Sunday, December 29, 2013

2014 Box Challenge

It’s not a resolution!

As a way to celebrate my 100th blog post and ring in the new year, I’ve decided to give myself a woodworking challenge.

Some of my favorite projects to build have always been boxes.  They are a great way to practice techniques and joinery on a small scale, they make use of smaller scraps and off-cuts of what is sometimes expensive wood, and they make great gifts.  The boxes I have made over the past few years have given me my first exposure to topics like keyed miter joints, veneering, inlay and bent lamination.

There is just something about a box that invites a story, or the expectation of a story.  Almost everyone I know has some old box (or other container) floating around in their possessions that belonged to someone special, perhaps preceding them by two or three generations.  Acknowledging that the United States is still a fairly young country, many of us have relatives that came to these shores from all over the world…usually with very little…about what might fit in, say, a small box.

We have stories of our grandparents and great grandparents coming to the U.S. with a sack of clothes and a small collection of precious things.  Maybe they were pictures…medals of family heroes…a special piece of jewelry...a rock, twig or leaf from “home”...maybe even the only few cents to their name, tucked lovingly into a little box that hid in that sack of clothes.  Their careful selections of those choice items that meant the most to them traveled across the world, protected by wood, leather, cardboard or tin.  The thought that I might build a box that serves someone well beyond their own years is very inspiring.

I’ve never been a New Year’s Resolution kind of guy, but I do have a desire to spend more productive time in the shop doing things that inspire me…so, I’m challenging myself to build a new box every week throughout 2014 and give them all away as gifts.

I’ve got a little bit of a cheater’s head-start in that I have a few unfinished box projects in various stages of works to help get my mojo going again.  J  I’ll start with knocking those out first and then move on to new designs.

Stay tuned for Box #1 to be revealed on Sunday, January 5th.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Krenov Comments - Part 3

"I think that I’m fairly proud of the fact that I have not changed because of material conditions – that I have not adapted myself to the marketplace and said, “I’ve got to make things that I can sell,” instead of “I’ve got to make things that I can like and other people hopefully will like.” In other words, I can still look in the mirror and the guy I see there – he’s not good looking, but he’s still the same guy I used to know." – James Krenov

Over the years, as I’ve read more and more about Old Jim, I’ve really come to appreciate his humor, his insight into doing what you love and his take on drawing your own line in the sand about what’s important to you.  A journey through those first few chapters of “A Cabinetmaker’s Notebook” reveals Jim’s humble beginnings.  Tight budgets and tight spaces were a common theme as he launched himself on his woodworking adventure. 

The fact that he emphasizes not playing to the market sort of flies in the face of most of the sales and marketing advice we often hear…especially when trying to keep the lights on and your belly fed.  His tact even strays from what many have taken as business gospel…find a need and fill that need.  While many successful endeavors have been launched in that vein, Jim takes things in another direction.  His life was a focused effort in perfecting the construction of designs that spoke to him.  In doing so he created works of art that celebrated and honored the material for himself.  The resulting pieces were then admired and desired by many.

Did Jim actually, unwittingly, find and fill a need as dictated by the market…or did he produce works with so much passion in the craft he loved that the results couldn’t be anything less than amazing to those who saw and bought them?