Tag Archives: dinosaur woodworking

Before and After Bath

Panorama A before and after image of a small bathroom remodel (pictures taken from different perspectives).  The homeowner wanted to update the look of the small guest bathroom by adding tile to the floor, wainscot to the walls, and custom vanity cabinet and medicine cabinet trim.  To the left of the vanity, aHiddenPanel panel door on a push latch opens to reveal a bit of hidden storage. The homeowner liked the look and space saving of using a one-piece vanity sink/top, but we were both unimpressed with the quality of the off-the-shelf cabinets.  The cabinets we found were made overseas using materials that would not hold up well in the moist conditions of a bathroom.  The prefab cabinets look nice in the show room, but after a few years of being exposed to normal use in a humid environment, the mdf (or whatever the fiber press board material) begins to swell and flake the paint, and the hardware begins to loose its grip and pull out of the doors and face frame.  As they say, the cheap becomes expensive.  This vanity cabinet was made with poplar grown right here in Oregon, and finished with a high quality, low-VOC alkyd paint that will wear well in a bathroom.  All three drawers are usable to maximize storage capacity, and the top two are U-shaped to accommodate the the plumbing drain assembly. In a small space like this, sneaky storage goes a long way to making things feel bigger than they really are.  

Walnut Mantle

WalnutMantleArch The former fireplace surround was porcelain tile and painted mdf, and the homeowner was looking to make use of local materials to update the focal point of the living room.  The tile was replaced with travertine, and the nicely figured black walnut was milled by Curly Burly.  I used a hand-rubbed Polyx Oil finish to really help the figure pop.  Often, some of the more muted violet and grey tones in black walnut will become less distinct when finished; and I was pleased that the color variations remained so prominent in the finished piece. WalnutMantle    

Why Do Clothes Need a Ladder?

BlWalnutLadder Ladder2.0 Like most good ideas, this one had already been thought of; and, the idea for the clothes ladder came to me from a friend that had seen one at a hotel in Laos.  It is a home for clothes that are neither clean nor dirty, and is inspired by the idea that mostly-clean clothes could go somewhere besides in a pile on the floor.  Made from locally-harvested hardwoods, this is purgatory for your clothes.    

Cherry Kitchen

Whenever I deliver work, I will often tell clients that the first time they see it completed will be the "worst" that it will look, under the logic that, with time, the color and visual depth of the wood will only improve.  If that is true for most woods, cherry stands out as one that takes years (or at least many months) to really develop its full depth.  With a good quality oil or wax based finish and no stain, cherry will develop a rich red-burnt brown color on its own.  For this kitchen, the client wanted the final color to be less dark than a natural finished cherry, and to be orange without being identifiably orange.

Saylor Painting worked up an array of samples, and we decided on a finish that started with a deep yellow dye-stain, followed by a more orange-brown pigmented stain, and topped with a couple coats of water-based lacquer.  This method yielded a bright red, orange-but-not-orange, tone.  With the water-based lacquers, which tend to have somewhat less depth of color and luster versus their solvent-based cousins, it is especially difficult to achieve a deeply toned color to the wood; but Saylor really made nice work of it.

The south facing wall of this kitchen is framed by two sets of corner windows that shower the space with natural light; and now that the cabinets have been in place for nearly a year and the color has developed, the wood simply glows.  Aside from the stain on the cabinets, I can claim no responsibility for the color scheme in the kitchen; and all that credit goes to the client.  The combination of creamy walls with the black granite counters and the black, white, and grey glass tile backsplash allow for the cabinets to really stand out.

A set of three pull-out pantry cabinets were a solution to the problem of limited wall space, as there was no feasible location for a large wall pantry cabinet.  (There was little available space for upper cabinets, perhaps the downside of two corner window sets, two passages to adjacent rooms, an outside door, and a pass through, all in a modestly sized kitchen).  In base cabinets, items stored towards the back are often forgotten, or at least can be frustrating to access; and, the pull-out pantries bring the storage out into the open for easier access.

The kitchen island (pictured below) functions as a work space, prep area, and central location to mix, pour, and sample a well deserved cocktail.  Plus, the storage underneath is perfect for larger cookware that usually clutters a standard sized lower cabinet.

Larry of Nova Woodworks made the butcher block top.  He has the machines (most notably, the dual head wide belt sander) to handle a larger, 36" wide top; and besides the basic dimensions, my only instructions to Larry were that the client wanted a maple butcher block with a cherry "rally" stripe.  She was thrilled with the top, especially with the matching cutting board that Larry made (for fun) with some of the off-cuts.  Butchen block counter tops are another one of those things that get better with age, and it is all the spills, stains, scratches, and scuffs that create a patina and improve the appearence.

 

Concrete, Stone, Wood

Three elements- concrete, stone and wood - work together on this fireplace surround.  Okay, concrete is essentially stone, so maybe its only two or possibly two-and-a-half elements.  Whatever the math, the fireplace is anchored by the dark, cool texture of the concrete hearth, surrounded by a sandstone veneer, and capped by a live edge big leaf maple mantle.  The original incarnation of the fireplace in marble tile and painted mdf was still in good shape, but was on the other side of the spectrum of the clients' aesthetic sense.  The goal was to create a fireplace with materials that emphasized their natural characteristics (split-faced sandstone and live edged maple) without feeling too rustic, while fitting into a fairly contemporary house at the same time.

