16 January, 2009

Woodworking - Part IV

Carved Wood,
Heart and Soul
Let's take a look at carved woodwork speaking in different species and with unique voices.

Words fall away, and at best... The work speaks for itself.

(1) Pine Mirror: 60" wide X 42" tall X 2" thick. It is finished with caustic soda, shellac and a dark wax:

(2) Three Drawer Cherry Serpentine front COD: 42" wide X 20" deep X 34" high. This side chest has drawer fronts with sprigs of Oak carved in bookmatched patterns on either side.

(3) Alder Pier Table: 60" wide X 18" deep X 35" high

(4) White Oak Plate Rack: 54" wide X 8" deep X 36" high

15 January, 2009

Woodworking - Part III

Paint on Wood


Painted wood is history.

Pigments used to color wood go back to prehistory when our primitive ancestors used colored earth, clay and blood to make their wooden utensils special, magic...or just different, prettier than the clan next door....or to identify enemies who meant only harm.

(1) Bedside chest in painted, distressed Alder - 30" wide X 22" deep X 28" high

This alderwood, 3 drawer COD (See, you are learning.) is a design that comes from a transitional region between modern day Germany and France, Alsace~Lorraine.

It is a plain chest, except for the arched patterns drawer fronts with the carved French Fluer-de-Lis pattern and embossed background. The bun feet and stolid structure give it a Germanic aire, holding the French tracery at bay.

The finish is a casein (milk based) paint and burnished with a dark wax which sets off the carvings and mouldings.

(2) Santa Fe style bookcase - 34"wide X 15" deep X 54" high

The harsh climate of the Rocky Mountains , the high plateaus and plains of the Great Basin and the Sonoran desert southwest require that furniture be able to withstand extremes in temperature and humidity.

I made this bookcase as a testament to the craftsmen, largely untrained or educated in sophisticated techniques. Yet they built sturdy and robust furnishings for their adobe, rusticated stone and log homes. The real object might have set upon dirt or stone or ragged wood flooring. The joinery was bold, strong, pinned mortice and tenons and hand raised panels. Any hardware, including nails would have been a luxury and used judiciously.

The client asked that I distress the painted finish to look as though the piece had been well used for a century or more. It is a overlay of crackled paint laid on stain and wax and scumbled earth colors, burnished with an dark English wax.

(3) 18th Century Swedish Blanket Chest - 78" wide X 32" deep X 48" tall

When the designer asked if I could replicate a Swedish blanket chest, I told her that it would be a joy and a priviledge, given my Scandinavian heritage. Her client wanted authentic hardware, joinery and paint. AND, she wanted it to look like it had traveled the long road from Sweden to the Rocky Mountains, loved and used by generation after generation.

I provided a drawing and color scheme that matched the designer's requirements and set about researching hardware.

One of the best blacksmith, tool maker artisans in Colorado agreed to make the hardware to match the originals from 18th century Sweden.

The case is all Ponderosa Pine, hand dovetailed and hand planed to replicate the original structure. I made certain that the color and patina and level of distressing would closely approximate the original rustic painting.

AND... it was all a fake, the hand forged hardware, cabinetry and painting are a sham. They simply do nothing except look good.

The case held a remote controlled, television lift and swivel that would sit at the foot of the clients bed. The interior was all structured to hold the lift/swivel mechanism, the cable and VCR/DVD players and all the wire management needed to work all of the electronic gadgetry!!!!

So goes the work of a post-modern furniture maker.

14 January, 2009

Woodworking - Part II


Pine, Fir, Spruce, Hemlock/Larch, Cedar, Cypress and Yew...the resinous, shrubs and trees are "conifers"...most bear "cones" instead of fruit. They are some of the oldest herbaceous plants still extant on the planet.


(1) Grand Armoire in the Bavarian Style

This armoire is constructed from Northern White pine, Ponderosa Pine, Sugar Pine, Hem/Fir plywood panels faced with Ponderosa Pine veneers.

The case stands 9' 6" high X 64" wide X 30" deep. The crown, a carved panel, is made of Sugar Pine, carved in a rustic, eclectic Austro-Hungarian style. The stag or elk is the focal point.

The interior was designed to be an entertainment center, housing a small projection screen TV, audio/visual equipment and storage drawers for DVD, CDs and VCR's.

The handles are made of mule deer antlers and the finish is waterbased stains and laquers, as requested by the clients.

(2) Santa Fe style side table

It is a occasional table 28"wide X 16" deep X 30" high

This rustic little table might seem innocuous and simple. The untrained collector would pass by with a yawn and not another thought. In fact, it is a well designed piece which makes use of joinery, not adhesives to allow it to hold together in the harsh environment of the southern Rocky Mountains around Taos and Santa Fe.

The legs, top, sides, front and back and stretchers are made from air dried Hemlock, chosen for clear, straight grain without knots.

The top is held to the base by a series of through tenons attached to spines which are in turn attached to the base sides with cleats....allowing for seasonal movement.

The sides, front and back, and the two lower stretchers are joined to the legs with full through tenons which are pinned with dense, second growth spruce trunions.

