On Sunday, August 3, I will be hosting an open house and demonstration afternoon as part of the annual Gathering in Earltown. Beginning at 1:00 pm, you are invited to stop by my shop to watch and discuss the art of craft. In my gallery you’ll be able to see a sampling of my finished work along with the unique paintings and prints of emerging artist, Juliana Kroscen.
Over the years, I’ve been called upon to make a great variety of things; some of them outside the realm of furniture making. Now I add a new chapter to my repertoire with an exquisite walking stick. The handle is crafted from the very rare and very expensive Snakewood and the stock in beautiful Macassar Ebony. Sculpted to fit the hand snugly, the handle is joined to the stock with a sturdy mortise and tenon joint that is pinned to preempt loosening.
The tip of the walking stick is finished with brass and comes with two different ends for summer and winter walking. Please feel free to contact me if you would like a cane that makes a statement.
At long last, a design that visitors to my shop have seen in its unfinished state for many months is finally ready for display. As a sculpted wooden seat, this stool has no equal. A full eight inches deep, the black cherry saddle is painstakingly roughed out, carved and polished to offer unparalleled comfort and beauty. With a nod to art deco design, the curved white ash legs are not turned, but shaped by hand with spoke shave and scraper. Through and wedged tenons attach the legs to the seat. The front stretcher is likewise sculpted to accommodate the feet comfortably while pinned tenons ensure it will never loosen. This stool can be adapted to any counter height and has also proved to be a comfortable perch for guitar playing.
It is always a joy to finish a new design and deliver it to the customer. This design, like most of my work, was a full collaboration between artist and collector. The results speak for themselves: a functioning, finely crafted piece of furniture that is also very sculptural in nature.
The Black Walnut and Bird’s Eye Maple offers a stunning contrast, while the hand-carved drawer pulls expose the beautiful grain patterns of solid wood, drawing the eye and inviting the touch.
Many of my visitors and friends have asked if I would offer woodworking courses. I am pleased to say that the Nova Scotia Museum has generously offered to sponsor some basic courses in traditional woodworking methods. We will be using the Sutherland Steam Mill site in Denmark, Nova Scotia as our workshop. Just 15 kms from our studio here in Earltown, the old mill offers a very traditional setting in which to work wood by hand.We will initially offer two weekend (Friday and Saturday) courses in September making a shaving horse. The shaving horse once held an honored place in woodworking shops. It was essentially a low bench that allowed the sitter to clamp a work piece with the strength of their legs and leave their hands free to shape and contour. I invite all who are interested to visit museum.gov.ns.ca or contact me by phone or email for details.
Perhaps the most important tool in the furniture makers shop is the workbench. The centerpiece in my shop, this bench is heavy and very well made. It features plenty of hand-tool storage, a tail and side vise, a tool well and plenty of work top space. Perhaps best of all, it has history. This bench was used by a friend, neighbor and customer of mine for decades before he kindly passed it on to me and I value it highly.
A year in the making, from initial consultation to delivery, this privately commissioned piece was a joy to craft. Designed in the clean, spare silhouette of mid-century modern style, I incorporated exposed dovetail joinery at the corners of the case and solid wood frame and panel backs for both the sideboard and hutch. Taking great pains to provide a perfectly grain-matched front, I cut all drawer fronts, rails, stiles and panels from a single plank. Perhaps the most unique feature of this design is the drawer- and door pulls. Leaving the drawer fronts and door rails over an inch thick, I hand carved the pulls, gradually removing stock from around and inside the pulls to produce a truly sculpted look. Discreet solid brass knife hinges offer full access to the adjustable panels behind the doors. The top drawer in the sideboard featured an adjustable silverware tray.
It is always a joy to complete a commission and deliver it to its home. Seeing a piece I labored over find its proper place, is one of those rewarding experiences reserved for the small furniture making shops. Larger companies have others to deliver and set-up their work and the connection between maker and customer is diminished. Pictured here is a Pencil Post Bed crafted in Black Cherry. Dry mortise and tenon joints are fastened by bed bolts with brass covers, providing unshakable strength at its corners. Tapered faceted posts, curving headboard and a White Ash mattress support system will provide decades of satisfied use. Finished with my signature hand-rubbed Linseed Oil, Tung Oil and Beeswax mix.
The customer writes: “Every time I walk into my bedroom I think, what a beautiful bed and how beautiful the bed has made the room. So thank you for all your skill and hard work. It really is a breathtaking creation.”
A few months ago, The Chronicle Herald ran an article describing my approach to furniture making. On the web edition, I noticed a healthy debate that was posted in the ‘comments’ section. It had to do with the cost of my hand-crafted solid wood furniture. Each of us has, of course, our own method of measuring value. Often, the price is the first factor we consider when making an appraisal of material things but we recognize that there are factors that frequently transcend the outright cost: desire, expectations and utility to name a few. If one’s only motive is to buy a chair to sit on and short term cost is most important, then my offerings will likely go unconsidered and might even be derided as ‘only for rich people.’
However, if you are interested in natural beauty, environmental stewardship, fad-transcendent style and integrity of construction, then you will recognize the true value of my work. When I think of my customers, none are super rich- many save in order to commission a piece every few years- but all have a highly developed sense of what constitutes real value. They recognize that a few pieces of furniture, well-designed and lovingly crafted by skilled local hands specifically for them, make a better living space. They know pieces that celebrate natural materials, and the work of the human hand often affect us deeply, including the children who grow up in their presence, their aesthetic values formed early in an environment of respect and quality.
I urge all who are contemplating a furniture purchase to think twice of the real cost that is often attached to ‘affordable’ pieces.
We’re very proud of our latest creation. This sleek dresser features hand-cut dovetailed corners on its case and drawers. Grain-matched drawer fronts highlight the growth patterns and rich color of American Black Cherry. A customer-requested feature are the glass drawer pulls set into hand-carved recesses. The sculpted legs add a subtle sensuality to an otherwise austere design. Our hand-rubbed pure oil and beeswax finish imparts a beautiful antique glow that will only improve with age. Like all our case goods, this dresser has a solid wood frame and panel back.