ofuro: Japanese soaking tubs


pictured above: a beautiful custom wooden ofuro designed & built by Bartok Design

A few years ago, I remodeled my bathroom, and removed a traditional shower/tub combo. In replacing it with a tiled shower stall and a tub, I faced a dilemma: how to fit these two new items in the same space? Luckily, my solution was Kohler's Greek Soaking Tub, substantially deeper, wider and shorter than their traditional tubs. However, I originally investigated building a custom Japanese soaking tub - or ofuro - before discarding that idea in favor of my lower-cost Kohler alternative.

My father is facing a similar project: he wants to turn the upstairs in his 1917 Craftsman home into a small apartment, with the 1/2 bath currently there becoming a full, albeit tiny, bathroom. Being that the entire upstairs of his house is finished in rich rough wood - mostly raw redwood planks and other woods - he wants the bath to be similarly subtle and consistent, so I recommended an ofuro.

One of the best resources on the subject is Bruce Smith & Yoshiko Yamamoto's Japanese Baths book - lots of eyecandy and ideas in it. But here are some other resources that may be useful.

  • Hydro Systems' 4040 round/square soaking tub
  • Neo-Metro's luxury baths
  • THG's Yoko
  • Neptune makes some larger whirlpools in a vaguely Japanese style
  • MTI has a huge line of luxury baths, including several space-saving corner models and a few deep soakers
  • online retailer Signature Hardware has a nice consolidated listing for several different makers of unorthodox bath & soaking tubs
  • I saw a Cabuchon tub recently installed in Portland, Oregon; it looked great but I couldn't exactly strip down and take a bath at the cocktail party where I saw it
  • Bathpro's Yubune are short and deep
  • TeakTubs look gorgeous but I'm not sure how safe they'd be on a second story, but as long as they're sealed well, I know teak shouldn't split or swell, so maybe they're fine
  • Robert's Hot Tubs makes some really nice tubs, several of which are bathroom-sized
  • Bartok Design's custom Japanese tubs are beautiful and minimalist
  • Driftwood Design also makes custom wooden baths
  • master carpenter Hiroshi Sakaguchi also makes custom tubs, all of which are absolutely gorgeous
  • of course, if the floor is strong enough, you can always frame & pour your own concrete tub to fit any possible shape or space
  • for less than $900, you can have a portable ofuro that will fit in a large shower stall or which can be placed above a drain on a tiled floor - something you can take with you, and one of the simplest solutions to this sort of problem. No reason you can't use a flexible filler, with a hook on the wall above it to turn it into a shower!

ed & alice syszynski: ready to build

We've been big fans of Alice Suszynski's cabinetry ever since we first saw a small cabinet of hers at a bungalow show in San Francisco. Now, Alice has teamed up with her engineer husband Ed to produce a line of ready-to-build kits - small chests, cabinets and boxes intended for jewelry and other precious small items - showing off some of her signature styles. Dream Mountain Studios' ready-to-build line currently includes almost a dozen different designs, all firmly part of the Arts & Crafts tradition - Alice's prairie, bird and floral motifs are my personal favorite.

While you're at it, take a look at Alice's larger (and often custom) case goods.

reclaimed wood tables

From time to time, we allow a company or craftsperson we know and trust to place a sponsored post here at Hewn and Hammered. This particular piece is from Arcadian Lighting, who have been selling home lighting fixtures and lamps online at a deep discount for over 15 years.

Today's guest post is from Susi, a writer for Arcadian Lighting. Visit their website and cool blog for more information about interior design, lighting design, and beautiful light fixtures. A green trend in design is using reclaimed wood for furniture and floors. Reclaimed wood tables are probably the most common type of furniture where you can find reclaimed wood being used. Here are 8 examples of reclaimed wood tables, from contemporary to traditional, that demonstrate green design can be gorgeous design.


Wood Tables

Pinterest (via)

Reclaimed wood can be used for console tables, side tables and bedside tables as well as dining tables and coffee tables. Reclaimed wood is a great, green option for any type of table.

Wood Tables

Pottery Barn (via)

Reclaimed wood is such a hot trend right now that major retailers are getting behind it with their products. Look for dining tables, coffee tables, and console tables all made of reclaimed wood.

Wood Tables

Cote de Texas (via)

A reclaimed wood and steel coffee table looks right at home in a traditional/farmhouse living room. Reclaimed wood tables work well with a number of styles and decors.

Wood Tables

Southern Hospitality (via)

Dining tables made of reclaimed wood mean you don't have to worry about every little stain or scratch. This reclaimed wood trestle table has an antique feel to it. Always aware of a room's light fixtures, we love the lamps and drum pendant light in this room.

Wood Tables

LA Times Blogs (via)

Reclaimed wood paired with metal bases has contemporary clean lines that almost feel industrial. These clean lines mean the reclaimed wood table can work in a variety of dining rooms or kitchens.

Wood Tables

Apartment Therapy (via)

Slabs of reclaimed wood have a more contemporary feel to them when used as tables. Paired with sleek modern or contemporary chairs, this slab table recalls the designs of mid-century design master, George Nakashima.

Wood Tables

LA Times Blogs (via)

A sleek coffee table lets the character and charm of the reclaimed wood be the star. Looks great with the modern style sofa, but could also work in a more traditional room.