The concrete hearth was assembled from four sections poured off-site.  The design of the interlocking sections was to a large degree influenced by the difficulties of either pouring off-site as a single, #350+ piece; or pouring on-site and working with wet (and dusty when dry) concrete around carpet and interior furnishings.  I felt it was important that the exposed faces of the heath have a fairly uniform texture (so the geometry of the concrete sections would be a dominant feature of the hearth) and if poured on-site it would have been difficult to produce a top surface with the same character as the sides and face by using a hand trowel.  The concrete sections were only lightly polished in order to remove the subtle texture imparted by the melamine forms, but not so much as to grind through the cement cream layer and expose the aggregate.  A handful of air pockets, intentionally left unfilled, add a nice smattering of shadows to the face of the hearth.

For the mantle, a hefty slab of big leaf maple from Curly Burly, with just a bit of spalting that adds an interesting pattern and contrast to the corbels. There were several iterations in sizing the mantle.  The slab was nearly 16" wide, but after three or four rounds of test fitting, contemplating, and cutting down, it finished about half the original size.  Two overhead spotlights cast a prominant shadow over the fireplace, and in the end we found a good balance between the light-accented mantle edge and its shadow across the face of the stone; and at the same time paying attention to the proportions of the three elements of the fireplace surround.

 

Maple Breakfast Bar

Much like the rug in The Big Lebowski that "really tied the room together", this breakfast bar unites the kitchen with the living room and outside spaces.  Viewed from the kitchen, the big leaf maple breakfast bar glows with the abundant natural light that spills through the living room windows from the surrounding forest.  Even on a typically grey, rainy December day in Eugene, the natural light in this home provide a surprising amount of warmth, (even if that warmth is in the form of light, rather than sensible heat).  Live edges on the bar top and corbels with the highly figured grain show off the natural beauty of the wood.  Really, I just cut it to fit the space, the wood is the real star on this project.

Memorial Box

Indeed, it is a small world.  A woman came into the Out on a Limb gallery while I was working and she was looking for a box that was "about this wide by this wide" (imagine something that would fit a couple grapefruits).  Though, there is an eclectic array of wooden crafts at the gallery we did not have any such object; but I offered make one that if there was something in particular she had in mind.  She hesitated, said she needed something for the weekend (it was already Thursday) and that she would keep looking because she didn't think there was time for something custom.  I had plenty to do at the time, and would have normally just referred her to other stores nearby; but after just a couple minutes of conversation there was a familiarity between us and I pressed her a little, said that a quick turn-around on something fairly simple was possible and we worked out the details pretty quickly.

She had grown up in Eugene but now lives in Alaska, and had returned to memorialize the recent passing of her father.  Her sister still lives in the area, and they were going to spread his ashes at a couple of his favorite local spots; and she was looking for a box they could use to transport his ashes, and that she could keep in his memory.  He had loved to spend time in the woods, and it was important to her that it be made from a locally occurring tree, because it would have been familiar to her father.  In life he traveled among the trees in the forest, and in death travels in the trees of the forest.

The box is black oak with an English walnut top, both harvested locally by Curly Burly.  Projects like this are often particularly satisfying because there is very little forethought involved, and the design falls naturally from the characteristics of the objects dimensions, function, and materials.  I worked out the design on my bikeride home from the gallery, and had it assembled later in the afternoon.

When we had spoken at the gallery and I told her where my shop (and house) was, and she said she had spent her childhood somewhere in that area of Eugene.  Understand, in the early 1950's when she would had lived in the neighborhood, there was very little about southeast Eugene that was "residential".  The Corps of Engineers had only recently lowered Amazon Creek, and what was a broad floodplain created by the Amazon and its many small tributaries and had been largely impassable during the winter months was transformed into a seasonally soggy, but developable, neighborhood.  A client from project a few years back had spent part of her childhood in a house a couple blocks away, and had told me about the early days of the neighborhood when there were only a handful of homes on the street and there was more mud and trees than sidewalks and houses.

When she came to pick up the box, I was running late to meet her and she occupied herself with a walk around the neighborhood.  Turns out, the house she and her sister grew up in was just a couple doors down.  The journey for her and her sister to say goodbye to their father had again intersected with the place their father had first brought them home.

The Professors

Parts of two new faculty offices that were conveniently just a couple doors down from one another, both in Oregon white oak.  The offices were recently renovated; and the two new faculty occupants were in need of space efficient cabinetry and furniture that provided good function without taking up valuable floor space.  Offices on campus are typically small (the larger of the two measures about 14' x 14'), especially in the aged Condon Hall, where offices were chopped up and made into even more offices.

In the first office, bookcases with built-in space for a fridge, small counter with room for a tea kettle and accoutrements, and a microwave (not pictured); and a small Prairie-inspired meeting table and set of three chairs of white oak with a Polyx Oil finish.  Osmo Polyx Oil is a low-VOC, hand applied finish made from plant-based oils and waxes, and has become my favorite to use on most furniture and some cabinetry.  It soaks into the grain and dries hard, creating a durable finish that brings out woods natural beauty.  Plus, it is apparently approved for use on children's toys in Germany, so if German kinder can chew on it, then what more reason do I need?

With chairs, so much of the effort is spent setting up each operation during the building process.  Even with a fairly simple chair design, as these were, each chair part needs to be touched eight or ten or twelve or more times just to get it ready for assembly.  And with so much time spent on the set up, rather than making three, I made ten.  (Plus, I needed new chairs for the kitchen, because the several times reglued and reupholstered hand-me-down dining room chairs were just about spent).

In the second office, the client wanted space for books, a locking drawer, and places to set photos and plants.  In order to keep the cabinet from being too dominant in the office, I staggered the heights of the sections and left plenty of space around the window.  (The office has nearly 12' ceilings, which is two feet taller than the office is wide, so if the cabinet were too tall it would quickly diminish the light scattered by the upper walls and cause it to feel more closed in).