August 29, 2013 Comments Off on Woodchat

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Image courtesy Uppercut Woodworks

A big thanks to the guys at Woodchat, namely Matt Gradwohl (Uppercut Woodworks), Chris Wong (Flair Woodworks), and Scott Meek (Scott Meek Woodworks) for having me on their weekly woodworking show last night. I was the latest participant in the Telephone Game, a great concept from the mind of Chris Wong. Like the game played in school where a few sentences are passed around the room, instead a piece of furniture is passed from one woodworker to another each week. The design is tweaked at each stage, and it slowly evolves over time into something completely different than where it started. In this case the starting point was a desk that Chris designed, and it’s been evolving from there for over 12 weeks.

Over the next week and you can view the webcast from last night in the Woodchat chat room, or go to the Woodchat YouTube page where it will reside in perpetuity.

Pictures of my entry in the telephone game are further below. It’s based partially on the design I inherited (per the spirit of the game) along with my own changes – the biggest change being that I converted the desk into a low/coffee table. I decided to make a scale model 1/8 in size, a great way to visualize a finished piece. Three-dimensional software like sketch-up are also great visualization tools, but personally I like that woodworking takes me away from a computer screen. I kept the Arts and Crafts look of the legs and side rails, but made the top intentionally more modern in appearance to create some dichotomy. I also played with some asymmetry in places to grab the eye.

Andy Brownell (Brownell Furniture) also joined the video conference and he showed off his latest design for a seating bench, also made as a scale model. The outdoor bench will be made from teak, and his beautiful design has both Asian and Arts and Crafts influences. He hopes to have this bench mostly finished and on display at the Woodworking in America Conference in Cincinnati (Covington, KY), Oct. 18-20. Andy will be at the Gorilla Glue table at the conference, so make a point to stop by and check out his bench (and buy some polyurethane glue for your next outdoor project – Stephen Shepherd shutters).

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Andy Brownell’s outdoor bench; image courtesy Brownell Furniture

Both professional and amateur woodworkers can always benefit from practicing their design skills. I used to think that woodworking was taking a set of plans, buying the wood, cutting everything according to a cut list, and then putting it together. Then I picked up a few Krenov books and I realized there was so much more to woodworking than searching out a set of published plans. Even if Krenov’s design style isn’t for you, the spirit of the work speaks for itself. In the past few decades there has been a large focus on teaching (and preserving) traditional woodworking methods, and rightly so. But design needs to be part of the teaching curriculum as well. I have nothing against those doing reproduction work, but furniture design needs to keep moving forward.

It can be intimidating for many to sit down and design their own piece with only a pencil, paper, and their own mind. Realize that your mind is packed with inspirations you’ve accumulated your entire life – something you saw a few minutes ago, yesterday, last week, or ten years ago. A song you heard, a food you tasted – these are all inspirations. Assemble them together in a coherent package, and you have a unique design. Don’t get caught up with innovation. It’s far less frustrating to simply accept the fact that’s it’s mostly all been done before, and it’s all there just waiting for your individual touch. You often hear the phrase, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body”. That’s crap. We’re human. Look at all that we’ve created as a species in just a couple of hundred thousand years. Creativity is on our DNA. Our brains are made to create things. Scientists tell us that creativity lies on the right side of the brain, which we all have. Some are able to tap into that side more easily, and occasionally a true savant is born, but for the rest of us it just takes a little faith and a little practice.

My entry into the Telephone Game:

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