Monday, December 22, 2014
I get asked what I want for Christmas at least a hundred times per season, and I find myself just making up shit to appease said gift givers.
Everyday is Christmas for me. I see something I want...I get it, or at least work towards getting it until I get to the point that if I have to work that hard to get it, then I don't really need it.
When it came time to get something for my sister, I went into panic mode.
My sister is straight. Beautiful house, 2 amazing sons, her and her husband have great jobs, so what could I possibly BUY her?
My sister hosts all the dysfunctional family gatherings.
Thanksgiving 2014, I'm sitting in her kitchen as she is preparing to feed the herd. She basically rips a shelf off a wall to lay on top of her sink, so that she has added counter space.
I'm watching this go down in amazement because....well...it was effective. It wasn't pretty, but it was effective.
I decided to make her a sink spanning shelf. One with a dedicated purpose and appeal.
Never in a lifetime would I think that something so simple would take so much work.
Find a slab, work it into a usable condition, make the feet, 7 coats of Danish oil, let that dry for 3 days, apply spar urethane finish.....FUCK, at that point I'm thinking I should have gotten them some bullshit bluetooth speakers or something.
It's done. It came from my hand. It was made with love and consideration.
Love and consideration....That is how you get a gift for someone.
Nobody or at least a very few can wrap their brain around my obsession for vintage workwear and denim. I don't expect anyone to get it, or gift things of that nature to me. It's the "TRY" that makes a gift priceless to me.
A couple Christmas's ago, my sister-in-law gifted me drill bits and a Carhartt sweatshirt. I've never cracked open the drill bit set, and I've worn that Carhartt sweatshirt just about every working day since I got it.
I have more drill bits then Home Depot and more Carhartt then Carhartt, but she bought me a gift based on what she knew of who I am, and THAT is what made the gift special to me.
At this stage in my life, it's not about the material, it's about the meaning.
That's my lecture in gift giving 101.
Next up is what I'm calling the "GERTRUDE" desk.
We built an advertising agency called Gertrude, and the owner commissioned me to make 2 desks.
The only reason I took on the commission, is because I can do whatever the fuck I want.
The only stipulation is the desk top size. I'm cool with that because it has to be a specific size to accommodate their existing desk top layout.
Here's where gift giving comes back into play...The owner gave me and my coworkers (Zack and Randy) a bottle of Knob Creek Whiskey and sent us off to a steak dinner as a Christmas gift.
He didn't HAVE to do that. I don't drink, but it's the "love and consideration" that he put into his gifts to us, that is not only going to earn him a couple of desks, it's going to be two pieces of art.
Kindness goes a long way in my book. Sometimes an act of kindness is a gift itself.
An act of kindness says "I stopped all the distractions of my life to take YOU into CONSIDERATION."
I really hope everyone that actually reads my posts has a wonderful Christmas.
I have always loved Christmas and even more so now that I have a son, and I can be a part of his excitement and joy.
Take care, get fat, and I'll be back in the New Year with more tales of the obvious!
Monday, December 15, 2014
While I was working on it, it dawned on me that this particular piece isn't furniture...it's sculpture.
It's a functional collaborative piece between me, nature, and an unknown backyard lumberjack. Sounds pretty fuckin' fancy, right?
In theory, it CAN be used as a table, but you could use a milk crate or a cardboard box as a table too, This is a little more than a table.
When I first hoisted it up on the work table, almost losing a testicle in the process, it was a tree stump. A tree stump with very interesting contours. Contours that I chose to accent. A table has a base, and this has a platform. A platform used to elevate it and show it's shape at an appealing height.
Perspective is a crazy mental tool. It enables us to see an outcome in whatever way pleases us.
If your car got trampled by a wild herd of buffalo, you could use your perspective to say "my car just got destroyed" or you could use it to say "wow, I've never seen a herd of wild buffalo in Chicago before...cross that one off the bucket list". Do you see where I'm going with this?
As far as this stump piece goes, I choose to see it as functional art, others will choose to see it as a coffee table. It's easier for me to view it as art because it's from MY hand. I made it. I know it's weight, it's curves and crevices, it's balance, it's flaws. I know what it was before and I know what it is now. For Joe Blow coming in off the street...he doesn't know shit about it, his eyes tell his brain it's a table and to move along, and he'll most likely listen to his brain.
A buyer will be lured in by it's appearance, but a buyer of my kind of stuff will ponder all the how's and why's and most likely create their own scenario of it's birth before they choose to take ownership.
I remember being on acid as a teen. On that particular trip I figured out the meaning of life (who hasn't on acid?). The difference is that I spent the next 6 or 7 hours of that trip, telling myself "don't forget, don't forget, don't forget". My epiphany was that life isn't about answers and outcome, it's about the how's and why's. How did you get there? Why did you do that? It's about embracing the steps along the way. It's about knowing yourself.
I never forgot, but I never applied it until much later in life.
The "how's and why's" are what give things their character. Things aren't always what they seem on the surface.
So that's my synopsis for Mr. Stumpy tree art table.
The bottom pic is of a desk I'm working on.
There's a bit of a story on how it came to be on my project list, but I'm going to refrain from elaborating on it until it's complete.
What I will tell you is that I found the top in the garbage, and someone evidently had a little accident with fire and that top.
I'm not 100% sure I can salvage the top...so far it's interesting, but we'll have to see what shape it takes on.
Well folks...The holidays are upon us, and for the next couple of weeks we're all gonna be busy as fuck. I hope you all have a great holiday, and hopefully I'll be able to provide some reading material while you're recovering from shopping, family fights, and food comas.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.
Monday, December 8, 2014
Looks like a tree stump, right?
Well, I can honestly say that tree stump furniture isn't really my thing. I've seen a lot of really cool stuff, but it's never really been the style that I am personally into, which is EXACTLY why I embarked (get it, em-BARKed?) on a stump project.
I mean fuck it, step out of your comfort zone once in awhile and see what's out there.
It wasn't so much stepping out of my comfort zone as it was stepping into an uncomfortable zone.
For one...it's heavy and awkward, but I'm no stranger to heavy and awkward, so it's more of a complaint point. Second is the de-barking. The process was a 0.0 on the fun meter, but the fruits of the labor were delicious.
The fun part was going into all the cracks and valley's with a scoop chisel, and really giving accent to all the contours of the wood.
Once she was all cleaned up, I had to come up with a base.
The base was going to be tricky because at the end of the day....someone chopped down a tree. Have you ever chopped down a tree? It's not a pretty process. One side was a clean cut, and the other side was an abortion. I don't own a mill saw, so I had to work with the ugly as opposed to fixing the ugly.
My brain loves these situations. When these situations arise, my brain releases all those fun chemicals, and to be quite honest...I get high.
That's one of the wonderful self discoveries that my craft has taught me.
I made straight steel legs for the back, and where the wood jutted out 2" on the bottom, I was going to make smaller legs pitched at a 15 degree angle therefore leveling the top and no one being any the wiser of the front leg height difference
Not really the equivalent of discovering the "god particle", but I found happiness in my solution.
I welded up the back legs, and wouldn't you know it...I ran out of welding wire.
I didn't have time to run to the store because I had a family day planned, and running to the store is murderous to momentum, so I mocked up the front legs with wood.
So now when I go back to the shop with a fresh spool of wire...all my measurements are done, and I can cut, weld and finish.
I fully understand that stump furniture isn't everyones cup of tea. This piece isn't about a stump, it's about the beauty of getting lost in something outside the parameters that we set upon ourselves.
How will you ever know what you're capable of if you don't leave your mental couch?
In these blog posts, I only show you what I want you to see. I have made so many ugly, unfunctional, and just plain awful pieces in order to get to the good. It has to work that way. I embrace the failure.
Failure equals learning, learning equals knowing, knowing equals application, and proper application will usually lead you to success.
