Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The bench is progressing ...

.... quite nicely. Here's the base assembled and waiting for finishing.

Happily, after a lot more searching around than I expected to have to do, I found a great board set for the seat at Northwest Timber in Oregon. After refining the shape of the MDF seat template, it was used to shape the seat blank.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Welcoming Bench for an Entryway

Last week I was able to get started on an entry bench for a couple I met at the Marin Arts Festival last summer.

Here's the design .... it has tapered, curved mahogany legs, an organically shaped wenge stretcher, and a slightly curved figured maple seat.

The shape of the legs is achieved by a technique called coopering. In coopering, the edges of the billets (i.e., sticks) that make up the leg are beveled an both sides before they are edge glued, which results in a curved surface. In this case, to get the fan effect, the billets are both beveled and tapered. To make milling easier I made a dedicated table saw jig that cuts both the taper and the bevel at the same time.

The coopering involved two steps - after the billets were beveled and tapered, a dadoe was plowed along the length of each edge so that when edge-joined a space for splines was created. The splines help maintain alignment and add glue surface for strength.

The curved stretcher was laminated from 1/8" thick solid wenge over a plywood bending form.

Here are the three parts of the base before fairing and final shaping.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Santa Cruz Woodworkers Exhibition

Just in time for tonight's First Friday Art Tour, today the Santa Cruz Woodworkers freshened up our display of handmade custom fine furniture and woodwork in downtown Santa Cruz, CA. The exhibit is in the windows of a newly built, but not yet occupied, commercial building at the corner of Pacific Avenue and Church Street in the heart of Santa Cruz's downtown shopping district. The exhibit has been up since early December and will continue through January, and possibly beyond. If you're in the Santa Cruz area, please take some time to stop by and check it out - you won't be disappointed.

The Santa Cruz Woodworkers is a collaboration of professionals dedicated to fostering appreciation for locally-produced, one-of-a-kind, handmade woodwork. We thank the Rittenhouse family, the building's owners, for supporting the local arts community by allowing us use of the space.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Burl and Wenge Desk

This is the latest commission to come out of the shop. It's made of Mappa Burl veneer with wenge edge and perimeter banding, and under-carriage. Mappa burl is from the European black poplar tree. Wenge is a dark brown and black African hardwood.

The shape of the desk came about after several conversations and design iterations with the client to make sure the ergonomics and aesthetics were both just right. Here's the concept drawing and rendering that I gave the client (you'll notice that the middle leg moved in the final piece) ....

The construction process turned out to be a lot more involved than I had anticipated, taking more than 150 hours, but I think it was time well spent.

Here's some of what went into it....

The desktop is made as a torsion box. Half inch thick birch plywood skins were glued over a corrugated cardboard core by means of a vacuum press.

Th photo also shows the electric blanket that I cover the press with to keep everything warm enough for the glue to set correctly. The top and underside were each covered in single large sheet of burl, pressed separately.

The two curved skirts were laminated, on dedicated bending forms, from 1/8" layers of solid wenge.

The legs are elliptical in cross-section at the top, and taper to a circular cross-section at the bottom. They started as square billets which were then tapered and roughed out on the bandsaw.

Then final shaping was done by hand with planes, scrapers and sanders.

The legs are grooved to fit over the skirtboards. They are then through-bolted to the skirts for extra strength. They were made to be removable to facilitate easier delivery.

Clamping the edge and perimeter banding took some creativity, given the complex shape of the top.

The desktop shaping and perimeter banding required several templates.

The desk also includes a round pivoting drawer.

In the end, I think it came out really well. My thanks to Paul Scraub for the studio photos.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Recent News

A couple of happy developments occurred this past Fall. First, my Corner Jewelry Cabinet won Third Place in Fine Woodworking Magazine's online contest titled "Cure for the Common Cabinet".

Then not long after that, my E/S Kitchen Island won First Place in Fine Homebuilding Magazine's "Creative Kitchen Islands" online contest.

Many thanks to everyone who voted for my work in the two contests.

Finally, the end of December saw the delivery of my latest commission, a desk, which turned out really well. I'll be posting some in-progress pictures, as well as the final product soon, so stay tuned.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Here we go .....

Welcome to the new Michael Singer Fine Woodworking blog. Many who know me may be surprised to see this, as I've been known to say some rather disparaging things about social media. But hey, its a new year, a new decade, and maybe time for a new attitude.

For some time now, I've tried to keep clients informed of the progress of commissioned pieces as they make their way from the page to real life. Until now, that communication has been mostly via email, sending photos from the shop to let them know how things are progressing with their piece. My aim with this blog is to provide clients with a way to track the progress with their piece at any time online. It also provides a golden opportunity to inform and educate the public about what goes into the making of a piece of fine furniture. Shedding light on the process is a great way to give both the client and anyone else who's interested an ongoing demonstration of how a piece is made, hopefully resulting in a better appreciation for the difference between hand-made furniture and the mass-produced stuff available at most retail stores.

So, to that end, a blog. I'll be posting information and photos about current and recent projects as they make their way through the shop. I'll also post updates about upcoming shows and other events. Feel free to browse and post comments or questions - I'll do my best to respond as I'm able. Please feel free to check out my website to see examples of my work.