I’ve now applied two coats of linseed oil and beeswax. Need to wait a couple days before I can put a 3rd coat on, and then another week, when I may finish with Shellac.  Once that is done, I will get some final pictures of it before giving to my friend who is eager to give it to his mother.  I will be posting those final pictures on a couple different sites, like Etsy.com, in order to sell a few more of them.  I will do a limited number of them, each with its number carved into the bottom.

Until the final finish is applied and those pictures taken, I wanted to post some pictures of it as it looks now, with two coats of the linseed oil and beeswax mix. A couple of them are some nice detail shots.

These next couple of shots were taken right after I finished applying the second coat of the oil, so its still pretty shiny:

Its a simple little box, but I absolutely love it. Its my favorite item I’ve made yet. A lot of that has to do with the fact that so much of it was done by hand. The handplaning and hand cutting of the dovetails is an incredibly special process. It is fulfilling in a way that no power tool can be. There is a peacefulness to using handtools that is simply unexplainable until you’ve tried it. The sound of a handplane taking amazingly thin shavings, the feel of a chisel in your hand, the balance of a well built dovetail saw that cuts with precision, these are beautiful to me.

Even the act of choosing the wood for a project is an amazing experience. When I found the piece of Butternut that I would use for this box, I immediately knew it was the one. The part of the board that became the center panel in the top just jumped out at me for that purpose, and that purpose only. I find that process of figuring out how to use the grain in a piece of wood to be extremely worshipful. I can’t help but praise God for the beautiful creation and feel incredibly blessed that I get the privilege of creating something new with it.

This project has been an important step for me, as it has taught me quite a lot. At the beginning design phase, I sought out the input of fellow woodworkers whom I admire and trust. It was humbling and encouraging to open myself up to others opinions. I’m not always very good at getting critiques, so its a good thing for me, and something I will probably do for many projects. Actually, another fellow woodworker has embarked on a project along those lines of opening his design process up to open critique. Jamon Schlimgen is posting a new sketch of a design everyday over at his blog. You should be sure to check it out.

It has been very exciting to take another design from idea to finished project. With each new project, my confidence increases, and I remember again why I love what I do.

Lastly, I have learned (and am still learning) a new skill set: the handcut dovetail. I love it! I spent a lot of time practicing them, which has greatly payed off. I can’t wait to make some more. It has become a very relaxing exercise. My friend (and honestly, a mentor), Adam King, says that cutting dovetails is therapy. I absolutely agree.

I sincerely hope that I can sell a few more of these boxes, because it is such an enjoyable project. You can also expect to see some more designs for other boxes like this coming throughout this year. Until then, you can expect the final pictures of this box in a couple weeks.

Scott

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I listen to a lot of music while I’m in the shop.  I have some great in-ear, noise canceling headphones that protect my ears from the noise of the tools and also allow me to listen to things that help inspire me while I work.  I also listen to audiobooks and podcasts, but that’s for another post.  I wanted to share with you all some of my favorite albums from this year which is quickly coming to an end.

I’m not very good at cutting lists down to, say, a top ten.  I just can’t bring myself to limit my favorites that narrowly.  With over 100 albums in my iTunes from 2009, I think cutting that down to my favorite 20 is pretty good frankly.  I’m very picky in what I listen to and buy anyway, so I tend to not purchase much blindly.  I guess some would call me a snob about my music tastes.  I guess if an intense dis-like for the trite bubble gum pop that has taken over all aspects of popular music makes me a snob, so be it.  I prefer the music to which I listen to have substance beyond just a catchy beat or a scantily clad singer.  I could care less if my favorite song had the hottest video on MTV during the 5 minutes that they actually showed a video.

