December 17, 2010

Acacia Tree

David Welter, shop manager at CR, has been tending to an acacia tree that fell just behind the bus barn next to the school. One of the previous students was able to chop it into two manageable size logs and then the bus barn guy pulled it out of the forest. It's been drying in the shade for about eight months now, and David decided that yesterday was the day it would be cut into slabs. David primed the chainsaws and set-up the track for the mill. Below you'll see Bonner, a student, manning the chainsaw, admiring his handy work and the beautiful acacia wood, and the upturned stump where the tree came from. Once the wood is cut into slabs, David will stack and sticker the wood so that it dries properly, without twisting or checking. 

December 16, 2010

Two Cabinets

Two of my classmates--Dan and Alex--finished and presented their cabinets this week. Dan made his cabinet out of english maple and Alex made his out of walnut and narra. What I like about Dan's cabinet is the transition between the concave and convex curves in the doors. Alex's cabinet reminds me of a Mondrian painting, and the two woods complement one another beautifully. Unfortunately, neither one of the photos do the cabinets any justice. What you do get a good sense of is Alex's excitement to be done with his project as he cooks up a mountain of shish kebabs in the third photo. 

December 15, 2010


Michael Burns, director of the CR fine woodworking program, demonstrates stiletre style braiding. Angel (just to Michael's left) is building a jewelry box out of a beautiful, curly maple and will use the braid to secure the lid to the box so that it doesn't flop open. 

It's an exciting time in the shop. Break is less than a week away, and many students are close to finishing their first projects. What were once pieces of wood and a little vision are now cabinets, chairs, tables and boxes. Check back soon for pictures of two more wall cabinets that students have just finished.

December 14, 2010

Ejler's Shop

Ejler Hjorth-Westh is an instructor at CR. He was a biology teacher in Denmark before coming to the states to build boats, houses and eventually furniture. A few students and I recently ventured out to his shop in Elk to send off a bed he was just completing. He noted that finishing a project can be anti-climatic because you spend months of your life pouring yourself into a piece, and then it's done and shipped to the client's home without ado. I think he was happy to celebrate the completion of the piece with us, and it was great for us to see Ejler's shop and talk about the bed. 

The bed is made out of madrone and redwood burl, the same woods I'm using in my cabinet. It has a really cool joint that connects the side rails to the headboard and footboard. The rail has a modified, angled tenon that slides into an angled mortise. A wedge drives the two pieces into a locking fit. You can see the unfinished joint on the bed (it has yet to be shaped and finished) and the dismantled test joint (lying on its side) in the photos below.

In addition to talking about the bed, Ejler showed us his boat and talked about the boat-building class he's offering this spring. The class will build a boat similar to the dory in the picture, only slightly longer to accommodate a three-person crew. How cool would it be to build your own boat?

December 13, 2010

In Search of Matsutakes

Sunday afternoon I spent hiking with friends in Jackson Forest in search of mushrooms. We scrambled up and down muddy embankments and dug through the duff to uncover an endless variety of mushrooms, many of them edible. We found pig's ears, shrimp russula, chanterelle and the hard to find black trumpet. At first the mushrooms are hard to spot, but once you know what you're looking for, you can't look down without seeing the colorful and varied caps. We didn't find any matsutakes, but we did find a Kawasaki, as you'll see in the last photo. 

December 9, 2010


Thanks to Ronnie and the Jackson Forest for tonight's delicious dinner. From left to right: oyster, white chanterelle, golden chanterelle, matsutake, and hedgehog. 

December 7, 2010

Brett's Chairs

My classmate Brett just finished his first project of the year--a set of beautiful chairs made out of elm. I love the curve of the legs and the way the grain follows the curves. The front legs bow slightly, giving you the feeling that the chair wants to hug you. Sticking with tradition, Brett brought breakfast for the class. He made a mean spanakopita along with tabbouleh and apple turnovers. Yum!

December 6, 2010

Holiday Lights Parade

Last night was the Fort Bragg annual Christmas parade. It featured floats with fat Santas,  kids on mini four-wheelers decked out in lights, and PG&E handing out sapling evergreens to the kids. The highlight of the parade, however, was the pooping pigeon. Yes, this pigeon walked the parade route, stopping every few feet to "poop" what appeared to be shaving cream.

December 5, 2010

Another Glue-Up

My jewelry cabinet features two carcasses that are glued one inside of the other. The smaller carcasse is the drawer box for three small drawers and a cubby hole. It took 16 clamps and 12 cauls to glue the mini-cabinet into the larger cabinet. It was a bit of a gamble because the two cabinets weren't square to one another, but with a little strategic planing and the pressure of the clamps, the surfaces came right home. It looks like the mini-cabinet grew right out of the larger cabinet.

Elmer's white glue is the glue of choice at CR for most operations. It has a decent open time (how long you can futz around before the glue sets up), it's easy to apply, it dries clear and it's non-toxic. I use products that are good for me and good for the environment as much as I can.

December 4, 2010

Turkey Day

Once again I apologize for the delay in posting. Until recently, my internet had been out after a power outage that blew my router. I'm learning that power outages are common during the winter and each outage means my internet goes down. The outages happen frequently because Fort Bragg's main source of power comes from Ukiah, about 60 miles away, through one cable, locally dubbed the umbilical cord. In any case, I'm back up and have lots to post about, so check back soon. 

I spent Thanksgiving away from family and old friends this year. Instead, I stuck around Fort Bragg and had a lovely time with new friends. Dinner was delicious. I made roasted brussels sprouts and a pumpkin bourbon cheesecake. The cheesecake turned out to be an adventure. It's a fussy cake to make, and after making the crust and batter, I realized that I didn't have a pan for the water bath (the cake bakes in a water bath for about an hour, then cools in the bath for an additional hour). I tried everything. I asked the neighbors for a pan. I thought about running into town to buy one, but the 45-minute roundtrip would have destroyed the cake. So I improvised. I baked the cake in a garbage can lid--upside down, holes plugged with tinfoil, lined with tinfoil, and shimmed on two bread pans in the oven to keep the whole assembly upright. It worked out just fine, and the cake was a huge hit. Next time I'll listen to mom and start the cake the night before. 

Todd, an instructor at CR, and his fiance Heidi hosted Thanksgiving dinner. With help from friends, they chose the perfect sawhorses and doors to create one long table that accommodated all 25 guests. The table was decorated with fresh persimmons and the bottles of wine and bubbly were flowing. After dinner there was a persimmon tower building contest (my classmate Mollie holds the record at 7-layers of persimmons) and many hands of poker. It was a wonderful way to spend the holiday. Thanks Heidi and Todd!