Monday, July 29, 2013

Set The Table

I just finished building a Chef's Table, designed by Ian Kirby or Elm restaurant in New Cannan CT. The table is made with 1/4 sawn American Walnut that was shipped to us through Wood Finders. To start the project Ian made a few mock ups while I rough dressed the boards so that we could see the colors and let the stress in the wood do what it may. Ian then came over to the shop so that we could lay out the top. We picked through the boards first to find the best face. We then arraigned the planks on saw horses and placed them in different order until we were happy with the grain orientation and the relationship of one board to the next. Ian went off back to his home and studio leaving us to glue up the top and prepare the skirting.
Meanwhile the metal worker Bobbie R got busy making up a sample leg so that we could determine how the leg would fit to the top. Once Bobbie brought the leg over we reviewed it, made some changes and let him go off and fabricate all 4 legs that we would need. These legs are rather robust as they are only held on at the corners of the table. One issue with welding metal is that it is hard to maintain tolerances that a furniture maker is looking for. Once Bobbie brought the legs back to our shop we ended up adding a series of set screw so that we could tweak the alignment. All in all everything worked out. Today I finished up the table by attaching the legs to the top and putting the table onto the ground. It stands well and does not budge. I know that people will be gathering around this table and having a grand feast. 
Take a look at the finished project or book your reservation and enjoy a meal on the table.

Working from the Garden Shed

I am working on a garden shed at home, it is divided into two sections. The other day a friend and her husband stopped by for dinner. During our meak Stephen asked how I could produce all of my work from the little building. Well I don't. All of our work is produced here at our shop at 14 B Gilbert St in West Haven CT.
If you wish you can take my little home done tour.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Delivery Day

After working for just about 380 hours on the fabrication of the chairs, they were done! I loaded them up into a truck and took them to their new home. The chairs and the dining table were both designed by Ian Kirby. Peter Kauffman built the tables and the chairs were made in my shop.
Thank you to Dan, Ryan and Cathy in the shop, Mary Little & Peter Wheeler for the beautiful upholstery work and to Vincent Dion for the gilding.
A forest of backs, all of the backs are book matched. 

There are many great aspects to my job but notes like this one really do make a great difference.

Just a note to let you know how much I LOVE my new chairs.
I really feel like I'm living a fairy tale.
xoxoxo xox..........Susan

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Susan's Chairs continued

Maple Chair Arms 

Most of the jobs that we do involve making parts, sometimes there are many parts and then there are times that we just can't stop making parts. This project is one of them. The numbers are 800 4mm x 10mm mortices, 80 8mm x 40mm mortices 80 6mm x 40mm. This week we were able to get the frames assembled and determine the size of the seats and the length of the backs. Those will go out to be upholstered on Monday.

Milling of the parts has created 6 large bags of wood chips. There are some horses in Milford who will be enjoying the fruits of our labors when the chips are spread in their stalls. 

This is the jog that Dan used to mill the curve on the rear sear support. A good cup of coffee always makes the day go better.     

Front seat supports 

When you look at the back of the chairs you will see these Maple backs.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Susan's Chairs

Last Spring I started to work with designer Ian Kirby on a chair design for a private dining room. Ian drew up the initial sketches of the chair and then I made a full size model in Poplar. Ian then took the chair to his studio and made a few adjustments to get it just right.

The next step was for Ian to made the drive to his client's house to review the design with his client and get her approval. I and one other maker gave the client bids on fabricating 16 of the chairs in Maple. The time frame from model to approval of the bid took up the summer and the better part of the fall. Just prior to Thanksgiving the price was approved and we received  the go ahead.
The first part of the process was to find a good supply of quarter sawn Maple. I dealt with Peter at Horizon Wood Products in Northern Pennsylvania and one other supplier here in Connecticut in sourcing the material. Peter had a large quantity of nice hard Quarter Sawn Hard Maple for a good price and the proper thickness. The material arrived in my shop in mid December, it was a large stack of material. Seeing it next to the model and on the fork lift was a little intimidating when you look at the stack and realize that you have to mill it all down to little parts and then put the little parts together to make the chair.

Chair Model in Front of rough Maple for Finished Chairs
I let the wood sit in the shop for a few weeks so that it would acclimatize to my shop. I had other  work in house that needed to be completed and I had to bring in other materials for the fabrication.

After creating the bill of materials or parts list the next step in the process was to make up the seat blanks. In order to bend the seats I needed two bending forms, I was happy to have the CNC router in the shop as it made short work of cutting the curved form parts. Prior to having the CNC router I would have had to make up a master blank with the seat curvature and then make copies from that blank using a hand held router and a rub collar.  For 10 days I started things out by gluing up 2 seat blanks in this press. I am cutting parts for 20 chairs, making 18 and delivering the 16 best.

