500 Hammers

Gina’s Lampshade

Trying out a new gallery format here, with less informative captions but a prettier layout on the page. As I once remarked to Sara, I hate the Internet – I can’t touch it! None of my spatial or visual skills translate to HTML, so it’s a whole new learning process. Anyway, hope this works!

Of Curses, and Moving, and Lamps

My family has a curse.  Nothing drastic, no death or destruction, but a curse nonetheless.  We – my father’s side, particularly – attract stuff. Whether it’s that we have trouble throwing things away or that we can’t pass by something cool by the side of the road, or can’t pass up a good deal, we tend to accumulate cool and interesting things.  When we’re lucky, they’re useful or at least further the inventory of visual and mechanical inspiration that helps with projects like this.  When we’re unlucky, they’re bulky, heavy, and we end up lugging them around from place to place before finally deciding they’re not worth keeping.  Somewhere in between bulky, heavy, useful, and cheap lies the dangerous territory of machinery auctions.  I’ve been to three so far, and have picked up a few bits and pieces.  The sander above is the latest, a burly Rockwell that’ll help with stock profiling and finish work.  Bulky and heavy it certainly is, but hopefully useful too.

So my family curse is relatively benign, most of the time.  Accumulating stuff isn’t bad, necessarily, and it does come in handy surprisingly often.  The problem is when you have to move.  At the beginning of the summer, I got a new studio space near my cousins’s shop.  It’s been great to have, but in the end I’m not getting enough use out of it to make it worth keeping.  I made plans to move out November 1st, and slowly started packing up to move everything from here:

back into here: 

As you can see, that’s a fair bit of stuff to move into a space that’s not exactly empty.  Then, a week ago, I found out that I actually had to be out by October 1st.  So the family curse has bared its teeth as I try and move everything I’ve collected in the past six months back into an already-crowded shop.  With the help of a forklift loaned by the building and a bunch of boxes, things are coming along pretty well, but it’s put a crimp in plans for Gina’s lamp.

So, about that lamp.  As of now I think it’ll look something like this: in structure if not overall shape – drafting vellum stretched out between thin spars, panels overlapping to give some additional texture.  The problem at this point is not making it look like an umbrella.  Well, that and finding the time to finish it.  And not dropping any of the myriad of heavy chunks of steel I have to move this week on my feet.

Looking forward to a consolidated, organized shop, and many apologies to Gina for not getting her lamp done by the specified time… hopefully her patience will be rewarded.

Spatula in Action

Sarah and Jen sent us photos of their wedding present! And as a bonus, there’s some delicious quiche as well. As I said before, if you’re ever invited to eat dinner at their house, go. Don’t trust me. Trust the photos.

Silver dollar pancakes…

Makin’ bacon.


Or maybe it’s a frittata. I’m not sure of the difference.

Whatever it is, it looks delicious. Sarah let us know that they’ve had great luck cooking with the spatula, and that they like that the handle stays cool even when using it in hot dishes.


Thank you!

The 500 Hammers Project: Interview with Gina

Interview #6
Interview subject: Gina
Object in question: Hanging Lampshade

When I first asked Gina to throw her hat in for the 500 Hammers, she smiled up at me from the couch in our living room and said, “Oh, but it’s hard! You want to find something perfect, you know?”

Gina has long, black hair that falls straight to her waist and a smile that’s so innocent and big you sometimes forget she’s not fifteen. (Sorry Gina!) She lives down the hall from me, packing her collection of black clothes and bright sundresses into the odd-angled closet of our apartment’s last bedroom.

Gina is, in fact, twenty seven. She has accomplished the near-impossible task of remaining sweet and lighthearted in the world of professional stage management. Last night I came home to find her wandering through the apartment in one of her growing collections of dinosaur t-shirts, her arms stained to the elbow in silver spray paint as she ranted to me and the walls and our cats about exactly, precisely how silly it is to spray paint a stool silver and check it on an international flight to Victoria when it seems perfectly logical, doesn’t it, that they would in fact have stools in Canada. Silver ones, even!

