Almost done!

carving my name into a piece of furniture

carv­ing my name into my most recent piece of fur­ni­ture

The best part of build­ing a piece of fur­ni­ture is putting the first touch of fin­ish on the piece. The wood bursts into life. The rich­ness of the grain pops, and all of the work becomes worth­while.

The sec­ond best time in build­ing a piece is sign­ing it. Part­ly because carv­ing is fun, and the results are imme­di­ate. But most­ly because it means we’re almost done. I do this right before final assem­bly. The only things left to do are to sand and fin­ish the piece. It’s been a chal­leng­ing piece to build, and it’s been fun. Now it’s time to move on.

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Showing off a Daybed from 2010

cherry day bed

design details echo elements in the 1880

Day Bed detail

eastlake, day bed

Day Bed with Inspi­ra­tional mir­ror above

Day Bed and Mir­ror

Orig­i­nal mir­ror foot detail

1880’s East­lake mir­ror design details


I recent­ly had the chance to vis­it a cus­tomer of mine from 2010. She had asked for a daybed that would con­vert into a King bed. The design need­ed to coör­di­nate with an antique mir­ror.

Tak­ing pho­tos of a large piece like this needs space. Orig­i­nal­ly this bed was made to fit in an alcove, and the pho­tos didn’t do the bed jus­tice. These are much bet­ter.

The bed is a sin­gle, with a pop-up roll­out sin­gle bed under­neath hid­den by the long pan­el. When it is out and popped, the two mat­tress­es line up. They clamp togeth­er and presto — a King bed.

The mir­ror is in the East­lake style.My Architect/​designer daugh­ter Jen­nifer copied design ele­ments from the base and ped­i­ment of the mir­ror and used them to dress the bed. This helped make the frame less boxy.

This design was very con­strained — lots of objec­tives and not a lot of wig­gle room. I’m real­ly pleased with how it came out and I’m told that it is a very com­fort­able bed.

The top three pic­tures are the bed with the mir­ror above it, and the low­er two are details that are reflect­ed in the bed.

Thank you to Nina and Den­nis for  let­ting me share these images.

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Making Patterns to fill downtime — basketweave chopping boards part 1

tile basketweave and pattern on graph paper

tile bas­ketweave and pat­tern on graph paper

very small poplar bas­ketweave chop­ping board

first Maple and Cher­ry Bas­ketweave chop­ping board

There is plen­ty of down­time in a small shop for any one project – it takes time for things to dry. I like to have a small job to work on at the same time as my main job – some­thing that can be set aside often, then con­tin­ued lat­er. Since it can be weeks between bouts, some­thing small or sim­ple make sense.
I love pat­terns. I’ve tried to incor­po­rate them in my wood­work­ing for a long time. We had some tile work done this year, and chose a bas­ket weave pat­tern for a dec­o­ra­tive floor inlay. It looked great. This inspired me to fig­ure out how to make it in wood.
I used squared paper to draw the pat­tern from the tile. If the black tile “hole” is one square, the white blocks are two squares wide and 4 squares. That pat­tern repeats every­where except at the edges, where a par­tial pieces are required. Those pieces are the width of the blocks, but the length of the holes.
Armed with this knowl­edge and my dial calipers, I head­ed to the shop. My objec­tive was to use some maple and cher­ry shorts for the blocks and holes respec­tive­ly. I could make a chop­ping board. I like to make them end grain up – it’s bet­ter for the knives and there is a design oppor­tu­ni­ty with the wood grain.
First I made a test board. I had much poplar scrap from trim­ming out sev­er­al rooms. It was ¾” thick, and seemed a good block width. So the block length was then 1 ½”, and the hole size was 3/​8” square. I cut these quite pre­cise­ly on the table saw then ran them through the plan­er to get thick­ness­es to with­in 5 thou. Small errors accu­mu­late and make gaps, bad for chop­ping boards.
It worked out real­ly well, though low con­trast. I then made the maple and cher­ry board. It worked out very well, though the pieces were too small for the size of the board. Too many pieces at glue-up time, which is excit­ing. Glue-ups should nev­er be excit­ing. The next one would have big­ger pieces!

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Making walnut panels for the new jewelry armoire

edg­ing the ply­wood

1/​16″ wal­nut veneer

inside and out­side sheets ready for glu­ing on

out of the press

trimmed to size and paper removed

I’ve got the sec­ond of two side pan­els for a jew­el­ry armoire out of the vac­u­um press. I rarely make plain pan­els from veneer, but this armoire is very sleek. The case rests of a base with no tran­si­tion. I can’t hide the spaces I’d need to accom­mo­date the wood move­ment from a sol­id wood case. There­fore I’ve edged birch ply­wood pan­els with wal­nut, and then applied 1/​16” wal­nut veneer to both sides. Sweet!

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So how does this custom furniture thing work?

I’m sure that there are many ways to work with a cus­tomer to design a piece of cus­tom fur­ni­ture, but this is how we are doing it.

Zenith 811

Gor­geous Art Deco

The design process is organ­ic – how it is done sig­nif­i­cant­ly depends on the client.  In a typ­i­cal case, the client has a con­cept for what they want, and has a list of musts and wants. This would include func­tion­al require­ments, size, some idea of fin­ish and desired char­ac­ter. There is nor­mal­ly also a list of must nots and pre­fer nots. We need to get those items out in the open ear­ly. Some of this is done by email, but meet­ing in per­son or over the phone real­ly improves the effi­cien­cy of the con­ver­sa­tion.

Inspi­ra­tions are very help­ful – pho­tos of items that you find attrac­tive. I often ask for a list of adjec­tives that would apply to the piece. Although obvi­ous to each indi­vid­ual, some­times they are a sur­prise to us! The pri­or­i­ty of those words is also very impor­tant – it tells us where the client is com­ing from. Pric­ing is always of inter­est, and I can pro­vide an esti­mate range at this point.

design sketch

We take all of that design infor­ma­tion and turn it into some sketch­es – some­times only one if the vision is pret­ty clear, some­times more than one.We dis­cuss it and refine the sketch­es. It often takes sev­er­al pass­es to iron out the wrin­kles (first) then clar­i­fy the details. Occa­sion­al­ly we build phys­i­cal mod­els or Sketchup mod­els to show the piece from mul­ti­ple angles.
Color(s) and fin­ish get dis­cussed ear­ly but are clar­i­fied once the design is set. Inte­ri­or fin­ish details are also clar­i­fied once the exte­ri­or is defined.

All of this infor­ma­tion allows me to final­ize a price. I will write up an email describ­ing exact­ly what will be pro­vid­ed, with draw­ings attached and mate­ri­als, hard­ware and fin­ish­es spec­i­fied.  Deliv­ery is defined or some options list­ed. A tim­ing esti­mate is also pro­vid­ed, though it is only an esti­mate.

Sketchup model of table

Sketchup mod­el of table

Once the pro­pos­al is sat­is­fac­to­ry, a pay­ment of 1/​3 of the final price allows me to pur­chase mate­ri­als and holds your place in the queue.

Once your piece starts pro­duc­tion I will send you pic­tures week­ly and ques­tions as they arise. There are always details that need clar­i­fi­ca­tion. You will see your piece turn from rough boards into a fin­ished heir­loom – always more slow­ly than either of us wants.  Fin­ish­ing in par­tic­u­lar takes a while – there are sev­er­al steps, then film fin­ish­es need to hard­en pri­or to rub­bing out. The final fin­ish has a glo­ri­ous glow and feel that makes all that time worth it.

The bal­ance of the cost is due upon com­ple­tion. The piece is shipped or picked up or deliv­ered as we have agreed.


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