Wednesday, January 22, 2014

why does furniture matter?

At first glance, my obsession with interior design photos seems superficial.  I have a degree in mathematics--supposedly pure truth distilled down to its essentials.  Why is a math major scrolling through photos of people's living spaces and saving them to a blog?

Beautiful objects make me happy.  And I've learned to pay attention to the joy that springs up in the center of my chest.  

I took this photo while driving home in the snow yesterday.  This is the most lovely part of my drive.

But do things matter?  And why?

A handmade object made from wood tells a story of a craftsperson working with earth's materials and creating an object that has a place in a life of a human.

"The solace of physical objects"--this phrase jumped into my head one day.  When you have a real thing in front of you, it is evidence of the history of the object.  The object is made of materials, and it has a history.

What is it made of?  Who made it?  How was it made?  Even if specific facts are not remembered, the physical object tells the story somehow.  That's comforting to me.

When an object is made of a simple natural material such as wood, it tells of a connection to nature.

When an object is made by human hands, it speaks of time and attention, of skill and care, which is basically--love.

When you live every day interacting with something made of nature, and of love, your life is enriched.  It seeps into you without you even realizing it.

p.s. these wool socks that I bought for Adam are exactly what I'm talking about too.  100% organic wool, from Austria.  The only socks I could find that were all wool.  I live for finding these high quality objects.  oh yeah, handmade shoes too, and mine were made with undyed leather.

Friday, January 17, 2014

bench part II

My little bench is finished.  It is now functioning sweetly as a nightstand.

While this project was rather tiny and extremely simple, it was rich with learning experiences.

1.  I designed this bench by starting with a single board I must have picked up some time ago.  The board has functioned as a shelf for us (with the help of a couple of brackets).  After considering a 1:2 ratio (favored by some designers) and the golden ratio (closer to a 1:1.6 ratio), I made this bench with width:height and height:length ratios closer to 1.4.  I'm pleased with how it looks.

2.  Some Japanese woodworkers chose to leave their wood unfinished.  I have found that some pieces I've made have begun to age nicely with no finish at all.  This approach is better for pieces that won't come in contact with food or water.  Over many years, as a piece is handled and used, it develops a unique patina.  Only a long-term commitment to a piece of furniture will yield this look--unless you buy a pre-aged piece at an antique shop.  I have grown fond of the idea of keeping a piece for life, and then passing it along.  The rich patina would be accompanied by many memories associated with that piece of furniture.

(Perhaps a future post would describe some pieces of furniture from our home in Bolivia that live on in my mind and perhaps still influence me to this day.)

3.  Angling the legs outward (forming a 95 rather than 90 degree angle with the top) proved to make this project much trickier.  I had cut the pieces before I had finalized the design, and my cuts were made at 90 degrees.  I used a block plane and chisel to angle the top and bottom of the legs so the bench would rest correctly on the floor and meet the top snugly also.

With a power circular saw, it would be simple to set the angle precise and re-make the cut.  Having handicapped myself by getting rid of my power saws, I learned how best to correct my error with hand tools.

4.  I cut the pieces in order to be able to play with the design by physically positioning the pieces and seeing how I felt about different arrangements.  Having the design finalized before making the first cut seems very challenging to me.  However, in time, I hope to come up with a standard design that can be repeated.

5.  Cutting the notches first with the saw and then chiseling them out worked very well.  I have now prioritized having a sharpening system for my chisels.

6.  I don't know how I would feel if I made many multiples of the same piece.  Part of me thinks I would find the repetitiveness relaxing.

7.  It is important to me to make sure the piece feels good to the touch as well as looking nice.  I sanded every piece so there are no rough edges.

8. The joint above is imperfect!  Ah, imperfection.

9.  I chose to use glue and nails rather than screws.  I wanted this piece to be solid and I don't see a need to take it apart.  I have used screws with larger pieces and it's been convenient to dis-assemble a large table for moving.  However, the stability suffers.

Monday, January 06, 2014

two woodworking videos

I finished my bench today!  I'll post with pictures later.  Today I have a beautiful video to share.  As you watch it, image you are smelling the wood shavings.

The Wood Turner from Elliott Forge on Vimeo.

 I also really relate to this guy: