Saturday, June 18, 2016

A Structural Prototype

  Last week I received a beautiful box after one year of collaborating on a design for the storage of my wood samples collection.  Each species is saved in a standard 6" x 3" x 1/2" size, unless what I had of an exotic was narrower, in which case I used what I had.  I've commissioned friend and local wood artist Autumn Doucet (click on her name to see her work) to make the box. We brainstormed ideas, which changed throughout the year, and she settled on the idea of a carved exterior in Cuban Mahogany.

  In order to work out the construction details, she decided to "throw together" a mock-up prototype of common poplar, to see what could be done within my size parameters of 18" x 12" x 8".   I had had visions of a secret compartment at the back and she envisioned a slanted bottom on it to raise the wood samples at an angle for viewing. Both those ideas went out the window with the prototype. If i had let her increase the size of the overall box, we could have done that, but space limitations on where the box was to sit meant we had to stick with the original sizing.

  When she called to tell me I could come and pick up the prototype, I expected a plain, utilitarian box in unappealing poplar. What I didn't know was, she used the opportunity with the prototype to practice her finishing skills on that secondary wood, and succeeded in making it a lovely resemblance of the Cuban Mahogany she would use later on the real storage box.

  Autumn decided from this learning experience, to make changes for the sake of her carving design, and the lid will open differently than this 'recipe box' style.  For now, I really love this thing to keep my current collection in.  She used full blind, mitered dovetails for the construction, mainly for strength to hold the weight, and a full liner.  It closes with a light 'swish' of air.

  We decided the partitioned dividers can be lowered to show off more of the wood pieces, and can be made thinner so the interior pockets can reach from edge to edge, keeping to the dimensions necessary.   

                                           Photo by Autumn Doucet

   I am so Very pleased, even with this prototype, and am excited about what she has planned for the real box.  When we were hashing out ideas for this project, with me trying to keep costs down and not abuse her good will in sharing her work with me,  she finally looked me in the eye and said, "I've heard what you can afford.  Now, what is it you Really want?"   I blurted out, "What I Want is an Autumn Box!"  And that is what I'm going to receive, apparently, because Autumn can't do anything half-way.  Our collaborative design is now worlds away from what I originally intended, but when you work with an artist, you come to realize that just 'setting them loose' to do what they want is the best route to follow. She's champing at the bit and full of enthusiasm for this project, and I dropped the reins months ago.  This box project is definitely an ongoing bright spot in my day.

Monday, May 23, 2016


Dear Readers  ~  It's been far too long since I updated my blog, and I think that is a common malady among many woodworking bloggers.  I'm going to be 67 this fall, and I've entered the stage of life where I've become a care-giver to one parent and one life partner, so it's been a double-whammy of a few years with life changes keeping me out of the shop, with no end currently in sight. 

  I love woodworking, though, and I love writing, so here is a non-essential update.  

  My big dream of a hand tool cabinet has been put off.  Many days I go out to the shop and dust, clean and de-rust any metal, or sit on my shop stool and ponder exactly how the someday-cabinet will fill my space behind the little work bench. 
And, I've been an 'arm-chair' woodworker, buying a few new tools from catalogs, and the hinges for the upcoming doors of the cabinet.  The Lee Valley Small Plow Plane was my Mothers Day present, and is one sweet little plane that I dearly love. 

  The big news in my woodworking life is that I've commissioned an 'Autumn Box,'  which means my friend, artist Autumn Doucet, has agreed to make a large carved mahogany box to contain my growing collection of wood samples, and is working hard on the design we've collaborated on.  I'm very excited about this project, and it will truly be a treasure box once she's finished it, which may take many months.  This is an older photo of the samples to be stored; I now have over 50 samples of various species waiting for a new home. 

 I'm sorry to those who were waiting on me to build my large cabinet, but my life is overflowing with lemons for these few years.  It's a tough row to hoe, watching those you love descend into dementia. Our way of dying in this country is a long, slow process sometimes, with those going through it just wishing they could lay down on the tracks and be done with it.  We don't always get what we want, so the next best thing is to buck up and deal with it.  I have a new appreciation, though, for those heading into 'the golden years,' I'll tell you that. 

  In the meantime, I'll try to keep up some posting on this blog, and keep taking care of my tools until I can get the time to really put myself into the shop and get back to doing what I love best!