Wood Tables

FFFFound (via)

Reclaimed wood has built in charm and age. Knicks, gouges, patina, color variation and rustic finishes are all part of the charm of reclaimed wood tables. Vintage pendant lights are perfect above reclaimed wood tables. Content provided by Arcadian Lighting, a site that specializes in top quality lighting fixtures at extremely affordable prices. If you like this post, be sure to stop by the Arcadian Lighting blog and say hello!

A New Age for Wooden Toys, pt 1

I grew up in Berkeley, California in the 1970s. You know what that means: whole wheat birthday cakes made with organic flour, unfiltered fruit juice, brown rice, hand-knit sweaters ... and wooden toys.

While definitely not a hippie myself, I do have a soft spot for pretty wooden toys, and try to buy my child things that are made by actual human hands with natural materials. Here are a few especially nice items I've seen, all of which are ostensibly made for kids, but which would be appreciated by any adult with taste and an interest in the hand-made.

I loved these as a kid. They're incredibly cheap - $6 for a pack of 50 - but you can build the most incredible, intricate sculptures out of them, from model skyscrapers to full-on Buckyballs:


This pretty mushroom puzzle would be best accompanied by a lesson to teach kids how to spore-print, so that they'll never accidentally eat anything that might hurt them:

These "pet monster" blocks are unfortunately sold out (on Etsy, a treasure-trove of handmade toys):



Etsy seller Deepoca has these four vintage pieces of wooden fruit - a banana, pear, apple and starfruit - for only $12 for the set:


Ulf Hanses designed this 5.25-inch-long Playsam Streamliner wooden car; FitzSu Los Angeles carries them for $46.


Simus the wooden rhinocerous, designed by David Weeks in the style of the great Danish designer Kay Bojesen, is just one of several articulated wooden animals carried by the same company:


Fine Wooden Toys carries this very cool stacking/nesting "furniture house," which can also be a balancing toy, a tunnel-builder, or any one of a dozen other open-ended play items:

Screen shot 2011-01-04 at 1.52.34 PM

The same company sells this cool and colorful German-made magnetic wooden Indian Square puzzle:

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They also have this wonderful fully-furnished ready-to-paint (or wallpaper) dollhouse for $90. I bought one for my daughter before she was born and she gets an enormous amount of use out of it:

Screen shot 2011-01-04 at 1.55.08 PM

Eric Carle was one of my favorite authors as a child and should be well-known to your kids, too; I was happy to discover that the Eric Carle Museum has a number of well-made toys based on his stories, including this very pretty (and very hungry) 12" long caterpillar pull-toy:

Etsy maker/seller Imaginationkids has a number of pretty, sturdy, and brightly-colored stacking, rolling and other sorts of toys (all of which function just as well as desk sculpture for grownups) at extremely fair prices:


Ikea's very cool Lillabo vehicles are $10 for a pack of three, and are only available in some of their stores. And while I always prefer to buy from makers themselves, Ikea does carry a number of really sturdy wooden toys.

Screen shot 2011-01-04 at 2.07.17 PM

Chicago's Agent Gallery has the 28" tall Mr. Wood, below, currently on sale for an undisclosed sum (if you have to ask, etc.):


Blackwagon is a "modern boutique for babies and kids," and carries lots of neat wooden toys, like this cool spinning top:

Screen shot 2011-01-04 at 2.11.37 PM

These pretty Scots-made wooden rattles are £30 from Papa Stour:

Screen shot 2011-01-04 at 2.34.10 PM

Wolfgang Sirch's Max Pushcar is one of several designs made by the Sirch family, who have been designing and making wooden objects for more than 300 years in their native Germany:


You may think the timing of this piece is a bit off - after all, the traditional holiday gift-giving season just ended with 2010. However, kids appreciate beautiful, educational, well-made gifts any time of year, and maybe you'll get some good ideas from the items I've shown above.

Peepshow Bookcase


The beautiful Peepshow bookcase is $2800 (!) from Lekker Home. Lekker claims this is made from "Dimn wood" which I assume is a misspelling of "dimb," a protected type of tree found only in Senegal which is illegal to harvest without a special permit. Permits are issued only to salvage wood from a single naturally-felled tree at a time, which makes me wonder about the provenance of the wood - but which also explains the high pricetag.

Alice Roth Suszynski's boxes & chests

 Picture 1

We last ran a piece on Alice Suszynski's work a few years ago - at the time, she had recently produced an absolutely stunning wooden Arts & Crafts chandelier. Her newest venture is on a slightly smaller scale, although the work is no less intricate and attractive. Recently Alice has been busy making jewelry boxes that are quite a bit different from any you've seen before; some are inlaid, others etched or decorated with interesting dark wood accents; all are hand-made from top-quality woods with beautiful grain, and many include nods to Asian, Prairie and Arts & Crafts forms, although several are firmly modern and would be an excellent gift for an aficionado of almost any style.

Her Rye Grass flatware storage box is also particularly attractive. Alice is open to commissions for a wide range of woodwork projects.

Tim Uli's gate-leg tables


Our friend Tim Uli at T. M. Uli & Son sends this update regarding their sturdy, beautiful gate-leg tables:

... since we first listed on Hewn and Hammered over 4 years ago, our collection of gate leg tables has grown, from the one shown at the time. This type of table is one the most useful pieces of furniture that you can own. It has also been our most popular piece requested by our clients. And as our "Gate leg Gallery"  shows, it can be made to meet your particular needs. This table has been modified from it's original size and style, from contemporary to Arts and Crafts and has been made with one leaf, that is only 29" long when opened, to a multi-leaf version that is 110" when opened completely. If you occasionally need a large table, but don't want one taking up your living space everyday, this is the table for you. See how much space you have for your entertaining and check with us to build you a table. There is a waiting list; so get your name on it so you can have your table before those summer and holiday get togethers roll around. Most of these tables can be sent via UPS for about $150 throughout the US. Truck shipping is also available for the larger tables.

sinusoidal teak door in Surat, India


I'm not usually a huge fan of modern architecture - obviously, given the theme of this site - but the material and the flowing organic quality of this door really struck me. Designed by Matharoo Associates in Surat, India, it is installed in a private residence.