She’s great to live with, is what I’m saying.

Gina’s various forms of work have taken her to Italy for two summers (as an au pair), to British Columbia, LA, Stanford, Florida, Costa Rica, England, Mumbai, Rwanda and the Philippines (all as a stage manager for Miracle of Rwanda). At the end of this list she added that the show is going to Australia and South America in the next few months, at which point she will have been with it for performances in all inhabited continents.

Because she travels so frequently, Gina’s put a lot of work into making our apartment and her room feel like a place to come home to. In this home we’re each a little cave-like in our instincts to craft neat, personalized spaces in which to rest and recover.

That said, Gina’s room has gone in two distinct directions as she’s put things together. As she explained it to me when she moved in, she grew up with a minimalist style; lots of black, white, and gray, with clean geometric lines and scraps of red thrown in around the edges. She’s planning to frame several monotone images of dancers in fantastic poses and hand them on the blank wall above her bed. Her shelves, black boxes stacked atop one another with scattered red drawers, cover one entire wall of the room and half of another. When she goes to work in the morning, it’s almost always in black pants and a dark turtleneck, her fantastic hair done up tightly in a braid or a pair of Zac’s hair spirals.

That said, she’s recently started exploring a softer style, both in designing her space and in choosing her clothes. Soft greens, brighter colors, vine motifs and draping fabrics have moved in, and her window frame is half-painted a dusky purple. When we began this project, she speculated that the aesthetic choice Zac makes in this lampshade may very well push the room and her style choices definitively in one of her two directions. (The wardrobe issue, she told me, is easier to solve; she just split her clothes in two and only wears things from one half of her closet on any given day.)

For her project, Gina’s asked us to solve a problem in her room. Namely, that she, like many of us in New York apartments, is cursed with a drop-dead ugly ceiling fixture. Exposed bulbs, beige plastic. When she moved in it was hanging by its wires a foot below the ceiling; she put it back in place, but one of the bulbs stopped working then and hasn’t come back since. She’d like Zac to create something that softens and shades the light, covers the fixture and adds a visual element of interest to the room.

When originally discussing the project, Gina told me a story. Once, traveling in Europe, she met a young man on a train. The young man turned out to be a minor royal, in a manner she never quite caught, and he invited her to a party at his sister’s house. Why not? she thought. When she arrived (shown through a secret door and all) the sister welcomed them both with drinks and a tour of her fabulous house, party already in progress. On an outdoor patio in the back of the house, Gina became fascinated by a series of enormous metal balls, punched in intricate designs reminiscent of Moroccan lampwork and lit from the inside to cast fluttering shadows on the crowd. As she told the story she knelt and held out her arms, cradling an imaginary lamp sitting on the wooden floor.

Knowing that a lamp cut in slits may work beautifully for an outdoor party, but may not cast the kind of light Gina needs to finish her organizational spreadsheets at 3am during tech weeks, she’s asked us to take that sense of beauty and interest, pick a direction for the aesthetic style and go for it – free reign.

Gina, thanks for sharing your stories, for being both scathing and cheerful in the face of theatrical chaos, and for being a great roommate. We’re looking forward to helping you complete your cave.

Chris’ Turntable

Object #5
Interview Subject: Chris
Object in Question: Sculpture Turntable

We return, and well worth the wait, we hope. Zac took the notes and concepts of our interview with Chris and came up with something completely unique, portable, and inventive. Rather than creating (and shipping) a solid square of 12″ x 12″ steel, why not simply create wheels that easily fit underneath the sculpture base, support the full weight of the creation and roll naturally and freely in a circle?

Zac’s photographs and the finished project below…We’ll try to get some action shots soon enough so that everyone can see how the lady takes to her new wheels.

The Finished Product

When the idea of a turntable was first proposed, I immediately leapt to a set of big plates with some kind of bearings between them – a lazy susan of sorts, big enough to support a few hundred pounds of beautiful welded steel lady.  This idea lasted about until I priced shipping for two 12″ steel rounds and associated hardware.  What we ended up with was a pared-down turntable with some interesting details, that will require some assembly upon arrival, but packs into a tiny box.