The barrier rests on failure. Most people can't get past the failure, because we're designed or conditioned to not accept defeat.
What I'm telling you to do is OWN your failures and use them, make them work for you.
Remember this...feel free to hide your failures. No one says that you have to show the world how bad you fucked up. File em' away, learn from them and use them to your advantage the next time around.
The only reason I decided to go on about failures is because there was a split second that I was actually intimidated by a fucking tree stump. Once I recognized that feeling of intimidation or fear of failure, THAT'S when that tree stump became my bitch.
Monday, November 24, 2014
When I'm making something for a friend, the vibe is completely different. You see, I KNOW where it's going when it's done, so the work I put into a piece is effortless.
These hooks are going to my friend Zach Meyers.
Zach is about to launch his website on Thanksgiving.
Let me give you some background on this man...
Zach is a farmer, a father, and he makes the baddest workwear you could ever put on.
To call his clothing "workwear" is like calling my work "furniture". It's more then that.
We became friends from me simply ordering a pair of overalls a few months back.
I thought I would just place an order, and they'd just ship them out, but it wasn't like that at all.
After I sent an email inquiring about how to order, Zach sent me his phone number, which I thought was kinda weird.
I called, we talked for about an hour, 5 minutes of the conversation was spent on sizing, the other 55 minutes was us talking about what we do, what we make, being fathers, our ethic, our dedication to our craft, etc. It was crazy. I just wanted some overalls, and I ended up with a friend.
He's launching his website on Thanksgiving. www.zaceusa.com
I had made him some of these railroad spike hooks a few months ago, so that he could give them away to the first 10 people who ordered a pair of his overalls when his site launches.
I can't tell you how much stuff he's sent me, and when he said he'd like some of those spikes for his home, well, say no more.
Most people who know me, or read this know my affection for handmade goods.
I try to promote those people who are really chasing their dream as much as possible.
All of Zachs stuff is made in Ohio on vintage sewing machines. Zach has employed and trained 5 Amish families to sew his pieces.
Most people don't give a shit how their clothing is made or where it's made.
I'm here to tell you...you should care.
When you buy from people like zaceusa, you're feeding families, not fueling some CEO's Ferrari, and you're definitely not keeping the China/USA trade machine chugging along.
I've always preached through this blog about supporting those that are making their dreams happen, but also look at what your support does for a local community.
In terms of the quality and style of the clothing, I can tell you this...you will not find better quality in a pair of jeans Period. The quality is so high that I guarantee his denim. I don't even know how to thread a needle and I personally guarantee another mans work. Let's say you order a pair of jeans from zaceusa, and something happens...crotch blows out, seams come unraveled, they spontaneously combust, if zaceusa doesn't make it right...I will.
When www.zaceusa.com launches on Thanksgiving day, just check it out. You really have to see it with your own eyes.
For me personally, it's not about clothes, it's about community.
What I mean by that is that there's a growing network of craftsman who all make different things, and we all support each other anyway we can. It's a movement...a real tangible movement, and I'm honored to be a part of it.
J10customs, Lion and Anvil, zaceusa, Kooth brand, Entimos coffee, breclaimed...we're just a bunch of guys trying to make a better life for our families, by doing what we love.
Check out all these guys, google em'. Maybe they make something for you maybe they don't, but be aware of whats available to you.
Monday, November 17, 2014
I am not one of those people.
A few months ago I took a chance and made a job change. The change wasn't really in "what" I was doing, but more of "where" I was gonna do it.
Day one of my new job and I meet Zack and Randy. I have a few years on them, and these 2 are a very tight knit team. So tight that at their regular lunch spot it says "Zack/Randy" on their receipt.
I've never been the type to walk on a job and start the "friend making" process, I just kinda walk on, do my thing, and bounce.
There was a short warming up process, and the length of that process usually depends on how much of a shit head you are or aren't.
Fairly quickly I proved my worth, and 2 became 3.
For the last few months we've done some amazing stuff, and not a day goes by where laughter (sometimes uncontrollable laughter) isn't a factor in our daily routine.
I've worked with a lot of individuals over the years, but I've never worked with 2 people that have mastered the "make it work" philosophy.
These are 2 pieces that have come from their vision and been executed in a collaborative fashion.
Randy comes from a concrete family from the east coast, and hence the concrete tops on both these pieces.
Zacks background is deeply rooted in cars.
I don't know shit about cars, but what I have learned is that those with a mechanical background approach building differently, and we definitely do things differently around here.
I have a lot of respect for these 2 guys because in this line of work, there are a lot of guys who see it as a job, and then there's those of us who view it as a way of life.
When they're not at work, they're off building post apocalyptic style motorcycles, while I'm off building furniture.
Another factor that contributes to an unstoppable team, is the fact that there are no egos.
When situations arise, and ideas are thrown into the hat, the best idea wins. No feelings get hurt because every one of us has had an idea that has either been shit on or accepted, and we roll with it, because trying to facilitate a bad idea takes too much time.
The only downside to this 9 to 5 environment, is that by the time the weekend rolls around, and it's time for me to do my own thing...I'm spent.
Not creatively spent, physically spent.
I really wanted to get some work done this weekend, but I had to get new tires, it was my dads birthday, we had an electrician coming to the house, laundry, grocery shopping, kid from schools birthday party that we totally missed because I couldn't be around 20 plus 4 year olds on a Sunday.
It used to drive me crazy when I wouldn't make it in to the shop because "life" was stealing time from me. It's a little easier to swallow now because my job provides me an outlet to fill that void.
So, I will post photos of these pieces when they're completed (clear coat, LED lighting, etc) at www.facebook.com/breclaimed.
I remember a long time ago, there was this old timer. He kinda looked like a current Willie Nelson.
He was hand mortising these $1500 lock sets on a job we were doing and he was doing it with the precision of a brain surgeon.
I had come back from lunch and I was telling him that his work was really amazing, and he said "son, if you do the same thing every day for 52 years...you fuckin better be good at it."
I said "wow, 52 years...you must've seen it all." and he said "nah son, I ain't seen nothin...yet"
There have been moments while I'm working on something and I'll think of that old man, and I'll mutter "YOU ain't seen nothing yet...son."
Monday, November 10, 2014
It was a rough week, I had a trip to the movies planned for the family in the early evening, a giant pile of laundry, and if I did go to the shop...what was I gonna make?
I remembered seeing a giant beam a couple of weeks ago, so I let my mind play with that for a few minutes. I had thought about using that beam for a floor lamp because I have this old engine hoist that would pair well with the beam, or depending on the size of the beam, maybe I'd do a desk?
Once I started thinking about the desk idea, I made a deal with myself that if my saw was in the shop, then it would be a desk.
My saw has been traveling lately and I wasn't sure it would be there. I thought it was in my truck, but it wasn't, not in the job box either. Whatever I was going to make would all hinge on where I left that damn saw.
I got to the shop, flipped on the lights, and there she was. Done deal, time to work old friend.
The purpose of the saw was to rough in the mortise to receive the top. It's necessary to do it with a circular saw when you're working with large pieces of wood, and frankly, I have mastered it.
The beam wasn't as tall as I thought it was, but I made the trip and the saw had spoken, and to tell you the truth I just let loose and did whatever my hands and material wanted to do.
It was very liberating. No plan, no sketch, just letting go and blindly creating.
I think the Buddhists would be proud because for a few hours, I was able to let my brain converse with my hands without me interrupting them.
At some point it stopped being a piece of furniture, and became something else. What that something else is...I don't know, but whatever it is, it fulfilled me..
And isn't that the point? Fulfillment.
Fulfillment is what we search for unknowingly all day every day. When we eat, when we fuck, when we work, when we talk, etc, etc.
We're on a constant quest for fulfillment, and find it throughout our day, but rarely stop to appreciate it.
