Sunday, March 8, 2015

Hand tool project no.2: knock-down slab desk.

This project started with a beautiful redwood slab, salvaged from a from a fallen tree in a creek bed by Anderson's Alternatives (definitely worth a visit when in Mendocino, CA!)

The plan for this hand-tool project was to make a desk that was 1) knock-down, i.e., could be dissembled for easier relocation, a non-trivial consideration with a 2” thick, heavy slab, 2) solid enough to support the slab, and 3) relatively low, around 25”, to avoid the raised shoulders and aggravated back issues that 30" desks seem to encourage.

After considering several fancier approaches, I decided on a caveman version of an arts-and-crafts design to complement the slab. I was inspired by the furniture in the San Francisco Swedenborgian Church (Bernard Maybeck and Joseph Worcester, 1895),  an early example of American Mission-style furniture. I was also inspired by a library book, “Fine Woodworking on Tables and Desks” (Taunton Press, 1986) which described a trestle table with dovetail cleats at the top of the legs. Wedges are used to draw them together inside tapered mortises in the underside of the tabletop. 

The whole desk can be broken down into 4 pieces: the slab, 2 pairs of legs (each fixed together with small stretchers and pegged-and-glued tenons), and a larger stretcher with arched bottom. The project required cutting four legs, three stretchers, six through-tenons, four dovetail cleats, ten mortises, four pegs, and two slots for the draw-wedges. No nails or screws. All of the non-slab pieces except the peg doweling (likely birch?) are redwood, purchased from Fairfax Lumber, a great, worker-owned hardware store that has been in business for 103 years.

I left a lot of flaws in the wood surface (including milling / chainsaw marks) and did not use sandpaper, but a card scraper created a pleasing smoothness. I finished the desk with Minwax “Tung Oil Finish.” I was dismayed to find out afterwards that it is not Tung Oil at all, but rather a wiping varnish mixture of mineral oil, an unspecified vegetable oil, and various resins. So much for truth in advertising, and my attempt to emulate George Nakashima. In any case, it ended up being easy to wipe on with a rag and I think it looks fine. Interesting how the old-growth, salvaged slab took on a much darker color than the new-growth legs, which also possessed a much wider grain than the slower-grown slab.

This was another slow project, undertaken in fits and starts. Mostly an exercise in practice, patience, and appreciation of wood. In general I am happy with how it turned out!

Tools used:
Two Japanese planes and a card scraper to smooth the surfaces of each redwood piece (I left one side unplaned on each, though, as I couldn't bear to eradicate these textures completely) and the corners.

Japanese saw for making the tenons, and cutting the redwood lumber and dowels down to size.

Brace for drilling out mortises (one of my favorite hand tools - so efficient!), which were then cleaned out using two Japanese chisels and a rubber mallet.

Drawknife (pictured here) for shaping the curved underside of the large stretcher.

Gimlets and hand drill for making the peg holes.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Dead RIder.

Dead Rider's performance at Bottom of the Hill last night was simply ecstatic. I think their records are great, odd dub productions that sound something like a combination of PiL and Prince, but I was unprepared for their tightly orchestrated live set. Todd Rittmann was possessed, theatrical and provoking, and all the ferocious rhythms, potent vocal harmonies, melting synths, disorienting basslines, casually brilliant, spidery guitar outbursts...aggh! That's how it's done.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

In rotation New Year's 2014

Not a best of 2013 list, but what's been spinning around here this New Year of 2014. Some recent finds, some trips back into the archives, and even a few from 2013...

