Clients brought a painted black table base to us to have a new table top made for it. The base had significant emotional and historical meaning to the wife as it had been in her family for generations as seen in this picture of her in 1949 standing next to her grandfather holding her cousin with the original mahogany pedestal end table in the background. The clients had adapted the table over the years to now function as a breakfast table for their spacious and inviting kitchen area.
After looking at wood samples, they chose a highly figured Curly Maple wood for the new table top. Since they were also wanting to increase the diameter of the table top, Mark worried about the “moment of tilt” factor with just the original base if someone used the edge of the table to hoist themselves out of their chair. Mark recommended that a base be attached to the bottom of the pedestal to increase the table’s stability.
Mark searched for the most highly figured maple and ended up ordering the wood out of a company in PA. It was indeed beautiful wood, but when Mark put a moisture meter to the wood, he was getting moisture readings of 12% which was just too high for him to trust how the glue joints would hold up once in the HVAC of the client’s home. He consulted with many wood drying experts and finally decided to build his own mini-kiln in the shop with a tarp, small dehumidifier, heat, and a fan to keep the air moving around the wood. This drying process ended up taking two months to finally reach an acceptable 8.5% moisture content and the clients very graciously accepted this delay in production.
The treasured pedestal now has new life as a very functional table where the owners will share many a meal and conversation with friends in their warm and hospitable home.
If you have been in our studio in the last year, you will have seen this 1932 Packard 900 Coupe Light Eight (referring to engine size) car body in our studio. In the view above, you are looking in the back window just over the rumble seat. Click on this in order to see a picture of a restored version of this same Packard. There are only a few existing coupes since the majority of these Packards had their roofs cut off when the wood structure began to rot in order to be converted to roadsters or open-air models. Originally, these Packards had a wooden framework over which canvas was stretched to form the roof. As you can see in these pictures, much of the original wooden framework was badly rotted or missing. We had to reconstruct these supporting elements and hand-shape the correct curves and angles so that the window would fit properly and a canvas top could be attached accurately. This may sound simple, but the re-creation of this interlocking structure took 285 hours to complete.
The Light Eight was intended as Packard's price leader at the entry level of the luxury car market. The marketing objective was to add a new market segment for Packard during the depression. It was attractive to buyers, but it failed in its main reason for existence, which was to lure away buyers from its rivals. Instead, it hurt the sales of Packard's more luxury and higher-priced models. A Light Eight 4-door, 5-passenger Sedan was priced at USD $1,750, compared to $2,485 for a similar Standard Eight Sedan. The three other Light Eight body styles cost $1,795 each. Packard managed to sell 6,785 units of its new model before discontinuing. Today, the restorer we worked with said he only knew of 6 existing models of this particular coupe.
The front of the car body was not in our shop as the engine is being totally rebuilt. The original upholstery will be artfully duplicated for this interior with leather and canvas dyed to be historically accurate and including wool cloth from a British company which has been supplying materials since this car was first produced. The final product will be a breathtaking reproduction of the original Packard 900 coupe as it rolled off the assembly line in 1932 – ready roll again in another year after other artisans painstakingly apply their craft. We were just thrilled to have been a part of this re-creation of one of the finest products of America’s past.
Clients, Tom and Carol, brought us some 4-inch thick Myrtle wood that had been in storage for the last 40 years. Tom’s father had owned a saw mill in the Pacific Northwest and had set this wood aside. Even with all this aging, the wood’s moisture level was at 14%. We had to arrange kiln drying to bring the moisture level down to 8% for the furniture to be in the home’s HVAC.
Designing the table and figuring out how to best use the “live edge” posed many challenging and exciting possibilities. Mark had intended to “average out” some of the rougher areas of the live edge so it could be sanded completely smooth, but Carol liked the dramatic look of the edge, so we used flexible flapper sanders to remove splintered wood while maintaining the effect of the ring debarker. We also had many hours of hand sanding. Tom jumped at the chance to work on the table to help transform the live edge from extremely rough to smooth and user-friendly.
At first, we chose a spectacular board for a possible trestle-style table base. But ultimately, artist John Christensen (www.christensen-oko.com) created a stainless steel base for the dining table and the exceptional board became a coffee table top for which John also created a metal base. In fact, in the course of the 9-month birthing process of these tables, there were many lively discussions and exchange of ideas between Mark as artisan, Tom as engineer/artist, Carol as designer and John as artist.
The tables are full of interest and character due to many cracks that were created by the wood’s shrinkage over time combined with the stunning figure around knots and the lustrous curl in the wood’s grain. After all these years in storage, the wood has new life as two very distinctive and unique tables in Tom and Carol’s showcase home.
A client brought a bronze eagle sculpture to us asking for a wooden base to showcase it. Although she could not define exactly what she wanted, she knew she wanted the base to be very natural and organic. After some thought, Mark remembered this holly stump he had tucked away. Selecting the ideal section of the stump to create the base, he cut away the extraneous parts. After sanding the top and bottom of the base only, he oiled the base to bring out the natural color and give it new life.
With this promo graphic for the West Austin Studio Tour May 13-14 & May 20-21 (11 am – 6 pm), I feel our landscaping and gardens will be on tour as much as our studio! The design theme for this year’s Tour is driven by the importance of supporting regional artists and the spaces they live and work in. Land stewardship is key to a healthy landscape and creativity needs the same stewardship for a healthy artistic ecosystem. So the graphics for the Tour are focusing on native flowering plants with the goal of celebrating what our community has to offer – both in flora and creativity.
So Landers’ Studio is excited to be on this Tour. We are artist #295. You can pick up catalogs and maps at many of the local libraries or go online at http://west.bigmedium.org/. Hope to see you then!
In one of my past blogs, “A Giant Wood Jig Saw Puzzle”, I posted a picture of wood stacked in a kiln for drying and explained that Landers’ Studio had been contracted by Seton (and their sub-contractor J.E. Dunn) to act as a consultant on drying the wood and advising on the best means to ultimately utilize and showcase this wood in the new hospital. Now Landers’ Studio has been contracted to build liturgical furniture for the chapel using this reclaimed elm and pecan wood.
One of the featured elements in the chapel furnishings will be the crucifix (shown in this sketch). Landers will construct the crucifix itself and artist, David Everett, will carve the corpus. The curved crosspiece of the crucifix will reflect the natural-edged curved stretcher of the altar design (maquette shown in featured image above). Landers will build the base of the altar and Kincannon Studios will create the limestone altar top. Landers will also bring in metal artist, John Christensen, to fabricate the candle stands and the tabernacle lamp. Kathleen Ash, Studio K glass artist, will create the stained glass for the chapel doors, the glass of the tabernacle lamp and the baptismal font. Landers also invited another woodworker, Mark Macek, to create some of the furniture.
Landers is now milling and processing the wood in order to create the components of his designs. For some components, the wood has had to be laminated into thicker stock. Some of the most showy natural pieces of wood have flaws and cracks that need to be epoxied for strength and beauty. I will blog again as the components start coming together into liturgical furniture for the new Chapel.