Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Wanderlust Writing Desk

Jersey City novelist Mary Kate Pagano recently approached us about a writing desk to fit her specific requirements.  Like a fine suit, custom furniture can be made to fit the end user in both function AND size.

"The Wanderlust" modern writing desk, crafted of domestic cherry.

The Wanderlust Desk is crafted for the modern writer.  While traditional writing desks often feature things like slanted tops, ledger strips and inkwells, such features aren't really something most people find useful in modern times.  As such, our desk features things like a level top, slide-away key board tray with soft-close drawer slides and a hide-away mouse platform/coffee cup rest covering the utility drawer.

The utility drawer with slide-away mouse platform

Utility drawer with slide-away mouse platform

Mary Kate already had a beautiful vantage point picked out for her desk.  Knowing the dimensions of that space made it easy for us to build something that would fill the selected alcove nicely, being neither too small nor too large.  And her being rather "slight of stature" meant we could lower the overall desk height from the standard 30 inches down to a more comfortable 27 3/4 inches, with the keyboard ending up at a very ergonomic 24 inches from the floor.

Slide-away keyboard tray with soft-close drawer slides hidden behind a faux drawer front

For a wood selection, we used almost entirely heartwood domestic cherry, locally harvested in Deal, NJ.  Cherry starts its life as a deep pink wood and ages into beautiful reddish tan.  The few lighter sapwood sections add a delightful contrast.  The legs have a quick taper near the feet to lend a structural feel with a top that sports a mid-century influenced bevel edge to give a clean line.  It's attached using traditional wood buttons in grooves.  These allow the top to expand and contract with seasonal wood movement. This prevents cracking over the years.  The keyboard tray hides behind a faux drawer front that keeps up a traditional look before dropping down to reveal the Wanderlust's more modern innards.

For a finish, we opted for an boiled linseed base to accentuate the color and grain, followed by two sealing coats of shellac and multiple coats of semi-gloss varnish to provide protection over years of use.

We excited to see how it looks in it's new home...and even more excited to see what gets written at "The Wanderlust."

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Round Pond Deck Chair

This past summer we had a client come to us after falling in love with a mid-century version of the classic Adirondack chair.  Unfortunately, the original builder had ceased production, so she came to us!  We took the original as inspiration, gave it a taller back, higher seat and crafted it from sapele, with dark wenge accent plugs.  A proprietary blend of spar varnish and oil was applied for a weather resistant finish that can be maintained seasonally.

Stainless steel hardware, loose tenon joinery and waterproof epoxy also help to ensure these chairs are strong enough to last years and years.

The "Round Pond" name comes from of one of our favorite spots on the Maine coast, a small lobstering town where it seems everyone has a comfy deck chair overlooking the local harbor.  We've spent many a happy evening there and this style of chair would be ideal for such a night.

These particular chairs will spend the warm months right on the water (along with a pair of matching tables) and hopefully bring their new owners many, many evenings of comfortable sunsets!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The "Egret" Table

With the wind still chilly and snow on the ground, we were inspired by a few pieces of curly maple we had up on the lumber racks and developed this 40" x 18" coffee table to showcase the beautiful grain than can be produced by the humble maple tree.

Believe it or not, there is no consensus on what actually causes the deep, wavy figuring that gives curly or "tiger" maple it's distinct appearance, but - whatever the cause - it would be a shame not to showcase the gorgeous figure in some form or another.

Our "Egret" table was a piece that was actually designed completely in a 3D computer rendering program.  Size, joints and wood species were all done "virtually" while the lumber was still rough sawn.  In this sense, our final product was also our prototype.

The Egret draws heavily on the "Mid-Century Modern" style with its angular tapering legs and floating top, but also incorporates a few more traditional joints like the wedged thru-tenons that emerge both at the ends of the base and through the top itself.  These are a beautiful source of strength for the table and nicely highlight the contrasting woods that form the base (walnut) and top (the aforementioned curly maple.)   

To highlight the depth of the maple figure while maintaining a touchable and inviting texture, the entire table was finished with 8 coats of a proprietary oil and varnish blend that brings out all the details of the wood itself while still being incredibly inviting to touch.

The Egret was not a commission piece.  At our most inspired, we strive to create pieces that deserve to exist in their own right, and trust they will eventually find their way to a home with a suitable aesthetic and appreciation for both wood and designs.  The "Egret" is one-of-a-kind and currently resides in the Shy Dog Collection.  It is available for purchas. Please contact us for pricing and delivery.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Maloof-inspired Sculpted Chair and Ottoman

OK, this is a big one.  There are many brilliant architects, sculptors and builders throughout American furniture and woodworking history: Frank Lloyd Wright, the Greene Brothers, Louis Tiffany, Gustav Stickley... America has a rich history of craftsmanship and design, but there are few craftsmen who are more distinctive and unique than the iconic Sam Maloof.

Sam Maloof: Icon and man with super cool glasses.  (Photo Credit: Popular Woodworking)

To go into detail here would be more than redundant given the amount that has been written about him, but I wholeheartedly encourage any reader of this to spend a few minutes researching this incredible designer.  It's one thing to develop a signature and recognizable style (which he did, profoundly) but the man invented his own JOINT.  The Maloof joint is an elegant, incredibly strong way to join perpendicular pieces of wood.  And while it's not the easiest to form, it's amazing useful, variable and strong.

Four Maloof joints hold the legs of the ottoman and are reinforced with screws, the covered with shop-made walnut dowels.

For many woodworkers, building a Maloof replica is a rite of passage, like cutting your first dovetail or buying your first block plane.  (Ok, maybe a little more challenging than those...)  His iconic rocking chair is among among the great designs of the last century.  (And perhaps someday I'll have a turn at that as well.)

Currently, a rocking chair isn't something we have a need for in our home.  Instead, I chose to tackle a lowback armchair (inspired by Sam Maloof, with actual plans by Charles Brock.)  This was to be a Christmas gift for my wife, Susie.  She's been after a mid-century chair for some time and there's nothing better than building something to give to a loved one.

Maloof-inspired lowback chair as designed by Charles Brock, built by Shy Dog Designs

It was only a few days after Christmas, when the new chair had taken up residence in our family room, when Susie suggested it would be nicely complemented by an accompanying ottoman.  The small footstool borrows stylistically from the chair and utilizes the Maloof joint, but the design itself is original to me as far I can tell.

Shy Dog-designed, Maloof-inspired ottoaman, in cherry with a poly/oil/wax finish.

As with any furniture than leans so heavily on a unique design, it's hard to take credit for much beyond the execution of a piece like this.  Anyone who makes a piece in the style of Greene and Greene or Sam Maloof is standing on the shoulders of giants.  But taking the ideas and adaptingthem  to a unique piece like the ottoman pictured here is immensely satisfying.  Turning rough cherry into sculpted pieces with flowing lines is gratifying, almost a way to let the wood return to its natural shape.  We look forward to using these pieces in our own home for years to come.