Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Library Progress: First Three Cabinets

Bathroom sink cabinet
Sample kitchen cabinet built in 1996
While waiting for the room to be advanced in construction far enough with all the rough in work, windows, electrical, and fire proofing foam which was sprayed before the insulation and drywall installation, I decided to design and build the two sink cabinets so that the plumbing could be completed.   The bathroom cabinet was fairly straight forward with the exception of altering the top row of drawers to extend a few inches out beyond the lower section.  This was a small detail that I had only seen before in my Dad's kitchens, who used to build his cabinets right in the house.  I someday still want to build a set of kitchen cabinets that have this look and feel. In fact, I still have an experimental sample upper and base cabinet I built back around 1996 with an updated version of Dad's design. 

The other sink cabinet is also straight forward with the exception, two small sliding trays to hold dissecting tools in the drawers. 

Then I started drawing what I ended up calling, "The Mother of All Base Cabinets."  This cabinet has 16 drawers to hold 3 by 5 index cards. ( To be used for reference notes, not a book index) Four file cabinet drawers below and on the two wings, glass doors.  Later I added a shadow box cabinet with glass top for displaying smaller treasures.  The poplar secondary wood to hold the small drawers in place became quite interesting to build just by themselves.  Keeping in mind the sketch on the long wall.  The challenge was to build something that you feel will blend well with the overall feeling of the room.  It doesn't have to be the exact same everything, but it needed to somehow tie in.  This can be a tricky thought process.  Sometimes it becomes more work thinking than the working part.  But hey, what's a brain for? 

In progress

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The American Dream,

Son Todd and Bob the Dog

plays out
 in my mind like this. 

Wife, kids, grand kids, house with a fire place and picket fence.
  A faithful black lab dog,
 a shop stocked with beautiful wood,
 tools and machinery.

If you have ever been in a well planned out cabinet shop
where everything is flowing,
the feeling you get from that experience
 is as satisfying as visiting
 the seven wonders on the world.

The first time I
 felt that was a
long time ago in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  We walked down a narrow street on the outskirts of the city.  We ran into a small building oozing with character,
 stepped into a show room filled with hand crafted furniture and some of the most beautiful hand carved doors I had ever seen.  At the other end of the room, there was a large glass window about 4 feet high and 10 feet long, which you  could walk over to and see this old master craftsman working at the bench.  You could see wood shavings all over.  It was a small space, but in the back ground large enough to contain the tools and machinery and wood.  I could see two younger men working in the background and getting the lumber ready for its final calling.  It was almost like the wood seemed proud to be a part of this process,
 where the master could take them and make the most out of what they had to give.

I don't know how to describe that sensation you get when you know you want that experience, other than to say that you feel it to the depths of your soul. 
Passion-intense emotion-the object of admiration.

Everytime I see someone making something, whether it be an artist, musician, or someone who creates, or hear a great speaker, or read a great passage in a book, or see something beautiful, that intense emotion shows up.

Heaven, Happiness, Joy, Satisfaction, Peace.
I don't know which one to call it,but it is one of the greatest
 of all blessings on this Earth that I am extremely thankful for.

The Last Supper -Ben Mcpherson

Friday, June 17, 2011

Side-Track-Up a Creek Without a Warranty

While we are on the subject...
Not long ago, I bought a used stereo receiver in a pawn shop.
I brought it home. It didn't work. I took it back.  I explained  to the man at the counter, that it turns on, but after about 30 seconds it shuts off.  The man had a bald head, and I only mention that, because his head and ears turned BRIGHT RED when he told me that I might have experienced a power surge in my house.  I asked him to plug it in.  He did.  It turned on but after about 30 seconds it turned off.  I asked him if HE just had a power surge in his store?  He was red and silent gathering his thoughts. 
He said, "You might have jostled it." He kind of have a lisp.
I said, "Did you say, jostled it?" To my surprise, I also had a lisp. (You try it...jostled, out imagine saying it in a heated argument.)
He said, "Yes you might have jostled it taking it to your house."
(When he sold it to me, it still had the box with that rigid white foam and we put it in that box when I took it home.)
So I said, "Most of this stereo equipment travels 5000 miles from Japan being jostled the entire journey, so how can you possibly say I jostled it taking it home in the cab of my truck."
He was silent, his head and ears were still red but his lips were thin and white. I called on my magical  powers, snapped my fingers, and gave him the Rocky Mountain Quick Steps. 
The conclusion of this little story is a bit anti-climatic.  That word, jostled... threw me off.  It calmed me down.
So I said, "Your not going to give me my money back, are you?"
He said he was not allowed to do that.  I looked around. He looked like the owner to me, and I thought to myself. "What are you going to do, fire yourself?" 
So I said, "FINE! Thank you very much, you have a nice day."
 I had to take it to an electronics repair shop.

