Friday, March 30, 2007

April Fish Papercraft

April Fool's Day is celebrated in France as Poisson D'Avril or April Fish.
A day where children make paper fish and stick them on the backs of unsuspecting people. Because really, there is nothing more embarrassing than having a strange paper fish on your back all day.

Here's a way to celebrate Poisson D'Avril without the embarrassment-a neat website of down loadable Paper Fish that you can print out and assemble. You could try and stick them on someones back-but I wouldn't recommend it-unless you live in France.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

If I were Andy Rooney

I wanted to do a simple posting about an Internet tool vendor called Amazon Tool Crib. It saved me the time of wandering from store to store asking for information on specific tools I was interested in. Like all of Amazon's available products-the tools came with a vast array of reviews. I liked this and felt it was helpful.
In my attempt to get a link for you, the readers, I learned that Amazon Tool Crib is no longer tool crib (Now Just Amazon Tools) and tool crib is no longer one but many many cribs, like a hospital nursery where none of the babies are labeled.

Legal actions (at least what I am supposing are legal) have now given us The Real Tool Crib-tool crib alternatives-Tool Crib of the North. North of what exactly? www Tool Crib South?
What was a simple referral service has become a trademark that is claimed by everyone and owned by no one.
The exhausting search for "tool crib" made me think I should go and get the domain names for-
The Very Sensitive Carpenter, The Real Sensitive Carpenter, The Wicked Sensitive Carpenter of the East, The Only Sensitive Carpenter....

Monday, March 26, 2007

Pixie Dust: A Woodworking Phenomena

The first time I ever experienced Pixie Dust I was ripping a piece of birch plywood on sight with a jigsaw. Halfway through cutting the large vibrating veneer something very strange began to happen. The pattern of the wood grain began to move. Swirling wood lines were like a moving psychedelic backdrop at a Grateful Dead show. The flowing river of wood continued streaming as I tried to keep on cutting and tell my mind "This isn't really happening man". Even when I stopped sawing, the wood continued it's slow dance for at least another 15 seconds. I was afraid that I was trapped in a world of wood hallucinations. Would the wood begin talking? Would it begin spelling out secret messages? Was I going to become one of those people who write sonnets to world leaders or chase UFO's through Utah?
After I caught my breath and thought about it a minute, I realized that I hadn't been having hallucinations. I was both the magician and gullible audience of a magic trick. By sawing a board in half, I created smoke and sawdust mirrors that moved and swirled the lights to create a great psychedelic "Saw Dust Illusion".
Weeks later, I discussed this phenomena with a carpenter friend of mine. He looked at me mysteriously and said in a knowing voice,
"Ah, you've had the Pixie Dust".

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Wood of the Week: Maple

When I was 5 years old, I moved from the western plains to New England. Trees were a new thing for me. I remember walking past yards in the early Spring & wondering why there were buckets hanging from the trees. The explanation was particularly absurd to me. They were "harvesting pancake syrup". It's hard for a child to accept the idea that syrup comes from trees and not from a magical talking woman shaped like a bottle. I've since shunned Mrs. Butterworth & now go for the real stuff.

The North American Sugar Maple (hard maple, rock maple) serves as mascot to the States of Vermont, New York, West Virginia, Wisconsin & the entire nation of Canada where its leaf flys proudly on flags and airplanes. The syrup derived from the maple sap is a fixture in the North American- flapjack, waffle, french toast-sweet breakfast. The wood harvested from the Maple tree is a staple of North American cabinetry & furniture making.

