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:
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.
With a few pieces still falling in place for this week’s interview round of The 500 Hammers, I thought I’d throw up a few photos of one of Zac’s boxes in action. (If you love them like I do, buy your own here.)
Possibly my favorite out of every Clockstone Studios product, I am completely enamored of these boxes. Mine is about 1 1/4″ in diameter, in brass. It holds precious things:
Cameos found on the Fourth of July in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, nestled in with a pendant from an antique market in Paris and my first pair of grown-up earrings: gold hoops, a gift from my grandmother fifteen years ago.
As thrilled as I was by the craftsmanship of these boxes, I was also surprised by their utility. Jewelry for a weekend packs neatly into the tiny space, without rattling or risk of damage. The threads run perfectly and the lid screws on tight; I quite literally toss this box in my purse when I’m traveling without a second thought. When closed, the lid is almost invisible, yet the brass holds enough traction against my fingertips that it can spin open in only a few seconds.
While I know that these boxes are potentially more useful at this size or larger, I’d still like to eventually see Zac make even smaller versions; something to hold a single bead, a ring, a few pills, a serving of some rare spice. In many ways the boxes are almost jewel-like, perfectly captured objects of craft and interest.
Interview post up tomorrow…in the meantime, I’m curious. Where do you keep your precious things?
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…
When I was 4, I started turning wood. We had a big lathe with a direct-drive motor, a handwheel to the left of the headstock, and a giant rotary switch that went “clunk” when you turned it on. The direct-drive motor meant that the beast had incredible momentum, and the handwheel meant that you could get it up to turning speed with a few yanks and no electricity at all. So, with the aid of a stepstool, I proceeded to learn the basics of woodturning. Many simple candlesticks followed, and eventually I got old enough to use the lathe under power – and without a stepstool, though that took longer.
Turning is a great way to get started in woodworking if you’re the impatient or easily distracted type – like me – because of its immediacy. You can take a piece of wood, chuck it in the lathe, turn for an hour or two, put on some wax, and you have a finished product. Some people specialize in making bowls, or pens, or bottle stoppers – I eventually settled on making spinning tops. They were easy to make, fun to play with, and took relatively little material. Unfortunately, all of the tops I made I either gave away, sold, or left with my parents, and I haven’t been able to track down a single picture. Hopefully I’ll be able to find & post one shortly.
After a while working on the wood lathe, I moved on to turning metal – the idea is the same, but instead of a hand-held tool, you turn a set of dials that move a cutting tool left-right and in-out. While this isn’t as good for creating free-form shapes, it’s great for making cylinders, tapers, and – with the right set of gears – threads. After reading up on turned wood boxes, I decided to try making some out of turned brass. The first attempts were fairly crude, but fun to make and to play with, so I went on to make more. Many years and many boxes later, I still enjoy making them. The brass boxes for sale here represent almost ten years of trial and error, learning how to make the thinnest walls and smoothest threads possible. They’re still turned on a manual lathe and finished by hand. The top and base threads are cut to match each other, rather than to an arbitrary size, so no two boxes are exactly alike.
Things have changed a lot since this picture was taken, but I still love working with the lathe, and still enjoy sharing the things I make. I hope it makes you smile, too.
I asked Zac for a knife for the holidays last year, but with this that and the other thing it turned into a birthday present instead.
Really, the pictures speak for themselves.
My knife, cut, riveted, put together.
Ready for finishing…
Finished! But it’s small for him.
Perfect for me.
In case I haven’t said it before? Thank you, talented man.