Friday, June 24, 2022

Three Years of Writing

Friday i posted chapter 1 of my 'old man project', describing my arrival in manchester in 1971 and what happened in the next several years.  in thinking about my follow up post this morning, low and behold i find i already wrote  chapter 2 back in november of 2010.  in rereading this post, i have discovered that some of the links still work, and others, like the 'recent shop video' no longer connect.  following the links in the 'anniversary one and two' posts will let you see some of the interesting projects we completed then.  the post below is a pretty good synopsis of how i came to be a full time furniture maker in 1980 ... some of this ground i covered in the post last friday, but i leave it as it stands for now...

stay tuned!  chapter 3 will take us to our move from arlington to dorset in 1996 

and the construction of our current shop as a 3 bedroom two bath house...

my blog post from 2010 starts below ... that's me, circa 1972

I could do another picture of a sunset here and say something about how now I like to write, (like I said on anniversary one and two), but a couple things have come together in the last two months that make me want to go a little deeper ... While we were making the recent shop video, I went through our scrapbooks to get images of our first shop, and, scattered around there, were pictures of some of my early work ... my first table; my first chairs from scratch; my first sideboard (still have it); and, like David Byrne once famously wondered "How did I get here???. Is this my beautiful house??? ". Well, the days have gone by and I have now been making stuff from wood for over half of my 63 year old life. I didn't set out to do this; there was no grand plan, and as Anne Beattie so gracefully points out in the passage below, things happen ... In looking back through the stuff I have written and photographed in the last three years, it's easy to see we can now make a lot of different stuff, but, really, it wasn't always like this ... Like most other folks I know, progress is incremental; we do not know instantly what to do. We work from one recovery to the next. In one of Malcolm Gladwell's latest books, 'Outliers', he notes that interest and coincidence often combine to produce surprising careers. I was interested and was fortunate enough to encounter the coincidences I encountered and rise to the good fortune that arrived at my door. I can't do the whole 38 years in one shot, but I'll briefly touch on the first 10 or so years and hopefully come back to finish up as the spirit moves me ... If you've gotten this far, this will be a long one ... Thanks for sticking with me. Click the photos to enlarge them ... Thank you Ann Beattie for writing this passage and thanks to my friend Tom Peters, who passed it on to me as an important piece of child rearing and general life information. It's been on my various bulletin boards for about 10 years ... See also the related quote at the end of this post from Jim Harrison .... 'ready and attentive' ... be there ... My first (or second?) table, my brother's stereo cabinet, my first chairs from scratch ... Images 1973-81 ... the 'Welsh Cabinet' I built in 1973 using F.E. Hoard and A.W. Marlow's book 'Good Furniture You Can Make Yourself' .. page 150 and 151 ... a corner cupboard lower right from our house ...Some later Windsor chairs and a cabinet for a friend's daughter ... Bottom left is a table I still have in my dining room ... made in early 1981. Before we got to furniture, we first needed a house ... which is part of the story ... In the top photo with the mustache and long hair, I am working on a project in the basement of the apartment I rented when I first came to Vermont. Kit joined me there shortly after I moved in and I later went on to work as a carpenter for my landlord, even though I knew absolutely nothing about carpentry at the time ... It was interesting work though and I enjoyed it so much I wanted to build my own house ... By 1974, the economy was in the tank and my landlord/contractor was now running a logging business, and I was working in the woods, sawing, skidding and Prentice loading. The schedule was, start at 5:30 ... out of the woods at 2:30, back to town by 3:30 ... It was summer and that gave me 5 hours or so of daylight after my real job to work on my house. Home to bed... up and at it again the next day. We moved in in November ... I was young and energetic and in great shape from logging (3 coincidences there) and we were on our way ... We borrowed and cheated, (a little) to get a piece of land; we somehow got a mortgage, (the bank president's mother was Kit's fifth grade teacher). We bought books and lumber ... We worked hard. We built a house in our spare time!!!! By that time, it was the gas crisis, my landlord was out of business, I got another job with a real carpenter, Mark Breen, with whom I still do projects, like right now ...

and again right now in 2022
  We built a shop/garage in 1976 ... I did a few things on the side until December of 1979, when, after about 40 houses, Mark and I went our own ways ... I was on my own as a furniture maker ... I often say I then attended the "checkbook" school of woodworking ... Checkbook needs money ... go figure it out .... One of Mark's first jobs after I left in 1980 was a house for some people who had come to town from California. Mark hired me to build some French doors ... Well, we're all still friends today. Cook Neilsen, the husband and famous motorcycle guy, and his wife Stepper, went on to become our longtime friends and photographers for the next 20 years. Stepper called me two weeks ago to adjust the latch on one of the 30 year old doors I built below... It just needed a little tuning and lubing .... 'Proper lubrication is, after all, the key to life'. I had a nice visit with their stuff and it all still looks good. A truly nice feeling. One of the 4 french doors in the original project ... The cat shelf, bolted to the fireplace corner... And a pine cabinet from, I think 1982. It's 1984 now and kids (Sam' and Kit are in the lower left corner) happen ... This photo was taken by Cook, Labor Day 1983 ... That's Stepper in the middle without a kid, along with cousins, friends, friends's kids, neighbors ... we're all still here today,