Look closely and you will see that the sides pierce the legs with double tenons while the face and back pierce the legs with single tenons.

The finish is a traditional creosote based stain and wax finish....stinky and a good deterent against insects.

(3) Station Masters Desk

This CVG (clear vertical grain) Ponderosa Pine desk stands 30" tall at the desk top, 48" tall at the gallery top X 66" wide X 42" deep.

Back in the late 1980's, I was employed as a master cabinetmaker for Stuart-Buchanan Antiques here in Denver. I was charged with the design and construction of custom furniture to match British and Continental antiques.

The desk above looks like a fine railway clerk's desk from the 19th century. In fact, it is a sophisticated document safe.

The lower drawers are locked in place by the center drawer which is secured by an unseen locking mechanism. The plinth bases under each pedestal hide two steel compartments secured under what look like simple file drawers.

It is constructed using modern stick and cope, raised panel methods and modern drawer construction and joinery. The same goes for the finish. It is a oil base stain and nitrocelluose laquer finish.


There is a pistol drawer hidden within the gallery. Yeah, go ahead, find it.


13 January, 2009

Woodworking - Part I


~~~~~ *~~~~~~

I have been ruminating for a few months about sharing some of the woodwork I have created during the last 20 years. A couple of the folks who post on Knowledge is Power (http://www.sondrak.com/) have convinced me that it is time. My shop was called Ravenwood Studios. It provided a living for me and a creative outlet for the talents given me by a gracious God.


(1) This Russian White Oak Dry Sink is as good a place to begin as any. While researching reclaimed Chestnut timbers, I found a company in Ohio who had purchased a whole warehouse of white oak in St. Petersburg, Russia. It had been locked up since before the 1917 revolution. I bought enough to run wainscoting, doors, casings, moldings, base and trim for a remodel job on Belvedere Island in San Francisco Bay. This "dry sink'' was an additional piece added by the designer to be used as a bathroom vanity.

It is 42'"wide X 24"deep X 36" high with full mortice and tenon joinery throughout. The doors are flush "tombstone" raised panel doors. A style that is usually reserved for tall clocks and fine pedestal desks. The carving is reminiscent of Slavic/Russian folk carving which was introduced to the Santa Fe/Taos artisans by the great Russian artist and founding member of the Taos Artist Society, Nicolai Fechin.

It was shipped unfinished and installed and site finished after the copper dry sink had been manufactured, patinated and installed. Sadly, I was never given pictures of the finished product.

(2) Provincial French Cherry six drawer COD (chest of drawers)

This replica of a french country chest is 65" wide X 26" deep X 36 " high. It is constructed using traditional joinery techniques. All the flat surfaces have been hand planed and distressed. The slipper feet, shell carving, center arch and moldings are all hand cut using traditional tools. The drawer fronts are hand raised and dovetailed to the pine interior. The piece was finished using caustic soda solution to oxidize the wood. Then a series of glazing stains were applied to approximate the aging process. Finally, several layers of shellac based polish were applied by hand and burnished with a wax top coat.

(3) Pine Side Tables in the Portugese style

These cabriolet legged tables were made as bedside tables. Each one is 24 " wide X 18" deep X 32" high. As with all my pieces, I used traditional construction techiques. In this case the sides, back and fronts were attached to the hand shaped legs by means of double mortice and tenon joints, pinned with wooden trunions to add to strength. The tops frame and panel with solid pine panels. The frames are molded to replicate a Pembroke game table. Oil stains and shellac polish were used as a base finish with a dark pine wax burnished in to replicate the aging process.

11 January, 2009


Longs Peak's East Face


Colorado's Rocky Mountain spine boasts 54 peaks which rise above 14 thousand feet in altitude.

The most well known is Pikes Peak, just west of Colorado Springs. It is one of two "14'ers" that have seasonal roadways to their summit and are open to the public.

However, when it comes to striking beauty and photo recognition, Longs Peak is in the top two or three. (See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longs_Peak)

Longs Peak and Mt. Meeker from the "Swiss Chalet", Highway 7

The Longs "massif" is made up of two major peaks. The unusual box top, diamond faced Longs Peak (14,259 ft.) and the traditional shape of Mt Meeker (13,865 ft.)

Meeker is actually more prominent, given its broad south-eastern facing face:

Mt. Meeker from Highway 7 at the Allenspark turnoff

"Chapel on the Rock", Camp St. Malo, highway 7 at the base of Mt.Meeker

Every year, regardless of season, technical climbers attempt to climb the "diamond face" on Longs Peak. Just getting to the base of the east face requires a two to three hour hike.Longs Peak, East "Diamond Face" in winter

Its not for the inexperienced climber. Each year, there is at least one death on Longs. Once a climber rises above tree line, about 12,000 ft altitude, there is nothing to protect him/her from the raging winds. Snow squalls or tumbling cloud banks can obsure the routes at any season. It is proposition that reqires detailed planning.

As the old Colorado Mountain Club member said:

"Above 12,000 feet, there are only two seasons - Winter and August."