The First Step - Wheel Hub Blanks

For the centers of the supporting wheels, I decided to go with 1/4″ thick cold-rolled steel left over from the railings – these cut squares were then drilled through the middle…

Turning The Blanks

The square blanks were then tapped onto a very slightly tapered mandrel until they locked in place, and the outside edges were turned round & concentric to the central holes.

Wheel Rims, Centers, & Bolts

The wheel rims were made from offcuts of steel pipe – you guessed it, left over from the railings.  The centers were sections of cold-rolled rod, also from the railings.  The shoulder screws came courtesy of a well-stocked hardware drawer.  Remind me to tell you about hardware drawers sometime.

Hubs Turned To Size, But Visually Boring

The hub sections are drilled and turned, they fit the inside of the pipe rims and the outside of the central hubs, but are still kinda boring to look at…

Drilling The Hubs

To add some visual interest, I drilled an evenly spaced ring of holes through the hubs.  Thankfully, we had a rotary table, which makes laying out the holes much easier.

Detail of Drilling

Wheels Welded Together

No process photos ’cause welding takes 3 hands anyway.

The Complete Package, Ready To Assemble

The Central Spider, With Pivot Point

You can tap the point in the pivot into the shelf to keep the turntable from wandering as it spins.

Turntable Assembled, 10" Diameter Circle

Proof Of Concept - Turning A Platter

And to finish us off, a gratuitous wheel!

Chris, thank you again for the fascinating interview and for sharing this little slice of your home with us.

Tomorrow, Clockstone Studios brings a new interview to the doorstep, in the form of a professional New York stage manager turned world traveler and back again.


This is a dual-purpose post. First, to let ya’ll know that we’ve decided to make The 500 Hammers a bi-weekly project. Second, to explain what Zac’s been up to that derailed the completion of Chris’s sculpture stand.

As it turns out, a project that felt mildly ambitious at its conception becomes all the more ambitious when one of its primary drivers is working 80 hours a week. (See Zac’s half of this post, below.) As further commissions come in for Clockstone, time becomes precious, and we’d rather have a more flexible schedule we can actually commit to than constantly scramble and apologize.

Curiously, a few years ago I might have personally seen this as a something of a failure. Now, however, it seems perfectly natural to begin, experiment, tweak and re-image ideas as they come; to redefine ones’ scope seems intrinsic to the culture of start-ups. Which is what this is, really.  It’s hard to see that as anything but exciting.

Handing off to the gentleman, and goodnight.


About a month ago, a gray-haired musician stuck his head into my studio and said “I hear you work with steel.”  He proceeded to explain that he was opening a music venue in the building, and needed a set of railings built around a raised seating area.  We talked for a bit about what he wanted and what I could do, I gave him a general idea of what I’d charge, and we went our separate ways.  I got involved with other projects, didn’t hear anything from him, and assumed that he had found someone else for the project.  A week and a half ago, he stopped by again. He’d looked around at some other shops, and I was the cheapest and most convenient, and did I think it was possible to put together what he was asking for – 74 linear feet of railing and 11 window security screens – before the venue’s first show on September 9th?

There are times in everyone’s life when enthusiasm and optimism trumps all semblance of common sense.  This was one of those times.  I quoted a slightly higher price than I’d initially given, and set to work.  That was Thursday, August 27th.  I started on the window screens that Friday, spent that weekend relaxing with Sara, and set to work in earnest when the steel shipment arrived on Monday.  Since Friday, I’ve logged 80 hours of work in 7 working days.  Needless to say, the turntable hasn’t come to fruition yet (though I do have some very exciting ideas – stay tuned!).  The railings, however, are almost finished – entirely fabricated, and almost entirely installed.