At 5.2m high and 1.7m wide, the door is comprised of 40 sections of 254mm-thick Burma teak. Each section is carved so that the door integrates 160 pulleys, 80 ball bearings, a wire-rope and a counter weight hidden within the single pivot.

Stacked one above the other in the closed position, each plank can then rotate by a simple push causing the door to reconfigure into a sinusoidal curve.

Despite only submitting the door for the competition, the accompanying 1700m² showpiece house features a number of similarly inventive components, including a light-emitting onyx wall, which also caught the judges attention.

Mission corner cabinet by Joel Liebman


Back in 2005, we published a short article on the very gifted New England woodworker Joel Liebman. While many of his colleagues in the region stay strictly focused on the area's Shaker tradition, Joel has melded Shaker lines with Craftsman detailing, producing pieces that are both new and classic at the same time.

He wrote recently to share a piece he finished not too long ago. This corner cabinet, which maximizes space that otherwise might go unused, is made of some very interesting woods - Sapele, Bubinga and Wenge - and includes a nice bit of art glass on the upper doors. The handles are reproduction Stickley designs. It is, of course, a one-of-a-kind piece; contact Joel if you'd like to commission something, and if you do, please send us pictures of the finished product.

a Greentea Design remodeled kitchen in Ottawa

3361465414_4b7b334ccb_b[the finished kitchen; photo by Kim]

Last week, in our post on Greentea Design, I made a quick mention of one specific old-house kitchen remodel using their cabinets. Since then, Mike Ramsey at Greentea was kind enough to supply me with comprehensive background information on this particular project, and I thought it would be of interest to all of you - not just those considering a kitchen remodel, but anyone interested in how this Asian-influenced cabinetry can work in a Craftsman home.

The kitchen in Kim's turn-of-the-century Ottawa bungalow was originally attractive, I'm sure, but long before she moved in there, someone with a surfeit of love for Formica ripped out the original cabinetry and, unfortunately, expressed themselves all over the room. Fast forward to the both modern and at the same time classic finished product - but don't worry, we'll spell out the whole process for you below; you can read even more about it on Kim's own blog.

Kim had already decided to remove the non-bearing wall that separated the kitchen from the living room, which made the previous owner's kitchen cramped and difficult to use. In doing the demolition, she found all sorts of interesting things - layers upon layers of wallpaper and newsprint dating back to 1903. Other demo-related discoveries included what appeared to be horse hair - possibly used for insulation in the ceiling - found when removing wood paneling to allow for can lights,

Next, Greentea interviewed Kim regarding what she wanted and what she needed from the new kitchen, and produced a rough sketch of what would be possible in the new room. Kim picked out which pieces she wanted, and Greentea rendered them in Google Sketchup for confirmation of sizing before they submitted the order to their factory. Pieces included 2 single and one double Mizuya upper cabinets, three Mizuya base cabinets – two 3 drawer versions and a smaller one with chopstick drawers in place of the third drawer – and finally a standard 4 foot Mizuya Pantry. Google Sketchup, the (free) savior to the design/build industries and with a learning curve that allows anyone to pick it up, is again called into use, this time to generate a full render of the finished kitchen.

Soon after the demolition and basic structural changes were completed, Kim received the (very well-packed) cabinetry from Greentea and began to put things into place. Appliances were brought in, base cabinets were installed, and whatever minimal modifications that were needed for plumbing were made, then sink, lighting, and countertops came next; at this point, it was really starting to look like the kitchen she'd been waiting for - certainly a feeling we've all been very happy to have as a remodel starts to actually resemble the picture we have in our heads. One neat addition at this point: Kim had a cat hole made in the hatch to her basement, which was mounted on shock absorbers to let it move up and down smoothly - a really nice feature worth emulating.

And voila: it is done! Finally, you can see how well everything fits into the new cabinetry; her four-foot Mizuya pantry is especially spacious. Kim even made a short video tour of the finished product, which really shows how well these cabinets define the tone of the room, but don't overpower the rest of the house at all.

Again, if you're at all interested in a really good deal on step tansu - my single favorite piece of cabinetry - note that Greentea is running their Step Into Summer promotion, with large discounts on all step tansu, for another two weeks (it ends on June 15!).

Greentea Design: spectacular custom kitchens

Toronto-based Greentea Design has a special place in my heart: not only do they design, build and sell some of the most beautiful kitchen cabinetry available anywhere - in beautiful Japanese-influenced styles that are a perfect match for any Mission or Craftsman home - but they also carry a range of both antique and contemporary reclaimed-wood furniture, some in historic Craftsman and Japanese designs and others in more contemporary shapes. And the prices, even including the (very professional and speedy) shipping from Canada are surprisingly low, making them competitive with any of the larger semi-custom cabinet makers out there, even while using better materials like a clear coat for kitchen cabinets and sturdier building techniques..

