Practice makes perfect. Someday...

A couple weeks ago someone asked me if our home was filled with beautiful handmade furniture...

I had to pause and think before I answered.  On one hand; yes: most of our furniture is handmade and I do believe it to be beautiful, but... Our home is full of practice and prototypes.  Still very pretty and solidly built; but practice and prototypes none the less.  So, to be honest our furniture is beautiful and handmade, but what we build for ourselves has a dual purpose. Our furniture  is often experiment, education and play. It's quirky and cool and it doesn't really match.  Not that there's anything wrong with that....

Sofa Console: Maple and Walnut

Sofa Console: Maple and Walnut

Oak Dining Set

Oak Dining Set

Prototype Patio Set in White Oak

Prototype Patio Set in White Oak

It's not uncommon for us to build a new design out of scrap lumber to be sure comfort and proportion are as intended before building a commissioned piece for a client.  As a result we own quite a few mismatched chairs, and there's a piece or two in the basement that aren't all that comfortable, but were the forerunners of some pieces others own that we are quite proud of.

Sometimes we give a practice piece away, sometimes we keep it, and sometimes we buy a six-pack and have a bon-fire.  Occasionally, family and friends get new stuff because we're working out an idea...

Headboard Mockup

Headboard Mockup

Which brings me to the beds:  My granddaughters needed beds that afforded them more storage in their small rooms, and I needed to mock up a prototype veneer panel for a new commission that I was working on with local client.  Why not combine the veneer sample in one of the beds?  This allowed my local client to visualize the panel on a much larger scale and I could work out the pattern and process on my granddaughter's bed.  Win-win.

So back to the beds... Elle (9) and Rowyn (7) both need beds for their rooms.  I wanted a design that works for kids and satisfies parents.  This means:

  1. It has to be sturdy and last through a kid's growth stages; won't break or fall apart when jumped upon.
  2. You can't hide crap under it when you are told to clean your room.
  3. It needs to break down and move easily for when the girls decide to switch rooms and/or leave for college.
  4. It should scale and flex to their needs as they grow.
  5. It should look good and that look should be able to change as the girls get older.

As a result, my granddaughters got new beds for Christmas.  Prototype beds... Sturdy, attractive, practice beds. :)  I'm not done with this design by any stretch....

They break down into 4 parts: Headboard, footboard, and two (2) drawer bases with 4 drawers and one cubby each. An assembled bed has 8 large drawers and 2 cubicle spaces. Heavy duty; made with 3/4" ply the beds can take all they choose to dish out.  For the girls at this stage, the cubicles are strung with bungee cord to corral their stuffed animals. In the future, the shelf peg holes we included will allow them to transition to book storage.

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Headboard and footboard have threaded inserts that allow them to bolt to the drawer bases through slots in the structure. A solid connection with allowances for configuration changes and tolerance for not quite level floors. The whole bed breaks down and reassembles quickly with a simple 1/2" wrench.

Planning for the future, the bed can change sizes with a different headboard/footboard, simply slide the drawer bases apart, top the span with a sheet of ply and their twin beds will easily accept full, queen or king mattresses. Design/style of headboard and footboard are now limitless, we can do just about anything. 

Which means the girls will be seeing new configurations for their beds as I work out additional prototypes to prove the concept.  Right now, I see a desk footboard for studious Elle, and probably a dollhouse headboard and footboard for Ro.

For now, they love them. Mom is happy with all the storage, and I was able to show my commission client my veneer concept using Elle's bed.  Win-win.

Practice with a plan really does help you get one step closer.

Fun stuff.

 

Welcome 2016

I feel a little guilty writing up a year in review post; since I've been delinquent with my updates for far longer than the last 12 months.  Suffice to say; we've been busy, very very busy.

Regardless, 2015 was a great year for GlessBoards! We had a number of new experiences during the last year. We added a CNC, designed and built our first rocking chair, moved our finish room to an outbuilding, Nick left his full time employment to join me in the shop, and we gained a grandson.  During all of this we managed to keep pace with a challenging cadence of custom commissions.

I did the math for 2015 it turns out we were pretty darned productive for 2 people in a custom shop:

  • 120+/- Cutting Boards
  • 37 Side Tables / Night Stands
  • 28 Dining Chairs
  • 1 Rocking Chair
  • 9 Benches
  • 16 Dining Room Tables
  • 6 Sliding Barn Doors
  • 9 Floating Shelves
  • 1 Mantle
  • 1 Bar top
  • 2 Beds
  • 1 Toy Box
  • 6 Display Frames
  • 3 Custom Sink Covers
  • 4 Entertainment Centers
  • 4 Book Cases
  • 1 Watch Collection Display Case

We shipped custom furniture to 11 different states + the UK this year; and we're pretty proud to say everything finished and shipped on schedule. 

What does this all mean?

I think it's safe to say the experiment is over; this is a real live business and formally our new vocation.  We're having a great time working together as a team, and cannot begin to explain what it feels like to have someone love something we made with our own hands.  Pretty cool stuff -- truly living the dream.