As woodworkers, we tend to turn our noses down on the watered down quality coming out of places like IKEA or the particle board junk cabinets that are sold to unsuspecting customers at big box lumber yards.  Why would we accept watered down, low quality music?  Hopefully you can find something in this list that inspires you creatively like it did me.  So, without further ado, the following is my favorite albums of 2009, in alphabetical order:

  1. Aaron Strumpel, “Elephants”
  2. The Antlers, “Hospice”
  3. Antony and the Johnsons, “The Crying Light”
  4. The Avett Brothers, “I And Love And You”
  5. The Cave Singers, “Welcome Joy”
  6. Deer Tick, “Born on Flag Day”
  7. DM Stith, “Heavy Ghost”
  8. Elvis Perkins In Dearland, “Elvis Perkins In Dearland”
  9. The Felice Brothers, “Yonder Is The Clock”
  10. Grizzly Bear, “Veckatimest”
  11. Heartless Bastards, “The Mountain”
  12. J Tillman, “Year in the Kingdom”
  13. The Low Anthem, “Oh My God, Charlie Darwin”
  14. The Mountain Goats, “The Life Of The World To Come”
  15. Muse, “The Resistance”
  16. Neko Case, “Middle Cyclone”
  17. Paper Route, “Absence”
  18. Patrick Watson, “Wooden Arms”
  19. Slaid Cleaves, “Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away”
  20. Sleeping At Last, “Storyboards”

Honorable mentions: The “Dark Was The Night” compilation is one of the best Indie compilation albums I’ve ever heard. Bela Fleck, Zakir Hussain, and Edgar Meyer’s “The Melody of Rhythm”; David Bazan, “Curse Your Branches”; Joe Henry, “Blood From Stars”; Monsters Of Folk; We Were Promised Jetpacks, “These Four Walls”; Dave Rawlings Machine, “A Friend Of A Friend”

Anything you think I missed?  What music inspired you this year?  Feel free to share in the comments!

I picked up Rob Bell’s new book, Drops Like Stars, yesterday. Almost read it all last night. In it, Rob talks about the link between suffering and creativity. Two things have immediately stuck out to me and got me really thinking today. The first is from this quote: “Great artists know that it isn’t just about what you add; sometimes the most important work is knowing what to take away.” Rob goes on to mention how “Michaelangelo said that his David was in the stone clamoring to be freed.” He used an illustration of bars of soap that he gave to some of his sculptor friends and had them carve something. They had to remove parts of the bars of soap to reveal their creation. I’m sure you can already see how this relates so well to woodworking. In wood carving, one is essentially sculpting a block of wood. The carver must intimately know the piece of wood he or she is working with, and must understand how the grain will react to the knife. The dance between the carver and the wood grain, if done well, will reveal something beautiful! How Rob connects this with suffering causing us to have to “eliminate the unnecessary, the trivial, the superficial,” is just beautiful as well, and I encourage you to go find and read it. The second thing that hit me, right before I went to bed last night, was a reference Rob made to a story from David Bayles and Ted Orland’s book, Art and Fear. I will paraphrase:

A ceramics teacher divided the class into two groups. One group was graded on how much they created in the set time, while the other, on the quality of one work they made. The quantity group ended up producing the most quality, as they produced piles of work and learned from their mistakes. The quality group sat theorizing about perfection and only produced grandiose theories and a pile of clay.

This made me sit there for about 15 minutes and seriously look at how I work. I have a tendancy to over-analyze things when I want to create something. I spend so much time trying to get things absolutely perfect before I ever actually do any work, that many times an idea gets lost in the shuffle of life. Now, this isn’t a diatriebe against carefully thinking and planning out your project. It is obviously not a good idea to just start cutting into that one-of-a-kind walnut crotch without any idea what you plan to do with it. But at the same time, we can’t be paralyzed by our fear of making mistakes. Mistakes teach us so much! I recently began trying to learn to hand cut dovetails. I had multiple people tell me to save my first dovetails, so that I always know where I started. Unfortunately, I am stubborn, and was so embarased by my first attempt, I cut them up and threw it in the scrap wood barrel. I’m very sad that I did that now. Its foolish to think that we will get things perfect on the first try. So what projects are you putting off because of fear of failure? What lessons are you missing out on because you won’t allow yourself to make a mistake? The saying goes, “Quality over quantity,” but maybe we need to modify that sometimes to be “quality from quantity.”

