Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Equipment Bummers

Sometimes, I get slowed down because my body is uncooperative. And sometimes, it is my equipment that fails me. That happens much less often than body issues, because I have top notch tools and machines, and maintain them well. And usually if something breaks down, I can get it up and running very quickly.

My work generally is not very dependent on machines. Obviously, the lathe is crucial; to a lesser extent my sharpening system and my chainsaw are important. Since the emphasis of my work is hand-crafting, most of the other machines here are useful, but I can keep working without them.

One machine operates in the background: my Ingersoll-Rand T-30 vertical 80 gallon, two-stage, 5 horsepower compressor. It is tucked away in a closet of my workshop, so I don't really see or hear it very much. I use the compressed air to:
  • blast air through the side-walls of my wet lampshades to dry particular areas
  • force the dust and shavings from inside the shades while I am carving
  • clean the shop every day by blasting forced air into all the nooks and crannies
  • blow off the shavings and dust from my clothes before I go back to the house
  • operate some hand-held sanding tools
Writing out that list, it doesn't seem like such a big deal; but it turns out I am practically helpless without the compressed air. This beautiful, simple machine has run faultlessly for 18 years. It is connected to a well-designed distribution system (the network of pipes and hoses that deliver the compressed air to the places I need it).

Three weeks ago, the air compressor made a very loud clunking noise that I could hear at the opposite end of my workshop, and then proceeded to shut itself down. I figured I could easily find someone to repair it – for example, the company that sold it to me those many years ago. But it turns out they are out of business, and it took a remarkable amount of research to find an alternative. Finally I did find an air compressor repair specialist in Southern NH, and two days later a tech was here. He diagnosed the problem, ordered some parts, came back two days later and 'fixed' it. Except it still didn't work. So he took the motor back to the shop, they did something simple to it and brought it back, and it worked. For one day. So then he said the entire motor needed to be replaced. And that took a couple more days.

So then it is working again, and I am out of pocket $1400+. Which is not a happy situation, since a brand new compressor would be around $2500, but I am happy to be back to work for three days. Then this morning, it breaks down again. Lots of loud noises, and the compressor has shaken so much that it has "walked" a few inches across the floor.

Eventually, this thing will be fixed. The repair company is apologetic, is not going to charge me for labor or mileage any more. I have no idea at this point if they are incompetent or if I am just unlucky. But I am frustrated. I have a backlog commissions to be working on, and I am at a stand-still. I have run out of projects that can be done without the compressed air. I have done my the work of preparing for tax season, at least a month earlier than I usually do. And look – I am adding something to my blog! So all that is good. And I am stuck in neutral.

FRUSTRATION RULES TODAY. Hopefully I will soon be back to the work I love.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Remains of the Day


You may have heard me talk or write about how I make my shades from these big log sections, sometimes weighing as much as 250 pounds when I start, and ending up around a pound or less. Even the smallest shades begin as 70 pound chunks, and when I am done with all the carving, there is only few ounces. Have you ever wondered about what happens to the other 99% of the log? 

The rest of the log becomes:
  • slabs from using a chainsaw to cut off the corners of the log
  • shavings, shavings, shavings
  • a cone-shaped piece that comes out of the center of the log
  • a round piece, flat on top and bottom, that comes from the other end
The picture at the right shows the slabs. I cut off these parts before bringing the log chunk in to the shop for two reasons. One is that it makes the piece lighter, easier to manage and lift. But the more important reason is that I get an early look inside the log. Sometimes I discover a hidden defect that means I will not use that piece of wood. Other times, I see the hint of a grain pattern that can be featured by choosing a particular shape for the shade. The slabs end up in my organic, long-term composting pile behind my garage.

Most of the log ends up in shavings, produced by carving away the wood on the lathe, little bit at a time. I am using hand-held gouges, and there are no shortcuts. If the log started out at 200 pounds, there are probably 175 pounds of shavings, and when they are cut away from the log, they get bigger! The pile of you see in the second picture is from making four medium sized lampshades. I haul these out of the shop in a big Garden Way cart. Some of them go in to a compost pile used in our gardens, and the rest go out in to that giant pile behind the garage, filling in between the slabs mentioned above. People ask me all the time about alternative uses for these shavings, like animal bedding or burning for heat. The problem is that the shavings are straight from the log, and very wet - not at all suitable for the proposed alternatives. The fact that they get turned in to compost, returned in to the ground from which the tree grew, is a use that seems very appropriate and environmentally sound.