2016 promises to present some challenges: we need to revamp the shop for more efficiency, however the schedule is already packed with commission commitments through May.  So, this should be interesting to see how we renovate a working shop without compromising our timeline commitments.

We have some educational opportunities scheduled for spring.  Our commitment to increasing and improving our skills is paramount. We want to design and build even cooler things this year. We are definitely looking forward to heading back to Indy for more schooling.

I promise to post more frequently; perhaps sharing the journey of tearing down walls in a working shop and moving machinery while building furniture will provide for some interesting, if not humorous, stories...   Wish us luck!

Hope your 2016 is awesome, safe, healthy, and full of laughter.

All the best,

Amy, Nick, and Roubo

 

Clever cutting board

I had a great time making a cutting board/sink cover for a client on the west coast.  She wanted a board that would fit in the recess around her undermount sink.  Her kitchen island is used frequently for entertaining and she was looking for a way to increase the surface space during parties.

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We exchanged several photos and then I set about making her a sink cover that would compliment her kitchen.  She must have liked it; because we've already started our collaboration on project #2.  She has very creative ideas; I am enjoying working for her.

Fresh off the table saw...

Fresh off the table saw...

Sanded and ready for oil

Sanded and ready for oil

She also left me a very kind review:

This is my first project with Custom Made. I have been looking for a couple of years for something I could cover my sink with so it isn't exposed when I am serving food on my island. I browsed the "cutting boards" on Custom Made and kept coming back to the photos of the work that Amy Gless does. We exchanged several messages and photos and the project got underway. Yesterday, I received my cutting board which is not only a gorgeous work of art but it fits perfect! I'm very happy with Amy's work and we've started my second project. Thank you to Custom Made for bringing Amy and me together!   ~Lynn C.

Waitin' on that Hickory...

Well over a month ago we brought a large slab of hickory in from the barn. It's been stickered and stacked out there for a few years and its ready to become something new. After resting in the shop for 3 weeks or so, the slab was broken down into rough dimensions; much of it resawn to yield the materials for the bench it wants to be.

Stickered and stacked once again to let the lumber (re)acclimate; I'm growing impatient...  I suspect our friends Scott and Sarah are as well, because they really want their new bench.  However, if you want the best nature has to offer - you work on her timeline.  Or you buy kiln dried wood; but the color and workability cannot compare to air dried.

So Monday I decided to entertain myself and I played around with a table design. 

I did a little sketching on the shop chalk board to find a leg profile that I thought would look nice, and then set about building a template & some jigs for the joinery.  (I used dowels)

These took longer than the table... The first set ended up in the wood stove...

Draw and erase until I find a shape I like; kind of fun actually...

Had some leftover ash scraps from the breakfast nook.; their color wasn't uniform which is why the boards didn't make the cut for use on the nook, but if I ebonize this table - subpar coloring in the ash is not an issue.  Plus, I absolutely love how ash grain gains prominence when it's darkened.

I raised the grain twice before applying the stain/dye mixture and buffed with 0000 steel wool after each coat. ( I used a mixture of 50/50 black stain and dark blue dye)

Two coats are good and black, now I can work the edges...

Beveling the edges of the table.  Used a block plane, card scraper, and a chisel. Finished it off with a sanding block.

Beveling the edges of the table.  Used a block plane, card scraper, and a chisel. Finished it off with a sanding block.

The black is pretty, but the table is plain and the edges are sharp; so to provide accent and relieve the edges I bevel all edges 1/6" inch to reveal some of the white ash. 

  • So what to you think of this little 'goofing around' table?
  • Does the leg shape appeal to you? 

I'm on the fence; I think I'll try another leg profile to compare...

Ready for a glass top (and some polyurethane)

Hmmm. Maybe this is the top; put the glass on it this way and a nice plant underneath on the base?

Floating...

I just received some very nice feedback from a client in Brooklyn NY.

He and his wife had commissioned me to build them some white oak nightstands for their bedroom; they're remodeling and wanted a very clean minimalist look for the room.  Their preference was floating drawers mounted right to the wall, and we developed a design to meet their needs.

16" wide x 16" deep x 6" tall the drawers were made from white oak and constructed using splined miters to showcase continuous grain around the entire cabinet. We also used "push to open" under mount drawers slides to eliminate the need for drawer pulls or finger holds and maintain the clean lines they desired.

They really turned out nice and I am looking forward to building some more for my own home. A little bigger; so I can anchor to wall studs (he anchored to brick).

He sent me pictures of the installed drawers, which was very kind of him.  I am also including some photos of the finished drawers being packaged for shipping to NY.

Fun project.

Installed in NY

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Thoughts on multi-tasking; or, "what was I thinking?!"

I've caught a break today and have been given an excuse to slow down a bit. My granddaughter Elle is home from school with a cold, so I get to hang with her for a bit.  She's not so sick that it makes you feel bad, just sick enough that she shouldn't be at school spreading germs.  I win!  We did some spelling homework and now she's napping.

Anyhow, I have time to reflect a bit on how the work flowed over last few weeks.  I have had the good fortune of many jobs coming my way and I think I did a pretty good job of scheduling them so that each job is staged, flows through the shop, and ships at a different time.  But still, the space is only so big and I was really starting to feel the pinch for both time and space last week.

