gravity

For me as an artist, the story behind a piece is almost as important as the piece itself.  This is the story of how this walnut box came into being…

The walnut used to create this box was cut down in 1985 by two brothers clearing some family land in Lathrop, Missouri.  The lumber was milled, stickered and air dried in their barn until they decided to sell it in 2010.  Because of the intense purple coloring I suspect that this was a standing dead tree, rather than a live tree that was cut down.

I made the majority of the keepsake box out of a single plank of this walnut.  The sides, the lid and the bottom all came from the same board.  Even the hinges (yes, they are wood!) and the plugs in the hinges came from this wood.  If you look closely, you will notice that the grain flows harmoniously around the box as each piece for the body was cut sequentially.  I selected this particular part of the plank to be the lid because of the amazing grain pattern and the way it blended with the pattern created by the knot on the front of the box.  It also had a small amount of the lighter colored sapwood that matched the sapwood visible once you open the box.

I chose to use big box joints to construct this box.  They are strong and decorative and the square edges are repeated visually in the square edges of the ‘windows’ used to decorate the box.  I made the bottom out of solid walnut, rather than plywood used for most boxes.  To make the bottom, I sliced a thick piece of walnut into two thinner pieces, ‘book matched’ them and joined them.  The wood hinges were a lot of fun.  I cut out the basic shape using my bandsaw.  I further refined the shape using rasps, files and sandpaper.  I like my wooden hinges to have a lot of texture.  To achieve this look, I used a technique called pyrography (wood burning) and custom-made wire tips to add the texture.  To make the plugs in the hinges, I first created a long, narrow square strip of walnut.  I turned the square into an octagon using a hand plane.  Once I had an octagon, I used a hand plane and sandpaper to turn it into a dowel.  I glued the dowels in place, cut off the extra and added texture to them using pyrography.  I chose to embellish the box by creating ‘windows’ and then using pyrography to engrave a design of dandelion fluff.  This design was inspired by the view out my studio window one lovely spring morning.  I do the final shaping, sanding, rounding over of sharp edges, etc., by hand rather than using some sort of power tool.  This is when I can get up close and personal with the wood and see its beautiful grain emerge as I sand with finer and finer grit papers.  I also like the slight variations that tell you this item is hand crafted rather than made impersonally, at a distance, with power tools.  Finally, I finished the box by saturating it in three coats of Tried and True Original Wood Finish, a non-toxic blend of linseed oil and beeswax.

~kelly

bubbly

For me as an artist, the story behind a piece is almost as important as the piece itself.  This is the story of how this sycamore box came into being…

The sycamore used to create this box came from my favorite mill, Elmwood Reclaimed Timber, a small, family-owned mill in Smithville, Missouri.  Sycamore is a particularly striking wood, especially when it is quarter sawn.  This method of cutting the wood perpendicular to the growth rings is what reveals the beautiful, shimmery ‘leopard spots’ for us to appreciate.  I really enjoy working with this gorgeous, uncommon wood.

All the wood used in the box came from a single plank — the sides, the bottom panel and the lid.  The box body was constructed using traditional mortise and tenon joinery.  Each side of the box was cut sequentially from the plank so that the grain flows harmoniously around the corners.  I made the bottom out of solid sycamore, rather than plywood used for most boxes.  To make the bottom, I sliced a thick piece of sycamore into two thinner pieces.  One piece was used for the lid and the other was used for the bottom.  I selected this particular part of the plank for the lid and bottom because I liked the contrasting colors in the wood.  To embellish the box, I created circles in the sides and lid and painted them with milk paint custom blended for this project.  The pattern of the circles makes me think of some sort of fizzy drink so I named this box ‘Bubbly.’  The final shaping of the box body and lid was done by hand.  I prefer to do the final contouring, rounding over of sharp edges, etc., by hand.  This is when I can get up close and personal with the wood and see its beautiful grain emerge as I sand with finer and finer grit sandpapers.  I also like the slight variations that tell you this item is crafted by hand rather than made impersonally, at a distance, with power tools.  Finally, I finished the box by saturating it with three coats of ‘Tried and True’ wood finish and hand rubbed it to a soft luster.  The pivot hinges in the lid and the handle are glass.

This box is one in my series of exploring negative space and color.  I want the holes and the color to invite you to explore the box and question whether it has any other surprises.  And, of course once you start filling it with your treasures it will be full of surprises!

~kelly

nautilus

For me as an artist, the story behind a piece is almost as important as the piece itself.  This is the story of how this mulberry box came into being…

The mulberry used to create this box was rescued from English Landing Park in Parkville, MO following a microburst that came up the Missouri River in March 2010.  The storm had winds of over 100 MPH and blew down many trees.  I made arrangements with the Parks Superintendent to take possession of the tree and had it delivered to my mill where it was planked and kiln dried.  I was intrigued by the bold yellow coloring of the wood.  As it ages the intense yellow color will mellow to a warm, golden brown. This is among the first projects I made using this beautiful, uncommon wood.