Have you ever bumped into an old friend, and you have a conversation, and walk away from that conversation feeling so fucking good? That's fulfillment. Actually, that's you embracing your fulfillment.
The only way to see fulfillment is learning to let go.
We as humans hold on to so much.
I had a good friend that died this summer.
He died because he couldn't let go of his mothers death. Not letting go led to bad decisions, self medication, depression and eventually death.
It happens all the time. We all know someone way too young who's heart exploded in their chest, because people hold on to so much garbage, and let it rot inside them until it fucking kills you.
Not me...I'm letting shit go.
I'm harboring nothing and leaving myself open to anything and everything.
It's not "hippy thinking", it just makes sense.
If you're awake and present in life, it will show you things. It will show you beautiful things.
This is what my craft shows me. These are the things I think about when I build. This is my freedom and my therapist.
I've made it very clear throughout my posts that I don't give a fuck about money or accolades.
I write these posts because I want to share.
If just one person is inspired by these posts, to knit a sweater, or build a chair, or paint a picture, or get lost in their childs smile, or their girlfriends kiss, then my work is no longer my own, but communal.
Take from it. Take from me. Fly free.
Monday, November 3, 2014
It's not even a "creative slump" that I was feeling, it's just that I haven't had the time to really sit with any interesting materials.
Last week I was searching for some steel at work when I saw this star peeking out of a toppled box,
It was guiding me like the north star to a ships captain. When I pulled the rest of it out of that box, it was like discovering gold.
I'm assuming it was a piece from Texaco, I'm assuming it had something to do with gas, and I'm assuming it was super old.
I'm not a digger, or a historian on Americana, but I know when I see something like this and within 10 seconds I've already configured it into a piece, well...that to me IS gold.
Based on the fact that I will not come across a piece of industrial Americana history like this again, this one has entered the private collection (at least until I come across another one or something better, or I need emergency surgery).
Not only is it important to me based on it's uniqueness, it has a time stamp. It came to me when change in my life has been abundant. A time when new living situations, new friends, and new prospects have entered my life.
Those moments don't have a price tag.
Do I NEED another lamp? We all know the answer to that, but what I may need, one day, is a reminder of when life was cruel but good, hard but fulfilling, and each day gave way to the prospect of a better future.
I can click it on, and the light passing through the star will light the way for me, kind of like "memory insurance".
When a piece has a story, it's hard to tie a price tag to it. It's a part of you. Just as I made IT...IT made me.
To most people, it would just be a cool lamp, and to be honest, I saw a cool lamp at Target the other day.
Monday, October 27, 2014
There wasn't a shortage of material, it's just that I refused to buy material.
I had finished doing a remodel job, and there was a bunch of new 1X4's and other material left, so I took it home.
I played around with aging the new wood. Burning, staining, paint, water, basically I used whatever I had in a liquid form to give this new wood, that old wood appeal.
I made a couple crates from this self aged wood and they housed DVD's and coloring books for the last 5 years.
Once we moved to our new space, I had a few pieces that weren't gonna make it, and these crates were on the chopping block.
I decided to put em' on legs.
I didn't want to do hairpin legs because I'm sick to death of them. I have a ton of 1" round stock steel, so I figured I'd play with it.
I had to make a jig, actually, I made 4 jigs to hold the steel in place. Its round...it rolls around, and trying to line up the angles on each end would be a disaster, so I dedicated way too much time on these round stock legs.
The second crate, I used square stock and saved about 3 hours.
The round leg crate went on the floor for sale, and the square leg crate made it's way back home with me.
Even though there isn't any real "wow" factor in these crates on legs, for me, it boils down to knowledge and experience.
You see, now I know exactly what it takes to age wood, and I know what it takes to make legs from round stock steel. I can carry that knowledge with me and apply it if the situations ever arise where those applications are an option or a request.
Making these pieces has always been a journey. Mistakes are always welcomed when I build because that is how you learn. If I wasn't learning from the things that I make, then really, what's the point?
It wasn't until my late 30's that I discovered, if you can admit to yourself that you don't know shit, then you've opened yourself up to discover that you can LEARN everything.
That's why when you meet people in their 20's, you ask yourself, "how does one survive by being so fucking dumb?" Forgive them, because they're too busy convincing themselves that they know everything.
Lately at my 9 to 5, we've been working with a lot of glass. Before then, I can honestly say that I have never allocated one second to thinking about glass. In any situation where the application of glass came up, well...I'd call a "glass guy".Now that I'm in a position where we use it all the time, I want to know everything about it. How it's made, the different types, how to work with it, how to modify it.
The point I'm trying to make is...Know your shit.
Once you "know your shit", you're unstoppable. Who can tell you differently when you know your shit?
The first step is...you have to WANT to know. Most people find comfort in ignorance.
Charles Bukowski once said.."don't TRY...DO. (trying is for losers)". Those words always pass through me when I'm about to embark on something I haven't done before.
Think about it, do you want someone to TRY to get you your check, or TRY to install your cable, or TRY to fix your leaky roof?
Fuck that...don't TRY motherfucker...DO.
Monday, October 20, 2014
Musician, photographer, painter, sculptor, whatever, they'll all tell you the same thing.
After my whirlwind month of moving and working and renovating, I finally had a chance to go to Salvage One.
There was a beautiful live edge oak console table that was left over from the move. It was one of my first and favorite pieces that I've made, It had served me well, but I refuse to cram something into my new place that is no longer needed.
My idea was to take it to the shop and chop it up into a coffee table because to be totally honest...coffee tables sell pretty fast.
When I got to Salvage One and told Collin my idea, he had told me to leave it as it is, and in fact, HE might buy it for his new home.
That all sounds great right? Bring the table in, someone buys it right away, no work to be done, call it a day.
For me....it's like having a limp dick in a whore house.
I WANTED to work. Even if it was re purposing something I had already re purposed.
I wandered through the shop, and sitting right on top of one of the work tables was a slab of live edge wormy hickory.
Apron...on, radio...on...cut-cut-weld-weld-sand-sand-screw-screw-oil-oil-buff-buff...BAM! Coffee table.
Like Edward Scissor Hands with steel and wood.
Lately, I've been feeling like a dick.
The requests for custom work are coming in, and I feel like I should change the name from Breclaimed to..."NO".
Most people can't wrap their brain around why I constantly refuse work. Even I question it.
Custom work equals money, but it's just not what I do.
I make what my soul tells me to make, you like it, you buy it. It's too big or too small, YOU make it work, or don't. That's my business model.
If someone walks into Restoration Hardware and sees a piece, would they ask the sales person if they can make it 12 inches longer?
So for those that request...I'm flattered. I really am. I appreciate your faith in my hand, and I'm not being a dick, it's just not what I do.
Monday, October 6, 2014
As I have mentioned before, we are converting a indoor BMX park into an advertising agency for my day job.
Not only is there the typical construction aspect, (and nothing in this place can fall under "typical") but there is some furniture that is being made.
What you see here is the beginning of a conference table, a 10'X4' conference table that will have to support a 1000lb. concrete top.
I was asked about 50 times that day if this base will hold a 1000lb. concrete top, and the answer is...
I sure fucking hope so.
I know the furniture I make is heavy duty, but I don't usually go dropping 1000lbs. of anything on them, so with that being said...I guess we'll find out soon enough.
Truth be told, I'm pretty confident in the structure. I went over it quite a few times, securing possible weak points, inventing back up bracing, and what not.
The customer wanted "industrial looking" and that's what I'm delivering.
The funny thing is, once the base is in the conference room, the concrete top will be poured in place. What that means is...That's it. That's where it stays, forever. The client asked if it would be able to move with them if and when they vacate the space, and I literally laughed a semi diabolical laugh and just said "nope".
I guess you could move it, but who in their right mind would go through that expense?
This whole project has been a blast, and once it's done, I'm going to dedicate a blog post to it.
