Monday, July 22, 2013

Danger Boy's New Bench

Since setting up shop almost four years ago at our home in Minnesota I’ve made a space for our #1 son, Danger Boy.   Let me tell you, there is nothing like watching your kiddo’s eyes light up when you “get it right” with them.  Between the bench I cobbled together from an old Gorilla Rack and a generous donation of tools from Grandpa, he just went nuts!

After just a couple short years up in the Great White North, we packed up and moved to our current home here in Colorado two years ago.  The Gorilla workbench came along with us and fit nicely under one of the windows in our basement workshop.

One of the drawbacks of his bench is that it was designed for a much shorter four year old. Now that he’s pushing eight, you can see that working with a benchtop at about 20-21 inches high is getting to be a bit of a problem.
Almost a year ago, my Dad, my boys’ Grandpa passed away…way too soon. 

About a year or so prior he had shut down his own woodshop as his breathing became more and more difficult.  (Please, if you’re a smoker…stop!  If you need help…get it!  My Dad’s last couple years were laced with regret that he knew he would be missing so much, and we’re left with a pretty big hole in our lives, missing our hero.)  One of the items Dad earmarked for DB was a small Craftsman woodworking bench that he had placed along the back wall under his tool rack.  This last Memorial Day we made the long trek from Maryland to Colorado and this bench was one of our pieces of precious cargo.
We removed the old Gorilla Rack bench and broke down several of the shelving and drawer components to repurpose in DB’s new bench area.

About a month ago we made a few repairs to the salvaged drawer cube and box shelving unit.  We placed the drawers on the bench and secured them in place with some heavy duty carpet tape, and placed the shelving block on top of an old metal filing cabinet.  The boy has quite a bit of storage space with those drawers, shelves and filing cabinet now.  After a bit more shop organization on my part we’ll clear out a space for him on the lumber rack as well.

A few weeks after setting up the bench we added a small pegboard section, fastened to the side of the shelving block.
And just this last weekend we took advantage of the blank wall above the workbench and added another section of pegboard.  He’s a big fan of spring clamps…and it shows!

Eventually, when he’s ready, we’ll add a magnetic tool bar for some chisels and modify one of the storage cubbies to store his hand planes.  A while back I picked up a Groz block plane as well as #3 and #4 bench planes for him to get started with.  Now that he’s got a working vise with bench dogs we may have to start ramping up our hand tool lessons.

I get excited with every step he takes in learning something new in woodworking, and that he seems to enjoy it so much.  “Helping” my Dad was such a key set of moments for me growing up and it’s a whole other level of joy to be experiencing it on this side of fatherhood.

So get out into your shop and carve out that special little space that will allow your budding woodworker to start dreaming up something amazing.  Just don’t be surprised if the first designs involve four pounds of nails and half a bottle of glue…I know mine did!



Sunday, July 14, 2013

Pete’s Take on Piet

This project is a little blast from the past for all my new friends over at the Mid Century Modern and the Rebuild|Restore|Reproduce groups on Facebook.

This piece is an interpretation of Piet Mondrian’s work that I made over four years ago in my garage woodshop in Albuquerque, NM.  It has since traveled with us to St. Paul, MN and now hangs on the wall of our little loft here in Lone Tree, CO.
It all began with a spark of inspiration that occurred at the Tempe, AZ Ikea store.  I saw these black, metal CD racks and the thought of using them to mimic the lines in Mondrian’s work (in 3D) just hit me.

I wanted to make a piece that was interactive, so I cut four panels from some left over cabinet-grade plywood and installed three double sided cleats on each panel.  (Stay tuned to see the cleats in action.)

The next step was to prime the panels.

Then it was on to some VERY careful layout using painter’s tape and craft paper.  This process required some real attention to detail to maintain a specific grid pattern.

Hanging the piece requires four small French Cleats all evenly spaced and level.

With the cleats installed on the wall each panel can be hung using one of the three mating cleats on the back.

Having three double-sided cleats on each panel allows the piece to be arranged in many different configurations.  This is where the precision of the cleat placement and the measured grid of the color fields really pays off.  Each panel can be placed at differing heights and can be flipped upside-down.  Here are a few examples from our old home back in Albuquerque.

Part of the inspiration of using the CD racks was to create a 3D effect.  As you view the piece from different points in the room, the “lines of the painting” shift, the color fields are broken and the wall becomes part of the painting.

I definitely like the piece more on our orange wall here than on the flat, white wall of our older home.  I think it adds a new twist with a color that Mondrian did not use in this series of paintings, and the whole piece just pops off the wall rather than blending in.

Thanks for looking, and if you’re interested in one of my latest pieces that incorporates salvaged shop materials, you can check it out here…