Burl Sun Disc

As part of my sculpting efforts, I recently completed this piece, which was was inspired by, and honors the work of, Jesus Bautista Moroles. There were several “execution challenges” throughout the process, but in the end, I was pleased with the result. This is I/VII of a limited edition series.

Burl Sun Disc - 16” diameter x 2” deep.  Cherry and toasted maple burl, finished in tung oil.

Burl Sun Disc - 16” diameter x 2” deep. Cherry and toasted maple burl, finished in tung oil.

A shot of the detail involved with the toasted burl.

A shot of the detail involved with the toasted burl.

Mobius><Terminus

For about the past year, I have been on a creative quest to expand my art furniture design efforts. In particular, I have been engaged in sculpture work. Mobius><Terminus is a piece that was recently completed for exhibition at the Saint Paul American Craft Council Show.

Mobius&gt;&lt;Terminus - 20” diameter x 8” deep. Cherry; finished in tung oil.

Mobius><Terminus - 20” diameter x 8” deep. Cherry; finished in tung oil.

The piece was inspired by a mobius strip, which is defined as a surface with only one side (when embedded in three-dimensional Euclidean space) and only one boundary. The Mobius strip has the mathematical property of be unorientable. The Möbius strip has several curious properties. Perhaps the most obvious one is that a line drawn starting from the seam down the middle meets back at the seam, but at the other side. If continued, the line meets the starting point, and is double the length of the original strip. This single continuous curve demonstrates that the Möbius strip has only one boundary.

In the case of Mobius><Terminus, a case could be made for two surfaces, rather than one. The viewer will note that there is a flat “edge,” and an edge with a radius. Then too, while Mobius><Terminus was inspired by a mobius strip, it cannot be authentic as such, for it has two terminal points. Where the viewer able to “pull” the two terminal ends together, then a case could be made for being a mobius strip.

The piece began as a beautiful plank of American cherry, the dimensions of which were 120” L x 10”W x 3”D. I then cut the piece into 6 equal pieces, each 20”L x 10”W x 3”D. Next, I planed and jointed all the pieces to be flat and square, then glued them into a single block of lumber: 20”L x 20”H x 9”D.

Mobius&gt;&lt;Terminus, waiting to be sculpted.

Mobius><Terminus, waiting to be sculpted.

At the bandsaw, being readied for the circle cut.

At the bandsaw, being readied for the circle cut.

Circle cut is complete, but I left a temporary “base” so that I could more easily mark the next cut lines.

Circle cut is complete, but I left a temporary “base” so that I could more easily mark the next cut lines.

After opening a kerf line at the base to the center, I circle cut the center and removed it.

After opening a kerf line at the base to the center, I circle cut the center and removed it.

After marking the desired dimensions and direction of the final shape, I drilled two holes “outside the lines,” to allow a saw blade to cut the piece to rough shape

After marking the desired dimensions and direction of the final shape, I drilled two holes “outside the lines,” to allow a saw blade to cut the piece to rough shape

This image shows the piece being '“roughed out.” As one can see, the amount of sawdust is dramatic!

This image shows the piece being '“roughed out.” As one can see, the amount of sawdust is dramatic!

Ready for design shaping.

Ready for design shaping.

In the vise, with major design shaping nearly complete.

In the vise, with major design shaping nearly complete.

Mobius&gt;&lt;Terminus mounted, but without any finish.  When doing sculpting work the hand sanding process requires many days.  The grit sequence is as follows:  #60, #80, #100, #150, #220, #400, #800, #1200, #1500, #2000.

Mobius><Terminus mounted, but without any finish. When doing sculpting work the hand sanding process requires many days. The grit sequence is as follows: #60, #80, #100, #150, #220, #400, #800, #1200, #1500, #2000.

Mobius&gt;&lt;Terminus, ready for exhibition.  The finish is 14 coats of tung oil, very lightly sanded with #2000 grit between each coat.

Mobius><Terminus, ready for exhibition. The finish is 14 coats of tung oil, very lightly sanded with #2000 grit between each coat.

Live Edge Bench

For a number of years, “live edge” furniture has been very popular for some in the furniture-loving world. From my perspective, the term “live edge” usually refers to one of two design ideas: 1) the bark for a given piece (table, bench, etc) is completely left to be in its natural state. This style usual results in a fairly “rustic” or “cabin-like” quality. 2) The other design is a result of removing all the bark, but leaving the natural edge of the tree surface intact. This too, can be rustic in appearance, but more often, such pieces are finished beautifully as table tops.