Vaz, "Visiting Hours" (Sleeping Giant) 2013
Vhol, S/T (Gilead Media) 2013
Goat, "World Music" (Rocket) 2013
Andrzej Korzynski, "Secret Enigma, 1968-1981" (Finders Keepers) 2012
V/A, "Diablos Del Ritmo: The Colombian Melting Pot 1960-1983 Part 2" (Analog Africa) 2012
Akron, "Voyage Of Exploration" (Vampi Soul) 2012
V/A, "International Vicious Society Vol. VI" (University of Vice) 2012
V/A, "Poco Loco in the Coco" (University of Vice) 2012
Swans, "The Seer" (Young God) 2012
Ty Segall, "Singles 2007-2010" (Goner) 2011
Jack Oblivian, "Rat City" (Big Legal Mess) 2011
Lucho Bermudez y Su Orqesta, S/T 3x7" (Soundway) 2011
Googoosh, S/T (Finders Keepers) 2011
V/A, "Bossa Nova and the Rise of Brazilian Music In The 1960s, Vol. 1" (Soul Jazz) 2011
V/A, "Bossa Nova and the Rise of Brazilian Music In The 1960s, Vol. 2" (Soul Jazz) 2011
Curlee Wurlee, "Likes Milk" (Moody Monkey) 2011
D Rider, "Mother of Curses" (Tizona) 2009
Secret Chiefs 3, "Le Mani Destre Recise Degli Ultimi Uomini" (Web of Mimicry) 2009
Lhasa, S/T (Audiogram/Nettwerk) 2009
Harlan T Bobo, "I'm Your Man" (Goner) 2007
Tokyo Electron ‎"Will Put A Charge In You" 7" (Shattered) 2005
Big Lazy, "New Everything" (Tasankee) 2002
QueenAdreena, "Drink Me" (Rough Trade) 2002
Hot Snakes, "Automatic Midnight" (Swami) 2002
Love Life, "The Rose he Lied By" (Troubleman Unlimited) 2000
Add N to (X), "Avant Hard" (Mute) 1999
Hardvark, "Memory Barge" (Clawfist) 1994
V/A, "Las Vegas Grind Vol. 3" (Strip) 1989
Pandoras, "It's About Time" (Voxx) 1984
Birthday Party, "The Bad Seed" EP (4AD) 1983
PIL, "Flowers of Romance" (Warner Brothers) 1981
Cigany Vigadalom, "Tarogato Es Cimbalom" (Fiesta) 1980
Willie Nelson, "Red Headed Stranger" (Columbia) 1975
George Zambetas, "the World's Greatest Bouzouki Artist" (Alshire) 1971
Earth and Fire, "Song of the Marching Children" (Polydor) 1971

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Glow in the dark images from "Astronomic Picture Atlas" by Ludwig Preyßinger (Germany, 1851) via 50 Watts. Photo by Benoit Paillé via But Does it Float.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Feral Furniture.

I recently discovered some startling creations in wood dating from the first decade of the 20th century. These objects seem Arts-and-Crafts-inspired, but stranger, as if their sensuous forms are ready to writhe and prowl back into the woods.

(click images to enlarge)

Charles Rohlfs, 1901
Charles Rohlfs, 1900
Charles Rohlfs, 1901
Reginald Machell, 1905-10
Reginald Machell, 1905-10

The two artists who dreamed up these creatures were both untrained at woodworking, though they were clearly talented. From the little I've been able to read about them (mostly from "The Arts and Crafts Movement in California: Living the Good Life" by KR Trapp, and "Treasures of the American Arts and Crafts Movement 1890-1920" by TM Volpe and B Cathers, from which these images were scanned), it seems they were unique individuals.

Charles Rohlfs was a New York City (later Buffalo, NY) actor and iron stove foundry manager who made his wood furniture initially for himself and family friends.

Reginald Machell was an English painter and follower of H.P. Blavatsky who ended up carving and painting wood furniture and frames for his new home at the Theosophical Society at Point Loma in San Diego.

So far I've found few images or fleshed-out details about either artist on the world wide webs. Good thing we still have libraries and bookstores!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Boyish Mr. Lynch.

Looks like he may grow up to be an intense young man.
Crazy Clown Time

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Haunting Pacific Northwest.

 Hami ("dangerous thing")

 Hamasilahl ("wasp embodiment")

Nuhlimkilaka ("bringer of confusion")

Photos by Edward Sheriff Curtis of Kwakiutl and Koskimo (Kwakwaka'wakw) ceremonial rituals, 1914.