Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Empty Shop Syndrome - Mahogany Lectern Edition

(click photo to embiggen)

Recently, I delivered this lectern to a client in Brooklyn. Now that it's out of my shop, I'm dealing with the loss.

In Yiddish, a lectern such as this is called a "shtender" and is used by Jewish scholars for studying, praying, or lecturing. This shtender is all solid sapele mahogany and was built specifically for my client's library. Inside, are two adjustable shelves which provide plenty of storage. A classic frame-and-panel design, built with sturdy mortise and tenon construction, finished with top quality brass hardware. Signature and date hand-carved by the artist. It sells for $2995 + tax + shipping (call for details).

I made the client leave the room while I removed the tape and moving blankets. When he saw the piece for the first time he exclaimed "Wow! That's beautiful!" He has since reported that his wife loves it, his mother loves it, and his mother-in-law loves it -- that's the kind of reaction I hope for.

My separation anxiety comes from my attachment to the work. I personally complete every step in the manufacture of each piece of furniture, from the wood selection to the final coat of wax. I invest hours of care and attention, sometimes a little blood (sharp tools!), and yes, even love I suppose. I meticulously fit the door, so closing it feels like shutting the door on your Mercedes. My intensity crescendos as the piece nears completion, so naturally there's a little let down after delivery to a delighted client.

Fortunately, I'm diving right in to a large armoire for a client in Queens, and so the process starts all over again.... Maybe this is one of the clinical signs of addiction.

So goodbye little shtender, go become the cherished family heirloom I know you'll be someday. Oy, I'm all farklempt...and I promised myself I wouldn't cry.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Uh-oh: He's getting philosopical again...

I'm taking a slight detour from the usual here as I'm feeling a bit philosophical today. If I get this out of my system, I can get back to making sawdust!

I needed to break down a large shipping box, so I reached for my trusty utility knife. This time I noticed it's familiar heft, shape, and feel and began pondering the meaning of longevity and quality.

You see, I unwrapped that brand new utility knife in 1985, when I was stocking shelves at a lumber yard while finishing up my B.S. in Mechainical Enginering at the University of Colorado at Boulder. It struck me that I've had this tool for over 25 years! How admirable that this simple tool could function unwaveringly for so many years, decades even.

This, I think, is part of what draws me to building custom furniture. With care, a well-built piece of furniture can last hundreds of years; thousands of antique pieces are found in homes and stores around the world. This simple idea drives my passion for meticulously building furniture of the highest quality.

In stark contrast, I once had a customer contact me about building a "quick and cheap" armoire. Those are always red-flag words for me. He told me he did not mind if he left it in his old apartment when he moved. I politely told him that "I don't build furniture people leave behind." I simply was not interested in the job.

All this from a humble utility knife. What do you think?

Now, if you'll excuse me, maybe I'll take my utility knife and cut up some boxes just for old times' sake.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Visit to "The Joinery" in Portland, Oregon

The family recently returned from a family vacation in Portland, Oregon where my sister, niece, and nephew live. We spent 10 days enjoying beautiful scenery, amazing weather, and great family and friends. I also managed to sneak out one morning and visit "The Joinery", a company of craftsmen building beautiful solid hardwood furniture in Portland since 1982.

After viewing some of their work in the large, well-appointed showroom, one of the carpenters took us on a personal tour of the wood shop. One furniture maker is responsible for each piece from start to finish. In the shop, it is easy to see the care and craftsmanship that each piece receives. I'm also a little jealous of some of their machinery, but that's for another post.

So, if you're in the Portland area, I encourage you to take the time to visit "The Joinery" and see their 16,000 square feet of showroom and wood shop. You can also view much of their furniture on-line at www.thejoinery.com.