That is all I have to say about that.

Except this.

Last summer, Cari filled her unleaded car with diesel.  I know what you are thinking. You can't do that, the nozzle is larger than the hole.  (Unless you stand there and hold the nozzle manually for however long it takes to pump and top off 15 gallons of fuel.)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Side-Track- Taken to the Cleaners

Several years ago I bought 40 cannon balls.  The story goes like this.  I went into an antique store near downtown Denver on Broadway.  I was looking around and spotted a couple of what looked like 20 lb. cannon balls.  I picked one up and asked the fine looking older gentleman if these were real cannon balls.  He most assuredly said that they were indeed, and told me that back in the old days (of honor and integrity) they used to heat them up first before firing them into the enemies ship to cause more damage and catch things on fire.
 I said, "Wow, this is splendid."  OK...I didn't say splendid, but I did say, "Do you have any more?"
 He said, "OH YES! Quite a few."
 I said, "How many would I have to purchase to get a price break?"
He said, "FORTY."
My heart began pounding. With a beam in my right eye and a mote in my left, and trying not to show any signs of intense satisfaction, I said, "Very well."
He had his young assistant, (scoundrel in training) go to the back and help me load my newly acquired treasures.  This was Saturday morning so when I came home I found no one around for the moment, so I stuck them in a base cabinet in the garage where they sat growing in value over time, similar to what stored gold bars might do.

 A few months later on another beautiful Saturday morning Cari shook me and said,"Are those cannon balls in the garage???"
I said, "How did you know those were cannon balls?"
She said, "Your the only one I know who would actually buy 200 cannon balls and hide them in them in the garage."
I assured her that this was going to be well worth the purchase.

Today I decided to pull these babies out of their treasure chest, clean them up a bit, and dive into the world of militaria.  I found some sites selling cannon balls and my heart jumped out of my chest when I saw how much some of them were worth.  I hobbled out to the back where Cari was planting some flowers and told her that she may be able to give her 2 weeks notice.  THEN!  I saw a site about FAKE cannon balls with a picture of what looked like MY cannon balls, and once again, my heart leaped out of my chest but for the opposite reason.  This was the best of times and the worst of times. For sure.  (These are actually grinding balls from a ball mill, used by the mining industry to crush raw ore in a giant tumbler.)

  Does anyone have any ideas of what you can do with these?

If your interested I'll sell them to you for my cost.
I've seen deck railings where the post had wooden balls on the top, maybe a nice five inch, 23 lb steel ball might look nice.  What about the bottom Newel post on a stair railing? A four poster bed? A door stop? A paper weight?  A conversation piece?  I even took one to a good friend to cheer him up when he had a bad week. (This is when I thought it was a real sacrifice)   

That's about all I have to say about this.

I can now put this behind me and go onward and upward.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Longest Wall

So, here we are, 2700 hours later, 10,000 pieces of walnut, most of it challenging.  I thought I would share with you some of my thought processes as we go through this first sequence. 
 Another line Krenov said, "We must be able to do the complex well, and yet arrive at, and preserve, simplicity."  Well, I don't know how simple this room appears...I guess it is in the eye of the beholder, but this process of building a room for books and other things has been a great journey, at times very spiritual, and at times the lowest because of the overwhelming amount of work and problems to solve.  After some years of building things, you kind of have an idea of what you are in for.  You can usually see most of it in your mind before you start.  That wasn't the case here.  And that causes trouble.  I remember sitting in there the first few weeks and was crushed with the question, how are you going to do this physically and mentally?  The answer came in a sort of a funny way, "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time."  So that is what I did.