And I thank my wife Kit for her constant and unending support through the last 39 years. As the official 'sees all, knows all', 'arbiter of taste' branch of my work, she is and always will be truly indispensable. Photo above is from the windowsill in our kitchen 1971. And finally, below, we have some wisdom from one of my favorite writers, Jim Harrison. I am now in the 'rowing' mode, approaching life backwards, looking at the past, wondering indeed, 'How Did I Get Here?' More later ... 1982- 1996, when we moved and built our current shop, would be the next logical chunk. Stay tuned ...

current shop, built as a three bedroom, 2 bath house in 1997 ...

Friday, June 17, 2022

the 'old man project' ... volume 1

 

 
well, i have been writing on blogger for 15 years now ...
below is an early post from october 2007. short and sweet!
 after about a thousand more posts, and over 2,000,000 page views,
 it is time to go on in a bit more depth about some other stuff in an effort to 
fill out my 'old man project', mostly inspired by a john mcphee 
he has since written two more volumes, all about things
 he didn't write about in his long career ... so here i go now,
writing about some things i didn't write about for the last 15 years ... 
settle in, it will be a bit wordy, but i am having fun reliving this stuff ..
click the photos to enlarge them ... 
 
in about two weeks, on July 6th this year it will be 51 years 
since i stepped off the bus in arlington, vermont, to visit my sister.
through a friend of hers, she had gotten me a job at The Roundhouse, a 
local bar that has, after being alfies, and the eagles club, has reopened !!!! again!!!!  as the roundhouse!!!!
i met my wife Kit in september of 1971, which ended my previous
 travels around the country, (key largo, washington, d.c., montauk, palm springs, europe ...
and started the journey that i am still on today.
this journey, along with carpentry and furniture building, involved 
raising two boys, building 3 houses and three workshops,  
all processes similar to building furniture, but somehow different.
 
after living together for a couple of years, and hanging out with some other 
folks who had also arrived in manchester in 1971, us five couples decided it
was time to build ourselves some houses!  what did we know about
building houses?  not much, or actually anything at all really!  
but, optimism in the early 70s back to the land movement knew no bounds, 
and everyone working together on everyone else's houses eventually got us 
to the point where two of us became full time carpenters, and
one of us built up a substantial earth moving and recycling  business ...
first i needed some knowledge ...
i had another book that i think was called maybe 'practical house carpentry' 
that better explained the basics, but that one is lost somewhere ...

first, we needed some money, and some plans ... 
the bank where we had been banking for two years turned us down
without even looking at my yellow legal pad 'plans'.  
i wish i had the letter from the then bank president who told me, as i recall, 
that "this project was too ambitious for my abilities" adding,
" you know nothing about building things" ..

the younger president of the other bank in town told us
that if we got married, and actually had some real, like architect drawn plans, 
he might talk to us.  so, november 10, 1973, we got married, 
and got an architect, who was a neighbor 
to draw some 'plans', and, miraculously, that bank gave us $25,000
in the spring of 1974.  we had a little money saved, and borrowed the rest from my 
father to buy our 2 acre, ($7000.) lot with power and a driveway,
and once we paid that back, and drilled a 600' deep well for $5000., 
we had about $18,000. left to build our house.
it was a bit of a stretch, to say the least, but sometimes miracles happen. and we 
spent our first christmas there in 1974, with the tinfoil on the insulation
still showing around the tree!
we later learned that one fact that was extremely helpful 
for our mortgage approval was that the bank president's mother was Kit's brother's 5th 
grade teacher in brattleboro, and 'vouched' for kit's family as 'reliable' folks.
center hill today ... the orange doors used to be our bedroom window
 that's me, second from the right, sitting in front of what was then our bedroom window.
my future brother in law, peter moore, who is Kristian's father, 
is to my right, and the others are two of the many Walls, david on the left
and beriah on the right.  the building at that time was called
the Wall Family Gallery, where the now famous beriah, had his pot shop
(both kinds), before moving to NYC a few years later.  david introduced me to paddle
tennis and i thank him often in my thoughts for that introduction when i am playing today ....  
so, this is the house that was/is immediately north of the wall family gallery,
the one i sketched on my yellow legal pad, and the one we liked ...
if you click on this one, you'll see the architects window 
that he used to 'draw that house' for us.  the architect had never
seen our lot so we had to redesign of few things on the inside to suit the lay of the land.
we got pretty close on the outside.
originally, in 1974 we built only the 4 window cape part, 
adding the master bedroom addition to the right, in the mid and late 80s.
i was starting to take on 'side projects' to my by then carpentry job
and decided we needed a garage and a small workshop to 
get the sawdust out of the basement. 