Here are some pictures of & comments about the process:

The window screens, cut and ready to be welded – surplus material from a BJ’s stock corral.  Advantages: cheap, already powdercoated.  Disadvantages: having to scrape off chewing gum and pictures of loved ones.

Window screens all welded up and ready to go – they’re now painted black, and you can barely see where they’re welded together.  The stack of white sheets, though, led me to ponder doing research into weaponized moire patterns.

A nice clean shop with a hundred feet of newly arrived (but very grimy) steel pipe:

All projects need plans, and while I could keep a lot of it in my head, there were quite a lot of numbers to deal with:

And 18 individual sections with two rails each, both different sizes and rarely by the same amount:

To be continued…

The 500 Hammers Projects: Interview with Chris

Interview #5
Interview Subject: Chris
Object in Question: Sculpture Turntable

We’re back! A week late, but we’ve managed. Thanks very much for your patience – we hope you’ve enjoyed our interim posts while the 500 Hammers project has been at rest.

We return with a very interesting challenge, both simple and charmingly complex. A friend of ours, Chris, recently asked us to develop something that would help him to display a heavy metal sculpture he keeps in his living room.

What I find really remarkable here is that Chris, in all the years I’ve known him, as never struck me as a sculpture person. And yet, when I asked him what possessed him to buy this one particular piece of artwork I found an entirely different side to him, unexpected and deeply fascinating. It’s enthralling to see how each individual’s taste speaks to the undertones and deep currents of personality that we so rarely have a chance to see in a casual setting.

Without further ado, here are Chris’s wonderful answers to my questions:

Sooooo, tell us a bit about yourself?

Couldn’t be a little more broad? Well, first of all, I’m not from around here. Originally. Like so many young New Yorkers I came from elsewhere, or in my case the suburbs of Seattle. It’s a place where season changes are marked by a few degrees in daytime temperature. It’s also a stunningly beautiful place with fantastic views. And mountains! That said, I don’t really miss it too much – a city like New York has an entirely different kind of beauty to offer. As for myself, I’d describe as a practical man, an unapologetic kinkster with aspirations to enjoy life as much as possible. These two things aren’t necessarily related, but somehow often are.

You’ve got something very specific in mind for us to make – what is it?

Oh, you’ve probably heard this story before: boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, discovers that girl fits perfectly in a recessed niche in the wall of his apartment. Where the story differs from the archetype is that this girl is a 77-lb steel sculpture of reclaimed auto parts and sheet metal. What I need is a turntable to display the statue upon, so I can show every angle of this excellent piece of art from the niche without an upper body workout.

The Lady in question…Might I just say, she is even more stunning in person.

More questions! Why this particular piece of artwork? What drew you to it in an aesthetic sense?

You know what medium I usually go for? Architecture. When it’s New York you’re talking about, there’s plenty of that to enjoy, but only so much of it can fit in your apartment. One of the first things I thought about the statue is that it’s a human body, rendered as architecture. There’s structural steel rods where bones and tendons should be, pistons and coils in the place of muscles. It doesn’t move, and can’t, but it looks as though it should. The figure itself is a torso apparently caught in the midst of an athletic feat, hips contrapposto, left arm reaching, striving toward…something. It’s not a passive piece of art – I appreciate that. It’s also a robot girl. That’s awesome too.

How’d you stumble upon it?

Half my extended family these days lives in Vancouver B.C., so come Christmastime that’s where I am. In Vancouver there’s a fascinating arts center & public market by the waterfront from the days before the city embraced crass commercialism. It’s called Granville Island and is a peninsula and not in fact an island of any kind. Here and there are a variety of garishly colored garages converted into studios and tiny art galleries. I walked by a particularly glaring red building and saw just a flash of brushed steel through dusty glass. Once I set eyes on this particular statue through the window I must have been immediately hooked, because I waited around for half an hour for the curator to return and unlock the door. At that point it was either this or a ceiling-mounted 90-lb steel shark with articulating jaw. Surprisingly, it actually wasn’t a hard decision. The artist’s name is Cory Fuhr, and if you’re ever in Vancouver B.C. you might be able to find his work. It’s worth it.

