Better Learn Balance

Better learn balance. Balance is key. Balance good.

Customer wanted a solid wood balance scale for her child. Sturdy, bullet proof, no plastic. Okay.

Maple construction. Through tenon into the base. Friction fit dowel fulcrum. Mineral oil/beeswax finish.

Note the green painted Stanley 5 1/2 in the lower right. Original owner painted the whole thing a minty fresh green. I still haven't stripped it and cleaned it, but I'm certain there's goodly sweetheart era 5 1/2 under there with perfectly preserved rosewood handle and tote.

Yes, that's a Microplane cheesegrater/zester in the back. I wondered one day if a cheesegrater microplane is the same as a wood rasp microplane. The answer is yes. Perfect for hogging off a lot of wood quickly. On sale. Williams Sonoma outlet. Nevada/California border stores on the way to Vegas.



Task: replace a missing bishop by turning a new one.
Result: a little lighter in color, but otherwise okay.

Original is on the right. My duplication is on the left.

Height: 2 3/8". This was a tiny turning. I think I need smaller lathe chisels.


70 Balls

Abacus. Balls. 70 of them. The fun part was drilling the holes. 70 times. The longest continuous use of my drill press in quite some time.

Crate and Barrel sells something like this, but in metal. I don't do metal, although welding is something I'd like to pursue in the near future. Something about sparks and gas and molten metal and the potential for fire and explosions intrigues me.

Balls are unfinished/unpainted per customer request. She wants to paint them herself. Therefore the frame is disassemblable with screws and L-brackets.

Dimensions: 3 feet wide, almost 2 feet tall. 1 inch balls. 1/4 inch dowels.
Wood = pine. Stain = dark like my coffee.

Next up: another abacus; smaller; cherry wood frame; two sections so it looks like a Chinese abacus with five balls in the lower and two balls in the upper; seven columns; pretty joinery. What's the plural of abacus? Abaci?


Another Piano Bench

Piano bench, part V. Or is it part VI? Anyway, here are pics of this one, which happens to be exactly the same as two other ones I've created before. This one lived next to my piano for all of three and a half minutes before I packed it up and shipped it off to an anxiously waiting customer.

Details: Solid ash; leg structures stained dark; shellac finish on top; width 30"; depth 14"; height 18".

Next up: Another piano bench that I'll actually keep. And it won't have slats! What? No slats? I actually build things without slats?

Do you want slats? More slats here.


Messing with SketchUp: The Chair

A chair is still a chair, even when there's no one sitting there.

An afternoon of experimentation and bending and twisting and pulling curves through other curves, I'm beginning to further enjoy the magic that is SketchUp.

Still not perfect (with the random non-hidden lines and parts that just don't quite line up), but soon this I will conquer.


The Magic of SketchUp

Seeing as how all work is custom built to your specifications, it's important that you have a proper visualization of what the finished product will look like. Enter SketchUp. From Google.

The secretary desk completed last year is a perfect example of this visualization process. The customer told me what he wanted; I sketched up some stuff; we went back and forth with ideas; changes, tweaks, mods, additions, deletions, etc; and out came a 3D SketchUp model with a bunch of views; here are just a few:

Compared to the finished photos below, I'd say the renderings are a pretty accurate predictor of what you'll get in real life:

What makes this process work so well is that within SketchUp all parts of the piece are broken out into separate drawings. Therefore, relative scale and proportion is maintained throughout the piece, and all dimensions proposed are the actual finished dimensions.

If you have an idea in mind for a piece of furniture that you've been dying to have custom built for you, let me know. SketchUp drawings will be provided free of charge.


The Big Coffee Table/Museum Bench

Big, as in six feet long.

Familiar, as in it's a copy of the benches at sfmoma.

Replacement, as in the coffee table that used to be in the living room now has no home and is for sale.

Yours, as in if you want one (or something similar) let me know and I'll build it for you.


George Nelson Bench: The 6 Footer

1. Customer wants 6 footer.
2. Carlo thinks, "Wow, those would be long pieces of maple."
3. Customer says, "Yes. And make two center supports instead of one."
4. Carlo thinks, "Hmm, okay."
5. Customer also says, "Make those center supports double the size of the end pieces."
6. Carlo thinks, "Hmm, then that would make this piece exactly the same as a real George Nelson six foot bench."
7. Customer says, "Exactly."
8. Done. Built. Shipped.
9. Do you want one too?
10. Send an email to craigwoodworks at gmail dot com.

Thank you. Good night.