There are two solid chunks of wood that come from the turning process. On the medium and larger sized shades, I remove a cone shaped piece from the center of the wide end of the shade. Most people would assume that this is a time saver, but the real purpose for leaving the column of wood inside the log for the first phase is that it helps ergonomically. The cone/column provides a point where I can touch the "tailstock" of the lathe to the heavy, spinning log. That greatly reduces vibration in the wood and my body as I rough away the waste wood. 

The other end of the log is attached to the lathe with a faceplate, which is a thick flat disk of steel through which long screws embed in to the wood. When the shade is completely made, the only part left on the lathe is that round chunk. I stack these parts up to make interesting towers that I call "totem poles." Some of these are taken away by my clients, others are in our gardens, and some have ended up at the local elementary school, utilized by the art classes to make fun sculptures, decorated with colored markers.

In the end, what matters most is that the big chunk of log is made in to the remarkable lampshade. There is a lot of leftover material. But it would be a mistake to focus on this as wasteful and environmentally suspect. Remember, these shades are made out of Aspen wood, a kind of wood that is considered a junk species from a forestry point of view. It is never made in to lumber, it is not desirable for firewood. One of the many things I love about my work is that I am taking such an unloved species and making well-crafted pieces of artwork that serve a function, and are deservedy loved by their owners. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Turning Sixty

Almost a year ago, on December 28, I turned sixty years old. And in the months since then, it has gradually and inexorably become clear to me that this is a big deal in my life. In particular, I am aware of how age is related to my career and passion as a woodturner, and as a maker of translucent wood lampshades. The work I do is physically intense, and it requires a fairly high degree of coordinated capabilities  of sight, touch, hearing, memory, and concentration. I feel terrific and confident about those abilities right now, and I have no reason to believe that any of the crucial components of my craft are about to abandon me. I plan to be making my lampshades in to the future, for as many years as possible, and I hope that is a long, long time.

But this year, I have faced the unavoidable reality that "a long, long time" is not forever. Someday, it will not be possible for me to do this. Without speculating too much about which capability will be the one that diminishes and makes it impossible, it is pretty clear that I won't be doing this work when I am 80. Even age 70 seems like a stretch, to believe that I can keep it all together and be standing at my lathe for hours, carving away mountains of shavings from massive logs and getting the precise results I get now.

Now, every time I feel a "ping" in a muscle or joint, I wonder if the moment has come.  at least on occasion, I feel very mortal and fragile. For example, a couple of nights ago, I woke up with a discomfort in my left hand that grew to something that kept me from sleeping. It kept me from working the next day. And that thought arrived once again: "did I create my last lampshade yesterday?" This is an awareness I am coming to terms with, and it doesn't make me crazy or depressed. Not at all! I love what I do, and it is a huge part of how I identify myself. But I ALSO know that I have an amazing life outside of woodturning, and I have zero doubt that whenever the page turns to the next chapter, I will be fulfilled, challenged, and happy.

And the funny thing is that this year of turning sixty has been the most fruitful of my career. Even more than before, truly amazing commissions and clients started to materialize. And most inexplicably, this all started almost exactly on the date of my birthday last December. I hope to be writing more blog posts soon about some of these projects, but for the purposes of this post, the most succinct thing to say about is that in my 30+ years of being a full-time craftsperson, I typically have had in front of me one to three significant commission projects at any particular time. And at this moment, I have nine projects lined up to create before next summer! Some sort of tipping point has been reached. It is incredibly exciting for me, a dramatic new phase in my work and my creativity.

So, all the more reason to stay healthy and focused. The opportunities are there, and I will find a way to outsmart Father Time and "keep on keeping on" for as long as I can. This is my life's work, and it is not done. Hooray. Being 60 and being a woodturner for 30 years are BOTH things I am proud of, and always always always, appreciative for all the people and good fortune that makes it possible!

((OH..., and by the way, my apologies for neglecting this blog for so long. I feel inspired to get back to posting here more often, with news about commissions, inspirations, collaborations, and whatever else comes to the fore.))