Construction of this room started February 2007.  The first decision was determined by the size of the room as drawn up by the architect. 
This was an addition to a comfortable home with one side which allowed for a room about 17 x 27 feet.  The room steps down from the main house two feet to achieve a 12 foot height to the ceiling.  In addition we could fit a bathroom area about 10 x 10 leading out to the pool, and also a nice walk-in attic that was originally intended for extra storage but evolved into a great almost tree house feeling sort of room for visiting kids and grand kids.  I made rough sketches of each area in the room and discussed the  possibilities for each space. 

 I started looking for new ideas for inspiration, what might look good for the ultimate design and how it would blend with the overall feel.  I looked at pictures in books, magazines, furniture, houses, design, woodworking, art and watched a few movies that I remembered seeing the interior of a house or a piece of furniture.  I tried to find pictures of beautiful libraries on film and looked for ideas there.  Then I found the source of inspiration for this room.  It was in the movie "The Illusionist" The movie is set in Vienna, Austria, but this library was actually in Prague.  It was filmed at the Konopiste Castle, built at the end of the 13th century, which was bought and renovated in 1887 to be the residence of Arch Duke, Francis Ferdinand and his family, whom you might recall was assassinated in Sarajevo in 1914.  It is said that this incident ignited World War I.  Anyway the private library in that castle in the film gave me the inspiration for the starting point of this room.  The feeling was very comfortable but not too out of reach for a man who doesn't own a castle. 

I first sketched out the longest wall in the room.  We looked it over, altered it and made a few more changes until we nailed it down.  Looking back, the drawing becomes very critical for me.  Now I have something to wrap everything else around.  Everything else afterward ties into this idea.  It becomes to me, my most important breakthrough moment and relief.  The overall look seemed to flow.  Most of the options were thought out.  Proportions, book sizes, accent lighting, and layering with moldings.  The thinking was how to blend the rest of the room with the main wall. 

Left Side

Right Side

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Bump in the Road.....

This might be a good place to tell you a personal part of my life.  Not to snivel, complain, or even feel sad about the experience, but to inspire those who have had to fight through their own physical and mental set backs.  I am a brain tumor survivor. 

In November 1999 I had what they call an acoustic neuroma tumor removed the size a small lemon.   They told us that an abnormal cell started growing on my hearing nerve behind my right ear and was pressing against my brain stem.  I lost the hearing in my right ear,my facial nerve was destroyed resulting in paralysis on the right side of my face. A paralyzed vocal cord nerve delayed my ability to talk and swallow.  I had a feeding tube for three months. I was completely numb on my left side.  Now I'm just numb, not completely but my balance is way off which is embarrassing sometimes, because it looks like I've had one too many, and I haven't. 

You know, alot of people suffer pain.  I think the trick is also somehow find joy.  I feel very fortunate in this regard.  I am surrounded by family, extended family, and friends who have this gift of dealing with sad and hard things in a way you can find happiness.  The secret?  The law of attraction?  The source?  Hope, Faith, Love, Charity.  These are just words, but to truly possess the real meanings of these words gives your life a great purpose. 

9th Grade-Jim-Cari-1974

 I keep thinking about the lyrics in a old Carly Simon song, " I Haven't Got Time For the Pain."  She is describing her own despair and genuinely thanking the person who showed her how to fill her heart with love, and how to open up all that bright light coming down from the heavens.  I'm surrounded by people who do that.  It makes difficult things easier.  I have a large family. They give me all my strength.  That is why I am almost embarrassed to say, my life is great. My wife, Cari and I met in 7th grade. Our lives are interwoven. We have shared things both good and bad and somehow through all of it have become stronger. Don't ask me how but somehow we have remained loyal and rely on each other. I think hope, faith, love, and charity have had something to do with that.

