Saturday, June 29, 2013

Woodworkingless Vacation

The family is winding down a wonderful week away from it all…including woodworking.  We wrangled another family into joining us up in the mountains of Granby, CO and have had a fantastic time away from work, TV (except for a couple Stanley Cup games) and hustle and bustle of the big city.

There were several times throughout the week when I thought about the shop and the projects that I have in the works, and there were other times when I would see something that would inspire me and make me want to tinker with a new idea in the shop.  Those inklings were pushed aside quickly though.  As much as my mind tends to wander off toward woodworking there was no competition to the amazing things I witnessed on this trip.

The Mighty Quinn discovered his hiking legs and pushed through several long adventures like a champ, discovering rocks, bugs, chipmunks and the oh so natural feel of a stick in your hand while blazing new trails.  He growled like a bear or howled like a Lobo at any other travelers we encountered.  He’s quite formidable!
Danger Boy lived up to his name and then some.  The boy has very little fear and will dive into almost anything!  I had a hard time keeping up with him at times, and found myself drawn back into my own memories of tromping through the woods of Maryland and Virginia, or exploring the deserts and canyons of Nevada and New Mexico.  I had forgotten so many of my own adventures until this trip, and this daredevil brought them back to light.

And just when I thought I couldn’t be any more blessed…I look over to see this stunning beauty sharing this whole experience, living in these wonderful moments with me.  My boys would not be who they are without the grace and love of this amazing woman…shoot, I wouldn’t be who I am without the grace and love of this amazing woman!  We would be three lost knuckleheads for sure!

As you look out over the summer on the horizon, dreaming of time off to get into your workshop (or studio, or craft room, or dark room…) make sure there is time to appreciate and celebrate those few people who inhabit the most special places in your heart.  Sure they’re proud of your hand-cut dovetails, your amazing painting or that hand woven masterpiece, but what they really crave is time and love.  Get out of the shop from time to time and be generous with the time and love…oh, and look at a few mountains along the way too.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Long Road Home

The last couple months have been packed with quite a bit of business travel, however, one trip was very absent of the day job’s influence.  A few weeks ago I made the trek back east to Maryland for Memorial Day.  This was the first Memorial Day without the hero of our family…our Dad.  My youngest sister lives there in Maryland and my other sister came up from Georgia so that we could all visit Arlington together with Mom.

We spent a fair bit of time at Dad’s grave remembering, telling stories, hugging, crying and laughing.  The flags were placed at every grave, and off in the distance you could see the movement of wave after wave of Boy Scouts placing roses on every headstone.  I failed to notice the day we laid Dad to rest…Arlington may be one of the most beautiful places on earth.  Thousands upon thousands of our heroes all placed in rows that echo the focus and precision with which our bravest lived their lives…and saved countless others.  I was in awe.
The second purpose for the journey was to collect many of the things from Dad’s shop that I would bring home to my own.  Dad was a woodworker, a craftsman of skill, precision and passion…and he taught me at every chance we had together.  For almost 20 years every trip back home included woodworking lessons.  Many times we would pre-plan weeks before I arrived.  I can recall his voice and his words in almost every task I execute in the workshop.

My youngest sister was gracious enough to loan me her truck for the trip back to Colorado, and my Mom and other sister were brave enough to drive cross country with me to bring this load of precious cargo home…and then drive back!  I cannot thank them enough for delivering my Dad’s treasures to me.

I could proudly list the contents of an entire pick-up bed of tools, jigs and wood that we brought on our journey, but there was really only one thing that I needed to come home with me.  While I’m very grateful for routers and sanders, wood slabs and a mortiser…which I’ll enjoy using for years to come, the whole, long drive would have been worth it if all that came with me was this…
This is where Dad held court in his workshop.  I helped him build the doors and frame the top at his little shop down on the Potomac River almost 20 years ago.  This bench cabinet was built to match the height of the table saw and served as an in-feed surface and storage for all things needed to use the saw.  While specifically designed for this cause, complimenting the table saw would not be this treasure’s greatest purpose.

For two decades woodworking and life happened around this cabinet.  There were many woodworking lessons, but even richer were the conversations…memories, our marriages, raising kids, politics, money, war, love and life.  We were sitting at this cabinet the first time he told me about Viet Nam, and the first time I ever saw his eyes well when describing the heroism of an Airman who threw himself on a loose phosphorous bomb to save the rest of his crew.  I met those parts of my Dad that he was ready to introduce me to right here at this cabinet, in this chair.

There is a patina on the bench top where he used to sit, a well worn surface where his hands and arms rested when he sat there.  There are cuts, nail holes and hammer dings from all of his grandchildren.  The grain of the plywood top is raised by the moisture of many Maryland summers and the sweating beers and coffee drips that left countless little puddles.  Needless to say it will never need sanding.  And always at the ready was “the chisel.”
He kept it razor sharp and probably used it on almost every project for little touch ups or fine tuning any joinery.  He had nicer chisels, but this was the go to.  Some variation of, “Oh, hold on…hand me the chisel Bubba” was spoken to me probably a hundred times over the years.

And so now his cabinet is the anchor of my shop, lined up behind my table saw ready to serve the next crew of Harbin woodworkers.  I’ll be giving the lessons now and hopefully can share even half the wisdom with half the grace the Dad did.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Latest Herd of Boxes

Shop time has been precious and rare over the past couple months...other than late evenings when power tools are off the menu.  Lots of travel and work, but despite the busy schedule I was finally able to put the wraps on five of the boxes that I had in the works.

And now, without further ado..."Behind this first number one."  (Eric Idle game show voice...)

Recycled Oak with Claro Walnut corner keys and a Sapelle veneered lid panel.

Unfortunately the camera isn't catching the shimmer in the Sapelle as well as it looks live.

Box number one will be headed back east to Bonnie, the most generous contributor to the "Go Lobos" WCC fundraiser.  Please visit to lend your voice to the HOWL in protecting our endangered wolves, including my favorite (and college mascot) the Lobo.

Box number two is made with woods that span three continents...American Oak, African Padauk corner keys and a curly English Sycamore veneered lid panel.

This was the box that received all of the test cuts along the way before working on the WCC charity box.  See some of the gory details here...

Three coats of hand rubbed Danish Oil really warms up this old, recycled Oak and makes the English Sycamore POP!  Again...I wish my camera and lighting did this thing justice.

And finally, you may recall the earlier sightings of this triplet set of Padauk boxes...

The lids for these boxes are quarter-sawn, spalted Maple. I experimented with the design of this first lid by cutting a small stepped profile along the top edge.  I'm still deciding if I like this style or not.  Click to enlarge these pics to get a good look at the stunning grain and funky spalt-line patterns.  All three boxes were finished with three coats of hand rubbed Danish Oil, buffed between each coat.

No extra profile treatment on these next two lids.

The third box didn't receive any Wenge inlay as I was able to get a clean match of the heartwood/sapwood transition around all four corners.

You're probably thinking, "Hey, that's great Pete!  Must feel good to get caught up on your projects."  Of course, if you're thinking that you're probably new to my blog!

(Queue Eric Idle...) 

"Behind door number unfinished display table."

"Behind door number three...a pair of Rietveld Chairs resembling a pile of sticks."

"Behind door number four.........."