While many of their signature pieces - step tansu and other room-defining wood furniture items - are gorgeous, it's that line of kitchen cabinets that I keep coming back to. Sold as custom kitchen sets or as individual stock pieces, the grain of the wood, beautiful (and exclusive to Greentea) hand-forged hardware and trim detail is both Asian and Craftsman at the same time, with enough character to be beautiful and enough attention to design to be eminently useful. Their Loft Kitchen custom design, above, is a combination of the various Mizuya cabinets, including an island and a full range of wall cabinets and accessories; other past custom kitchens have included the simplified Asian Bistro, minimalist Zen Modern, and Chalet Chic, which was tailored for a more open, airy space. Of course, each piece is available by itself as well - all the islands, hutches, wall and base cabinets and pantries you could possibly need are available piecemeal should you wish to design your own kitchen, amd all can be installed in a fixed position or left free-standing (for a movable island, for example). The custom design services offered are impressive - Greentea's staff of furniture and room designers are more than happy to assist with your own custom project or do the work for you; their staff worked extensively with Kim Johnson, owner of a 100-year-old home in Ottawa, on her recent remodel, and the results were very impressive; Kim blogged the entire process on her website, Design to Inspire.

I'm very happy to have a piece of theirs up in my own modern Craftsman kitchen, and I hope to have a few photographs of it soon; a smaller version of the Dana cabinet (pictured above; mine is a similar to what sits above the glass cabinets on the right and left of this unit) completes the rear wall of that recently-remodeled room in my 1925 Mission Revival bungalow in Sacramento, California, and it's a perfect complement for the bamboo floors, stone countertops and glass tile backsplash that round out the project. Some day, I'd like to own one of their step tansus, which I have always maintained are the perfect bridge between an austere Asian design style and the earthy workmanship of the Craftsman aesthetic. And they're running a special "Stepping Into Summer" promotion right now, with 20% discounts on these unique pieces, including the Elm Burl step tansu, shown below.

Owner Dale Storer has worked hard to make sure that Greentea's products complement a wide range of architectural styles, though, and much of their more contemporary designs would look at home whether in a traditional Japanese home, a Craftsman bungalow, or a modern high-tech apartment. The Lattice TV Stand, pictured below, hides components behind a latticed sliding door that still allows remote controls to function, and is just as good a match for an urban loft as it is for a 90-year-old brown-shingle Craftsman bungalow. Every one of these pieces is made from reclaimed wood, and all come in a variety of finishes with different types of hardware available as well. Mike Ramsey writes that the reclaimed wood usually comes from "aging rural structures that are being taken down to make way for Asia's rapidly expanding urban centers. The Maru tables are the best example since they're turned into tables directly from being reclaimed. The original supports are cut into legs who have correspondingly sized holes cut in the base of the slabs of floor."

Their antiques stock, some of which is on hand at their Toronto showroom, is also worth checking out; I'm partial to the large selection of all sorts of Japanese tansu, but they also carry plenty of Chinese and Korean pieces as well.

I'm not so used to giving such praise to a business - as regular readers know, I'm pretty stingy with compliments and generous with criticism, which is certainly a fault. However, after dealing with this company myself and going gaga over their website, I just wanted to make sure you were all as familiar with them as I've become. After seeing so many (primarily) Japanese antiques blend so well with the large shingled Craftsman homes of California, but noticing the absence of same elsewhere in the country, I thought perhaps most people didn't realize that the two styles matched so well.

If you're in or near Toronto, definitely check out the Greentea showroom; otherwise, spend a few minutes browsing their website, or call them at 1.866.426.7286 to talk with someone about your kitchen design or furniture needs.

I've made a small Flickr album for photos of their work; I'll soon add a good shot of the Dana cabinet in my own kitchen; those of you who already have Greentea cabinets, please do send me your photos, and I'll add them as well!

Globe library card catalog refinishing assistance needed

Web2137 Knowing our extreme interest in old library card catalogs - specifically those made by Globe, the acknowledged masters of this particular furniture item - reader Gerry Comninos writes us the following from South Africa; photographs of his unit are available in our woodwork set over at Flickr:

I am busy restoring one of The Globe company’s earlier pieces of library furniture.

I have recently acquired a Globe card index file which is about 100 years old. It has a patent notice - the patent was filed by a certain gentleman with the very flamboyant name of Royal Lee Vilas in 1897.

There are library cards in the drawers indicating a date of 1908. The index cards can be “locked” by turning the knobs on the drawer front.

I intend to restore the cabinet to its former glory. As you can see the desk top is missing and the roller top has been broken. Other than that the cabinet is in perfect working order. All the drawers slide perfectly as do the card lock mechanisms even after years in our rather harsh climate!

I have searched the web for a similar piece for reference purposes but to no avail.

 I am trying to collect information regarding this cabinet and I wonder if it is at all possible to obtain (or if you could tell me where to get) the following information.

    1. Any image of the complete cabinet and the missing top so that I may replicate it faithfully.
    2. Do you perhaps have a copy of the original brochures or catalogues of this cabinet?

Does anyone have advice for Mr. Comninos? If so, please post it in the comments here!

restaining, bleaching or otherwise altering stained wood

Hot on the heels of my (cranky) criticism of a newspaper columnist suggesting painting wood trim comes a very good question from one of our readers. Anyone have good advice?

What would you recommend for real wood trim and doors but that are in a stain the owner hates?

I don't have a period house (it is maybe 10 yrs old) so real restoration is not an issue.  Unfortunately, however, I hate the orangy-tinted stain that is all over the house (no, I'm not the original homeowner).  I've gotten used to it over the years, but I still don't like it.

