January 30, 2011

The Slam / After Party

Friday was the opening of our first show. My classmates and I have worked to exacting standards on our pieces over the last few months, and welcomed the much-needed relief of finishing our projects, presenting them at the slam (in 5 minutes or less), and then celebrating our hard work. One of the highlights of the evening was the cathartic release that came with throwing our mock-ups into a large bonfire. Here are a few photos and video from the evening. Enjoy! I know we did...

Christian presents his piece

Trying out Brett's chairs

One of my favorite pieces -- Miss Peaches

Me and Candice's Katana Bench

Jonathan's mustache became synonymous with his piece

Burn, mock-ups, burn!

The school logo, illuminated by firelight

Gold Leaf

My apologies for not posting in a while. Yesterday was the opening of our show, and I took advantage of the past week to lay low and chill out. I'm back to the blog though, and plan to catch up on some posts over the next couple days. So look out for lots of activity!

Mahout Tool & Supply is a local business owned and operated by a former CR student. The store supplies current students with tools of the trade and a place to gather to share ideas and experiences. Andrew, the proprietor, teamed up with Joe Amaral to host a number of seminars on finishing techniques. I attended the first one on gilding. It was a great experience to see Joe at work. Here are some photos from the day. 

Sample board of gesso, pre-treatment of the wood for gilding

The gold leaf, this sheet is 4" x 4" and costs $2!

Joe demonstrated both water gilding and oil gilding

A work in progress

Noah tries his hand at a technique that covers large surfaces in an overlapping pattern

January 23, 2011


After a minor catastrophe (the last screw broke off while I was attaching the cabinet hangars and I had to bore it out), my jewelry cabinet is done. My completed work didn't give me an immediate sense of joy or relief, rather I felt empty. I've worked on this project singularly for the past three months, and finishing it left a void. After a few days I hung it on the wall, and then my sense of accomplishment kicked in. Seeing my cabinet on the wall gave me a whole new perspective on the piece. I'm quite pleased with how it turned out. I hope you are too!  

January 20, 2011

Tomorrow is the Day

The show is just one week away, and pressure is mounting in the shop to finish projects and prepare for the exhibition and reception. Barring any major catastrophes, I should finish my cabinet tomorrow morning. All I have left to do is install the brass hangers that will attach the cabinet to the wall and mount the door. 

The last few steps in the furniture making process often prove to be the most difficult. I struggled the last couple weeks with the small details, like drawer pulls and the necklace hanger, that can enhance or detract from a piece. The last hurdle that I overcame was the necklace hanger. I knew I wanted to mount it to the back panel to hang five or so necklaces, but I had a really hard time finding a pretty shape that didn't look too rustic or like a towel bar. I also disliked the pegs and hooks I shaped. It was challenging to balance utility with beauty. With my instructors' help, I finally settled on an elegant solution. (More on that tomorrow!)

Making the brass cabinet hangers was a fun diversion from woodworking because working metal is very different than working wood. Wood is organic and unpredictable, whereas brass is completely malleable. Metal does what you ask it to.

Below are pictures of the cabinet hangers and the drawers with their hand-carved pulls and pigskin lining. Check back tomorrow for photos of the necklace hanger and finished cabinet!

January 16, 2011

You Could Win This Cherry Bench!

Trystan, one of my classmates, has put this beautiful cherry trestle bench into the raffle that will happen at the 22nd Annual Mid-Winter Fine Furniture Exhibition. Tickets are $10. The raffle proceeds offset the cost of the show. This is your opportunity to do something good for the school and possibly win an incredible piece of furniture. Join us at the reception to purchase a ticket!

January 15, 2011

CR's Approach to Woodworking

It's hard to believe, but I'm now more than halfway through College of the Redwoods Fine Woodworking Program. What's almost harder to believe is that I'm not yet done with my first project (although I'm very close!). Over the holidays, family and friends asked me what I've made. The short answer was, "Um, nothing yet." The longer answer involves a more nuanced look at what happens at CR. 