Clamping up Seat Blanks

The past two weeks have been spent on sorting the wood and milling the parts for the chairs. When you look at the cut list and think about what you have to do the job is not bad. But when you consider the lineal footage of edging that you have to run on the router it makes you stop. From the time I went back to the tools after lunch and quitting time I had to run 5600 lineal feet of 1/8" quarter round on the chair parts, and that is only a fraction of it. Prior to today we have generated 5 large bags of maple chips while milling the parts to size, Dan filled up two more bags today. I am lucky to have a relationship with a local barn that uses our solid wood grindings for her horses.   

Friday, December 21, 2012

5 Decades Down 4 to Go

On February 16th I completed my 5th decade. For 4/10th of that time I have had a job, whether it was delivering news papers, cooking pastries or making stuff, working is a part of who I am. First having a job allowed me to be in a place where I fit in. Later it became a way of paying the bills.

I discovered through work that I am a visual learner. I did not enjoy the school process because I need to see how things work or fit together. I need to write a persons name down to remember it. I like to know where you are from or where you live so that I can place your home on my mental map of the world. If I am not familiar with where you live I need to open the Atlas and see where Namibia fits on the globe.

I have spent a full 38 years building stuff. When I set out to make something I start by putting it together in my mind. Then the item gets translated to paper sometimes it stays as a sketch or I will progress to a full shop drawing. Once that step is done the item gets built. Once I get started on the building process I used to quickly discover what knowledge I am missing. That is where books and mentors came in handy, helping to fill in those gaps in knowledge.  I have been lucky to have been able to find some very great mentors, some of those mentors are still in my life and others are no longer with us.

Two important lessons came from my parents, my mom who was a great knitter; had no hesitation in riping out a weeks worth of knitting to fix a mistake that she noticed. My dad taught me that you can do anything you set your mind to. Those lessons have allowed me to build a house in 5 days in Bridgeport and to accept that the right thing to do is strip off a finish and just redo it.

My best friend Mark's mom, Nicky Morgenstern; was helping me make a bed/ storage unit. Her first question was "which side of the line do you want me to cut on" in those simple words I discovered 1, the importance of layout and 2, that there are no dumb questions. With that simple sentence she set me off to ask questions and to learn. She also prepared me to work with the thousands of Habitat volunteers and families all who had questions about what they were doing.

As a young teenager I spent part of the summers on my own at our house in Mansonville Quebec. I plodded along renovating a early 1800's house that should have been torn down. You only have to cut about 1/2 an inch of sheetrock with a skill saw before you realize that there has to be a better way. There were many houses being built in the area so I got onto my bicycle and rode over to a silo house that was being built and spent a day working to help cut sheetrock. I don't want to know how many boards of drywall I have hung or taped since then. I do know that I learned to hire a taper when working on anything more than one room. My mom now lives in that house my dad and I started to renovate all those years ago. That house is the longest on-going collaborative project I have worked on.

My wife Julia and I live in the second longest ongoing project. I am lucky in that I have known Julia for about half of my life and we still love each other. We continue to learn and grow together.
I celebrated the start of my 50th year by gathering people who have been part of my life. Some were able to come round to the house and share a meal, I had to settle with a phone call or e-mail with others. My friends and family have given me much of my knowledge and encouragement. That is what draws us as people together, community. There are no perfect friendships or relationships, each relationship can be meaningful to us. We can help each other through difficulties, celebrate achievements and enjoy the passing days.

The journey with the Glider Wing continued through this past fall. After taking the glider down from the gallery at the Yale School of Architecture I stored it in my shop for the summer. While it was there we prepared it to spend the fall months at above the entry to Cooper Union in Manhattan. The task of obtaining permits to install the wing was greater than the preparation or installation. I worked closely with Steven Hilyer at Cooper Union to try and obtain the necessary permit to install the unit. I want so far as applying for my New York City contractor's permit. This is no easy task. My application was shot down because I did not have NYC worker's comp, which you can not obtain until you do work in NYC. Steven eventually got the crane company to take out the building permit.
The installation was set for a Friday morning, start time in NYC was 8:00. Start time for me was 4:30 am. It was pouring when I left Milford. As I traveled south the rain let up and the sun was out, things were looking good. By the time the crew gathered at the front of the Cooper Union the rain caught up to me. When the crane company arrived at 8:30 the rain was coming down in sheets. In Ct that would stop the job, in NYC that just makes the job more interesting. With a crew of about 10, myself, a crane operator, a rigor on the ground a helper and the owner of the crane company, there were an additional 5 or so folks from the Cooper Union helping out. We managed to pull the base and wing out of the truck, fly it into position and put it all together by 10:30. Just in time for a little sunshine and an espresso.
This image was taken by Steven Hilyer and sent to me just recently.