For a 2 story house, with baseboard, door trim and doors plus stairs, the idea of having it all refinished is a nightmare. I can't imagine how much it would cost, and so painting over it seems like a much more manageable and affordable solution. (esp when the doors and trim are not a nice flat surface, but instead have a lot of grooves).

For someone who can handle painting but not refinishing, please convince me! [for example, would it be more affordable to try to sell the trim/doors and start from scratch??]

Live Auctioneers has plenty of treats

Picture 1 Live Auctioneers are a gateway / aggregator to hundreds of live (and non-live) antique auctions. Among the thousands of items viewable and biddable, there are hundreds of terrific items of interest to Arts & Crafts aficionados. Here are a few of my favorites from upcoming auctions:

old craft, new tech

081203-Rainer-Spehl-1 Rainier Spehl, a woodworker specializing in display materials and exhibition stands for clients like Nike, Dior and Gucci, has built a wooden laptop slipcase for Apple portable computers. There's no price - we assume that if you have to ask... Spehl us developing his own line of furniture and products (including some interesting public compositions) and takes commissions from a variety of private clients including the large firms mentioned above.

Some of his work is a little stark for my taste, but there's no denying his excellent integration of grain and texture into otherwise very modern contexts. A Craftsman approach to materials pops up in the most unexpected places!

Alternatively, check out Brian Kelly's pretty plywood & cork laptop case.

traditional meets modern in Andong, South Korea


We just got back from a week in Korea where we met & from which we brought home our adopted daughter. During the trip, our old friend Youngji and her sister Eunji drove us all over the country, including a stop in Andong to visit with their parents, who were staying at their "winter house," an apartment in that city. Just outside the city limits sits the "summer house," which their father designed a few years back and hired traditional craftspeople to build.

The house is new, but traditionally-designed (or at least traditionally-inspired). Architecturally it was a marvel: simple and humble on the outside, but large and beautiful inside. It was wide and low, with a small second story on one side - housing only two small square bedrooms with windows on three sides of each and a bit of storage. The staircase itself was very steep, and with the open spaces underneath looked more like a ladder - or a bookcase!

The wall of screen doors pictured here opens in two ways: the individual panes can be unlatched and swung inward, or the entire wall can be unlatched and swung upward, where its free end can be hung on hand-forged iron fixtures attached to the ceiling beams. This allows summer breezes and light to fill the entire house when the weather is good. The house sits aside numerous rolling orchards and wide-open farmland - surprising in this country that is mostly steep mountains and valleys - and is situated right on the base of a low set of hills looking out over this open land.

The entire house was full of great wood accents, all of them just as much architectural as decorative. The master bedroom, in a sort of satellite peninsula built onto the side of the house with a mudroom/airlock - which acts as a temperature buffer between it and the main house - is built on top of a giant and foot-thick stone slab; a wood or charcoal fire is lit below it, from outside the house, which warms the floor (the rest of the house uses the more typical steam-heated floors common throughout Korea, underneath beautiful Eucalyptus-looking wood floors in the main rooms and a soft organic flooring somewhat like Marmoleum, in the same pale yellow that I saw in many other Korean homes, in the bedrooms).

I am told that no nails or screws were used in the structural work of the house - all the beams fit together, and the walls are made of yellow clay brick covered in a mud mixture, and then wallpapered with rice paper.

The unique coffee table shown here, flush on the floor (the house had no seating other than thin but soft cushions, as all sitting happens directly right on the heated floor), was made from the base of a 300-year old fallen tree. The house has very little furniture - a few small bedside tables, a wooden chest or two, and a big beautiful rough-hewn bookshelf off the master bedroom, so the intricate beauty of something like this table really shines.

Voysey clocks & more

from our friend Christopher Vickers:

Following on from the CFA Voysey Clocks postings here last August [Voysey clocks; Chris Vickers & Voysey], readers may be interested in Christopher Vickers new page featuring many of the period Voysey clocks still known to exist.

Chris would be very interested to receive further information / images of Voysey clocks, or really anything at all designed by Voysey!

Gustav Stickley library table, from the Metropolitan Museum collection


Library table, ca. 1906
Gustav Stickley (American, 1858–1942); Craftsman Workshops
Syracuse, New York
Oak, leather; H. 30 in. (76.2 cm), Diam. 55 in. (139.7 cm)
Gift of Cyril Farny, in memory of his wife, Phyllis Holt Farny, 1976 (1976.389.1)

Inspired by William Morris, Gustav Stickley founded The United Crafts (later known as Craftsman Workshops) in 1898. Stickley was greatly influenced by Ruskin and Morris, his travels to Europe, and important contemporary journals such as The Studio and Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration. Initially managing the firm as a guild, Stickley participated in profit-sharing with his employees, but as the operation grew, regular factory standards were implemented. The Craftsman line was introduced to the public in 1900. This hexagonal library table is made of oak with a leather top ostensibly adhered by overt circular tacks, and utilizes visible joinery with tenon-and-key joints. Illustrated in the November 1902 issue of The Craftsman, the Arts and Crafts periodical published by Gustav Stickley between 1901 and 1916, the hexagonal library table became a popular item in Stickley's sales inventory.

truly amazing tool chests

2bb8f2cbe6443920cab9f8f8890e1361ori Oobject, which presents short photo essays of interesting collections of objects, recently put up this terrific selection of toolboxes. Certainly my favorite is number 1, organ and piano maker Henry O. Studley's amazing hand-crafted toolbox (pictured), which is as much a piece of art as a box for storing tools in (many of the tools look to be custom made as well). That particular item is now in private hands but is loaned to the Smithsonian from time to time for special exhibits.