The instructors emphasize absolute attention to detail, which requires crawling at an ant's pace (slowly but diligently). For a while, I wished that we moved through a number of projects quickly to get a feeling for the process and the mechanics of the joinery. With hindsight as I near the completion of my project, I'm very grateful for the way we work. I might not have breadth of experience, but the instructors have taught me how to see. They've helped me to develop my hand and my eye as well as a woodworking philosophy and sensitivity toward wood as a material. I believe it's much more difficult to teach and to learn these finer concepts, and the more concrete mechanics can come later on my own time. 

Here are a few photos of student projects that emphasize CR's approach to fine furniture.  And in keeping with tradition, I also posted photos of the meals that followed each presentation--bacon and eggs with breakfast potatoes and delicious Mexican. Yum!

Angel's jewelry box, curly maple and teak
Dechen's wine cabinet, white oak and padauk
Tom's harmonica case, acacia

January 10, 2011

Mid-Winter Exhibition

Our first show is less than three weeks away! If you're in the area, stop by Town Hall to see some amazing furniture and learn more about College of the Redwoods Fine Furniture Program. And if you're not in the area, consider making a trip up for the reception on February 4. Check back tomorrow for a sneak preview of four additional pieces that students have completed. 

January 9, 2011

Tea and Coffee

On Sundays, the Mendocino Tea Company hosts afternoon tea in a small teahouse in Albion. In addition to free tea, there are homemade cookies with inventive flavors like candy cap mushroom chocolate chip. The teahouse sells pottery, felted hats, redwood burl furniture, fresh eggs and locally made beauty products. The woman in the picture with curly hair is the potter, and a fixture at afternoon tea. She hasn't worn shoes in more than five years. The vibe is quirky. If tea isn't your cup, Thanksgiving Coffee Company roasts locally.  

On my way to the teahouse I stopped with a friend to look for whales at MacKerricher State Park. It was too windy and late in the day to see the gray whale spouts, but we did see a windsurfer braving the cold. 

January 6, 2011

The End is in Sight

I'm getting very close to being done with my cabinet, but I'm feeling somewhat overwhelmed by all the small finishing details. Pretty much all that's left is figuring out the necklace hanger, carving drawer pulls, making dividers and cloth-covered inserts for the drawers, and doing the final finishing work. I hope to have this all pulled together by next Friday. Wish me luck!

Here's a picture of the dovetailed drawers I just completed. They've turned out to be one of my favorite aspects of the cabinet. I love the gradation of color from light to dark and the dark beauty marks in the wood. I also like the change in spacing of the dovetails from the littlest to the biggest drawer. It's hard to tell from the photo, but the drawers are very small. The smallest drawer is about 4" wide by 4" deep by 1" tall. They're miniature!

January 5, 2011

Happy (Belated) Holidays

The holidays brought with them a bustle of activity and changes for the new year. Just before school let out the shop elves (aka the students) spent a few hours cleaning the place from floor to ceiling to get it ready for the holiday party. We baked a feast and then spent the evening around good food, good drink, good company and a few good hands of poker. We also exchanged secret santa gifts. The limit for the gifts was either $5 or 40 hours of work. I'm not sure I like what that says about the value of our time.... Most people opted to make something, and I was utterly impressed with the creativity, thoughtfulness and workmanship of the gifts. I also like that most everything was made by hand. It somehow made the gift more special and meaningful. 

Our Christmas tree was a redwood sapling that sprouts from the same trunk every year. It lives on one of our instructor's property, and he recuts the sapling each year. 

The end of the year brought good-byes to our fellow classmate and friend, Niklas, who is going back to Sweden, and one of our instructors, Greg, who only teaches in the fall semester. We'll miss them both, but in their places we welcome two additions to the next half of the year--our classmate Lymond and instructor Ejler.

Now it's on to the hard work of finishing our projects and preparing for the mid-winter show, which is less than a month away!

Photo by David Welter

Photo by Dechen

Photo by Dechen

Photo by Dechen