It'll be like nothing you've seen before.
"You never work a day in your life when you love what you do"....true story, I'm living proof.
Monday, September 29, 2014
3 coats of Danish oil, a lot of rubbin', Linseed oil and a torch, and that was my Saturday afternoon.
I read about a method of finishing steel by applying linseed oil, and then baking it on with a torch, so I took a crack at it.
Even though it's kinda messy, kinda dangerous, and more time consuming, the result is a clean, matte brownish finish.
I started my Saturday by painting my kids room at 6am, then I installed trim and a new threshold in the pantry, then I finished the coffee table, then...we went and saw "The Box Trolls".
Sunday, I started skim coating my kitchen.
The building is 120 years old and needs a lot of work, but we're beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I really need to wrap this move up, and soon. I need to get back to producing pieces.
Not so much for financial reasons, but in creating pieces, it's where I find my peace.
Operating my life in a constant state of chaos is taking a toll on me.
Some people thrive off it, and then there's me. I put a lot of effort in keeping my life in balance, and when it gets thrown off, I struggle with correcting it.
I've spent the last year or so putting the pieces of my life together in a manner in which I dictate. It's very liberating, and there are sacrifices involved, but it's all worth it, because you come to a point where you find a "peace".
Now that a home renovation and move has come in to disrupt my peace, I have discovered a way to take control of the chaos.
I use time instead of time using me.
I break every task into increments of time, then I complete those tasks in the time that I have given myself.
Would I really like to take a break and have a cup of coffee while I'm installing this floor? Yes, I would, but no, I won't, because I've only allotted myself a specific amount of time to complete my goal.
You see where I'm going with this?
It's more difficult then you think, but if you can reel it in, you can conquer the beast known as time.
I make furniture. Breclaimed is the name I have tied to that. "B" is for Brian, everyone has a difficult time stating my name for some reason and refer to me as "B". Reclaimed means to take back. In essence, Breclaimed is about me taking back me.
The furniture is just what I do, and that's what most people see. For me, Breclaimed is about taking my life and situations out of other peoples hands and putting it back into my own.
I chose to give that little break down because, no matter what is going on in your life, you have the ability to take control of it.
Life is too short to let it have it's way with you, and it will if you let it. That's why some asshole made a zillion dollars off of printing merchandise that states "Lifes a bitch".
Maybe I can make a zillion dollars off of printing merchandise that says "Life's MY bitch".
Monday, September 22, 2014
The reason we've seen them so much is because they're cool, they just are, period.
They're like jeans...everyone owns a pair of jeans. Why does everyone own a pair of jeans? Because they're cool...always have been, always will be.
This cart was at my work, and I had asked my boss if I could buy it. He told me to take it because he said he knew I would do something amazing to it. With that being said, there are 2 reasons that I'm taking my time with it.
1. If someone is confident in my ability to make a broken cart "amazing", then "amaze" I shall do.
2. It's for MY home.
I haven't had a coffee table for almost 5 years. We didn't have the space, and we had a baby. I read an article that children most frequently injure themselves on coffee tables because they're the perfect height for splitting their heads open on, But now, my baby is creeping up on 5 years old, so I think I'm outta the weeds...or with this table, I'm heading into the weeds.
These carts are on wheels, and if I think that my pride and joy is not going to attempt to surf this mother fucker across the living room, well, then I'm more delusional then I thought.
As a father it is my job to crush as many of my childs dangerous dreams as possible. There was a moment while working on this table that I said "HAH-HAH..not so fast little guy". You see, I figured out a way to keep this piece as a coffee table as opposed to a means of transportation for my son.
I put legs on it. Simple, effective, and a cool aesthetic. The legs keep the wheels just barely off the floor, which prevents my floors from getting damaged as well as prevents my son from getting damaged.
I used the posts (as seen in the first photo) for the legs. I also had to replace all the wood for the top.
The cart had some original stamping, so I had to be very careful as to not sand it off.
Right now, I'm working on removing the rust from the wheels, then I'll move on to a final sand, then a hand rubbed oil finish.
As we get ready to move to a new place, the candle is being burnt at both ends in terms of working, working on the new place, and working on new furniture for the new place.
Our home will be a work in progress for the next few months. I feel that, if your home is right, then you're right.
It's a large space in an old building, and it needs a ton of work. Since gutting it wasn't really an option, my goal is to transform it's "oldness" into "coolness".
Luckily, for the past couple of months I have worked with a designer at my 9 to 5 that has mastered the art of turning old into cool, so hopefully I've learned a thing or two.
Ill keep posting progress on the coffee table, and I might do some home improvement posts if I find them interesting enough.
Hopefully I can get back to making pieces that will be for sale in the next couple of weeks, because...as much furniture as I make for our home, at the end of the day, momma doesn't like cheap, and to be honest, neither do I.
Monday, September 15, 2014
As much as I loved the last one, it was just too heavy to lug to a second floor.
The wood for the top was taken from the demo of an auto parts store that opened up in 1940.
Once I cleaned the grease and dirt off, it revealed this really funky green paint. I liked the green, it was sort of a time stamp for that era, but there isn't anything green in my house except for a few plants that will be dead shortly. I sanded the green off, but I did manage to keep little hints of it's existence
I don't think that I've ever built something solely for myself. There have been times when I've completed a piece and been like "yeah, I'm keeping this.", so going into this table with it's selfish intent was a little strange.
I built it around these ultra modern bent walnut chairs that were given to me a while back, but while thinking about the build, I started to look at vintage industrial chairs.
I love industrial seating from the 40's, but they are expensive, and rightly so. Couldn't I just build them myself? Of course I could, but the amount of work that goes into making one (or 4) doesn't really pay off.
In the amount of time that it would take to build them, I could build 4 other pieces that would generate the capital to buy some vintage ones and still have some cash to stash.
I like the idea of blending something vintage with something that came from my hand to complete the picture.
While building this table, I kept thinking about the 1940's and my obsession with it.
I don't even know that much about the 1940's historically, but what I do know is that it was a time when building and crafting was in full swing. There was a pride in the worker that intrigues me.
Even the way they dressed when they went to work, it exuded a pride in their work and a sense of self. These days, in my line of work, guys put on their shittiest clothes to go to work. Just walk through Home Depot at 7am and you'd think they were handing out hot meals for the homeless, but look at a photo of a factory worker from 1940 and he looks like James Dean.
Wouldn't you, as a home owner, prefer someone working in your home that doesn't look like someone who just stumbled in from a bar just a few short hours ago?
I think I'm connected to that era because I believe in that sense of self and the pride that one puts into their work.
Over the years the consumer became more interested in getting things done quickly and cheaply, and was willing to sacrifice quality. How in the fuck did THAT happen?
What kind of jedi mind trick took place that informed the masses that cheap half assed work was "good enough".
I used to sell out. I would give a customer a price, they would knock me down, and I would eat a shit sandwich, but over the last few years, I have figured out that the people that utilize that tactic, aren't the people I want to work for anyway.
I'm a threat to the average consumer now because I know my worth, and I'm an asset to the clientele that WANT quality work.
Whenever I hear someones sad story about how the world has had it's way with them, my response is "everyone cuts their own deal in life." That statement is slightly debatable, because there are some uncontrollable circumstances that can really put someones life in the crapper, like...having your legs eaten by a shark, or Cancer, or some other brutal act of nature. For the most part though, peoples lives are messed up because they made bad decisions.
Once you know your worth, the bad decision making becomes a thing to look back at and chuckle about. It's true. I wouldn't write about it if I didn't live it at some point.
So, know your worth, go make some shit, hug your kids, and dominate the week.
Monday, September 8, 2014
Part of the inspiration came from a trip to Pottery Barn with Laura.
As we walked through the store, we were both commenting on how contrived their "reclaimed" furniture was.
It's so manufactured and so precisely distressed that it seems that they had perfected the art of "soul removal".