My approach to “live edge” is somewhat different. I remove some of the bark (but not all), which exposes the internal structure of the bark. The result is what some furniture builders term “stacked coins” or “a handful of pennies.” I do not build many live edge pieces, but I am happy to say that clients seem to like this hybrid approach to the idea of “live edge.”

Below is a series of images of a bench, employing this process.

PS - One can see an earlier post of a live edge piece that I finished below, titled, “Joyce’s Counsel Table.”

Walnut plank in raw form.

Walnut plank in raw form.

Some of the bark has been removed.

Some of the bark has been removed.

Nearly ready for general sanding of the surface.

Nearly ready for general sanding of the surface.

A view from the opposite end. Here, one can more clearly observe the “stacked coins” idea.

A view from the opposite end. Here, one can more clearly observe the “stacked coins” idea.

Most “live edge” tables and benches tend to be equipped with black steel or wrought iron legs, adding to the rustic or industrial appeal. My approach to the design always includes lumber legs.

Most “live edge” tables and benches tend to be equipped with black steel or wrought iron legs, adding to the rustic or industrial appeal. My approach to the design always includes lumber legs.

Here is the bench with three coats of oil. Only seven or eight remain to be applied . . .

Here is the bench with three coats of oil. Only seven or eight remain to be applied . . .

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Toasted Frame

One of my best clients recently inquired if I would be willing to design and build a frame, upon which would be mounted a metal cut that he had acquired. We talked about the “look” that he wanted (somewhat industrial - to compliment the “steeliness” of the metal cut), the size, and of course, the finish.

After some thought, I suggested that we use “toasted” maple burl, with an ebonized edge and background, finished in tung oil.

I am happy to say that he loved it!

Here, the piece is shown in “shop lighting.”

Here, the piece is shown in “shop lighting.”

Here, shown in daylight. The background (beneath the letters) and the edging are ebonized poplar; the primary material is “toasted” maple burl.

Here, shown in daylight. The background (beneath the letters) and the edging are ebonized poplar; the primary material is “toasted” maple burl.

New Shop Bench

Thirty years ago, I built a shop bench, made mostly from re-purposed material. However, the time had come to “decommission” the old reliable. What I did not expect was the sense of loss that came when I began to dismantle it – almost like when a close friend moves away.

I built hundreds of pieces upon the old bench – dollhouses, beds, tables, frames, benches, contemporary art pieces, specialty pieces for homes and churches, scores of cutting boards, and Christmas gifts (always in secret). 

The new bench is quite different. It is made of cherry (28 x 84 x 3) and finished in oil (Tried and True linseed/natural Watco mix), with ebonized cherry drawer pulls and a Lie-Nielsen chain drive vise. 
Here is to the next thirty years! 

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Bench top - 28 x 84 x 3

Bench top - 28 x 84 x 3

Photo of bench without drawers and with vise extended.

Photo of bench without drawers and with vise extended.

Advent Wreath

One of the joys in life is when unexpected options present themselves.   Some would call this "good luck," but I am not sure that such a thing as good luck actually exists.  If so, I would say that good luck is really the intersection of preparation and opportunity.  Such has been the case for me during the past several years in the area of church furniture.  I find this to be highly rewarding, in that the designs for such work are based upon very personal, yet communal and theological roots.

A forthcoming project involves an Advent Wreath for a Wisconsin church.  The design is rather simple, yet very fluid, with a great amount of visual movement.  The project is set to commence during the summer, and to be completed in time for the Advent Season.

UPDATE -

I am happy to say that I finished and delivered the Advent Candelabrum in time for the Advent Season. The pastors were very happy, as was the congregation! :)

Below are some process photos.

This is the plywood block form, used for shaping the resawn 1/8” pieces into legs.

This is the plywood block form, used for shaping the resawn 1/8” pieces into legs.

All the red oak to be used for the candelabrum, cut to length and width.

All the red oak to be used for the candelabrum, cut to length and width.

This is a stack of 1/8” thick reaawn oak, which was used for the legs (bent lamination technique).

This is a stack of 1/8” thick reaawn oak, which was used for the legs (bent lamination technique).

Here is a series of the 1/8” pieces, glued in the bending form.

Here is a series of the 1/8” pieces, glued in the bending form.

This is the top “ring,” employed for the candle sockets and candles (built from 8/4 red oak stock.

This is the top “ring,” employed for the candle sockets and candles (built from 8/4 red oak stock.

The candelabrum in “dry fit” form, prior to final sanding and milling for the candle sockets.

