{ Category Archives: waste streams }

Deep Craft video

I’m proud to post the final episode of Kirsten Dirksen’s three part documentary she filmed in one day this past winter when she was visiting from Barcelona, home base for her company, faircompanies.com. This is my favorite one and I think it does a wonderful job of presenting the core of my Deep Craft philosophy. I especially appreciate her featuring my Deep Deck so prominently, which I’m poised to launch this summer at Storefront Lab in San Francisco through a three week pop-up store project I’m calling Deep Craft Atelier (more about this soon).

To watch the video on Kirsten’s site, read her commentary and link to her other video productions featuring “community and access to tools on sustainable culture”, please click here.

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Goat Barn for the Edible Schoolyard

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I designed my 118 SF  barn to accommodate three Oberhaslis goats in comfort.

I’ve been having a lot of fun designing a tiny barn to house three Oberhaslis goats for the Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley. The project is just a schematic concept thus far, but will not require much more design if I get the proportions about right. I love to design little buildings, the more utilitarian the better, especially when in support of urban agriculture. It’s been about 14 years since I designed and built the Tool Barn for the Edible Schoolyard, so I’m happy to have a chance to add a companion structure to the program. If the goat barn project is funded, I’ll most likely build it myself from trees felled and milled on our property over the summer. For now, the concept flows easily from my sharpened pencil on graph paper at 1/4″= 1′-0″ scale, my favorite way to begin any project.
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The nototriously quiet Oberhaslis goat will need to be milked twice a day.

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Accidental Seascapes #1 & #2

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Accidental Seascapes #1 and #2, 45″ x 11.5″ each, plywood, WD-40, cement-all.

Removing the forms from my Deep Deck mold, I was surprised and delighted to find two accidental seascapes emerge on the plywood sides that were in contact with the curing concrete. I sprayed the boards with WD-40 as a release agent before making a total of six successive pours, and the process and chemical reaction left a beautiful range of marks and colors, penetrating deep into the wood fibers.

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Wood/Bank/Barn

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A barn full of beautiful wood, carefully laid up to dry, is better than money in the bank.

I’ve never really studied economic theory, but imagine there’s an odd relationship/kinship between miserliness and greed. Suffice it to say I learned firsthand over the past week how one might give way to the other, in predictable order.

In the course of single-handedly stacking over 1000 board feet of premium wood I had recently milled, aided only by gravity, levers and rolling bars, I loaded my barn and felt a sense of pride bordering on prosperity. I’ve never been interested in money or accumulation, but the simple act of loading the barn with my own hands shifted my perspective. My new pile of wood drying in the barn might as well be bars of gold, and will likely increase in value at an exponentially greater rate.


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Milling the Valley Oak

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Shawn trims the ends of the felled trunk before quartering the log.

I met my friend Shawn Gavin at the old Felta School near Healdsburg the other day to mill a Valley Oak. I had purchased the log from the school after it was felled for safety concerns last September, and have been eager to see what the wood looks like. I plan to make a batch of my Deep Deck from the wood after it air dries for about a year, having successfully prototyped a small production run in American Elm. The plan is to make different versions of the deck in different woods from locally-grown, hand-milled logs, each tree telling a different story whose provenance is reflected in each series of decks.

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Section of an oak showing medullary rays.

The Valley Oak (Quercus lobata) is a true white oak native to California’s hot interior valleys. Like its eastern cousin Quercus alba, the Valley Oak has large medullary rays that make an interesting pattern while adding strength to the wood when it is ‘quarter sawn’ from the log. The medullary rays radiate from the center of the tree to the sapwood to carry nutrients, so they run across the wood’s annular rings. When boards are cut from the log with the annular rings perpendicular to the face, they are called ‘quarter sawn’, and the medullary rays, or ‘silver rays’ are exposed. If the milled boards are carefully stickered in stacks with good air circulation, the grain orientation and slow curing will add to the strength and stability of the wood, ideal for my innovative Deep Deck design.

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The ends are trimmed and sealed with wax.

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The log is cut in half lengthwise along the log’s primary ‘heart shake’.

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The quarters are cut perpendicular to the heart shake, along the center of the tree.

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Quarters are loaded onto the mill to be squared and milled into boards cut perpendicular to the annular rings.

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Milling goes fast with Shawn’s expertise and hydraulic Wood-Mizer. The two of us processed a 4’d x 10’l log into about 1100 board feet of quarter-sawn lumber in just 13 hours, including loading and delivering the material to the wowhaus studio.

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Even when rough-cut, the medullary rays are visible, so characteristic of quarter-sawn white oak.