Maple is a hardwood. Grain patterns go from soft and straight to "birds eye", "fiddle back" and "curly" patterns. Maple wood is used for simple utilitarian things like butcher blocks and flooring because of its rugged durability. It is also used for high end furniture and instrument making because of its lush silky sheen. Everything from solid bowling pins to veneered harps utilize the strength and beauty of the wood. Maple has a mellow clean bouquet when being milled. It's an easy strong wood to use in joinery and woodturning. Maple wood is referred to as a tone wood because of its acoustic qualities, making it a favored wood among drum and guitar makers. On an early Spring morning, as the sap rushes up to make new leaves, you can almost hear the Maple tree sing as it works.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Longfellow Poem

The Builders
All are architects of Fate.
Working in these walls of Time;
Some with massive deeds and great,
Some with ornaments of rhyme.
Nothing useless is, or low;
Each thing in its place is best;
And what seems but idle show
Strengthens and supports the rest.
For the structure that we raise,
Time is with materials filled;
Our to-days and yesterdays
Are the blocks with which we build.
Truly shape and fashion these;
Leave no yawning gaps between;
Think not, because no man sees,
Such things will remain unseen.
In the elder days of Art,
Builders wrought with greatest care
Each minute and unseen part;
For the Gods see everywhere.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Gorilla Glue Debate

Gorilla Glue at
Lately, I've been talking to carpenter friends of mine and Gorilla Glue has come up in more than one conversation. I haven't solicited for any opinions on glue, but it's ironic that Gorilla Glue has been a topic of late.
Most of the friends that I have talked to don't like Gorilla Glue. They don't think it holds any better than yellow wood glue-or are put off by the fact that it is super messy.
When I ask them if they wet the surfaces they are trying to bond-most answer no-and I believe that is a big reason they are not getting a good result. The reason you wet the bonding surface is to activate the foaming polyurethane- which then allows the glue to expand and seep deeper than the surface of the join-bonding it tighter.
I work with all kinds of glue for all kinds of jobs and I like to use expanding polyurethane glue (like gorilla glue) for gluing solid wood boards together or interior joinery. Since it expands as you work with it, the join needs to be held in place with clamps. It has a pretty slow drying time and you have to machine sand your surface to remove the excess foam to get a nice seamless finish. Just be sure to wear gloves or it will be on your hands for weeks.
Gorilla glue isn't good for small repairs that can't be held tightly in place. If you can't squeeze what you're gluing together-it will just make a big foamy blob.
I work with many brands of expanding polyurethane glue. Elmer's Ultimate is what I use most, but Gorilla Glue is the marquee brand and surprisingly a hot topic among carpenters.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Wood of the Week: Cherry

George Washington's admission to chopping down his father's cherry tree was a pivotal moment in American history. "Honesty is the best policy" was the moral of the story told about the first American president when he was a child. An honest boy became a great man and the cherry tree became an American symbol of "The Truth".
The ideals of America live in cherry wood. The simplicity of the Colonial, Shaker, or Arts & Crafts furniture ,often utilizes the somber warmth and rich beauty of cherry. Joints and plugs are often left in full view as a testament to the honesty & integrity of the cabinetmaker and his creation.
American cherry wood (black cherry) is a domestic hardwood indigenous to North America. The heartwood can vary in color from a dark brown to a light reddish brown (occasionally with small dark streaks and flecks known as gum pockets).

Used for furniture, musical instruments & pipe making, as well as flooring & veneer-cherry's natural patina gets richer in color as it mellows in grain pattern. The sapwood is lighter in color and releases a sweet confectionary-perfumy fragrance while being milled. Imagine your Grandma baking a cherry pie after church on a Sunday afternoon-that's what cherry wood smells like.
While many breeds & varieties are celebrated worldwide for their delicate pink blossoms, fruit and wood-a special place for cherry exists in every American heart. Cherry wood is in our history-in our homes and in our ideals.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Also A Carpenter: Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter

Best Known For:
39th President of the United States
Nobel Peace Prize Winner 2002
Construction Experience:
Furniture/Cabinet Maker
Bestselling Author
Builds and auctions furniture to advance human rights
and alleviate human suffering.
Favorite Tools:
Sensitive Carpenter Level:
Very High

The Carpenter's Apprentice: The Spiritual Biography of Jimmy Carter - Hardcover - First Edition, 1st Printing 1996