I mean, their furniture is heartless and cold, but I guess it's a wonderful package for the instant gratification market.
I put it in the category of "mall art". Sometimes I see mall art, and for a split second, my head is telling me that it's a beautiful painting that would bring my living room to life, and then I think of anyone that comes to my house and says "no shit? you bought a painting from Pictures-R-Us!"
So...this is about as real and rustic as it gets.
The wood is actually a mixture of Hickory and Oak. It is widely used as road construction lumber or tunnel lumber. It's the type of lumber they use in coal mines.
I'm an industrial kind of guy, so I like to use materials that were meant to sustain severe punishment, and I have come to terms with the fact that I have to sacrifice beauty for durability.
I attempted to make the wood "pretty", but the planer I was using would not accept the material. It would flat out stop as soon as the material touched the blades.
So I grabbed a belt sander with 50 grit....I sanded for hours...and this wood flipped me the bird.
I'm not going to fight nature. It is what it is.
It's not a table for everyone, but for me, it's a sense of accomplishment.
I enjoyed hand mortising the base, I can now take that application on to other projects without fear.
A great piece of furniture has to have soul.
There are a lot of manufactured pieces that still have heart. In fact, when the heart of a designer is projected through a production piece...well, that's why Eames and Henry Miller are so popular, they had that down to a science.
I've had to turn down quite a few projects lately, and I was talking to someone who was telling me that I should hire someone. They were telling me how most successful artists have "interns" that create the work while the artist direct them.
I'm not ok with that. If you buy a piece from me, it came from my hand, period.
Do I lose out on money because of that thinking? Yes, I absolutely do. I would be livid if I bought a painting that I thought was from an artist and have it turn out to be made by an intern.
My thinking is this, if you have sought me out in order to acquire one of my pieces, wouldn't you rather just wait for it?
Who has ever said...."I need a 500lb table right fucking now"
When it comes to custom work, it's only semi-custom because I'm going to build what I want.
Most people are cool with that and some I send to other craftsmen that I know who will make exactly what someone wants.
Money is great, but I won't let it turn something I love into something I hate.
A lot of people say "wouldn't it be awesome to make a living by doing something you love to do?" My answer is this " wouldn't it be awesome to make money doing what you love and NOT turning it into a job?".
Monday, September 1, 2014
I used to be a gym rat.
I was always a little guy growing up, and when I discovered lifting weights, my life changed.
I learned dedication.
I was in the gym everyday. I would get upset if the gym was closed on Christmas morning.
I learned that if there's something you don't like about yourself, you can change it.
I learned about pushing past the boundaries that we put on ourselves, and here's where I tie this whole post together.
I remember talking to this giant motherfucker at the gym.
This dude was like massive, but he was also a chemical engineer who probably made more money then most of us will ever see (never judge a book by it's cover)
We were talking about sets and reps, and he said "there's no set amount of reps, start lifting and once it starts to get difficult to push the weight...THAT'S when you start counting your reps."
Most people would give that method a shot, and then go back to their old ways, including myself, but I applied that theory into every other aspect of my life.
This table has been one of the longest builds I've done.
The material is unforgiving, and it's been hot and humid.
I picked up the forgotten piece for the second set of legs as well as "found" some more material so I don't have to elaborately correct my 1" too long fuck up.
I finished the second set of legs on Saturday, it was getting late in the day, and in my head I had decided I was going to use steel for the bottom stretcher.
That decision was made when I realized that I would have to use the wood that I allocated for the stretcher to correct the fact that I made the legs 1" too wide for the top. I had come up with some more material during the week, so I had plenty of stock to go back to my original plan, but my plan "B" was so much easier.
I was going to bore 1" holes and epoxy a 1" steel rod as a stretcher...easy breezy.
I sat there for a few minutes, dripping sweat, covered in saw dust, staring at the base.
I could have drilled those holes and inserted that rod and been done in 5 minutes.
It's not about being "done", it's about making the best piece that I can.
So I spent another hour mortising that unforgiving wood. It was the right thing to do. For the piece as well as for myself.
There's a ton of guys that do what I do. A lot of them are way more skilled then I am, some of them have better vision then I do, but at the end of the day, I can go home to my family, and look in the mirror and know in my heart that....there's not a motherfucker walking on gods green earth that will ever out-work me,
Monday, August 25, 2014
What is in the works is a solid industrial grade Hickory breakfast table.
This material is fighting me, and usually when that happens, the best results evolve.
It's very heavy and very dense which makes it very difficult to work with. I had cut all the pieces for the base a few weeks back, and started mortising all my joints yesterday. It was super hot and humid in the shop so I felt like I had a saw dust sweater on after mortising the first base.
When I was getting ready to work on the second set of legs, i realized that I forgot 2 pieces.
I was kind of bummed out, because I was on a roll, but I'm way beyond crying over spilled milk.
This particular table is the type of table that I had envisioned in my dream house. A small breakfast table nestled in the kitchen underneath a window that showcases a mountain view. A table where great coffee is served while dreams are discussed and plans for the future are concocted.
This will be a heartbreaker for me to put up for sale.
I made a mistake while making the base. I made it exactly 1" too wide.
I LOVE mistakes.
That mistake forced me to come up with a very cleaver way to rectify the situation for the top.
I'm not going to reveal my solution, you'll notice it when it's complete.
I'm taking my time with this piece. Once or twice a year I make something that stands out. Something that defines my place within my craft.
While I usually knock stuff out pretty quickly, this is one that is gonna take some time, and you're all welcome to follow me on the journey.
In the world of social media marketing, it's important, actually crucial to give your viewers constant content.
This project isn't going to allow that, and I'm ok with that.
I'll do my best to keep things interesting along the way, but y'all are gonna have to bear with me.
As summer is winding down, the little dude is back in school, my girl is about to embark on a couple of new ventures, and we are possibly going to move the family into a bigger living space, I don't feel so guilty about slowing down my production pace.
Life only happens once, so I have to be in the moment during all the changes.
Being in control of your life means that YOU dictate how shit goes down, and how you capitalize on each situation. In my case, the speed of my production goes down while life happens, but the quality goes up.
What you all have to understand is that I'm a workaholic,and every moment that I'm not creating something tangible, is torture. But I'm learning...and aging....and that's not a bad combo.
I've discovered that when you pay attention to everything that's going on in the now, you can benefit from it in the later.
Monday, August 11, 2014
I would follow in the footsteps myself, but my situations dictate differently.
I don't have a jointer. I have access to one, but it's a huge pain in the ass to get to it. We have one at work too, but I don't have the time at work to change the blade as well as raise them. I could have planed the edges by hand, then glued the 2 pieces up like everyone else, but any ol' schnuck can do that.
I used this same method on the "HARDWOOD FLOOR DESTROYER" table, only this time I used thicker steel on the bottom.
The way it works is like this...
1.Bend 1/2" steel round stock
2.Mark your holes in your piece
3.Drill your holes
4.Chisel holes from the inside towards each other to receive your bend
5.Drill holes in 1/4" thick steel flat stock
6.Feed round stock through the holes
7.Secure steel bar to the bottom of your piece
8.Tack weld round bar to flat bar
9.Cut off excess round bar
Fuck...Gluing it up doesn't seem like such a bad idea after all.
There's a guy in Chicago that has been getting some press lately. He takes old suitcases and puts speakers in them. He may be a nice guy or he may be a jerk off, I don't know him, but in every article he's boo-hooing that people have stole his idea.
Ok...I've never seen the product, and I had no idea there was a market for suitcase speakers, but if there is...dude should be happy people replicated it. It's a compliment.
I just effectively changed the way wood can be joined, and then told you exactly how to do it.
Fucking run with it.
No one will most likely do a write up on me, and if they did, the last thing I'm gonna do is complain that someone took my idea.