Monday, July 30, 2012

"Orbs" collaboration with Paula Barry


Each year, a focal point of my creative intentions is directed towards the Living With Crafts exhibition at the League of NH Craftsmen's Annual Fair (aka "Sunapee"). The event runs from August 4-12, with a preview party on Friday evening, August 3. This year, I have two pieces that were accepted for the display, and both of them are collaborations. And all collaborations have a story! In this blog entry, I will tell you about the piece done in conjunction with the ceramic artist Paula Barry. http://paulabarryceramics.com
The story began last summer, when my wife Kathy saw the Sculpture Garden at the Sunapee craft fair, and came back to my booth, recommending I go see some ceramic garden sculptures. I did, and instantly started to see the forms as a starting point for a lamp base for my wood shades. By coincidence, it turned out that they were made by Paula Barry, and that her booth at the fair was in the same tent as mine. Paula and I chatted during the rest of the show, and made a tentative plan to submit a collaborative piece for Living With Crafts in 2012.
Our first idea was to make a floor lamp. using a stack of Paula's elliptical hollow forms, which I started to call "orbs." The idea was to alternate ceramic and wood orbs in a tall column. Later on, I realized that the weight of the entire piece, and the forces that could torque on the ceramic forms, could make the piece a bit fragile. So we switched to the concept of making table lamps. I sketched some ideas which I submitted to the Living With Crafts selection jury, and which were accepted. 
Once we got the go-ahead, Paula responded quickly by making about 30 orbs, all different colors and with a variety of carved patterns. She brought them to New London, and we had a fun time playing, stacking them up in to various sets, trying to find the best combinations of colors and graduated sizes. We ended up with four sets we liked, and over the next couple of months, I made up the lamp bases from the sets. Each lamp base has a larger solid wood orb-like shape at the foot, five of the ceramic orbs in a stack, topped by a smaller wood "neck," which serves the purpose of allowing the shade to set a bit higher, thus allowing the viewer to see all of the ceramic parts. Once the bases were all made, I started matching them up with shades that I had already made. Since the table lamp bases are relatively tall (about 19") and have substantial visual mass, they seem to look best with fairly large shades, typically about 17-18" in diameter. Once the four lamps were completely set up, I took high quality formal pictures which you can see at the bottom of this blog entry.
These collaborative lamps are part of a longer-term exploration that has to do with stacked round shapes. My blog entry for July, 2010 is about my Bryce Canyon floor lamp base (http://woodshades.blogspot.com/2010/07/bryce-canyon-floor-lamp.html), and if you read that you will see references to the amazing hoodoos at Bryce, as well as the Gaudi cathedral in Barcelona, and the drip forms that are sometimes part of sand castles. Since then, I have also connected the basic idea to rock cairns that are used to mark hiking trails in the mountains, and some of the environmental sculptures made by Andy Goldsworthy. Nothing I am creating in wood, or using the ceramic orbs, is exactly modeled on any of the visuals. See this link to a photo gallery to see a collection of images that relate to the stacked form concept http://woodglow.smugmug.com/Art/Inspirations/24462429_JPtF3c#!i=1995750104&k=n2sfW5X.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

SunDrops: another new collaboration with David Little

David Little is a fantastic blacksmith in Meredith, NH. You can see older posting on my blog about other pieces we have done together. He and I began collaborating in 2004, and almost every year since then, we have come up with new projects to create together. Some are commissions for clients, and some are for exhibitions. This summer we premiered an entirely new design concept for the Living With Crafts exhibit at the League of NH Craftsmen's Annual Fair at Sunapee, NH.

It began as a drawing I made five or six years ago, but we never actually built it. I have always liked the concept, but since it is more three dimensional than our other pieces, the sketch could not do justice to the essential forms, so we never got a client interested in commissioning this piece. This year, we took the leap of faith to build it for the LWC exhibit, and it could not have been a bigger success. David and I love the way it came out, and it opens up a whole new branch to our growing portfolio of designs. It also won two prestigious awards at Living With Crafts: Best Collaboration, and Best in Contemporary Design. There were so many amazing pieces in the exhibition, so we are honored to be selected by the jurors.


An interesting bit about how the design evolved: the original drawing was quite a bit taller and proportionally narrower, and that form is equally dramatic. But it would only be appropriate for a room with a very high ceiling. In coming up with the final drawings for LWC, it was obvious that it needed to be re-scaled to suit the exhibition hall. In doing that, we realized it could easily be scaled in many ways: wider or narrower, taller or shorter, and with shades as small as 10" diameter or as large as 18." All the variations we played with looked good! What we settled on is a fairly small rendition, which was appropriate for the space and also the Terry Moore Table over which it was going to be placed.

When we had it all built, we realized it needed a name. Originally we had been referring to it as "Tri-Icicles,"
which made more sense when it was a much taller form. But in this shorter configuration, it looked less like icicles. And when the shades were suspended from the steel and lit up, the coloration and glow was so much warmer feeling than anything having to do with ice and winter. Although it is not literally mimicking any natural floral form, it seemed reminiscent of something growing and organic. Suddenly the word "SunDrops" came to
mind, and that title resonated instantly. Now we couldn't imagine it being called anything else!