post and beam work was becoming popular, and there was
a handy sawmill down the road where i could get
6x6s and other rough lumber at a really reasonable price.
so, off we went on that ...
in the photo above, it is 1976, and i am working as a carpenter for mark breen, in the foreground in  the white t shirt.  the others in that photo, left to right are bill hermann, one of the founders of high tech plumbing, paul roberts, and the late michael morris, one of the original settlers of dogpatch and one of the five couples mentioned above that we built our houses with.

one of the interesting things abut our building lot was that it
was located on an 'esker'.  there were no surface stones and 
according to the well driller, it was 400 vertical feet to the first ledge, hence 400'
of casing, and the pump mounted on 400' of 1" galvanized pipe in 20' sections.
1/2 a gallon a minute was all we got til fracking came along in the late 80s.
there were layers of stratified sand with a layer of the purest whitest sand
several feet thick anywhere from 4 to 6 feet under the surface.
i dug the 4' deep, 9 holes for the sono tubes in one weekend.   
we didn't need a sandbox for the boys, the just dug a big hole in the lawn
 by the driveway and had fun there.

this takes us up to about 1976 on red mountain road.
my full time furniture making started january 1st, 1980.
for more photos of the construction process, land clearing,
first floor house plan, the other garage, tree house, and landscaping, 
... TO BE CONTINUED ...

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

a walnut dining table with a leaf

we shipped this one off to Florida last week ... natural walnut,
54 x 88 closed, one 20"" leaf .... 
                        This was the inspiration photo sent by the client early in the negotiations…
                                       So we started with some nice walnut from irion lumber
                                                and some poplar for test pieces

and a new cad drawing
we had a little back and forth on the apron details, but we got it
and we ordered a new custom shaper knife to cut the profile in one pass
ta dah!
it took a few shots to figure out the cnc work on the leg, and 
get the profile exactly the way the client wanted it,
but we finally got to a place where we were all happy
the top was pretty straightforward with the fine wood from irion lumber
time to get it all together
we finished it up, and off it went to florida ...
and we didn't hear a peep for a month or two. one day Kristian
asked if i had heard anything, and i hadn't.  then, i kid you not, later that day
i got some photos, and one of the nicest emails about a piece of furniture
a person could hope for ...


all for now

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

some bubinga chairs

 
good to go!  off to the west coast later this week!

 
we recently completed 10 bubinga chairs for a client in california
who made his own bubinga table during the covid lockdown
 and i must admit, he did a most impressive job!
 
back in 2003, we made this dining table with a slab of bubinga
from goodhope hardwoods and the sideboard and chairs from another.
the chairs are a contemporary adaption of our classic transitional chairs
which are an adaptation we made from an original fully upholstered 
beidermeier style chair that we copied for some clients in the early/mid 90s.
 
we also made these 8 mahogany and maple burl chairs and sent them 
however, since at that time i had 4 guys in the shop, i did not
have much to do with their construction 
so, fortunately, Kristian is up to speed on the cnc so he took over figuring out the 
joinery and programming to cut the parts ...
and there were a lot of parts ...
also fortunately, we had a mockup side chair and a mockup arm chair we
made when we did previous runs of these chairs.
since we have a new cad/cam program for the cnc, we weren't
able to use the existing files, but Kristian was able to use our 
existing cad drawings to cut the new parts.
all glued up and at the upholsterers now, awaiting their seats and
their upcoming cross country trip!
my original portfolio page from 2003 showing the table, 
the chairs and the sideboard we made way back then ...
 

Thursday, February 10, 2022

algebra ... geometry ... math in the workshop

 

above is a projection of the theoretical line profile of a hip rafter for two
 intersecting curved roofs ... the pink curve is made up of short straight lines 
connecting the projected intersecting lines so autocad did not generate a radius. 
fortunately, we were able to take the pink line drawing to our cad program 
and work with it. yesterday, i was talking with 3 former math teachers and the solution 
to this problem came up as one of those former math teachers, 
my friend mrs manley, was able to solve it for me when it came in last january.
this project happened in 2021, and i have always meant to write about it.
here goes .... click the photos to enlarge them ...
the rafter profile we were looking for is the angled one in the corners ...
and the architects response below
we had to use this formula on other, longer (12') 
hip rafters that we had to cut in two pieces
the main roof
a test in advantec
the two piece hip rafters

and then we had to cut a template sheet for the plywood 

****

well that is the algebra part ... next the geometry ...

you can see the main entry on the right side of
the elevation above, below the cupola ...
the entryway space looked like this
 

' Ensure Slope Matches Side Wall Angle for Conical Ceiling'
at 2 and 1/16th x 12
 not a lot of detail there ...
i sort of sorted out that info in my cad program
 
and then to be sure i understood what i was trying to do, i decided
                                to make a 1/8th scale model from my drawings on the cnc
looks like it all might work ...
a little harder than it looked, as theory collides with reality ...
the right hand wall was off a couple of degrees
and it all worked out in the end ..
plastered and stoned

inside ... living room ...