Tag Archives | handcrafted hardwood furniture

Table

After a wonderful extended play in Maine, I’m back home in Providence. I set up my dining table. It works well in this space, and more importantly, the knockdown joinery enabled me to fit it through the very narrow (27 inch) doorway of my 225 year-old apartment. I’m interested in modular, quality furniture that can be adapted to a wide range of living spaces. In particular, tiny spaces.

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Soap finish

I love this chair for it’s design (beautiful lines and joinery) and craft, but also for the materials consideration that went into it. In addition to choosing recycled upholstery, Reed chose to finish his chair with soap—a natural finishing option I mentioned a few posts back. I got to see first hand what it’s all about and now I have finish envy. The process is so… well, clean. Mix soap flakes and water, lather up wood with a saturated rag, then buff suds. The rag used to apply the soap can be rinsed and dried and used for each consecutive application (the idea is to build up the finish on the surface of the wood) and because the process is self-cleaning, that same rag can be repurposed for another job afterwards. The soap looks and feels great too. Matte and silky—a surface that asks to be touched. I love the idea of the soap being the only thing between you and the wood. No chemicals, no skin irritants. When it’s time to refinish, just wipe it off and reapply. I can’t wait to try it on a project of my own.

Unfortunately, the flakes come in a stretch plastic bag. But a little bit goes a long way. The polymerized tung oil finish I used on my table comes in a steel can (pictured a few posts back). A spoon in the drill chuck makes the soap frothing go much faster. A fork would work even better… and an immersion blender would be perfect too.

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Repurposing

My friend and assistant teacher built a dining chair this week. A conversation about seat upholstery options led to a decision to search local thrift stores for used leather garments that could be repurposed for the piece. After a few misses, we hit an indoor merchants co-operative that showcases the goods of about 20 different dealers. One dealer’s section boasts a sign that reads, “Home on the Range”. Bingo. Leather cowboy boots, suede fringe jackets, vests, and skirts adorn the display walls. After careful consideration (and a bit of dress-up time), two suede skirts were chosen.

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Wood school

The last two weeks have been fantastic. My weekdays are filled with studio work—learning to sharpen hand tools and cutting dovetail and mortise and tenon joints. I’m working amongst some really inspiring people here and I’m making friends. Breaks from the work are filled with adventures on land and in water. Hiking, biking, swimming, and sailing.

Getting package-free food in this new setting is going really well so far. There are a couple great dry bulk grocery store options (one of them even sells bulk spices) and for the most part I’ve been able to get what I need. For the sake of research and curiosity, I plan to check out a couple recommended co-ops that are a bit farther (one 7 miles and the other 25 miles) away at some point. I may need to refill on cooking oil before I leave Maine and I’d also like to get some bulk tea.

I’ve been making dinner at home for friends and myself and saving the leftovers for lunch the next day at school. There’s also a business not too far down the road from campus called the Market Basket with a great prepared food selection and the employees have been so nice about filling up my stainless steel container on the days that I arrive to school without lunch. The picture above was taken on such a day. I enjoyed a meal of wild rice with walnuts, roasted potatoes and stuffed grape leaves at my workbench.

I had one fail at a fish market in Rockport called Graffam Bros. Seafood Market when I went to get a piece of Arctic char to cook at home. I introduced myself to the woman at the counter and proposed my special request. She happily agreed but then laid two pieces of sheet plastic on the counter to cut my piece to size. At the register I asked her if there was anyway around having to use the plastic and she explained that she needed to cover the counter surface to make the cut. Understood. The next time I went back, I was shopping to make dinner for myself and two others. The young man behind the counter that day was able to tare my container and put one large uncut fillet directly into it. The piece ended up being the perfect amount for the three of us. It was super fresh and delicious.

For sustenance, I’ve been toting stone fruit, carrots, almond butter, nuts, and energy cubes to class. Yesterday I snacked on wild blueberries while out on a hike with a friend. My land people have been extremely generous in offering me sugar snap peas and berries from the property and when the grapes on the deck are ready, I will help myself. I’ve been eating like a king.