Monday, March 12, 2007

Piece on Earth

Wood comes in so many colors: red, yellow, white, purple, green, brown, black and even zebra.
I love using these woods as if they are paints on a palette. I combine diversely colored hardwood scraps to make one of kind cutting boards.
Little pieces of maple, walnut, birch, cherry, purpleheart, wenge and padauk can become a beautiful composition with the help of glue, clamps and some imagination.
The woods of North America, Africa, Asia, Europe and South America look so good together-almost as if they were meant to be one piece- an international mosaic-a little piece of the world.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

A Beautiful Kitchen

I was sitting in a local falafel place having dinner when I over heard a man and a woman at the table next to me.
She said, "I'm sorry the food is so spicy I didn't know."
"It's fine" he said.
"Because we could go somewhere else"
"No it's fine"
They quietly ruminated over their spicy falafels until the woman pulled out a 9x12 sheet of typing paper. On it, hand drawn in ballpoint pen, was a rendering of what seemed to be kitchen cabinets. Crude measurements and cryptic scribbles lead me to believe she was the uncertain architect.

"So, I was thinking something like this-it would look like wood but wouldn't be made out of wood. There's a lot they can do nowadays. I'm sure we could put some sort of thermal skin on it...".
I have no idea what she is talking about.
"All these plastic laminates are less expensive and last longer. Wood is just too fragile", she said, as she reached into her bag. She hoisted out an overstuffed folder and began constructing a table top collage that would rival Russell Crowe's assemblages in "A Beautiful Mind" (if he was obsessed with kitchens).

As she rifled through one torn magazine clipping after another she would occasionally hand one to the man and say,
" See that's what I mean, except it won't be wood"
"The wood is nice", he said.
"Really? Because I didn't think you'd be interested in wood."

Meanwhile, every single page of these disemboweled home improvement magazines had pictures of kitchen cabinets that were made out of..wood!

She continued, "Well, it's just the wear and tear...with the kids. Let's say the cabinets get hit with a frisbee.."
At this point I wanted to ask her, "Why are your children playing frisbee in the kitchen?"

Just as my confused intrigue peaked-she rustled up her table top chaos. Stuffing it back into her bag she said, "Well, I can stop at a few shops and see what they can do. I really didn't know this place would be so spicy-you want to get some empanadas?"
"That's fine" he said.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Wood of the Week: Purpleheart

Imagine yourself in a lush green jungle dripping with dew. Rainbow colored birds dart in and out of bright neon flowers. You're surrounded by screeching monkeys and choirs of chirping insects and psychedelic tied-dyed frogs. Bright yellow moss grows with sparkling multicolored mushrooms beneath an old fallen tree. The heart of this tree glistens like a precious purple gem in a sea of bright green coins. You've discovered the treasure of Purpleheart. You begin to weep.

Also called Amaranth, Koroboreli & Saka-is native to Central and South America. It's color varies from light violet to deep purple and burgundy hues. It looks like wood that has been pickled in grape kool-aid.

Purpleheart's vivid color and straight grain make it a very desirable exotic hardwood that's used in wood turning, furniture and oddly enough boat building. The grain pattern and hardness make it feel like the long lost South American brother of walnut wood.
Purpleheart has a dark earthy dirt like smell when it's being milled. It is very brittle and chippy and can be very "squirrely" when ripping on a table saw. Squirrely describes wood that either begins to veer away or towards the straight kerf established by a circular saw blade- causing the cuts to be wavy-or the saw blade to buckle. I like to keep a few shims handy to avoid having this happen in the middle of a rip. I find that it sands very well & planes smooth when run across (as opposed to with) the grain.

