Cloudlifts to Hawaii!

The wonderful folks at Mandala Homes asked me to help out with some timber accent details for a home that is being pre-fabricated in Nelson, BC and then shipped and assembled in Hawaii.

The cloudlift design cut into the ends of these timbers is based on Greene and Greene architectural design. I cut them using a carving bar on my chainsaw – the same bar used when carving chainsaw sculptures. Using the chainsaw to cut these kind of details is my favorite way to do it! Years ago I couldn’t afford to buy a dedicated portable bandsaw for this task so I taught myself how to carve these details with a chainsaw. These timbers will be beams in the project going to Hawaii, and as you see in the photo, they are ready to be sanded and finished.

Greene and Greene were two brothers  who created a very unique style of architecture in building residential houses. The style they were later acclaimed for was used in all aspects of their buildings, from the structural elements and exterior, right down to the tiny details on the trim and furniture inside the house. The Greene and Greene style happens to be one of my favorite architectural styles to date – only slightly ousted by the Japanese and Asian styles, which actually inspired the Greenes’ look.

And yes, that is snow on the ground, since it’s still winter in the West Kootenays. I was hoping Mandala might ask me to personally accompany these timbers to Hawaii…. But I’ll settle for some photos when the project is done!

My Son’s House Art

Since my woodworking shop is in the bottom floor of my house, my kids spend a lot of time in there with me. They both have a set of ear muffs and a few tools. My daughter “sets up shop” on the big flat table saw bench (blade retracted, don’t worry). She might sand or saw things with me for a bit, then she brings down blankets, pillows, books, art supplies, and snacks. She plays make believe games, calling her friends on the “phone” and inviting them over to have tea.

My son likes to work on projects at the work bench. Underneath my chop saw, there is a big tote bin with the cut offs from various pieces of wood. He sorts through them and finds ones that are interesting, then makes wood art – like the one you can see in the photo. (This process was inspired a few years ago by his one of his art teachers Nancylee Smith). The project you see is a house that he built himself. He also sweeps up the saw dust on my shop floor for a loonie (he’s saving up for a mountain bike). Pretty soon he’ll be planing timbers with me!

I love seeing his initiative and his creativity. And I love having both him and his sister hang out in my shop with me!

Asian Inspired Plant Stand

Last winter I designed and built a custom plant stand for a customer in Calgary, Alberta. The request was for a piece of furniture inspired by a Japanese garden gate that could hold a number of plants and be a decorative addition to their living room.

I was excited to take on the challenge of creating a unique piece that would be both eye pleasing and functional. The end supports are made of circles, each cut from four pieces of wood glued together. And to add another element of interest, the shelves are cut as horizontal arcs that are offset at each level of the stand.

Originally designed it without the corner braces, but the shelves were not stable enough to hold the weight of the plants. The frame was racking from side to side, and I had to adjust the design to add small corner braces at each level.

The customer was super happy with the finished piece, and she was able to display her plants – out of reach of her new puppy!

Blacksmithing 101

Recently I signed up for a blacksmithing course. I have been interested in metal working for a while now and this turned out to be the perfect opportunity to dive into this craft. I took the class in the fully equipped studio at KSA (Kootenay School of the Arts) in Nelson, BC.

The first thing I noticed and was surprised by was how easy it is to shape metal when it’s hot. I have watched movies in the past showing blacksmiths doing their thing, and I always thought they were wailing on the metal to get it to move. Not so. Once the metal is up to temperature, it’s really easy to shape it and move it. You only have about 15 seconds to work the metal until it has to go back into the forge, but you can achieve a lot with a few well-aimed hammer blows.

I am excited to explore more into the world of metal working, as I think this would be a great added skill to what I already do. From forged drawer pulls to metal brackets for my timber frames, I think this art form could add a lot of visual impact to the woodworking!

Lotus & Dragonfly Carving

Lotus & Dragonfly Carving

It was my special honour, and one I didn’t take lightly, to craft a memorial urn for a dear friend after her passing. I suggested that a carving on the top of the box would add a personalized touch, and after scrapping several design ideas and one false start on a carving, I came up with this design.

My friend loved dragonflies and lotus flowers, and I wanted to incorporate both. The wood for the carving is cedar, because I liked the colouring of the cedar contrasted with the red colour of the African padauk wood lid.

The urn is finished with natural wood finishes (tung & linseed oils and beeswax), and it is appropriate for an eco-friendly burial of a loved one’s ashes, especially if the loved one was not embalmed or was embalmed with non-toxic chemicals. Continue reading Lotus & Dragonfly Carving

Wood Urn ~ Maple & African Padauk

Wood Urn ~ Maple & African Padauk

This wood box urn is made from african padauk with a liner of maple as a contrasting colour. The padauk is a beautiful red hued wood, and the natural oil and beeswax finish really brought out the colour and grain. I also added several beads inlaid to the sides of the box as a special memorial – the beads belonged to my mom before she passed, and now they will help hold my friend’s ashes.

Using exotic hardwoods is not something I usually recommend, unless I know that the wood is not endangered or restricted. I feel it’s important to understand how our choices impact the world around us, including places that we can’t see or visit easily.

What are some of the factors to think about when considering whether a foreign-sourced wood would be suitable for a project? Continue reading Wood Urn ~ Maple & African Padauk

Beautiful Memorial

Beautiful Memorial

A memorial urn for a dear friend who passed last year. I was honoured to be asked to craft a special wooden box for an urn, and I really enjoyed the process of creating the urn, from choosing the right wood, to carving the top with some of her favourite images – a lotus flower and a dragonfly.

It meant a lot to me that I was able to give the box to her husband in person last weekend. I will post more photos of the urn in a few days so you can see the carving more closely.