I can't tell you how old Cari is,
but I am 52 and she is 6 days younger.
I was able to slowly become stronger after about a year and the doctors said that whatever improvement made by then would level out.  They were correct.  But I feel fortunate.  I can work, drive, eat, see, and hear (at least in one ear) and otherwise function fairly well.  I feel the same on the inside.  The outside feels like it has been in a car wreck.  But, I'll take what I can get.  Some minor things I cannot do like whistle or run ( as I discovered when a shopping cart got away from me in a parking lot) that's OK.  I didn't run much before.  However, I did like to whistle.  The main thing now is to keep going forward.  I'm on the verge of a break through.  This has been my mind set for many years now.  The word perseverance and all similar words eventually lead to success.  How that success is defined, I don't know.  It could be had in the journey alone.  But the opposite of that is failure and I try not to look for the definition of that word. 

Daughter- Alisa with husband Justin
Grandsons Nathan-6 and Kendall-3

Son-Doug and wife Sara
Grandsons Tanner-5, Mikey-2, Jake-4,
Luke- our little angel.

Son-Todd and Wife Martha

It All Started Like This...

In the 60's and into the 70's, I will always remember a classmate, Todd Brown, my long blond haired hippie friend with glasses.  In first grade and throughout the years he would begin every essay, report, and speech boldly and with his enthusiastic smile, with the same 5 words....."It All Started Like This"    By the time high school came along there was only a few of us in on this, unspoken, and unbroken routine. 
Those were the days.
Now back to my story...I found a good quote by Mark Twain,"In a good book room, you feel in some way you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books-through your skin-without even opening them."

To have had the opportunity to build a library that holds these books has been one of the greatest thrills of my life.  I love books, just the look and feel, and like many, have had many great experiences reading them.  Your library becomes your university. 

1979 with brothers
L-R Doug, Butch, Sam and Me
 I'll never forget the first book I bought about woodworking in 1979, The Impractical Cabinet Maker-James Krenov.  It changed my life.  That was 30 something years ago.  And that is why when I see that book in my book shelf, I can still see now, in every detail, the journey that book has taken me.  It would fill these pages.  Let me just paraphrase  some of his words. "All the things we are must be in our work. The way you work, the things you do and how you do them, the way you live are in some sort of accord within yourself.  You develop a way of living, and if that conflicts with commercial interest, then you must sort it out." So that is what I did.  James Krenov is very hard.  He is very good.  He scared me.  He still scares me.  I think he scares every woodworker in America.  I could not see a flaw in his work.  He teaches you so many things about woodworking and life. This was interesting to me because just a year before my Dad had given me the only book I ever received from him.  As a Man Thinketh- James Allen, and my Dad was the greatest man I ever knew.  He was a fine home builder, a fine carpenter, a fine finish carpenter, and fine cabinet maker, but he was so much more than that.  So, the connection was complete for me and I had a deep passion for woodworking and I decided that what ever the circumstance was for me, to just try to improve everyday, and learn, and give your best effort.  I've had many failures like many, but like a British bulldog, never, never, never give up. 

Robert M. Cardon
Died July 2000 of a heart attack. I miss him.

Life is confusing sometimes.  Decisions, fate, luck, friends, family, circumstance.  I love the following observation.  Ted Orland, and artist and writer said this, "That ever changing instant of reality we call the present is merely a point in time weaving its way through a universe of potential, we call, the future.  One undeniable consequence of this is that everything you learned or experienced in the past has somehow delivered you, at this moment, to this sentence."

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Walnut Library

"There are known-knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known-unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown-unknowns; the ones we don't know we don't know."- Don Rumsfeld

What if you decide to write a story about your latest project, and you wanted to include in your story the thinking part and the sequence that goes into it? But right from the beginning, you constantly become reminded of other things kind of related to building a library, but kind of not. Then you come up with these small side-line topics and do some digging into each, with the resources that are available to you. But then you worry, that somewhere out there you are missing this huge amount of important information that later might make your efforts appear dreadfully....... dreadful. No, distracted. Something reminds me of something else, and that reminds me of something else. I say to myself, "Pull yourself together-Man!" This isn't brain surgery. Well, in this case, it is, sort of. Focus, stay engaged. Can you write things this way? Or will it cause people to worry about you? Oh well, I am going to go for it anyway.