Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Unbearable Lightness of Being in New Studio Space with Gilberte

There’s nothing like a change in venue to get the old creative juices flowing.

Everything came to a screeching halt as I spent three weeks finishing the studio portion of the shop. I now have a fairly utilitarian machine room where I can kick up as much dust as I want, and a more contemplative studio where I can work with hand tools and focus on design. With normal service resumed, I’m looking to complete the Gilberte desk.

The idea is to use this design as a “master recipe” (a la Julia Child) on which to base future contemporary writing desks. I’ll spare you the blow-by-blow of its rudimentary construction details. The legs are tapered on all sides, it has three drawers with turned pulls, and my objective is to use a very small number of design elements to make it unique. In this case, I’m hoping that the curly drawer front on the left drawer, the inset molding, and the edge detail of the top (yet to be determined) is enough to carry the day.

I hand cut the dovetails in thicker-than usual drawer fronts and I’ve picked up that design in the ebonized cherry pulls. I also decided to pre-stain the drawer fronts so that the dovetails will pop. 

I want to continue to develop this molding technique in future pieces – rout the groove and machine the molding. It’s chunky, easy to make, and it ensures that it won’t be the weak link in the construction chain.

The legs have a good bit of figure -- ironic since I cut them from some ratty 8/4 common.  The finish is Walnut Transtint mixed to some now-forgotten ratio and several coats of poly.

I’ve toyed with a number of options for the top. I have a whacking big slab I found in the odds-and-sods room at Groff’s, but it is too heavy for this piece.  I suspect that I will use some 5/4 that I have lying around and then tackle the edge treatment as it goes together.  Hhhmmm . . . if I only had that scraper plane I've been thinking about.


  1. Chris, those dovetails sure look cool - somehow they appeal to me aesthetically, but I suspect your motives are more practical - they remind me of the exaggerated aluminum tubing in bikes

  2. James-
    The aesthetics/practicality of hand-cut dovetails is a source of much discussion. Among furnituremakers, they will often be the first thing noticed; among furniture buyers, not so much. I fall a bit on the OCD side -- I always hand cut dovetails on furniture (not on shop furniture.) Modern adhesives and power tool jiggery has created a number of new ways to make drawers, but I, too, find the shape of hand cut dovetails to be pretty cool.