Other highlights include a 1949 machinist's chest and the sublime Wohn Geist woodworker's toolchest.

Thonet Model 14

Thonetmodel14 There's a wonderful article in the November 7 International Herald Tribune on the Thonet Model 14 (aka the "Thonet Bentwood Chair"), which might be the world's most popular model of chair. You might never have seen this six-piece wonder, but one glance and you'll know you've sat in dozens of them:

The No.14 was the result of years of technical experiments by its inventor, the 19th-century German-born cabinetmaker Michael Thonet. His ambition was characteristically bold. Thonet wanted to produce the first mass-manufactured chair, which would be sold at an affordable price (three florins, slightly less than a bottle of wine). Many of his rivals had tried to make similar chairs, but failed and, at first, Thonet seemed doomed to failure too. When his German workshop was seized by creditors in 1842, he moved his family to Austria and opened a workshop in Vienna, determined to try again.

Eventually Thonet succeeded. When the No.14 was launched in 1859, it was the first piece of furniture to be both attractive and inexpensive enough to appeal to everyone from aristocrats to schoolteachers. By 1930, some 50 million No.14s had been sold, and millions more have been snapped up since then. Brahms sat on one to play his piano, as did Lenin while writing his political tracts, and millions of us have perched comfortably on them in cafés. Another admirer was the modernist pioneer Le Corbusier. "Never was a better and more elegant design and a more precisely crafted and practical item created," he enthused.

Vintage Timber Gates in Woolton, Merseyside

Village Timber Gates is a relatively new firm building bespoke and stock gates and garage doors from sustainably-harvested Scandinavian redwood. Most of their designs are perfectly apropos for an Arts & Crafts home; ledge & brace gates like the Lincoln and Hampshire especially so. They've recently put up an extensive gallery of photographs - lots of neat products here, and even if you're not in the UK it's a great source of ideas.

Voysey's clocks: miscellany

After Wednesday's post, I've been reading a lot about Voysey and his clocks.

He didn't design all that many, but many contemporary designers - and several contemporary to Voysey - have built clocks in his style. Here are a few originals & paeans to them:

Christopher Vickers & CFA Voysey

Wallpaper_advert I first encountered Christopher Vickers' work when a friend showed me photos of a clock he built (he's also reproduced another famous Voysey clock with which you may be more familiar). Based on C. F. A. Voysey's original plans, the clock is built from 7,000-year-old bog oak, and is inlaid with (faux) ivory. The original was built by Voysey in 1921 for a client - the same one for whom Voysey designed the beautiful Holly Mount in Beaconsfield. Voysey was known for his clocks, of course; apparently, he loved the confluence of lettering, machine, and furniture that these tiny and complicated objects represented.

Vickers is a scholar of all things Voysey, and 20th-century British design in general, with quite a bit of background on this great and often overlooked designer / artist / architect on his website; my own love of Voysey's work springs mainly from my interest in typography and Voysey's wonderful and expressive hand-lettering (see the wallpaper advertisement here, taken from Mr. Vickers' site) - so seeing Vickers' exceptional work, and through it his obvious love for the combined subtlety and detail that I've always appreciated in Voysey, really impressed and resonated with me.

My favorite piece of Voysey-designed furniture in Vickers collection is this replica dining chair with arms, originally designed in 1902. Vickers' reproduction sells for £1850, and appears to be completely true to the original.

Other impressive bits of Mr. Vickers' work include unique items of Arts & Crafts lighting; a number of beautiful and useful chests in a variety of sizes and configurations; beautiful and sturdy tables, including some based on Voysey designs for Hollymount and other homes; inlaid wooden boxes; cabinetry and shelving, including several that feature hardware hand-forged by Vickers; and a number of pieces of metalwork, produced in the Gimson-Cotswold tradition in just the way we like it: "by hammer & hand."

Vickers' work is art and craft, and some of the finest contemporary A&C furniture I've seen. If you're interested, you can see pieces on display from September 10 to 24 at the 2nd annual Arts & Crafts Exhibition in Gloucestershire's Prinknash Abbey Park; from September 13 to 28, you can actually visit his workshop in Frome, as it will be open to the public during Somerset Art Weeks. His work will also be included in the Ernest Gimson and the Arts & Crafts Movement exhibit in Leicester, November 8 2008 through March 1 2009.

woodworking injuries - aka "stupid tablesaw tricks"

As always, please use proper safety procedures and gear when using tools that are sharp, pointy, or that could otherwise hurt you or anyone in the vicinity (click for the full, gory thing):


l-r, top to bottom: a b ? d e f

Thanks to the many clumsy woodworkers (and I include myself in that number) on Flickr for these images. Please note that I have left off the most graphic, just so you don't lose your lunch.

Rob Bennett, cabinetmaker or scam artist...?

Artcabinet5 Rob Bennett, a cabinetmaker living in Terre Haute, specializes in faithful recreations of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and other classic Craftsman designs - and also does a fair amount of repair and restoration of antique furniture. His firm, House of Yesteryear, has a modest site that he markets his new items through (including a few items that integrate Motawi and Van Briggle art tile); pay special attention to such details as his Victorian fretwork - it may be the kind of decoration that the A & C movement rebelled against, but it is indicative the level of detail that shines through in all of Bennett's work. Pictured is Bennett's newest project, a beautiful 10-foot long Art Nouveau dining room cabinet.