One other note about this piece. Working on two dimensional paper to draw three dimensional forms is limiting. The interplay of lines sweeping through space is entirely different depending on what angle the piece is seen from. And even if I can imagine what the lines on the paper mean when it is translated to three dimensions, it is far from an ideal way to present to a prospective client – the dynamic range of dancing shapes is confusing and ambiguous. So I am now learning how to make 3D models out of copper wire and tubing, annealing the metal so it bends sinuously, and soldering the joints. I still have to work out some tricks for how to hold the odd shaped pieces together while I solder, but the process of bending and arranging the components is fascinating. Just a simple thing like taking three arc-shaped elements and holding them together in different ways provides for infinite choices. The aesthetic and functional results are fascinating. I have no doubt that this new way of designing is going to open up a lot of new project opportunities.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

The League's New Home

The League of NH Craftsmen is the oldest state craft organization in the country, runs the oldest craft show, and is truely an amazing operation that supports the making and makers of fine craft in ways that are very dear to my heart. I have been a juried member of the League for almost 30 years, and have served in various volunteer roles for almost all of that time. The most recent involvement for me has been on the Building Committee which has helped to overseen the League's huge endeavor of building a new home. In July, we will move in to the new digs, which are on Main Street in Concord, across from the Capital Center for the Arts. We will own half of the first floor of a new building built by Steve Dupree. The public spaces will include two gorgeous gallery spaces, an area in the lobby for demonstrations, a large multifunction room (can be divided in to two smaller spaces), a classroom, a studio workshop room, and a library. Also efficient offices and storage, modernized technological, and best of all, lots of handcrafted objects to make this new building glow with the feeling of what the League really represents: the meaning and beauty of hand made objects. I am on a subcommittee that has imagined how handcraft can be incorporated, solicited our juried membership for submissions, and made the choices on what to use.

My involvement does not stop with committee
work. I am part of a 5-person team that is creating the reception desk in the lobby. It is so much more than a desk, more like a giant organic sculpture that also serves as a functional workspace. The lower part will be based on a frame of cherry and walnut made by Seth Keidaisch, filled in with enameled copper panels made by Steve Hayden. David Little and Steve will embellish those panels with black iron branch-like lines. Suspended above the granite counter will be 9 cherry panels carved by Jeff Cooper with images depicting craftspeople's hands at work. Those panels are suspended on freeform black iron structural elements. And dropping down from the ceiling will be snakey black steel tubes that will hold up five of my minipendants. The drawing at the right gives some impression of what the piece will look like, but believe me, it will be so much more spectacular. There are many details and rich colors that were impossible to capture in a sketch. When it is done, I will try to get a new blog post up that gives a visual tour.



Banksia Light Galore

Last summer, I posted a blog entry about my first Banksia seed pod lamps. At the time, it was a new concept for me, and quite interesting. I never would have guessed how much other people would respond to these beautiful and bizarre natural objects. During the summer I quickly sold all the lamps I made with the Banksia bases, and ordered more pods. So now I am well set for Banksia bases thru the summer. I also ordered a third batch of the "whopper" pods.

When this third box arrived, it was obvious that I had scraped the "bottom of the barrel" of what was available, since these were smaller. Still much bigger than the usual 6-7" pods that I have seen for years, this last batch was more like 9-10" long. Too small for making lamp bases, but perfect for a new product: candlesticks. I made the first pair as a special order, and now have some more made up for the upcoming Marlboro craft show. Again a very dramatic and functional form that takes advantage of the unique appearance of the pods. Along with the table lamps and the candlesticks, I also make tea lights and oil candle lights out of the pods, and it makes quite a collection of illuminating creations.
What I learned is that Banksia pods are mainly harvested in March and April each year. And the "whopper" pods that I am interested in are quite rare, perhaps about 100 are harvested each year. I seem to have an inside line on purchasing these, and at this point, and am buying more than I am using, so that I can make sure that I stay ahead. Fascinating how an annually renewable resource can also be so extraordinarily rare.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bryce Canyon Floor Lamp


I just posted a blog entry about one of my two entries to the Living With Crafts exhibition, where you can read about my table lamp made with a Banksia Seed Pod. The second piece in the exhibit is the one pictured on the right. It is made with a fantastic piece of Redwood Burl, combined with the lighter color parts made of Sugar Maple. The burl parts came from a single thick plank of Redwood, and the color and grain patterns are densely packed with swirls and eyes. The Maple is not as wildly dramatic, but has an interesting side story. It came from a tree I cut down when I built our home 30 years ago, and I cut the planks with a chain saw mill. One of those boards has been buried in the back of my wood shed for all these years, and finally resurfaced this winter, in time to become a part of this project.

