Sunday, January 18, 2015

handwork? machine work? does it matter?

blow this one up and have a closer look at it ..we made these in 1997 ...
pretty classy, eh?
they are based on a half round federal card table in the clark art museum that we got permission to measure and flip upside down earlier that year.  we also used a copy of  'the work of many hands: card tables in federal america 1790-1820', a weighty tome for sure.   these tables are also our very first cnc project.  each leg, if you count each separate little piece has 90 pieces, some of which we obviously glued up in blocks and sliced like baloney.  the ovals were custom made by dover inlay in maryland, but the little satinwood bell flower drops and the larger oval satinwood panels were cut on my friend richard's cnc. the rest we did 'by hand'.  there are 43 blog posts regarding cnc work in the category to the right,
'trevor's cnc projects'

on the fine woodworking website today, there is a debate over the distinction between 'handmade' and 'assembled from machine cut parts', 'digital manufacturing, friend or foe', a false debate in my humble opinion.  turn on the table saw and you are no longer 'handmade'.  in the comments to the post, where i, in fact, left my own two cents, i particualrly enjoyed the opinion of belchior, from brazil:

 "Since it's almost impossible to produce something from wood using bare hands and teeth, let's suppose that tools are considered acceptable, for the purpose of this discussion."  perfect !!  

so, onward.  we make stuff.  we use the tools we have to do the parts of the job we need to do, be they hand, electric or digital.  we go forward, exploring the process, which in the end is, hopefully, where the pleasure lies.  here i give you some 'before cnc'; 'with cnc'; and 'after cnc, but not using the cnc', images. 
you be the judge ...
friend or foe?  click the images to enlarge them ...
before cnc, about 1992  ... cherry lacewood, burl, rosewood, milk paint
  after cnc .. 2010 .. much technology here, both cnc and waterjet.. blog posts here
cad/photo design, cnc cut lathe duplicator templates; hand finished turnings; hand carved turnings, steel, copper, aluminum, and brass waterjet cut inlays; etc. etc.see end of this post ...
before cnc; about 1990
after cnc, but not using the cnc  blog post here  .. 
we did use our duplicator to turn the legs, a tool for sure, but not digital
way before we knew what a cnc was.. 1983 .. the cnc would have been  
extremely helpful on this project though.

all handwork ... 2012 .. blog post here  .. 
could have used a cnc but it was faster to do this by hand
1989 .. this table would be a lot easier with a cnc, but we did it all by hand ... slowly and carefully
with holman studios ... 9' x 26' , 88' radius on the edges. all parts, including templates for the granite and the base parts on the cnc.  design, veneer work and finishing by steve holman; call parts cut on the cnc by dcf ..
can't imagine doing this table by hand, though the guy who cut the radiuses on the granite cut them freehand with a handheld 4" angle grinder with a diamond saw blade ..
granite cut here .. no cnc
about 1990 .. all by hand ... a wonderful, fun project
all cnc  a room screen from 2006
with the table above 1992 .. all hand work ...
so, the question is: can we make furniture that appears handmade and combines handwork with digital fabrication?  yes is my answer.  is the digital process good?  is it bad?  does it matter? can we call a truce?

i hope so .. the digital part is not going away, and, in my humble opinion, it shouldn't.  imagine ... 

Friday, January 16, 2015

a round walnut table with leaves

i delivered a table to south boston earlier this week ... great neighborhood,  lots of old 5 story brownstones with original details .. the front doors were just fantastic .. the houses are narrow, 19', and the counter on the right in the room above is part of the kitchen, so the room we're looking at in this picture is only about 9 or 10' wide, including the fireplace .. so, it's tight.
click the photos to enlarge them ..

the request was for a smallish table (42" diameter) that would live in the round bay window
 most of the time, and then open up (to 10') for friends and family gatherings.  it is based on this slightly fancier version we made back in 2008.
this one is mahogany with burl and ebony accents.  and a little smaller at 39" in diameter.
it opened up almost as far though, and was in a philadelphia brownstone on pine street, 
that was of more or less the same era.