I've shipped two jobs which has freed up some space:

Nina's Board went to Chicago. This job consumed a lot of clamps and space for a cutting board.

Martha's Tables are home in Memphis

Gabrielle's Breakroom Nook has been the longest running job in the shop; We started it in early October and it has definitely consumed the most space (being a large 5 piece dining set).  It's done moving through the finish room now - piece by piece.  It will ship tomorrow night after the bench seats are attached.  The trestle table and bench have been stored in our basement safely out of the way for the last few weeks. (Tomorrow is earmarked for photography)

Long storage bench awaiting it's turn in the finish room.

Charles' table bases getting an oil finish.

Charles' matching walnut night stands are almost done, once assembled they will head to the Chicago area early next week.  I have some time there...

Sara's table leaf is Friday's project; I have it glued up and cut to size, but I wanted to make sure I could fully dedicate myself to profiling the edges when I start; I don't want to stop in the middle of that process.

Merek's White Oak boards are patiently awaiting their turn.  I will probably break into them on Friday and start the glue up for his floating nightstands (which are a super cool design; I'll blog soon about that project.

One of these days; I'll get to work on Christmas gifts for my holiday gift giving.  In the mean time I am trying to find that balance between having a backlog of work and overextending myself and/or the shop.  Not sure I've found the sweet spot yet - but we survived the last couple weeks; made quality furniture and have met our delivery deadlines.

Whew...

Meanwhile, in the background...

As Warren's Console and Stu's Table were moving through the shop, I had a batch of stunning figured ash veneer working it's way through the veneer press in the basement.  Gluing up panels that will be used for the Ash Nook headed for NYC next month.

Once some space in the shop opened up, we moved in large amounts of Ash and I set about the task of breaking it down and milling the parts. 

Breaking it down: the 4/4 boards will be the benches; big boards in the background will become the trestle table base

Takes a lot of pieces and parts to construct the frame and panel storage benches.

This is a big project, so we're tag teaming.  Nick is building the trestle table and bench and I am building the frame & panel storage benches.  We help each other along the way, but for the most part; in the shop - this project is two projects... (competing for space and table saw setups)

Initial dry fit on Nick's table base; joinery is cut - time to start shaping the parts.

Roughing in the shapes using the bandsaw. now it's time for rasps and scrapers. 

This is a 5 piece set; Trestle Table & bench, plus a 3 piece corner storage bench that is frame and panel construction.  All the pieces and parts are finished for the frame and panel process, and I'm methodically gluing them up.  Once the bench parts are ready we'll construct the actual storage benches. 

In  the clamps; This is the panel that will be the back of the short bench.

Bench part collection is building...  Can you see the figure on those panels? Holy Cow that veneer is beautiful!

Stu's Table: Completed

It's done; it's beautiful.

Stu & Beth's Table

It got a couple coats of wax last night and it is shining and ready to travel to New Hampshire to be with it's new owners.   I do hope they send me a picture in a few months once the Cherry color deepens naturally.  I'm glad we didn't stain it - patience is a virtue.

It was fun to make (cept the glue up with that lower shelf gave me a headache)  ;-) 

 

Next Up: 

Lots-O-Ash

Gabrielle's Nook

A very large project made of Ash headed to a NYC office for an employee lunchroom - must be a really nice place to work.  

News as the project progresses soon.

 

Stu's Table; Part 2

Stu & Beth's table is nearly done.  All the parts are cut and finish sanded to 220.  One last dry fit to get the clamping strategy down and then it'll be a table, sans the clamps.  I still need to finish sand the table top and the drawer fronts, but I like to put that off for as long as possible; avoiding dings and dents in this busy shop.

Deconstructed Cherry Table (the lower shelf is safely wrapped in the packing quilt below)

Beautiful lower shelf; cut to fit & ready to go.

Following are a series of progression photos showing how the legs were tapered below the shelf; 

I don't have to; but I always draw the tapers on every leg.   For me, it's a good idea to have a visual reference for each cut to be sure you are tapering the correct side.

I set the taper to start 5/8" below the shelf brace and drew a line around the leg. I wanted the taper to be about a 10 degree so I drew reference lines to see what size foot we would get at 10 degrees. We ended up with feet 1-1/8" square at the bottom which is a pleasing size, so I drew reference lines on the foot.  Last I connected the start and finish cut lines on all the legs. 

That little band saw jig makes things really easy and fast, and guarantees each of your legs are consistent with each other and side to side. 

I orient the leg on a square sheet of scrap and align my cut lines to the edge.  I draw around the leg and then cut out the leg shape on the band saw.  Next you set your band saw fence to the edge of the jig; insert your table leg and cut each leg using the fence to keep the cut straight.

For the final taper, reverse the jig so you are feeding it backwards; spin the leg for the 2nd taper and cut each leg again.

We now have 4 perfectly matched tapered legs. 

Quickie taper jig for the band saw; cut from a piece of scrap plywood (leftover drawer bottom stock)

Legs: tapered 2 sides.  A little scraping and sanding to get the blade and pencil marks off and we're good to go. 

More in a couple days...