The title of the piece is Bryce Canyon Floor Lamp, because for me it is loosely reminiscent of the bizarre natural stone forms in Bryce Canyon National Monunment in Utah. At the bottom of this post is a photo from Bryce, where you can perhaps see the influence. It is one of my favorite places on earth, almost seems impossible that such a place could be formed naturally.

There are other influences that relate to this form. You could say it looks a bit like a sand castle dribble-tower. It also looks a bit like one of the spires of Gaudi's cathedral in Barcelona, a form and an architectural marvel I have always felt attached to. And finally, I connect this floor lamp with a stone fountain made by Louis Pomerantz that I have been lusting after. In any case, this idea of rounded shapes piled up on top of one another is clearly a new aesthetic for me, that I think I will be exploring more in the future. I am most curious to hear comments from you if you have thoughts to share.

Living With Crafts: Banksia Table Lamp



I have been working with Banksia Seed Pods for a couple of years, since Kathy and I went on a trip to Australia and actually saw the pods "in the wild." They grow on a hardwood tree native only to that country. There are actually 175 varieties of Banksia, most of which produce pods that are much smaller, acorn to plum size, and the ones we saw in person were very small. But in the deserts of Western Australia, Bull Banksia (Banksia Grandis) is much larger, from 4-16” long. When flowering, they are even larger, since each of the tiny bumps on the surface sprouts a long spike of flower petal forming a shape that is like a giant bottle brush in yellows, greens, and reds.

Interestingly, the Banksia name comes from Joseph Banks, the famous botanist on Captain Cook’s vessel, The Endeavor, as it circled the globe in the 1700’s in what is rightly considered one of the greatest missions of geographic and biological discovery.

Banskia pods resemble pine cones in a general way, but they are much more dense and heavy. That makes them strong and substantial. They are extremely difficult to carve, since the internal structure is brittle and honeycombed with the empty seed cavities. And they are also impregnated with micro-grains of sand from their desert habitat, and that dulls tools quickly. So I mostly work them by literally grinding away the material to get the best form for my purposes – not the most fun way to turn wood, but the results are so stunning, and I keep going back to this material.

There are several layers to a Banksia pod. The outer crust is grayish and bumpy, punctuated by smiling lips at the edges of the seed cavities. Then right after that is a layer of crimson felt that almost seems unnatural in it’s softness and perfection. Under the felt is a rock-hard core that radiates out from the central pith. Each pod is different in shape, arrangement of cavities, and coloration of the core.

Until this spring, the largest pods I could obtain in this country were maybe 8" long, great for candle lanterns. But this year, I found a source for a few extraordinary pods that were 11-14" long. That made it possible to make a lamp base using a single pod, with a wider base made of a different kind of wood (Teak in this case). The results are stunning, with the light shedding down over the varied surface textures of the pod in ways that really picks up the felt areas, the dark cavities, and the wild grain textures.

What a dramatic combination for the warm glow coming thru the side of the shade.

The photo at the top is of the table lamp that will be in the Living With Crafts exhbition at the Sunapee Craft Show (more accurately known as the Annual Fair of the League of NH Craftsmen). Hopefully you will get a chance to see it there. But since making that one, I have made four others using these pods, with different forms and different companion wood for the bottom disk. The photo below shows a whole seed pod.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

New Table Lamp design for the Balsams Hotel




I have been privileged to be a demonstrator at The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel for one week every summer since 1995. Guests at the hotel get to watch me make small wood lampshades, and work with me hands-on making smaller accessory items. This coming year I expect to be there in July, probably the week beginnning July 5. It is wonderful in every way: I get to meet interesting people who appreciate my work; I am productive: I get to work in the most beautiful place imaginable: and since we don’t demonstrate every single hour of the day, it is semi-vacation of a kind. And I could not recommend the hotel more enthusiastically! You will never be treated better, or have better meals. Come the week I am demonstrating and we can connect in person. Check them out at http://www.thebalsams.com. Or look at my earlier blog posting about this demo gig at http://woodshades.blogspot.com/2008_08_01_archive.html

I feel deeply connected to the hotel and it’s commitment to the summer artisan’s program, the overall pursuit of quality and personal attention to detail, and the long history of one of the “grandest” of grand resort hotels in New England. In 2005, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of my demonstrating, I donated a table lamp to the hotel, and it is part of the decor of the spectacular Tillotson Suite. I also have a small table lamp on loan to the massage room in the spa.