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Deep Deck Developments

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A triad of Deep Deck longboards in American elm, ready for trucks and wheels

I’ve been making small batches of my Deep Deck longboard in the background of other projects in the shop, laying up a new deck each day, trimming, sanding and finishing the previous day’s cured laminations. Making decks at this scale has been a pleasant, fairly effortless task, a good way to wind down from carving the crane before I sweep up and call it a day.

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I burn my ‘deep’ logo onto the undersides of the decks, and stamp the species and date.

In the coming year, I plan to scale up my Deep Deck production, and hope my limited production prototypes will help to generate interest. I’ll continue to make the decks by hand, but in larger batches, which should be easy once I invest in a few key tools to speed production. The decks will be offered in dated, limited editions, sequenced from locally sourced logs that I mill and dry myself; the scale of each tree will determine the scale of each production.

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My next batch of decks will come from a 100 year old white oak.

I recently purchased the log that will yield my first large production run of decks, a giant white oak that was felled for safety reasons on the property of a historic, one room schoolhouse in Healdsburg, CA. It’s likely the tree was planted adjacent to the Felta schoolhouse when it was constructed in 1906. I look forward to researching the site and posting more about its history as the wood dries after I mill it in early 2012.

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The Felta schoolhouse, built in 1906 in Healdsburg, California


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Stickered Table for Shed (process)

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Two identical bases of green pecan, ready to receive the top, a giant slab of sycamore.

Whenever I design and make a new piece of furniture, I’m always keenly aware of how it will age, and how the piece might transform over time to encourage and support future, as yet unforeseeable patterns of use. I’ve been collecting choice local woods over the years, all neatly stickered in the barn, so my design process usually begins with rummaging through my piles for inspiration, making measurements and drawing directly onto the wood with white chalk. My primary criteria at this early stage is whether the piece of furniture I have in mind is the appropriate final destination for the wood- will it do the tree justice? I’ve always thought of my furniture as a way of extending the life of a tree, as a way of simultaneously storing and appreciating wood by putting it to good use; living daily life as an extension of making.

As I continue to collect and store local woods, and especially as I begin to mill trees myself, I’m becoming more attuned to the value of locally sourced, well-sawn, air-dried wood as a commodity. An increasingly scarce resource, fine wood is a good investment and increases dramatically in value, especially if it has the added cache of ecological responsibility, streaming from the urban forest, or as ‘horticultural salvage’. Because handmade furniture ultimately needs to compete in the marketplace with an increasingly sophisticated range of mass-market comparables, it can be challenging to offer a price point in proportion to the value of the material itself, which is a dilemma, even if the quality of the finished product is markedly higher. This is especially the case when ‘studio furniture’ needs first and foremost to meet rigorous functional, as well as aesthetic requirements.

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I milled grooves into the stickers for better air flow and to allow for movement.

While my way of thinking about wood-as-commodity has lived quietly in the background of most of my furniture design to date, I’ve been wanting do make a new body of work where the concept is front and center, both in the process of making and in the process of using the furniture. To this end, I’m grateful to my friend Cindy Daniel, who commissioned a ‘Demonstration Table’ for Shed, her Healdsburg-based café/retail/community hub offering local foods, goods and quality wares. Shed is Cindy’s contemporary spin on the traditional country mercantile store, and I’ve enjoyed working with her over the past two years designing interior scenarios for the new building currently under construction, a large, open air metal structure designed by Mark Jensen.

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My original thumbnail sketch for the Stickered Table

As much as my Demonstration Table for Shed will serve as a gathering place in the café, it doubles as a process piece for the duration of the enterprise, establishing a kind of invented tradition. The table’s base consists of two nearly identical stacks of green pecan wood I recently milled from a dying tree, neatly stickered to allow the wood to naturally air-dry. The table’s top, a massive slab of sycamore, rests on top of the two piles, acting as a gravity clamp to keep the material from cupping. I milled V-grooves into the stickers to allow for better air flow and to decrease friction as the boards inevitably shrink. After one year, when the stock is adequately dry, the top will be lifted and the material removed and converted into functional wares for Shed, either to be used in the café or sold as product to customers. This first batch will likely make small table tops for the Shed café, slated to open in October 2012.. The two bases will then be re-constructed, stacked from freshly milled wood each year, that will in turn be made into a small production run of whatever item surfaces in the course of its drying.

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I typically shellac and wax the ends of boards to prevent undo checking.

I like the idea of adding an element of ‘crowd-sourcing’ to the design development of an annual product, taking advantage of a constant flow of people gathered around the table while the material slowly cures beneath. I also look forward to maintaining an ongoing relationship with Shed as a kind of artisan-in-residence, collaborating with Cindy to design products that exemplify the Shed ethos.

Please click here to see the table with the top installed.


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