Above posted 2005; addendum as of 06.30.08:

Apparently, Mr. Bennett is either a scam artist or a very, very poor businessman; as the comments on this thread - and a half-dozen emails I've received from unhappy clients - attest, he's taken the money & run, and his website, linked above, is now down. If anyone can help get in touch with this fellow, and any guild or trade association he may be involved with, I'm sure his would-be clients would be very appreciative.

Craig Yamamoto, woodworker

Craig33333 Woodworker week (which might turn into a month) continues with Whidbey Island's Craig Yamamoto, whose fusion of traditional Japanese cabinetry and the simple, subtle lines of Shaker furniture is as attractive as it is useful. He works with sustainably grown and harvested exotics as well as some domestic hardwoods, and as can be seen in the grain and texture of his work, puts an enormous amount of effort nto hand-selecting the woods he uses.

Take a look at various galleries of Craig's work:

Michael J. Kronau Fine Custom Woodwork

Michael Kronau is  a cabinetmaker and finish carpenter in Poestenkill NY, a small town just east of Albany. His experience is primarily in cabinetry and architectural woodwork, but he also builds commercial and residential furniture on a custom basis. His website is unfortunately light on photos of his architectural work, but some of the furniture featured there - including a beautiful and massive sideboard / storage unit, an organic-looking rocking chair that fuses the Shaker and Art Nouveau styles (see the What's New section) and the maple armoire in the gallery are just spectacular.

Apparently craftsmanship runs in the family, as Michael's son, Michael Jr., is a stonecutter.

Four Sisters Woodworking

Hvo_14 The three principals at Four Sisters Woodworking - Harry Van Ornum, Scotty Lyons and Les Cizek - share a beautiful, state of the art woodworking and textiles studio in the mountains above Fort Bragg, California. Four sisters, you ask? Well, sisters in spirit; the fourth being long-gone Dixie Whipple. All three accept students for short-term intensive courses of individual instruction.

Van Ornum's, a master cabinetmaker, is influenced by Shaker simplicity, Craftsman detail and Japanese style; his most succesful work (like this amazing desk / storage tansu (pictured), this Craftsman / Japanese cabinet, and the various small tables and boxes he's built over the years) combine elements of all these aesthetics. Cizek's work complements Van Ornum, in its deceptive simplicity; some of his less orthodox designs are particularly striking and much more modern.

Lyons is both business manager and head textile designer & weaver at Four Sisters. She produces custom textiles for upholstery, as well as rugs and many other types of textile products, and is particularly interested in experimenting with pleated cloth.

stuff I like: BoWrench

51bmzze9qql_ss350_ It's not often that I get excited about a new tool - after all, while new and useful gadgets do appear on the market from time to time, the old standbys of saw, hammer, screwdriver, pliers and wrench seem to be working just fine for awhile now. Advertised as a decking wrench, this untique $40 tool would be good in many other applications as well, including subfloor & fencing installation.

The Cepco BW-2 "BoWrench Decking Tool" is basically a clamping lever (that fits onto a joist) that allows you to straighten long boards and holds them so that they can be nailed into place. It'll join tongue & groove pieces, can push and pull, and will close gaps as much as 2 inches.

Berkeley Mills kitchens

Photo_122_270_3 In addition to their beautiful furniture, Berkeley Mills also brings their blended Japanese / Arts & Crafts aesthetic to kitchen design. The Wabisabi kitchen (pictured) is both minimalist Japanese and Craftsman; the Madera is a deceptively simple design with plenty of light and horizontal lines; the Sereno blends a variety of different natural surfaces into smooth modern lines, and their custom Arts & Crafts kitchen installations [one / two] bring the Berkeley Mills maple-based aesthetic into the most important room in the house - well, in my house at least.

Of course, this latest foray into interior architecture is not really that much of a departure for this group of master cabinetmakers; they've been making built-ins, doors, shoji and other finish carpentry for many years. If anything, this addition to their catalog is more a formalization of something they've been doing quite awhile than anything really new.

Stu's Woodworks, Washington DC

stu's woodwork - arts and crafts bed

Stu Crick is President of the Washington (DC) Woodworkers' Guild and, from his fathers' woodshop through the restoration and remodeling of several homes, has been a woodworker for most of his life. Today, he builds furniture strongly influenced by the Arts & Crafts Movement, with Stickley-esque legs - "four highly-figured solid quarter-sawn pieces," interlocked with a locking-mitre joint. Squared-off spindles on Stu's tables are reminiscent of Prairie school work, and inlaid pegs and splines suggest Greene & Greene's best furniture. Stew describes his own influences:

While there are many influences that effect the creation of my furniture, the principle influence is the wood itself. George Nakashima, in his book The Soul of a Tree, describes how each piece of wood has a specific purpose that it reveals to the woodworker. This is the philosophy that guides me as I build furniture. I search for wood with a unique character and figure that harmonizes with each part of my furniture. I rarely stain or color the wood, instead preferring to hand-rub an oil finish that allows the woods figure to dominate the design.

take a look at a gallery of Stu's work

great moments in remodeling: a very pretty cutout

Cutoutkitchentrim Chris Henry, aka Flickr user somefoolonline, recently finished a bit of remodeling that included a cutout between his kitchen and dining room. Not a big deal, you say. I've seen plenty of cutouts, you say. But have you ever seen one as nice as this? I don't think so. The combination of paint color, vintage stove, the beautifully-finished wood and the rooms themselves are absolutely sublime. I'd certainly like to see more of their home if it looks anything like this!

ask an expert: caring for hardwood floors

The Cleveland Plain Dealer's always-useful Ask an Expert column dealt this past week with something we all need to be concerned about but often overlook: caring for our hardwood floors.