The candelabrum in “dry fit” form, prior to final sanding and milling for the candle sockets.

The socket locations are marked with cedar glue blocks and a small nail to mark the center for accuracy.

The socket locations are marked with cedar glue blocks and a small nail to mark the center for accuracy.

Following staining and multiple finish coats, and prior to the brushed brass socket installation.

Following staining and multiple finish coats, and prior to the brushed brass socket installation.

Delivered!

Delivered!

Ginkgo II, cont.

I am happy to report the completion of the Gingko II leaf.  Something about this "second edition" has energized me to expand my designing efforts increasingly to include sculpture.  Several ideas are "on the bench!"  

Gingko II is 54" x 24" overall, finished in eleven coats of tung oil

Gingko II is 54" x 24" overall, finished in eleven coats of tung oil

Ginkgo II

As I have continued to explore the world of wood/furniture sculpting, I decided to design a second ginkgo leaf (in cherry), but with a bit more visual "movement."  This one is not quite as broad as the first, and and "leans" slightly to the right (note more curl on the left side of the leaf toward the right). Then too, the leaf "ripples" or "waves" are more prominent to the right side.  I chose a single plank of cherry for this piece, which has some lovely flecking contrasts.  While there are folks do not care for flecking, I think it adds great beauty and character.

Many ginkgo leaves - both in nature and in art - are quite broad.  Some, however, have a more oval or round shape, as is the case with Gingko II.

These photos show the piece shaped and sanded to #100 grit.  The sanding will continue through grits #120, #150, #180, #220, #400, #800, #1200, #1500, and #2000.  This will be followed by 9-12 coats of tung oil.  Finally, the leaf will be mounted upon a background of ebonized poplar.

More to come . . .

 

 

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Breathe

Last summer, our family celebrated my wife's retirement and 40+ years of marriage on a river cruise in Europe.  While there, we saw many wonderful pieces of art.  One of them inspired this piece, a sculpture titled, "Breathe."  It was sculpted from a block of 8/4 laminated cherry.  Once the final shape was established, I sanded the piece through eleven grits (60, 80, 100, 120, 150, 220, 400, 800, 1200, 1500, 2000), and finished it with nine coats of tung oil.

Both the sculpture and the base are American cherry. &nbsp;The base has been ebonized.

Both the sculpture and the base are American cherry.  The base has been ebonized.

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Joyce's Counsel Table

Every artist (and indeed, all business people) will tell you that is is a great joy to have "repeat customers."  :)  In the world of artists, such folks also provide opportunities to talk about "things that matter."  

What is that about?  Most art lovers (music, visual arts, theatre, etc.) will agree that "art imitates, or symbolizes, how life 'feels.'"  So when an artist is given an opportunity to create a piece for a client, the conversation tends to include rich symbolic and "feelingful" language - language, which shapes the design of the piece.

Such was the case when I was given a second opportunity to build a piece for Joyce and John (although it was inspired by Joyce!).  Joyce and John had visited me (as they always do) at the American Craft Council Show in Saint Paul.  One of the pieces in my booth was a "live edge" bench in black walnut, which drew Joyce's interest.  She was not looking for a bench, per se, but like the manner in which I had prepared the "live edge" element.

Joyce desired to have a Counsel Table in the back entryway to their home.  The primary element was to be a walnut live edge top, with a drawer and a shelf. She wanted it to be bold, rich, elegant, inviting, conversational, and not strictly utilitarian. I shopped for an appropriate-sized piece for the top, and then let it stand in my shop for many months, before I could begin the piece in earnest.

My approach to live edge work is somewhat different than most.  A great amount of live edge work tends to be either 1) either the raw edge of the lumber after the bark has been removed, or 2) with all the bark left on the piece.  Both are useful and appealing ways to present live edge pieces.  I am not trying to be critical here.  However, my furniture portfolio does not really fall into either visual category.  So, my approach is to make live edge pieces, which can also find a home in the category of "fine furniture."  The design style here is sometimes referred to as "stacked coins" or "a hand full of pennies."  As bark, it is quite smooth, and exposes a lovely internal structure that would otherwise remain hidden.

I delivered the piece one week ago; I am happy to report that it is already loved - thank you, Joyce!

The "live edge" top, showing the "stacked coins" profile.

The "live edge" top, showing the "stacked coins" profile.

Part of the magic of many "live edge" pieces is that by definition, they tend to be asymmetrical.

Part of the magic of many "live edge" pieces is that by definition, they tend to be asymmetrical.

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