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Bed frame

I finally found a bed frame. After much deliberation about whether to borrow one, find one used, or make one, I decided to buy this platform frame made from sustainably harvested hardwood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, sealed with a simple, straight linseed oil finish. I love the minimal design. Because my bed sticks out into the pathway through the room, I wanted something as small and unobtrusive as possible. Having the mattress raised up off the floor feels great because I can clean under it. And I feel more grown up. Next on my wish list is a mattress made from organic materials. When I met with Krystal Noiseux at RIRRC, she told me about a company in Massachusetts called Conigliaro Industries, a recycling service company that accepts mattresses. When I visited their website I found that they market the mattresses to Nationwide Mattress Recycling. A statistic on the NMR website states that 9,000,000 mattresses and box springs end up in a landfill or incinerator each year in the U.S. When I do find something to replace the mattress I’m using now, I will probably take it to Conigliaro. I’d like to donate it but that might be difficult to do given that it has grown so old and uncomfortable.

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End table

Working to complete my second woodworking project, an end table with a drawer.

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Done!

I finally finished my bench. It feels good to complete a project of this scale. I can’t wait to start using it (once the tung oil has dried completely). Now back to the small table I’ve been working on…

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Bed

Trash reduction in my daily routine is becoming more automatic. After many months of problem solving, I can finally say that there is very little waste entering my house with the food and hygiene goods I consume. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about waste reduction with regard to more permanent necessities, like furniture. One way to reduce the waste we make in our lifetime is to choose quality made items that last and then take great care of them. I find it’s easier to care for furniture that I really love.

For several years since I’ve been out of college, I’ve been toting around some family hand-me-downs and a few pieces I inherited from roommates who moved away to tiny New York apartments. I’ve always been interested in making whatever space I inhabit feel like home–something I learned from my mom as we moved around the country when I was growing up. But in the midst of art school and the struggle to steady myself afterwards, carefully curating my belongings was not a top priority. As I get older and less scattered, my desire to live more efficiently grows. For me this means clearing out the broken, uncomfortable, nonfunctional, and the extra. I’ve managed to sell a lot on craigslist and the rest I’ve donated. But it seems that getting rid of things was the easy part.

Since I moved into my current apartment five months ago, I have been sleeping on a mattress on the floor. The bed I used to have didn’t fit up the narrow stairwell of the 220-year-old building. Unfortunately I find this mattress to be very uncomfortable—the springs are very pronounced. I’ve wanted to get a different one along with a simple platform to get it up off the floor, but finding the right thing has been a challenge. In my free time I’ve been learning to build furniture through woodworking classes and so far I’ve been tackling a table and a bench. I’m told a bed is a much more advanced project. The classes have heightened my appreciation for the handcrafted and my curiosity in how things are made. Now more than ever, I’m determined to avoid buying from bargain furniture stores, but I do understand why so many people rely on such businesses for accessibility and affordability. While holding out, I’ve gone without.

Yesterday on my run, a Waste Management truck with a trailer full of discarded Christmas trees drove past me. I noticed the trailer was marked “Mattresses”. It prompted me to wonder how many mattresses (and Christmas trees) that truck picks up in Providence each year? Do they all go to the landfill? How long does it take a standard mattress to biodegrade? If I’m to replace it, can my current mattress be recycled? Later that evening while reading an article on ecoRI’s website, I noticed an advertisement for a company called The Clean Bedroom, with a store in North Kingstown. I clicked into their website and found a brief statement offering reasons to choose organic bedding over standard.

“…While we sleep, our immune system recovers and prepares for the day ahead. If your mattress is filled with airborne allergens and chemicals toxins, your immune system will battle these rather than repair itself…

Regular bedding – a standard mattress laden with polyurethane foam, toxic flame-retardants and water- or stain-resistant chemicals

Organic bedding– an organic mattress where materials are all-natural, clean and free of chemicals — the cotton is grown without pesticides; the latex is free of synthetics; for fire protection, pure wool is used.”

Well, that seems to make a lot of sense. But of course organic bedding can be very expensive. Today as I continued to research, I’ve been asking myself: When did a good, clean night’s sleep become so complicated and elusive?

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