Tiles in a Middle School Library

Months ago I received an email from a middle school librarian in Texas who wanted to order 19 of my large tiles. She was planning an art installation with my tiles in order to add life to a blank wall of the library. I worked up the pricing and the shipping on her desired letters, then promptly trashed those plans and decided to just donate them to the school.

Hey, I'm a sucker for kids and reading and libraries and scrabble and art, so why not?

Here's what the final installation looks like, complete with the librarian's clever way of incorporating the school's name with a few choice words of educational significance.

For more info about my tiles, check out my original tile post

If you'd like some tiles, please feel free to order them by sending me an email at craigwoodworks at gmail dot com. The 4" ones are $10 each and the 6" ones are $12 each.

On a related note, if you're a chemistry teacher and would like some oversized chemical elements as wall art, check these out. There's no free contest for those, so if you'd like to order a few then send me an email.


The Chemical Elements as Wood Tiles

And now for something a little bit out there, a little bit geeky, a little bit fun, and a little bit of a word game.

Chemical elements as wood tiles! Put together in such a way as to spell out your name! Or spell out a word! Or spell out anything you can think of that fits the criteria!

This was an idea from a customer of mine who wanted wood tiles to embed into a bar top with random chemical elements on them. I took it one further and wanted to make them NOT random, i.e., why not spell something out?

I did a little googling and there's a guy out there that listed every word in the English dictionary that can be spelled using the symbols of chemical elements. There were something like 50,000 words in his list. Wow.

I could do words, I could do names, I could do names plus words. Or I could do a tile or tiles simply because you have a special attachment to a certain element.

Tiles are $12 each.

These are 7 1/2 inches square and are made from 1/2 inch thick birch plywood. The symbol is hand routed and hand painted black. The atomic number, atomic weight and element name are toner transferred and inked in black. The tiles are then coated in a water based poly.

What words/names can you spell with the elements? That's up to you to figure out. I'll provide a list below with all the symbols to help you out. 

Email me (craigwoodworks at gmail dot com) and indicate the quantity of tiles you'd like, which symbols you'd like, and allow one week for construction.

Ac Actinium
Ag Silver
Al Aluminium (Aluminum)
Am Americium
Ar Argon
As Arsenic
At Astatine
Au Gold
B Boron
Ba Barium
Be Beryllium
Bh Bohrium
Bi Bismuth
Bk Berkelium
Br Bromine
C Carbon
Ca Calcium
Cd Cadmium
Ce Cerium
Cf Californium
Cl Chlorine
Cm Curium
Cn Copernicium
Co Cobalt
Cr Chromium
Cs Caesium (Cesium)
Cu Copper
Db Dubnium
Ds Darmstadtium
Dy Dysprosium
Er Erbium
Es Einsteinium
Eu Europium
F Fluorine
Fe Iron
Fm Fermium
Fr Francium
Ga Gallium
Gd Gadolinium
Ge Germanium
H Hydrogen
He Helium
Hf Hafnium
Hg Mercury
Ho Holmium
Hs Hassium
I Iodine
In Indium
Ir Iridium
K Potassium (Kalium)
Kr Krypton
La Lanthanum
Li Lithium
Lr Lawrencium
Lu Lutetium
Md Mendelevium
Mg Magnesium
Mn Manganese
Mo Molybdenum
Mt Meitnerium
N Nitrogen
Na Sodium
Nb Niobium
Nd Neodymium
Ne Neon
Ni Nickel
No Nobelium
Np Neptunium
O Oxygen
Os Osmium
P Phosphorus
Pa Protactinium
Pb Lead
Pd Palladium
Pm Promethium
Po Polonium
Pr Praseodymium
Pt Platinum
Pu Plutonium
Ra Radium
Rb Rubidium
Re Rhenium
Rf Rutherfordium
Rg Roentgenium
Rh Rhodium
Rn Radon
Ru Ruthenium
S Sulfur (Sulphur)
Sb Antimony
Sc Scandium
Se Selenium
Sg Seaborgium
Si Silicon
Sm Samarium
Sn Tin
Sr Strontium
Ta Tantalum
Tb Terbium
Tc Technetium
Te Tellurium
Th Thorium
Ti Titanium
Tl Thallium
Tm Thulium
U Uranium
Uuh Ununhexium
Uuo Ununoctium
Uup Ununpentium
Uuq Ununquadium
Uus Ununseptium
Uut Ununtrium
V Vanadium
W Tungsten
Xe Xenon
Y Yttrium
Yb Ytterbium
Zn Zinc
Zr Zirconium

Shipping is $5 for the first tile, plus $1 for each additional tile.

