Monday, June 30, 2014

WHEN THE DAY IS NOT YOUR OWN

The other day I went to the shop with big plans.
 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

GOING SMALL


Sometimes after coming off of a bigger build, it feels good to go small.
 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

THE CAT IN THE HAT

If you go back a couple of blog posts, you'll get an idea of where this was before.
 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

HAND MADE REVIEW...CUSTOM EDITION

There is nothing better then owning something that was made specifically for you.
 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

GROW UP.



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.




Monday, June 2, 2014

LOW TIDE EARTH BOARD


I'm calling this one the "Low Tide Earth Board" coffee table.
 It sits a little lower then your average coffee table, and the base reminded me of a little wave rolling ashore. "Earth Board", because it has the shape of a primitive surf board, but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't float, so it would be best served on land.
 The only reason that I could come up with such a title is because I got a chance to go old school with this one.
 We were coming up on a 3 day weekend so I decided to take it home and finish it up like the old days. Old days is referring to a time, not so long ago, when I used to make furniture outside of my kitchen.
 Back then, I would spend hours drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, staring at my work in various stages of completion.
 Most people would think that building furniture in a situation like that would suck, and trust me, there were moments that it sucked, but you learned how to make shit happen with little to nothing.
 I appreciate learning to do things the hard way, because now, in a shop situation, I operate much more efficient.
 This particular piece for me was a exploration in joinery. I did a lot of things that I've never done before, and I now know how to do those things better.
 I've wrote about fear before. I've talked about it's crippling effects, and I can honestly say that I no longer have fear issues. I'm not afraid to fuck something up.
 I recently quit smoking, and it's a lot like quitting fear.
When you quit smoking you go through some physical stuff, but mostly it's mental. Breaking long habits and conquering excuses.
 Fear is the same way, minus the physical effects. When you quit fear, you take control of all that is you. You push past barriers that you've set upon yourself. You learn about you. You learn to take control of yourself as opposed to being controlled.
 It's really fuckin' liberating, on both accounts (not smoking, and fear)
My favorite pieces have always been the ones that I've learned something from. Not only would I end up with a piece that I was proud of, but I was able to take a new skill or perspective and then be able to apply it in future projects.
 Trust me when I say that there's no greater high then being fluid in your skills. In order to be fluid you have to make a lot of mistakes and ruin a lot of shit. Keep in mind, they're just "mistakes" and not "intentions". Why beat yourself up over mistakes? If your making mistakes, it's a good sign because that means you're TRYING, you're operating outside of the box that you built yourself into.
 I do not think that I'm the Dali Lama, but I spend a lot of time thinking about the how's and why's of my actions and their results. Hopefully my obsessive compulsive self exploration can save someone else a lot of time and frustration.
 Our parents have always told us "LEARN from MY mistakes"....Well, I ain't your  mommy, and what I'm telling you is to learn from your own mistakes.