You don’t collect a lot of art in general – how do you see it fitting into your life? Is it important, a side hobby, an afterthought, etc?

No, I don’t collect a lot of art. Before I found this sculpture I wouldn’t even have thought it was possible to for art to exist that I had to possess. I thought of such personally selected art as something that appealed to one’s sense of aesthetics, but chosen primarily in order to fill a an empty wall-space or to impress guests. This piece does those things just fine, thanks, but I would still want to own it if I had to keep it in a deserted basement. It’s very important. It’s made me think there must be other art out there I’d have a similar emotional experience with, things I felt I could no longer live without. Maybe when I get a bigger apartment. New York, you know.

Chris, thank you for sharing this little insight into the way that this remarkable piece has become a part of your life. We look forward to helping you display it in all its proper glory!

500 Hammers: Brief Hiatus

We’ve gotten so much great feedback on this project! It’s fascinating to see how the people in our lives connect with the objects around them. That, and every time I tell someone new about the project, the first thing they say is, “Oh! I’d love to do that!”

Because of some ongoing projects on Zac’s side and work commitments on my side, the project will be taking a 2-week break. We return afresh on the 23rd with new stories and objects!

Meanwhile, the objects from the previous projects are up for sale, and we are still looking for interviews for the month of September. If you’ve been reading these posts thinking, “Oh, I’d love to do that,” email us and take a shot.

Mz Dorothy Darker’s Box

Object #4
Interview Subject: Dorothy Darker
Object in Question: Small, handy, purse-like box

Well, Clockstone readers, this post will be a brief one, I confess, because I’ve just spent sixteen hours at a Renaissance festival and am the color of a boiled lobster.

But it’s all right, because the pictures speak for themselves. Dorothy’s box turned out to be a unexpectedly complicated project, but one that we think looks beautiful, and which we hope she will love.

Without further ado from my sunburnt self, here’s Zac:

So the project brief was for a steampunk bento box, or something along those lines; a small box that’d fit a cell phone, keys, and other essentials.  Ms Darker suggested loops in the corners of the box that one could tie keys or a phone lanyard to, with perhaps external loops as well for a carrying strap. This evolved into the little slotted sections of tube that can be seen below – more on that later.  The aesthetic of the box ended up somewhere between steampunk & atomic age.  The material was salvaged from stainless steel pipette containers I’d found a couple years ago on the recycle shelf of my university’s chemistry lab.

The bench at the start of the project, container in the foreground:

A little work with a cutoff wheel gave me usable sections:

And some careful work with an air grinder and a tiny burr gave me nice slotted tube sections, perfect for joining corners and providing a place to tie keys and phones to:

With the two angles welded together, all that’s left is to add sides, corners, hinges, a latch… purses are complicated!

Here’s the bar left in the corner, ready to tie things down:

And the lid hinged up, ready to add sides and all the hardware:

Final assembly:

Welding the top together:

And I got impatient during the last stages of assembly and skipped the picture-taking.  Here’s the finished purse (Well, almost finished.  Still needs a latch.  How many parts can one purse have!?)

And done (finally!):

And open:

Remember that nice clean bench we started with?  Somehow, this tends to happen:

Thanks for joining us, Dorothy! And thank you for the lilies; they’ve bloomed and are gorgeous. We hope your purse serves you well for many years to come.

Next week we’re going to talk to a friend with a sculpture problem. Until then, thanks for reading!

The 500 Hammers Project: Interview with Mz Dorothy Darker

Interview #4
Interview Subject: Dorothy Darker
Object in Question: The Box Purse or Steampunk Bento Box (?)

I may not capture Mz. Darker completely in this interview…she is our first interview subject to come popping up from a rabbit hole completely unknown to either Zac or myself. But she has proven, in our brief aquaintance, to be consistently delightful.

This evening at a dinner with simply scads of people, I met Mz. Darker properly for the first time. She gave me a lily. The way she paints her lips reminds me of tiny rust-colored pansies with gold centers.