Purpleheart is a wonderful accent wood that compliments other hardwoods in parquetry & combined laminations. A gorgeous, unbelievable, exotic gem.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007


for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers
by Leonard Koren

"Wabi -sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete"

"Wabi-Sabi" is the Japanese equivalent of "je ne sais qua". While this aesthetic principle refers most directly to the Japanese tea ceremony, it also represents the way objects are revered on their journey from creation to decay.
Author Leonard Koren proposes that Wabi Sabi could even be called the "zen of things"
In his book Koren provides a western explanation for a very eastern concept. He compares Wabi-Sabi with more rationalized aesthetic, Modernism. Koren's book gives us another way of viewing nature, art, design, life & death.

"Wabi-Sabi" is a great read. It informed & enriched the way I approach design and appreciate the world around me.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Dog Cartoons

Speaking of dogs, I was asked to create and paint life-sized cartoon cut-outs for a K-Mart photo shoot.

I made about 30 pieces from foam core, cut them out and painted them with acrylics, aerosols, and magic markers.
Most of them were life-sized-an apple tree, a lamppost, clouds, a basket for babies to sit in-
But these dogs were a hit with the kids at the photo shoot.
I heard they had a great time playing with the cartoon puppies.

What I like most about this job was allowed to create my own designs and the fact that everyone seemed to really appreciate them.
It's nice to know that not everything you see in ads are done by a computer.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Designer Dog Bed

I was commissioned to make a dog bed by someone who had heard of me, but I had never met, for someone else I had never met. It was a very "soft" referral that found me with a strange phone number scribbled on a scrap of paper next to the title "dog bed". I picked up my phone and one answered...and there I was...

SC- Hello, uh, I was calling about a referral that I got-that you need someone to make a dog bed? That's all I know so...if you could give me a call back, we can discuss the details of exactly what it is you are looking for.
So later that week....
SC- Hello
DB- Hello. I was just returning your call. What exactly were you calling about?
SC- I'm not sure. A dog bed?
DB-Oh yeah! Yeah, I've been looking for a bed for my dog. She's crate trained and she's part coyote so she needs a den. She likes to nest. I was looking all over the place and haven't found anything for a 50 pound dog that doesn't totally suck.
SC- Okay, big is your dog?
DB- About 50 pounds.
SC- I mean, like how tall? How long? Approximately?
DB- I dunno. You'll probably just have to come over and measure her.
SC- Okay. Yeah. That sounds appropriate (I guess?). What do you want this bed to look like?
DB- It needs to be high, not too high, but you know...she is part coyote and likes to "den".
SC- Got it. Do you want it square or round or oval like those soft foam-core dog beds?
DB- Yeah, oval. But you know, I want it to be solid because those foam ones suck, but ovals are nice.
SC- Do you want it painted any color or?
DB- I either want it painted or out of wood.
SC- Something oval with a wood grain would cost quite a bit more...
DB- I just want something that will look nice in my apartment, but will blend a white oval would be nice. I want it to look like furniture.
SC-How high would like the walls?
DB- Like...sort of coffee table height.
SC- About 18 inches?
DB- I think that sounds good. You'll have to show me when you come over to measure the dog.
SC-..okay...sounds good.

Yeah. Sounds good. A giant oval dog den for a wild coyote/dog. It sounds reasonable that I should be able to make an elegantly inconspicuous-behemoth piece of custom designed furniture for a 50 lb feral dog. Why the heck not!
So I pulled out the cloth measuring tape and went to size this dog as if I were a tailor fitting her for a puppy prom dress.
I met and measured her, as I like to know who I'm designing for, even when they're canine. At the "fitting" I saw a
Noguchi table that inspired a more specific direction for the design. My goal then became the creation of a piece that would compliment the table.
I began laminating 1/8 inch strips of masonite together until there were 3/4 " thick walls wrapping around an oval base. I then cut a plunging rounded entry and smoothed the whole piece out with Automotive Bondo. Primed and painted with white semigloss paint, the bed was dog ready.
I loved the way this bed came out and luckily so did my clients, coyote & human alike. The bed is displayed aside the Noguchi table and I was told that when guests come over they say, "Nice dog bed".


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