After consultation with Jeff McGiver, the managing director of the hotel, I designed a new table lamp base that is exclusively associatied with the Balsams. Two of the lamps now sit proudly in the registration area of the lobby, and I am more of this lamp design available for purchase by guests and appreciators of the Balsams. This has been a lovely project for deepening my connection to The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel, and representing that association with a tangible and artistic expression.

As you can perhaps perceive, the design is reminiscent of a conifer tree, and relates to the many beautiful trees on the hotel property, and to the logo of the hotel, which is comprised of three balsam fir trees in a circular frame. The lamps in the lobby have 16” tall bases and are about 30” tall overall. But the concept can be scaled to whatever dimensions you need.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Visual Narrative of Collaborative Floor Lamp with Ted Blachly


Ted is a fantastic furniture maker, and this year we decided to collaborate on a floor lamp for Living With Crafts at the Sunapee Fair. He started with a concept that was something I would call "refined folk art, with a fairly literal vision of an african woman, colorfully painted. After creating a half-size model and decorating it, he decided to go to a more abstract and elegant plan made out of Mahogany, with a Wenge base plinthe. Ted has given it the name "Zuri," which he says means "beautiful" in Swahili.

Below you can see a series of photos that Ted took as he progressed thru models to finished pieces, and ending with a shot I took yesterday of the complete shade and base combination. On Tuesday it gets delivered to the exhibit, along with my pair of collaborative table lamps with Sharon Dugan, and my dining table hanging light fixture titled "Le Grand Jete."





Come see this unusual piece of woodworking at the Living With Crafts exhibition in Newbury, NH at the oldest craft fair in the country, the League of NH Craftsmen's Annual Fair, August 1-9.

Friday, June 12, 2009

New Focus on New Lamp Bases

What I am most known for are my translucent wood lampshades. After making them for 16 years, I have no less passion about making the shades. In fact for the past month or so, my energy level has increased, and I find myself working longer hours and chomping at the bit to get in to the shop, seven days a week.

But over the past couple of years, I have also developed a renewed fascination with the lamp bases t hat hold the shades up in the air, and make them functional. For years, most of my bases have been out of Mahogany. Originally I used many species, but early on I noticed the most people were choosing the Mahogany and ignoring the other choices of wood. Mahogany has a special warm glow when illuminated by the light from the shade, something in the grain and color make it stand out from the crowd.

Then a couple of years ago I began using Camphorwood Burl for a few table lamp bases – see my July 2008 blog posting to learn more about that specifically. The Camphor bases have been popular, and I try to keep 2 or 3 Camphor Burl bases in inventory at any time. It is hard to find good pieces of the wood, and it is very expensive to purchase the raw chunks of the material. So I keep a web bookmark for the source company easily available and try to check it every day or so, to see if anything new and special has become available. Going to that web site has had a side benefit. I kept seeing other interesting photos of pieces of wood that they had, and this winter, I purchased a few other blocks, and expanded my experiments with new species for table lamp bases. There are challenges in this. I get to see a photo of the piece of wood before making the purchase, but that only provides a vague hint about what the wood will look like. And I never know how wet the wood will be – wet wood introduces the chance of cracking in the drying process.

But the result of these experiments have been fabulous. You can see in the photos below lamp bases made from Cocobolo Rosewood, Wenge, Dalmata, and Osage Orange. All four of these show off colors and grain patterns that relate well to the lampshades, and add a higher level of interest and uniqueness to the entire lamp setup. There are two downsides to my experiments with new species for lamp bases. One is kind of funny: I can't figure out how to display all of these new goodies and also keep showing my older "tried-and-true" designs in Mahogany. Second. all these unusual species are much more expensive than the Mahogany, so the that has an impact on the total price for a finished lamp. In this economy, that might be a disadvantage. But..... oh boy to these look great! And I will keep making plenty of the perfectly lovely Mahogany bases.

And I have other pieces in process. I have roughed out shapes for bases made of Madrone Burl and Bois de Rose (a rosewood species from Madagascar). In the meantime, take a look at these photos of completed piece, I hope you agree that this set of experiments is worth exploring.