here's the new one, opened up to its full length in the sunny, and inviting space.  there are normally  two chairs in front of the fireplace and tv, that can be easily moved out for large gatherings...
super elegant neighborhood now, but my client tells me that a lot of it was boarded up when he moved in about 30 years ago .. never know it now .. interestingly, across the street, all the houses have angled bays, while on this side they are rounded.
 sunny neighborhood!
we started with some fine irion lumber walnut
 the boards for the main top we're about 18" wide, and trevor flattened them on the cnc
then he cut the plywood base pieces with the round space for the center leg, and veneered them 
with 1/16th" walnut.  as usual, the extension runners are from our friends at moin hardware ... 
we had to order a set of custom slides, which was no problem at all for moin.  you need to have an odd number of segments in order to have a center leg.  in this case we had 9 segment runners this case, because of the wide opening capacity, (106"), we may be making another 15" leaf to make 
the extended table as long as possible.
here it is, before finishing and hardware
fun project !
at the same time, trevor is also wrappping up this 66" round table with three leaves.  similar to one we made earlier this year .. that one will be ready to roll next week .. more photos of that one when it's completed.
you all have a lovely weekend .. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

so, here's yet another staggering statistic

station WXYK, 107.1, 'the monkey', in gulfport, mississippi posted a photo of our stairs back in july of 2012.  i have been hearing reports from friends that this photo has been 'floating around on the internet' for a while now.  i guess so ... i got an email from my client about a week ago who had gotten an email from her sister-in-law on the 4th of january telling her that she had seen her stairs on facebook.  at that time, the photo had, i think, 491,000 shares.  i checked today, and it has gone over a half million shares now ... viral, i'd say.  so, unfortunately, the monkey forgot to give us credit for building them, if they even knew.   i think we missed a major marketing boat ..  maybe next time.  but then, there's a link there now, and, it's still going .. 9,000 shares in three days is not too shabby. 
and here's a link to a blog post on an even bigger set we built and sent to palo alto in april of 2009.
 below we have our other staggering statistic, one million blog page views ... and after about 6 years of blogging, i was considering hanging up my pen ... i think i'll go for a while longer now ..
i'd love to hear some comments here .. thanks!  dan

Thursday, January 1, 2015

happy new year ... again ...

new year's day .. a time of reflection and optimism .. today's sunset above augurs well for 2015.  red sky at night; sailor's delight .... isn't that the saying?  2014 was an interesting and challenging year .. a little above average, actually.  some jobs just flowed; some jobs were like pulling teeth .. some had easy deadlines, and some, like the last three weeks of them, were rapid fire, one after another rush, rush, rush.  it's also possible that in reality, my management skills may be fading as i enter my 36th year of this grand production.  all's well that ends well though, and it's onward to 2015.  while i've been working on this slide show of the highlights of 2014 for a couple of weeks, i just finished it today, in time for the new year.
here's the link to it 
click an image there and arrow through it.. while you are there,
you can also access more albums from other years, like the ones below
live edge tables
furniture from reclaimed lumber
a hundred or more dining tables
digitized sketchbooks
happy new year to you all, and all the best for 2015.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

what's happening now

we could be setting the record here these days with 'stuff going on at the same time 
right before the holidays' at dorset custom furniture this month.
started a couple weeks ago with this railing from sam's shop

and a stand for a 1953 packard hood ornament
and a maple leaf belt buckle .. first one of these i think ...
 and then these last week

and this one cemented in place, just before the snow ...
the terrain and the recent crushed stone fill around the new stairs made
this one a challenge.

and then, the snow

and the new railings at the dorset field club
still more to go there with railings at each set of stairs
and will's been busy .. here he is modeling a 'goatskin necklace', the trimming from 
a natural skin head installed on a recent banjo he finished.
more photos of this and other many other banjos at
and i've finished some new pottery, just in time to give it away for christmas ...

and while it may not look it, this was a challenging redo, given the existing tile,
slightly out of plumb walls, and complex existing infrastructure under the old vanity.

and trevor's got a 42" round table with 4 -20" leaves
 home stretch; ready for light stain with black details soon ..

 and at the very last minute, a client we've been working with since may added these counters to the mix.  this one is 28" wide by 12'8" long by 350 pounds or so.
 this one is 5' x 6 feet by about 350 pounds or so too
 and this rather substantial claro walnut slab arrived last week from good hope hardwoods ..
63" at the wide end; 13' long; 3" thick in the rough ..
 trimmed er down a little at the local jk adams factory where we had it delivered
(they have a forklift)
 great figure !!!!!
 trimmed and in the truck.... now in the shop .. in the on deck circle for next year
and jim just sanded and reoiled a set of six of these outdoor chairs ... 
ugh! .. he was glad to deliver them back to the client

and the last two pre-christmas projects that should be finished at the end of the day today ..
above another 'x based table' from reclaimed barn parts; last coat of finish today

and this custom cue rack ... finished now, and i'll install it this morning

and on christmas eve, a last minute 'gift certificate' for a slab top coffee table .. 
i'm sure it was a hit with the client's wife on christmas morning

lit the tree at the shop yesterday .. 
merry christmas to all !!!
rudolph .. by sam, 1986