October 25, 2010

The Door is Almost Done

It's been a while since I've posted anything wood shop related, probably because it takes an exorbitant amount of time for most things to happen. This is a function of assimilating incredible amounts of new information and of the attention to detail and near-perfection that our instructors expect of us. More than 100 hours later, the front door of my jewelry cabinet is almost done. If everything goes according to plan, I should have it glued-up tomorrow morning. The door has seen a number of mistakes and repairs. In this order in the photos below, I had to 1) repair the slot that I cut into the wrong side of my frame member, 2) saw off and reaffix a poorly shaped tenon, 3) glue a shaving to fatten up a poorly fitted tenon, 4) patch tear-out on the end of my redwood panel. And after all that, I (almost!) have a door.

The door, pre-finish
Sight down the top of the rail. Do you see the repair?
New ends on the tenon
Shaving on the tenon
Tear-out in the bottom right-hand corner

October 18, 2010

Sunday Hike

I went hiking with three friends in the Angelo Coast Range Reserve. The Reserve has changed shape from a hunting and gathering ground for the pre-historic Cahto people, to a homestead for European settlers in the 1880s, to a wilderness resort for wealthy San Franciscans, to a nature respite for a manufacturing family (the Angelos), to a protected reserve owned by The Nature Conservancy and administered by UC Berkeley. Now there are a few research stations and miles upon miles of beautiful trails and incredible trees. We saw madrone (the wood I'm working for my project), bay laurel (incredibly fragrant!), douglas fir, tan oak and black oak. We also saw lizards, giant doves and lots of berry-filled bear poop. 

More madrone
Black oak

October 10, 2010

Sunday Bike Ride

Today I rode Little Lake Road to Caspar Little Lake Road just outside of Mendocino. It was a beautiful day for a beautiful ride, although the dirt road through Russian Gulch State Park was somewhat a surprise to me and my road bike. The paved section was rough enough--I hit a pothole so hard going speedily down a hill that my water bottle flew out of my bottle cage and broke and my tool bag flew off the back of my bike, even though it was securely velcroed in place! 

I took a mid-ride detour down to the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse where I saw a young buck in the meadow. It was nice to jog the mile-long path after biking. My legs were already warmed up and ready to go.

I hope you all don't get tired of photos of ridiculously beautiful coastal scenery and impressive trees, because that's about all there is around here.

October 8, 2010

Noticing the Small Things

There are certain things I've noticed because I do the same thing at the same time almost every day. Here's a truncated list:

  • It's harder to get up at 6:30am because it's dark until just before 7:00am.
  • The morning sun on the eucalyptus trees that line my street is shifting, and has almost disappeared altogether.
  • A woman walks her tri-colored mutt to Otis Johnson park at 8:30 each morning.
  • A plump elderly woman and her marmalade cat and scruffy dog stroll past the school at noon every day.
  • The sun is now setting almost before I can make it home to enjoy the day's last rays.
  • The moon has been absent from the early night sky for the past few days, which allows me to smell the fragrant trumpet flower as I grope my way to my front door.
  • The Milky Way is slowly moving closer to the horizon. 
  • The ocean has been exceptionally pacific the last couple days.

These are things I notice because detail comes to light when life is boiled down to a series of repetitive actions. I'm also starting to notice the absence of certain things, like the voice of the mockingbird or the cactus wren, which I heard plenty in LA. 

October 7, 2010

Wood, Precious Wood

The woodworker has a special relationship with wood. There's a deep appreciation and respect for the look, the smell, the feel, the way it planes, the color and the grain pattern. The Japanese believe that wood's beauty comes from the beauty of the soul of the living tree. I'd say I have to agree. Last Thursday a few classmates and I drove two hours north to a small town called Redway to meet Dan Primerano and view his private collection of wood. 