What good is an idea if you're the only one that applies it?
Did the guy who made glue complain that everyone was using his idea to join things together?
I seriously think not.
Just because I haven't seen someone join wood like this, doesn't mean somebody hasn't done it before.
For me, this method isn't a signature. It's effective, and gives a cool aesthetic, and I could only hope that someone applies it.
The next time that I use this method, it will be to such an extreme that no one in their right mind would want to replicate it.
And when that happens, you just move on to the next one.
Always forward...never backwards.
Next week, I'm heading out on vacation, a much overdue vacation.
We're going with my brother-in-law and his family. Our boys are the same age, and that age is the age where mom and dad are kinda boring to them, so now they can hang out together and have the time of their young lives. Me...I'm gonna stare at trees and water as much as possible.
A long weekend in the country is always good for dreaming up new ideas, as well as quieting the mind.
Ya'll take care now, ya hear.
Monday, August 4, 2014
The job is located 10 minutes from my home, at a building that takes up an entire city block.
It's a building that houses artists, musicians, small business's, and hosts events.
What we do, is build out spaces using as much found material as possible.
Dream job for a guy like me.
There is a designer who implements the concept, then sends us off running, and then there is the owner...Joe.
I've worked at a lot of places, and for the most part, there is a thick line drawn in the sand between blue collar muscle and owners.
Joe gets dirty.
Not because he has to, because he wants to.
Quick story....I worked for a guy a long time ago who started a car wash in Miami.
He lived in a 10 million dollar house and drove a Bentley.
For the first 3 months he worked at the car wash...WASHING CARS.
In those 3 months, he learned everything there is to know about washing cars. He also learned how to make his employees more comfortable (which reduces employee turn over) and how to be more efficient (so they didn't have to work so hard).
He also gained the respect from his workers, because they know that he isn't above scrubbing someones tires.
What does that mean for his business? Zero theft and zero employee turn over.
Cute story Brian...what's up with the lamp?
I made this lamp for Joe as a gift.
He's moving into a new place and it's a sign of appreciation. Joe could buy 50 of these lamps cash money and his pocket wouldn't throw up in itself like mine would.
Although I embrace the "fuck you-pay me" mentality, there's a time to give, and there's people deserving of your hand.
It's not a tactic, it's a sign of appreciation.
I've never felt obligated to give.
The ones that I give to are usually the ones that have shown me a respect above and beyond the norm of human nature.
Johnny Reynolds of j10Customs, Zack Meyers of ZACEUSA (wait till I do my handmade review from this guy!), Collin, Marcus, Linda, Randy, Fred One, Phil Cisco of Maximum Tattoo, Rome, The Music Exchange, TeTe', Juno, and now Joe...Those are all people who have earned a Breclaimed door prize for their exercise in humanity.
For me, an act of kindness never goes unnoticed or unrewarded.
Kindness and respect hold more value to me then the dollar ever will.
There's a lot of people who aren't interested in my Buddah-ish tirades, and for you guys...It's a lamp. Wood and steel and wire and sockets and glass and tungsten, all blended together, by hand, with heart and soul sprinkled on top.
For everyone else...share your heart, share your hand, share your art, with those deserving.
Sunday, July 27, 2014
It was my nephews birthday, and he and my son are like brothers.
When you visit my blog for the first time and my ugly mug pops up, you probably thought to yourself "what is this inmate all about?!"
I'm about family.
There's nothing I wouldn't do for them, especially the little ones.
In fact, last year for his birthday...I....was....ELMO.
If this furniture business all goes in the crapper, I at least have something to fall back on. Be warned...I draw the line at clowns and princess's.
Earlier in the day I picked up a bunch of free steel stock from my welding teacher, hit the shop to work on a lamp for my boss, and finish up a project that I was doing for a friend's art piece.
I have to say, although it's nearly impossible to see out of those giant foam heads, the joy that children exude when a guy walks in wearing a costume of their favorite hero, is unimaginable.
For that brief visit, they truly believe a Ninja Turtle is in their very yard, visiting them on their birthday.
In a world full of distractions, those kids define the meaning of "being in the moment".
My son couldn't stop telling me about his encounter with the Ninja Turtles, and later that night we were sitting on the steps and I was telling him to always "be in the moment...every moment", because when they're gone, they're gone. Max looked me dead in the eyes and said "I will NEVER forget tonight DaDa."
Sunday, July 20, 2014
I spent a good part of my youth with these people, and we were a pretty tight knit group in a "Goonies" or "Stand by me" sort of way.
Life comes and goes and people move on, but there were a couple of people who ended up falling in love and getting married from our little gang, (insert...AWHHHHHH here)
Tina and John got married, and have stayed that way for quite a few years. Tina contacted me on Facebook after I posted the last lamp, and stated that she wanted it.
That lamp has moved on, so I said that I would make her one.
When you have a history like we do, you have to respect that history and do something beyond some shit that you just knocked out to satisfy a creative itch.
So, whatever I had cookin' got put on the back burner, and I decided to dive into a more personal project.
I have been doing a lot of carving/shaping of wood at work lately. Mirror brackets, stair railing ends, and what not. It's messy and laborious and I don't have a firm grip on the art of it, but I was going to take a crack at carving a lamp base.
My goal was to have it look like an old school Chicago street light.
The street light just took me back to my youth because when they came on, you would have to go home and AT LEAST check in just so your parents knew you were still alive.
I carved and shaped some hard ass Hickory. The top looked exactly like the street light would, the base...was giving me trouble, but I kept at it.
During my lunch break I was kind of mocking it up when Randy (my co-worker) came into the shop.
Randy is a very talented guy and I trust his opinion, so I throw the ol' "whaddya think??" at him, and Randy says "it's pretty cool...it looks like E.T".
Randy was 100% correct....it looked like fucking E.T.
I managed to carve E.T. out of a block of Hickory, which is great, if you're trying to make a E.T. statue.
I have zero ego. Sometimes you need new eyes and a honest mouth to let you know that no matter how much work you put into something, you may have missed your mark....by a few thousand yards.
So guess what? E.T. went the fuck home.
I started over.
The heart was made from a cut off from a locker door that my other co-worker (Zack) used to make a garbage can in the bathroom we're working on.
The heart idea was taken from a sculpture that is mounted to a barn door that I see at work every morning.
The leather accent and the wire mesh...those are just an attempt at doing something a little more whimsical.
I want to expand on the materials I use and figure out a way to apply them with a refined appeal.
On Saturday afternoon, the couple stopped by to pick up their lamp.
The lamp itself, in those moments, became very secondary as we sat and bullshitted for the next couple of hours.
20 plus years have passed by since we all hung out, and those 20 plus years didn't matter one bit. It was the same as it was when we were children.
I can sell a piece to any schnook with a wallet. When you sell a piece to a lifelong friend, and see the joy in their heart, and you can walk through life knowing that a piece of you lives with them....man, THAT is a good feeling.
Monday, July 14, 2014
First was the rain...not just an average rain, but a "build an Ark" down pour. It usually takes me 10 minutes to get to the shop, but that turned into 45 minutes because the streets were flooded at the over passes.
I was still about 10 minutes early and when I pulled up, the street was thick with black smoke because a factory one street over was on fire.
When I get into the metal shop, there is water pouring down from the ceiling, everything is soaked, so I spend a little time getting buckets to catch the water and cleaning up.
Now I'm ready to work...and I couldn't hold on to a tool to save my life. I mean, I have never dropped so much shit in my life.
Knock over a box of drill bits, grinders falling out of my hands, the piece itself spent more time on the floor then in my hands. In my first 10 minutes of working I literally stopped and thought "what the fuck is going on here?"
I took a minute to compose myself and started again...only to grind through the knuckle of my glove and remove a little skin, accidentally welding a piece to the work table, then tripping over a bucket i used to catch the rain water and cleaning up that whole mess.
