BowlsI get strangely addicted to making bowls. The aspen bowl on the left was a pain to try to finish decently, but it is the first “basic bowl” that I have not thrown away. The zebrawood variant on the right went awry. One of the rings got flipped, but I liked it so I kept it anyway. It finished up a lot darker than I expected, but is an interesting piece.



My first try at spatula making

My first try at spatula making

I had a piece of 3/8″ curly maple that I didn’t have a use for and the spatulas in the kitchen were looking a bit shabby. Making these things can get addictive.

Second batch of spatulas, a bit bigger than the first ones.

Second batch of spatulas, a bit bigger than the first ones.

The second batch were done from 1/2″ curly maple.

Roubo Book Stand Phase 1

20130820-150634.jpg This is my third attempt at a Roubo book stand. The first one went wrong because I marked it wrong. The second one failed due to bad chisel work (not deep enough to split the hinge successfully). The third one worked. I suspect I’ll finish it with a few more details and some smoothing, but it was sort of a proof of concept for an easy sort of “wood puzzle” that has utility around the house.


The hinge is a little tight because the spacing was tight by a millimeter or so; but I suppose I’m just being picky about that. This is really an exercise in doing careful and precise ripping and chisel work.


The only real cut problem was the crosscut to take the front part off— the pine warped while I was cutting it, as you can see, forcing overcuts to get through the bowed part. Easy to sand out, but it took me a minute to figure out what happened. The wood moved after it was ripped.

My paring skills need improvement too. This project really made me lust after a good 1″ old-school paring chisel badly. A nice long handle one with a thin blade would make this sort of work much easier.

I’ve got a nice piece of curly cherry I’d like to make one of these out of, if I get my courage up. Three tries is kind of pitiful to try and get something so simple done.

Silverware Tray

I really wanted to get back into making things out of wood. One of the most frustrating things about having major house problems this year was not being able to get into my shop to work. I made this as a sort of warm-up to try to get back to the business of making things.


Listening to a podcast off and on for the last few days, I’ve been intrigued by some of the impassioned arguments for abstraction by Kirk Varnedoe. His arguments are complex and multi-layered, but relatively easy to digest. One claim is that minimalism can be read as growing from two opposite trends: first, an evolutionary (art-historical) trend towards reduction of form/representation to its simplest form and second a revolutionary trend leading to the irrelevance of representation—a sort of dadaist flouting of the convention that pictures are actually of something. Art seen either as a historical/rational progression or as a continual slash and burn campaign to discard the old definitions of what constitutes art. The two trends mutually exclusive, but the actual physical objects created in pursuit of each aim are indistinguishable without delving into secondary literature about them.

Similarly, Varnedoe discusses differences between West Coast and East Coast minimalism claiming that while East Coast minimalism places a slab of steel in a gallery to emphasize the pragmatic nature of art as objects (you can stub your toe on it) the West Coast variant tends to lead one to the slippery nature of objects as illusions, as surfaces constructed only by momentary and transitory impressions. In discussing the East Coast version, he suggests that the pragmatic nature of minimalism is tied to the rejection of the concept that art resides in abstract ideas. In other words, to call such non-representation art “abstract” is the worst sort of misreading. In its own way, minimalism is a rejection of the trend towards abstraction and rationalism.

It works this way: by placing a steel slab on a gallery floor, it challenges us the idea that the work of art is a rational practice constructed from ideas. Rather than Eurocentric rationalism which screams “contemplate this,” it places it where we can literally stub our toes on it forcing us to pragmatically deal with the presence of this object in this context; practical reason, a la American pragmatism rather than “intellectualize this.” It’s a tough sell, but it makes a sort of twisted sense.

Old ideas give way slowly; for they are more than abstract logical forms and categories. They are habits, predispositions, deeply engrained attitudes of aversion and preference. Moreover, the conviction persists—though history shows it to be a hallucination that all the questions that the human mind has asked are questions that can be answered in terms of the alternatives that the questions themselves present. But in fact intellectual progress usually occurs through sheer abandonment of questions together with both of the alternatives they assume an abandonment that results from their decreasing vitality and a change of urgent interest. We do not solve them: we get over them.

Old questions are solved by disappearing, evaporating, while new questions corresponding to the changed attitude of endeavor and preference take their place. (19)

John Dewey, The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy and Other Essays (1910)