If this interview feels more poetic than most, you’ll understand when you read her answers to my questions.

Dorothy (may I call her Dorothy?) describes herself as a “painter, burlesque performer, muse and collector of pretty underthings.” Her artwork is full of graphic yet delicate representations of legs; legs in striped socks, in heels, in bare feet with toes curled in the air.

What I’ve found most delightful about speaking with Dorothy Darker is her rampant, unabashed use of the line break. I present to you our email interview, complete and preserved just as it appeared in my inbox; I have concluded that I can do her no better justice.

Tell me something about yourself. What would I notice first if I met you? What gets your motor going?

I’m excitable. I’m enthusiastic. chances are I’m wearing some interesting
accessory (that involves warm tones and or black)

I like making people feel good about themselves.
creating drives me.
and also the quest for beauty.
seeing it, showing it to others, capturing it.
1/2 consciously pulling lots of things together and waking up to what I’ve

On Twitter you said your creative pursuits include oil paint, lust and letters. Say more? What’s your chosen aesthetic? What makes a piece of art good for you?

I love writing…email. I like seduction. I like setting the scene.
my chosen aesthetic. warm colors, never bright white.
I tea dye down everything. golds, and bronzes
intimate. cropped in. close. shhh.
handmade. but refined.

my aim is to prove that 2010 is as decadent and will be as memorable as
my want is to live a life that inspires others to live more grandly. more
deeply. more passionately. more beautiful.

A piece of art is good for me if it is just a bit garish to make me breath
heavy and then just beautiful enough to stroke the back of my neck
alternate. repeat. Frances Bacon, Dekooning , lucien Freud. Jenny saville

may I list my daily stuffs.

iphone, thoothbrush, bag
keys. too many of them.
ipad computer chair

lunch holder, some bag…or whatever it fits in
(hmm lunchbox, first idea…
….maybe somehow work on that idea.
to encourage me to eat better…
find joy in preparing better food for myself
the ritual of filling the thing up
but also, to encourage me to enjoy it.
savor it

I do love my food. simple exquisite bits.

with a little salt box, silverware. tiny butter dish. handkerchief as
like a bento box but not of asian aesthetic.

Do you believe in ritualistic physical acts?

yes yes.



making the bed.

What about physical objects?

I love my little collections
I like having the perfect one thing
not lots of options.
but then I fear wearing them out
if I could, I’d have a uniform
with lots of different accessories.

(in fact, at work, I have a uniform, sorta.
apron with two pockets over a slip
with short pants on underneath)

How do you like to treat your things?

10 percent of my objects I treat like priceless items, treasures, with
feelings and emotions.

90 percent of my objects I treat horribly.
then I feel sorry for them and treat them lovingly
but then I forget and drop them to the side of the bed in exhaustion.

It’s a bit embarrassing.

What do you think we could make for you? Or alternately, what’s a problem that you think a clever tool could solve?

I’m going to think more of this

I lose things a lot.
keys and phone especially.

Lately, I’ve been carrying this box purse around
and it’s been sorta awesome.
maybe I’d love to have a box purse that was seasonless.
that had places where things went and stayed till I needed them.
that was fetishy to use…addictive to use.
that becomes a tool I can’t do without.
and somehow inside where the phone holder is, the phone actually has a
little metal cage or harness with a chain on it
so I could wear it like a sash.

oh… now we are getting somewhere .

Is alliteration always acceptable?


Do you see what I mean, folks? How could I edit this? May all of our guests be so lyrically engaged and interesting. (Or not – no pressure!)

My sense in meeting Mz. Dorothy Darker is that she understands why we want to do this project: why tools are so fascinating, how objects, when crafted well and used consistently in a loving manner, can take on small lives of their own. And perhaps also, how important it is to have tools that fit just right, like words or strokes of paint or the socks of Ms. Alice in Wonderland.

Looking forward to crafting for Mz. Darker her own small and clever space, for carrying both precious and cluttered daily things.