Honestly, it was non stop. I had to chuckle to myself because it was like The 3 Stooges (minus 2) trying to build a lamp.
The mishaps kept coming and at no point did I ever get a firm grasp, but some how I got the piece done.
I'm like a "cat lady", but with lamps.
If I could keep every single lamp, I would. I've actually dumb downed my collection, because we don't have the room or the need or enough outlets to house the lamps I've made.
Truth be told, for all the work I put into lamps, and all the lamps I've sold...they don't bring in a lot of money.
I'd rather keep em'. I'd love to have a wall of shelving that displayed every lamp I made.
One of the reasons I'd collect all my own lamps is because every single lamp is made from pieces of other projects. It's like finding a 2 for 1 sale.
When I'm all old and pooping my adult diaper in a La-Z-Boy, I could look at my wall of lamps and correlate each lamp and it's origins.
This lamp in particular is made from cut offs from a project I'm working on at the Lacuna Arts building.
We're doing a womens bathroom/bridal suite for their event space. It's not just any ol' bathroom remodel.
It's glass walls held up by giant timbers, poured concrete counter tops, crazy hand formed sinks, hand carved wood mirror brackets...it's really something amazing.
I'm lucky to be working with 3 creative younger guys and a designer who seems more focused on opening our minds and making us be creative beyond what we think creative is supposed to be.
It's a great departure for me because I'm so used to working completely alone.
Needless to say, I didn't take the lamp home. I brought it to the front of the store, fired it up, snapped a few pictures and walked away.
I'm ok with walking away. I need another lamp like I need another tattoo.
The lamps have become my experiment in sculpture as well as buffer pieces in between bigger projects.
The bigger project I'm working on now is a solid Hickory beam breakfast table." Breakfast table" just sounds more pleasant then "400lb. table".
There's a lot of shaping, mortising, surfacing, and lifting going on with this project, so it's gonna take some time. In the meanwhile, there's more cut-off's so there will be more lamps.
Monday, July 7, 2014
It's been a long time since I've been on a reclamation mission, but there is a reason behind my sudden adventure.
I started a new 9 to 5 gig last week.
I was really conflicted about taking it on. My schedule was something that took a long time to establish. I was able to build more, furniture was selling pretty well, I felt that BRECLAIMED was starting to gain some momentum, but 2 things happened.
1. I was starting to feel stagnant. I wasn't feeling as excited about pieces as I used to.
2. I'm no dummy. I understand how furniture sales work. It's a constant feast or famine situation.
When you live in Chicago, and you are involved in the trades, here is an equation that you can bet the farm on...
SUMMER=GOOD and WINTER=BAD.
An opportunity arose for me where I would be in a position to do what I do, but on a larger scale, with creative freedom, and working around creative people. It's an environment where you are not asked to "think outside the box", you're asked to take "the box" and turn it into a amusement park.
So what's the problem?
The problem is a 40 hour work week, and then trying to keep my machine rolling.
I was forced by my own words from my last blog entry..."change your outlook and you can change the outcome".
So now, the approach to my work and how I execute it has to change.
I no longer have the ability to walk into the shop blindly. Everything has to be thought out, materials have to be in place, a course of action has to be made, and then all that's left is execution.
It's all just a exercise in time management, and I think that my work will benefit from it.
Since the big change in my schedule, I already have 3 projects in motion. I haven't had 3 projects in my head at the same time in over a year.
I have relocated my hunger. Losing that hunger is some scary shit, just ask any artist.
It's not even that I lost my hunger, it's that what i was doing became easy and convenient. It's like getting way too comfortable in a relationship. Like, where you start taking a dump with the door open, and stop shaving, and or showering. Behavior like that can murder a relationship. You gotta stay on point and keep it fresh, otherwise it can very easily all go to hell.
The same rules apply when you're creating. Stay on point and keep it fresh.
In closing, the pieces will come a little bit slower, but they'll definitely be seen as a evolution of my hand. There's no rush to bang out pieces, but the pieces that come forth will be some bad ass shit, I promise you that, and I ALWAYS keep my promises.
Monday, June 30, 2014
I was pretty eager to start another project, but sometimes, it's best to give your day away to others.
There is an artist and friend of mine (Angel Rome Pagan) that had contacted me for some assistance on a project that he's working on. He simply needed me to weld up some chain for him, so I took the piece to the shop and figured I would work it in throughout the day.
When I got to the shop, Linda (the accountant) needed a piece put together for her son's wedding...no problem, I can work that in.
Marcus had come back into the shop with some steel brackets that a customer was going to purchase but needed them modified...no problem, give me a few minutes here.
At this point I pretty much abandoned ship.
I didn't remotely care about my project anymore because the people that asked me for my help, never ask for anything.
Sometimes it's good to let go of what YOU want, and lend your hand to others.
Something good always comes from doing something good, it's like mystic universal mathematics.
While in the shop, there was a rusty hunk of metal that vaguely resembled a vise on top of one of the work tables.
As it turns out, they found it while cleaning out the boiler room.
While talking with Collin about it, he said they were thinking about scrapping it. I took it back into the metal shop and went to work on it.
Everything was rusted closed, it wouldn't budge. It's truly amazing what you can do with a 3lb. blacksmith hammer and a grinder with a wire wheel.
After going to war with this piece, it looks beautiful and operates like the day it was made.
Once all the rust was removed, the side of the vise was embossed with the manufacturers information. As it turns out, this vise was made in 1908. For 106 years this tool has been used.
Shit, I'm lucky if I get 2 years out of a coffee maker.
Ever since I left the shop that day, the last 106 years have gone by in my head. All the world events and milestones that have passed, and somehow, this vise, ended up in the boiler room of Salvage One.
What's even crazier is that this tool will keep on keeping on.
It was saved from the scrap yard, and will continue to function long after I'm dead and gone.
Although I didn't get to do any work on my intended project, I managed to breath life into something that is a true relic.
I guess the moral of this story is that you can create your own satisfaction.
I found mine in helping others as well as restoring that vise.
It all comes down to perception. How do you want to view a situation?
I could have walked away dejected because I didn't get to do what I set my mind on doing.
It just goes to show that if you are in control of your outlook, then you are in control of the outcome.
Monday, June 23, 2014
I have always had an affection for smaller functional accent pieces. Not because I can knock em' out quickly and revel in instant gratification, but because these little accents can change a room.
I also like the idea of small affordable items that are easy to ship.
When I walked into the shop, Collin had been working on a live edge shelf and these two cut offs were laying by the saw. They're live edge, slightly spalted pieces of Hickory. Whoever cut the slab, did so with a chainsaw. These pieces have the chainsaw marks which give these little pieces so much character.
Usually, you chuck those cut offs in the garbage, but I'm like the American Indians after a hunt, I use every piece of a kill.
The mason jar wall sconce is now lighting up my living room. I back stitched the cord through the wood. On the back, I routered a channel so the cord sits inside the wood and mortised in a steel cover plate.
These lighting pieces are available for sale on a "made to order" bases. If anyone wants to order them, you can email me. I will then email you back with 3 photos of wood slabs and you pick the one you want, The same goes for the railroad spike wall hooks.
I thought about producing a shit load, and ship whatever I grab, but that's kinda bogus. I'd rather people be involved in the process and find comfort in knowing that something was made specifically for YOU.
I like to keep it personal around here. Hand made goods shouldn't just be about a product, it should be a relationship, a cooperation, it should be an experience between a craftsman and a client.
If you want to be treated like a order number, you should buy some garbage off of AMAZON.COM
When I first started getting paid for my work, I knew that no matter what I did, I wanted to keep the price reasonable and the experience...personal. Even if I got to the point where I was getting flooded with orders, people would just have to wait until I got to their request
Most business people would hedge their bets on my failure. The one factor that they would never wrap their brains around is the "I don't give a fuck factor"
I don't need a lot. I'm not greedy. In my head, I'm as wealthy as I need to be. Good health, great family, awesome friends is what I have, and those things determine my wealth.
