those early morning feeds. So my design was vertical not horizontal in the traditional headboard thinking. I modeled the steel supports on car leaf springs, they flex when you lean against the backrest, like a supportive suspension system. I'd like to explore using reclaimed car springs in future pieces & need to make a pilgramage to the scrap yard.

Raw Materials

I like the romance of giving found objects a new life. I always think about the amount of energy that went into making a piece of steel that is now considered garbage. Likewise, there's no better way to work wood than from start to finish, where it's been harvested from a fallen city tree, carefully dried, then milled & used in a piece of furniture or architectural millwork. Here's some gorgeous slabs of Elm I harvested with my buddy Dan last winter, using his Husqvarna 2100/36" bar alaskan mill. Reclaimed timbers are equally romantic to work with and present their own unique design possibilities. Often these possibilities exclude fine woodworking (reclaimed timbers are often softwood or perhaps because the wood is traumatised, or has old bolt holes drilled through it) and it takes me in a different direction. Here's a big load on the bandsaw, a 12X6 reclaimed yellow cedar that I used in a mantle piece.

The finer things in life

I was introduced to making & using hand planes at the Inside Passage School of Fine Woodworking in Roberts Creek, BC. The principle being that shearing the wood fibres with a sharp iron produces a better finish than tearing the fibres with sandpaper. Makes sense, especially when you start seeing results for yourself. I'd also be lost without a hand plane for dialing in fit. The lightweight, nice to handle planes can be made for all sorts of purposes. Here's a sweet coopering plane I made from boxwood. I enjoy designing, laying out & cutting joinery. I have so much to learn. I had the priveledge of visiting Machu Pichu in 2006 while cycling around South America. Here's a picture of some Inca joinery that for me puts everything in perpective.


Concrete is a cool medium to work with, it molds to any shape or form. Considering the energy intensiveness of cement, I'd like to explore pouring pieces using completely organic ingredients (like earth, straw, clay, kind of a cob recipe).


Sometimes you just can't beat the efficiency of metal. Classic example, I was asked to build a massive 9'X3' wooden structure to serve as storage for the local kayak centre's dry suits & staff coats. Inexpensive was the overriding requirement. Here's some drawings I came up with, in mild steel, as an alternative to using cumbersome toxic sheet goods & fasteners. The result was less materials, quicker build, stronger, cleaner look. Utility trailers and steel go hand in hand. Next up - learn how to weld aluminium & stainless steel.