Inspiration

July 29, 2009

This is what I’ve been working on today.  I’ve had the Maple sitting in the shop for awhile with such a unique grain pattern, just waiting for inspiration to hit.

I made a comment on Twitter this past Sunday that I needed to create something this week, and asked people that follow my tweets to keep me accountable about it.  Well, I didn’t get back into the shop till today, and saw that piece of Maple sitting there, just begging me to use it.  So I sat down to think what to make.

Now, I have a couple different ways that I get inspired.  The big one is to just be out in nature, whether walking in the woods, enjoying a mountain trail (yes, I realize that is not possible where I live at the moment, don’t remind me), fishing on a quaint lake, or sitting on my back porch in the morning and hearing all the birds sing to name a few ways.  Considering that my shop is in town, and even though the empty lot across the road gets its share of deer and a red tailed hawk that lives somewhere near by, the Dairy Queen and the auto-body shop next door kind of ruin that inspiration.

I also can get inspired listening to great music.  Maybe its the idea of art begetting art, I’m not sure.  I just know that some days, hearing a great country or Americana song, by, say, Willie Nelson, Uncle Tupelo, or Neko Case, can get the creative juices flowing.  Other days, it may be the latest indie album from Sufjan Stevens, We Were Promised Jet Packs, or DM Stith that does it.  Of course, jazz is always an inspiring choice, but I really prefer my jazz live, and we don’t have a decent club anywhere near us.  Other times, I need to jam to the likes of My Morning Jacket, Arcade Fire, or Yeasayer to peak my imagination.  This morning though, I just didn’t turn any music on, not sure why really.

Another excellent source of inspiration for me is just seeing other people’s woodworking creations.  The works of Sam Maloof are a big one for me.  I have ideas rattling around my head for a couple furniture pieces directly inspired by his chairs that I deeply long to make happen.  Someday, hopefully soon.  I am also intrigued by Thos. Moser.  I know he isn’t as revered among the studio furniture and craft world, but I really love the simple beauty in his furniture.  I also admire his accentuating his joinery.  The works of Greene and Greene inspire me every time I see them!  If I ever get the chance to go view the Gamble House, I could probably spend a couple days there.  I have honestly just begun my journey into getting know the great furniture designers and craftsmen, so I know there are so many more great works to inspire me out there.  Honestly though, sometimes it is as simple as flipping through one of stacks and stacks of woodworking magazines when something will catch my eye.  Usually, its one aspect of a project that jumps out at and causes me to think in a different direction.  Where my imagination takes it could be 180º from what the project was that inspired it, but it took seeing a dovetailed box of two contrasting woods, or a vase carved and sculpted in mahogany, or the choice of a unique grain in a panel of a door on a cupboard to open my mind to endless possibilities.

Now, I know that this little project isn’t as detailed as an 18th Century Highboy, as stunning as a natural edge table by George Nakashima, or as graceful as the elegant curves of a Maloof rocker.  But as I flipped through one of my woodworking magazines, a cutting board caught my eye with contrasting woods.  I immediately thought that a cutting board would perfectly accentuate the beautiful grain of that piece of Maple sitting by my desk.  The ends are Cherry, which I think will set off the beauty in the Maple grain quite nicely.  I haven’t decided what to make the plugs out of yet.  Hopefully I can get up to Woodcraft in the next couple days and find something that speaks to me.

Which I guess would be the best inspiration of all, the wood.  This simple piece of Maple with an extremely unique grain pattern has caused my imagination to really run rampant.  It has given me a couple ideas that I want to pursue further, so stay tuned!  Hopefully what comes of my inspiration will inspire creativity of your own, in whatever area you are passionate about.

(By the way, sorry for the green tint to the picture.  The fluorescent lights in the shop tend to do that to pictures I take with my phone.  Hopefully yet this week, I will have the cutting board completed, and I will be sure to post some better pictures of it at that time.)