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Another Armchair, Another Bench

June 22, 2013

The farm was quiet today. Warm and quiet. The farm stand was open and there were plenty of customers getting there beautiful early summer veggies, fresh eggs, and all sorts of plants for their own gardens. But most of the folks didn’t make their way around the corner and down to my shop. That’s fine. It was a very productive day. I finished a second armchair. I spent most of the day weaving the seat with manilla rope.

Here's the pair

Here’s the pair

The seat and lashing the backrest took most of the day. I also brought down two halves of a cedar log I ripped last week. I had cut a walnut log on our bandsaw at work a couple weeks ago and even ran it through an electric planer. As a result, I was feeling I was getting a little far removed from the hand tools. So I decided to rip the cedar log by hand.

When my students are complaining about sawing through a piece of wood, I often tell them to keep at it. It may be slow going, but when you stop and complain it doesn’t get done at all. I wasn’t complaining (no one was around to hear me) but I certainly did stop … often. But eventually I got through it and it should make for a pretty nice bench. The walnut should too, though I haven’t yet decided what sort of legs to give it (any thoughts?)

Bisected walnut log for bench

Bisected walnut log for bench

Another visitor, seeing the cedar bench stock, expressed her interest in the future bench. Again, natural born businessman that I am, I panicked. “Oh no”, I thought, “I haven’t even built it and it’s gone.” This is not how I am going to make my fortune. I was wondering later, how real artists (not just hacks like me) could ever bear to give up their work. “How did Van Gogh part with his work?” I asked my incredulous wife (the beautiful and forbearing Lisa) to which she replied, “He had to eat.” That is what it comes down to. I go out into the woods, and pick out these trees in just about the least efficient way possible. I get to know the twigs individually and then spend time with them and put them together to make pieces that please me. I make a point of doing as much of the work by hand as I can, looking for what is curious or strikes my fancy in each project. I get to know my furniture as individuals and I don’t do it for a living. If I were producing machine made furniture out of milled stock from a lumber yard, and doing it for a living, I don’t think I’d feel the same way. And if I were doing it for a living, I couldn’t afford to. All that said, when someone does buy a piece and they appreciate it and what I am trying to do, it is very satisfying. On the other hand, when I am hanging out in this barn built by my grandfather on this property owned my ancestors. And I have visitors to chat with about furniture, and the farm, and craft, and art, and life, it is at least as good as when I sell a bit of furniture. It may even be better. And that’s really why I am doing this.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Robert permalink
    June 22, 2013 8:17 pm

    Nice stuff, Malcolm. Did you consider splitting the log rather than sawing it? Can’t tell if the grain is straight enough from the shots, but it didn’t look too bad. Do you have a froe? I assume you do.

  2. June 22, 2013 8:23 pm

    I have down that, but cedar can have a pretty erratic grain, so i chickened out. I have wanted a froe for years, but didn’t want to buy something i thought i could make if i ever got my forge working. Now i have a forge, but haven’t made anything on it yet. So no froe (don’tcha know.)

    • Robert permalink
      June 27, 2013 5:25 pm

      I have a froe you can borrow if you want to try it out.

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