Dan gets most of his logs from fallen trees in the forest or through friends and acquaintances that clear their land. He mills his own lumber on a hydraulic mill and stacks it for a few years to dry. He has an impressive array of claro walnut, black walnut, madrone, eucalyptus, maple, chestnut, and many other local and exotic woods. The intent of the trip was to purchase some eucalyptus for a classmate's project and any other wood that one of us couldn't walk away without, but it became very clear that Dan was not willing to part with most of his wood. He was too emotionally invested in each and every piece. He did, however, spend four hours with us talking about his furniture and his wood collection. He allowed us to rummage through the stacks, and pull boards down to plane on them to expose the beauty of the rough lumber. In the end, my classmate found the perfect eucalyptus for the legs of his project. It's colors are the pink-blue-white of a rainbow trout.

On the way back, we stopped at a nice deli and had lunch in Garberville's town square and then stopped off at a beautiful swimming hole to spend some time in the water and the sun.

Admiring the view from Branscombe Road
Lily the cat helps out at the shop
Michele planes a piece of madrone
Dan explains the milling process
The hydraulic mill
Time for a swim!
Fog fills the valley

October 6, 2010

Life is Routine

For one of the first times in my 29 years, life is very routine. I wake up at 6:30am, do some work around the house, and then go to class from 8:30am to 5:30pm. Mondays I go to yoga, Wednesdays I go to swim practice, Thursday evenings are drawing class and Friday evenings are Elephants (a weekly party at the wood shop, named after the pilsner beer Carlsberg Elephant). The nice thing about the routine is that it allows me to notice small variations that can be very pleasant surprises. On Monday after yoga I saw a group of my fellow yoga-goers gathered around the trunk of a car. A woman from class was selling a nice chevre cheese she makes from her goats' milk. I bought a log, and it is delicious. It's especially tasty on Wasa crackers with ripened on the vine tomatoes fresh from a local farm.  

October 3, 2010

Sunday Afternoons

Sundays in Mendo are a little strange for me. I spend 6 days a week, 9 hours a day in a small wood shop with 24 other people. Sundays I have entirely to myself in a secluded town where I don't know anyone outside of school. It's an exercise in extremes. Today I had a nice talk with Mike, went to the Albion farmers market, ate a donut muffin covered in delicious, crumbly cinnamon sugar,  biked through some back roads, and then watched the sunset from my back porch with a glass of wine. Now I'm cooking papas bravas. Tonight I'll take a hot bath and spend some quality time with my paperback mystery. All in all, a nice day. 

I biked about 15 miles through big trees and beaches. Here are a few photos.

October 2, 2010

I am Super Excited about my Project

I've spent almost a week now thinking about my first project, and I have a fairly solid design concept. I've also selected my wood. I'm building a jewelry cabinet out of madrone, which is local to northern California. The idea is that the cabinet will be elegant and subtle--a place to showcase jewelry. The collection it houses is meant to be small, well-organized and well-loved. A woman (or man) will be able to see her (or his) favorite pieces neatly displayed in a single glance. No clutter or junk.

College of the Redwoods presents a way of working that's new to me. Rather than execute a rigid idea, your design, function of the piece and the wood play off each other in a fluid process. The project evolves as you work through each step. It's liberating to work this way, but also unnerving when uncertainty strikes.

I originally set out to make a cabinet with a solid, coopered (slightly curved) door, but I found the perfect piece of madrone...well, perfect except that it isn't quite wide enough and it's maybe a little too subtle. This gave me the idea to do a frame-and-panel door instead. The panel will be a showy piece of redwood burl, and it will be offset to one side. After cutting into my madrone, however, I realized that there's a lot more color and grain graphics in the wood than I had originally anticipated. Now I'm back to decisions about the design and use of the wood. Do I want to go ahead with the frame-and-panel, which is a cool concept but detracts from the madrone? Or do I want to showcase the more subtle (but not too subtle) beauty of the madrone?

Here are pictures of my wood in various stages and a drawing of my cabinet design. I'm also throwing in a random picture of tonight's sunset over the dunes. The sky was beautiful, and there was even a rainbow!