Money? Of course I need it, but I don't need 3 cars, a giant house, a bunch of bullshit that becomes worthless the minute it leaves the store.
I need enough to keep my family safe and happy, and I truly believe that my current business plan can satisfy that.
Why on earth would I want to keep up with the Jones's or the Kardashians? I don't even KNOW those people. If the only way that someone can define themselves, is by the things they own, well, those aren't the people that I can surround myself with.
I'll know that I have arrived when I'm spending 8 hours a day, 6 days a week, in the shop.
Until then, I'll just keep hammering away.
Sunday, June 15, 2014
There's not much more I can say about it that I haven't said in the previous post.
This post isn't really about this piece of furniture.
I lost a childhood friend last week.
It's one thing if you lose someone because they got eaten by a shark or a piano fell on their head. For some reason, a freak accidental death is easier to stomach, because we're not forced to think about it. It's an open and shut case.
This death was a result of many years of pain, and self medicating.
The really sad part is that no one had a chance to help. How do you help someone that is smiling on the outside and screaming on the inside?
I always attempt to challenge death. By that I don't mean that I suddenly take up tight rope walking or Evel Kinevel my ass over the Grand Canyon.
What I mean is that I try to walk away from a death with something. Think about it, if someone close to you dies and you're only left with loss, then death wins. If you're able to learn from it, to become a better, maybe healthier person, then you have stolen from deaths pockets.
In my case, I stole an old friend back.
There was a group of us as kids that all ran around like wild animals. The group started with me and the recently departed, and evolved into a large conglomerate of city kids from all kinds of racial and social backgrounds.These relationships were birthed in our formative years, and what happens in those years stays with you your entire life.
After some time, people start branching out on their journey to self discovery. Some friendships remain tight, and some become more loose.
I was probably the first to branch out. I started playing in bands and going on tour, so my ties to the neighborhood wolf pack became more distant. I left my neighborhood at a pretty early age, but a lot of the other wolfs didn't, and so their bonds remained tight.
Over the next 20 plus years, I would bump into these wolves at events, or gas stations, or grocery stores, and you'd get a quick 5 minute run down of where people are at in life, and then in the blink of an eye, you're right back into your own life, and that's that.
The morning of my friends wake, I turned into the fucking Cat in the Hat. "I cannot see you in a box, nor your ashes in a pot" "I cannot see you lying there, I'll fucking lose it, this I swear".
I didn't go to the wake. I went to work. I finished this table. It calmed my soul.
Saturday morning, I woke up in a funk. I needed to say good bye to my friend.
I decided to take my son to the park that we all congregated at as kids, and walk past the house that my friend lived in.
That afternoon, I got a text from one of the guys that ran with the pack. I told him my plan, and he met me there.
My son played in the park, and me and John, talked and talked and talked and talked, uninterrupted by my son, which is very, very strange.
There was a moment during that conversation that I realized that although death had taken one friend from me, it had also given an old one back to me.
On the car ride home, my son said "Da-da, I made a friend at the park" and I said "I did too son...I did too".
Thursday, June 12, 2014
When I'm at work, I'm either wearing a tool belt or an apron. With those contraptions strapped to my body, it's very difficult to get into my pants pockets.
I needed something, like a external pocket to hold my personal stuff when I'm out on a job or in the shop.
I reached out to Johnny Reynolds from www.j10customs.com.
I had reviewed a wallet made from reclaimed fire hose, which is my everyday wallet, a few months ago.
Since that review, me and Johnny have formed somewhat of a "penpal-esque" friendship, so he was my natural choice for taking on this project.
Having something custom made can go one of two ways...you can give a shit load of details and specifications to formulate your request, or you can give someone a general idea and put faith in their artistry.
I chose option B. I've seen his work, I know what he's capable of, I put my trust in his hand. I gave a very general idea of what I was looking for, and my only concern was that it be "manly".
I didn't need bells and whistles, what I needed is function and durability.
What I got exceeded my expectations. I got a piece of top grain, hand dyed leather, with adjustable straps in the back, and a hand tooled "B" logo slammed on the front.
Here's the great thing about the design. If I'm wearing a tool belt, i can move it to my back (kind of like where a rock climber has a chalk bag), and if I'm wearing an apron, it sits on my side like in the photo.
I find myself using it as my wallet when I'm not at work, because it's more comfortable then having a bulky wallet in your back pocket, especially if I'm going to be driving for a extended period of time.
There are a lot of guys doing leather work out there. I've had some pieces from some of the best like Gaboratory, Bill Wall, Chrome Hearts, and Ron Bryant, and I can honestly say that j10customs can stand side by side with any of those guys, and in fact, his quality trumps one of them...hands down.
I like to explore, I like to try new things out, I like to see what people are making with their hands, but I have to say, when it comes to my leather work, I'm gonna stick with j10customs. The communication, the price, the quality, the artistry, the dedication to craft...why would I go elsewhere?
Check him out at www.j10customs.com, and go have something made for yourself, or pick up one of his stock items...you'll be glad ya did.
Monday, June 9, 2014
A few months ago I started working on what I was calling "The Viking Table".
The base was made from a old barn beam that was partially rotted out. I never came across a top that would be worthy of a dining table top, so the base just sat there.
I had a beam from a demolished factory, and I decided to throw it on the base, just to see how it would look. It's not wide enough for a dining table, but perfect for a console or work table.
The top is in the neighborhood of 70 to 80 plus years old, and at some point, probably had to support at least a few tons. needless to say, it was pretty beat up.
When a piece is in that bad of shape, you have 2 options...
1. fire wood
2. reconstructive surgery
It has way too much character to get chucked into a fire pit, so my job is to keep it in tact but not lose the character.
What I did was, remove the rot with a draw knife, mortise in a couple Dutchman joints, made a steel plate to gusset the split end, and mortise in steel bar supports on the bottom to prevent any further splitting.
Another support system for the top rests on how the top is mounted to the base. I cut support brackets from angle iron that was used to support the stair cases at Salvage One at one time. The spread of the holes that I drill into the support brackets will provide added support for the top.
I know the technical speak bores the shit out of most people, so know this...it's way "over built" and stronger now then the day it was hoisted up in that factory.
I'm going to use a teak oil finish on it.
Oil finishes aren't nearly as durable as a polyurethane finish, but they can really enhance the age of a piece as well as give it a warm and almost "buttery" feel.
What I'm really liking about this piece, is it's soul.
I remember making the base in the winter, I remember how cold and nasty it was outside. I remember driving past where the factory was torn down and seeing the beam for the top. I remember going back to that spot at 5am. and chucking a 200lb. beam over a 8' fence, and wrestling it into the back of my truck. I remember when they were re-doing the stairwells at Salvage One, and the old Polish welder bringing me the scrap steel that they cut out and saying "maybe you make something with this...shit, yes?"
I'm connected to this piece.
Some pieces are made from cool stuff that is brought to me, and some pieces carry a history and a time stamp...kinda like a tattoo.
The pieces with the stories are the hardest for me to let go of.
Whoever buys it will most likely never know it's history.
Did you ever walk into to someones home, and you're like "oh, that's a nice table." and they're like "yeah, I got it from Pottery Barn." That conversation ends there. Now, have you ever saw a piece in someones home and they have some great fuckin' story about where it came from or how they got it? Suddenly, that piece just got a whole lot better, and that person just became way more interesting.
My furniture is for grown ups.
Just because you have years behind you, doesn't make you grown up.
To me, a grown up understands the hand, the story, the connection. A grown up wants to carry the torch and pass it on. A grown up will take ownership. A grown up will cultivate a respect and appreciation, and then expect it in return.
Yep, my shits for grown ups.