Q: I have a beautiful 1925 Craftsman bungalow. The house is blessed with wood floors. I have noticed a black spot near the doorway to the kitchen (a heavy-traffic area) and also in the corner of the family room (a not-so-heavy-traffic area). What are my options in dealing with theses spots? And, more importantly, where do they come from so I can stop them from coming back? There are no leaks anywhere near the spots, and the floor is always dry (except when I mop). Do you have any suggestions on types of cleaners I can use to keep the floors looking shiny and new? I've been using Murphy's Oil Soap. - D.W., Bedford

A: From Roger Somogyi of Lamb Floor Fashion Center (30840 Lake Shore Blvd., Willowick, 440-943-6722):

As you know, hardwood floors are natural, beautiful and timeless. Caring and consistent proper cleaning and maintenance will ensure that they remain that way.

As for the black spots, I would have to assume that it is some type of moisture-related problem, possibly pet urine or mold. With your home being a 1925 vintage, it is likely that whatever has caused the black spots has penetrated the surface, and a plank replacement is the best way to permanently solve the problem. The wood planks that show the spots can be removed, new, unfinished planks can be installed, and the new planks can be custom stained to match the color and finish of your existing floor. A reputable wood repair and refinishing company should be able to help.

Cleaning techniques vary depending on the type of finish that is on the uppermost layer of the floor, which is called the wear layer. Knowing the type of finish is important to properly clean a wood floor.

read the entire column with information on caring for a variety of finishes

wanted: dining room table

wanted: Attractive & sturdy Craftsman-style rectangular dining room table with 2 leaves - capable of seating 8 or 10 with the leaves in, 4-6 without - for under $500. Something that will stay sturdy and last at least two generations. Any suggestions?

DIY Networks' Wood Works: a mission-style ottoman

Picture_1 From the episode abstract:

Based on the design motifs of the Arts and Crafts style of the 1920s, the Mission-style ottoman in this Wood Works project features strong lines, mortise-and-tenon joinery and a natural wood finish. Precisely milled wood and subtle details such as the beveled through-tenons suggest strength and fine craftsmanship.

book review: Craftsman Furniture Projects


Craftsman Furniture Projects: Timeless Designs & Trusted Techniques From Woodworking's Top Experts

My colleague Derek Martin, an experienced and very talented woodworker, recently offered to review a book I received from the kind folks at Woodworkers' Journal:

Thank you for the opportunity to read and give my brief review of Craftsman Furniture Projects.

I will start out by saying that I not only enjoyed the easy reading, but I also found myself distracted by the illustrations as I thumbed my way through the book. The book is loaded with diagrams, templates and pictures. Many more visual displays are also included to show exactly what is being done which can be especially useful if it’s your first time trying a particular procedure. Finished products are also displayed to show you what you are working towards at all times. So the use of illustration in this book along with descriptive detail made it an A+ for me.

One of my favorite items was the use of old woodworking tools and the brief explanation of what their purpose was on the project. Some were tools that can still be very useful today such as the wood marking gauge used to drawl more precise lines while performing the layout of a rabbet joint on a piece of stock. Simple tools like this can be found, usually when you’re not looking for them, at garage sales and flea markets and I have developed a habit of collecting and using such items rather than their newer and cheaper counterparts.

Throughout the book you will find sections called Quick-Tips and Technical Drawings. These brief paragraphs are hints and tips that outline safety, accuracy and workarounds for each project.

This issue includes nearly twenty beautiful furniture pieces that can be constructed in any decently outfitted woodshop. I would recommend this book to any beginner who wants to try their hand at building sturdy and eye-catching furniture or any master craftsman who thinks he’s seen it all.

Mendota Mantels in St. Paul, Minnesota


Each Mendota mantel - made from antique reclaimed old-growth timbers and "rescued wood" - is unique, and uniquely beautiful. The wood has been salvaged from old barns, mills and warehouses, most built from the mid 19th to early 20th century, and each piece is sculpted with hand tools. Custom carving - like this piece by Jock Holman, on a rescued beam from a Norwegian ship - is available, although much of their work simply celebrates the natural grain and shape of the wood without any additional decoration. They describe the provenance of their materials thus:

Antique Reclaimed timber mantels are recycled beams that have been salvaged from old buildings. They have an estimated age of 300 to 800+ years. They are antiques. They grew from old growth forests that flourished in America through the 1930’s - forests that are now mostly gone.

Our reclaimed timbers were milled into beams in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to become mills, factories, warehouses, and barns - buildings now being demolished.

Unlike water-salvaged timbers, our Reclaimed timbers have been air-aging for over 100 years. This slow air-drying enhances color, beauty and character.

Most importantly, air-dried timbers are more stable and much less likely to twist or check (crack). Reclaimed antique timbers are a limited resource.

Our ‘Rescued’ timber mantels are milled from present day trees that have been discarded. They are most often logs from urban tree services, storm blown trees, or ‘ends’ from logging operations.

The artisans at Mendota are comfortable working in the Craftsman / Mission Revival style, as in this piece by Dan Guion, just as much as doing much more contemporary-styled work like this backlit mantel made from heart pine reclaimed from Wabasha's Big Jo Flour Mill. Check out a gallery of their work.