If perchance you are a crazy periodic table person who wants ALL 118 of the elements as wood tiles, that'll be $1,180. A savings of $2 per tile. Please allow one month for creation of these 118 tiles. Send an email for details. craigwoodworks at gmail dot com.


The Chair Room at SFMOMA

We were in SF a few weeks ago and stopped by the sfmoma (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art). The lobby itself was art, as is the case with lots of museums around the world. You don't actually have to go and see the exhibits to have an architecturally good time.
Similarly, the first time I went to the Getty in LA (the one on the hill, not the one on the water), I spent the whole day outside looking at the buildings, never once venturing inside to look at the art. And further similarly, at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris I tended to ignore the art inside (OK, not really), but instead kept saying to myself, hey this used to be a train station!
So here at sfmoma, I said, hey that's a cool information desk!
And whoa, look up!

And alongside the left wall of the lobby was a bench! This bench:

Anyway, into the museum!
One of the first things encountered was The Chair Room. A room of 11 chairs arranged in circle. A room of 11 pieces of wood art that serve the additional purpose of supporting your behind. A room of 11 modern chairs from modern designers from around the world from the 1930's to the present. Here they are:
Gerrit Rietveld, Zig-zag chair, 1934

Alvar Aalto, Armchair, model 31, 1931-32

Charles and Ray Eames, LCW, 1945

Nathan Lerner, Chair in a Box chair, 1947

Ray Komai, Chair, model 939, 1949

J.B. Blunk, Invisible Presence, 1962

Marc Newsom, Wood chair, 1988

Fernando and Humberto Campana, Favela chair, 1991

Frank Gehry, Cross-check armchair, 1992

Mark Naden, Topos chair, 2003

Maarten Baas, Zig-zag chair (Rietveld), from Where There's Smoke, 2004

It's fascinating that the collection of chairs comes full circle (literally, with the arrangement of chairs on a circular platform), with the Rietveld chair sitting next to the Baas chair. They're almost exactly alike, only with Baas putting his burnt signature on his (again literally, a burned cherrywood chair).

Yeah, I could've come away from this being all inspired to do chairs. Particularly chairs as an homage to these, like some sort of plywood curvy piece in the style of that fabulous Topos chair, or even a melange of scraps type of chair like the Favela. But I ended up coming away from this thinking, I'm gonna make the bench in the lobby.

Yup, the third picture above. It turned out they had dozens (if not hundreds) of these benches throughout the facility, mostly for use while resting in front of a large painting/sculpture/installation.

And I said to myself, I'm gonna go home and make one of those. Right away. It's now in progress. Lots of gluing of lots of parts in multiple steps 'cause I have a finite number of clamps in the shop. A post detailing the finished bench will be posted soon. Since it's a pseudo-slatted bench, it'll be part of my ongoing Nelson series of benches.
So the moral of the story: the next time you're in your favorite museum, ignore the art. Check out the other stuff that's in the building. Oh yeah, and if this museum happens to be the sfmoma, check out the chair room.
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The Secretary Desk

Finally, pics of the finished product. The customer took delivery in December and somehow I forgot to take pictures of it both when it was finished in the shop and when it was sitting in its final resting place in the living room. Over this past weekend, I went back to have a visit and snapped these photos:

In the lid closed and everything tucked away position.

Cuts were made from long horizontal boards so the grain matches on adjoining drawer fronts. The large drawer on the lower left contains a vertical file hanging system.

Dovetailed fronts.

Drawers (again).

Dropdown hardware. These pieces from Rockler have an adjustable brake control to reign in the speed of the dropdown action. This way it won't just slam down when you open it. Also, a magnetic catch secures the desk in the upright position.

The lived-in look. While a laptop is currently being used in this space, the opening is large enough to accommodate an iMac if the customer so desires in the future. The intention here is to pull out the laptop onto the desk portion when in use. Note also the cubbyhole shelving on the right - these are sized to fit standard 8.5x11 sheets of paper.

Drawer hardware detail.

And finally, the desk paired with a cool chair. Hiding in the back is a Nelson bench!

Construction notes: Solid cherry case and drawers. Plywood exceptions: drawer bottoms, case back, upper shelves. Dropdown hardware from Rockler. Brushed nickel drawer pulls. Dimensions? Approx 4' tall, 3' wide, 2' deep.
Price: Sold.
To discuss ideas for your own secretary desk, please send an email to craigwoodworks at gmail dot com.

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