All the wood used in the box came from this mulberry tree — the sides, the bottom panel, the lid and the pivots for the lid.  Each side of the box was cut sequentially from a plank of wood so that the grain flows harmoniously around the box.  For the lid, I selected this particular part of a plank so that the natural edge of the log could serve as the handle.  Also, it had a beautiful bark inclusion that added visual interest.  I knocked off the loose bark, wire brushed the edge, then shaped and sanded till I was happy with the look.  The lid also creates a bit of a ‘peek-a-boo’ effect.  I often intentionally cut a lid so that it doesn’t fully cover the box body and you can get a glimpse inside.

The box body was constructed using traditional mortise and tenon joinery.  I made the bottom out of solid mulberry, rather than plywood used for most boxes.  To make the bottom, I sliced a thick piece of mulberry into two thinner pieces, ‘book matched’ them, joined them and cut the panel to its final size.  To make the pivots, I first made a long narrow square of wood.  I used a hand plane to turn the square into an octagon.  I used the plane and sandpaper to turn the octagon into a dowel.  Finally, I cut the pivots to length and shaped the ends.  To embellish the box, I decided to carve ‘troughs’ into the sides.  I used grain lines to determine placement and shaping of the troughs, wanting them to be informed by the wood itself rather than be imposed upon it.  I used a technique called pyrography (wood burning) to cut in the vertical lines, again using the grain as a guide to determine where to terminate the lines.  I chose a brown leather gel-stain to blend with natural colors found in the wood grain.  The final shaping of the box body and lid was done by hand.  I prefer to do the final sanding, shaping, rounding over of sharp edges, etc., by hand rather than using some sort of power tool.  This is when I can get up close and personal with the wood and see its beautiful grain emerge as I sand with finer and finer grit papers.  I also like the slight variations that tell you this item is hand crafted rather than made impersonally, at a distance, with power tools.  Finally, I finished the box by saturating it in three coats of Tried and True wood finish and hand rubbed it to a soft luster.

~kelly

daisy

This table is one in a series where I am exploring the relationship between repeated strong graphic shapes, negative space and the illusion of pieces hovering away from each other. The top is made from a piece of bamboo countertop material that was headed for the dumpster before I intervened. This bamboo is a ‘plywood’ with a caramelized vertical grain face and strand core. Although I wouldn’t typically use a plywood material for building fine furniture, the grain pattern in the plies had a lot of visual interest that could be used quite successfully in the design.

The triangle pieces were cut to a precise angle on the table saw. They were then drilled to receive the aluminum dowel which provides the connection points for all of the pieces that make up the table top. The pieces were then profiled and sanded. I love how they hover away from each other making you wonder how the top can hold itself together. And this spacing is what creates a delightful interplay of light and shadow under the table. The triangle theme of the top is echoed in the legs, which have a rounded triangular cross-section. The walnut for the legs came from a tree that had to be taken down from a neighborhood in Kansas City, Missouri. They were cut to rough shape on the bandsaw. I then routed a channel for the aluminum inlay and epoxied it in. Once this was done, the legs were hand sculpted into their final shape using a variety of woodworking and metalworking hand tools. A hardline is sculpted into the leg where each of the sides of the triangle intersect, including down the center of the aluminum inlay. Final smoothing of the legs was achieved with card scrapers and sandpaper backed with duct tape.

~kelly

enchantment #2

This table is one in a series where I am exploring the relationship between repeated strong graphic shapes, negative space and the illusion of pieces hovering away from each other. The top is made from a piece of bamboo countertop material that was headed for the dumpster before I intervened. This bamboo is a ‘plywood’ with a natural flat grain face and vertical core.

Although I wouldn’t typically use a plywood material for building fine furniture, the grain pattern in the plies had a lot of visual interest that could be used quite successfully in the design. The triangle pieces were cut to a precise angle on the table saw. They were then drilled to receive the aluminum dowel which provides the connection points for all of the pieces that make up the table top. The pieces were then profiled and sanded. I love how they hover away from each other making you wonder how the top can hold itself together. And this spacing is what creates a delightful interplay of light and shadow under the table.

The legs are made from poplar which has been ebonized. Ebonizing is a process that relies on a chemical process to turn the wood fibers black. Unlike a stain or paint that sits on the surface of the wood, ebonizing is integral to the wood fibers. Ebonizing is achieved by adding tannins to the wood (although many woods have naturally occurring tannins) and then applying an iron oxide solution. The iron oxide reacts with the tannins turning the wood a beautiful, rich black
while preserving all of the detail of the grain. The triangle theme of the top is echoed in the legs, which have a rounded triangular cross-section. The legs were cut to rough shape on the bandsaw and tapered. Once this was done, I hand sculpted them into their final shape using a variety of rasps and files. A hardline is sculpted into the leg where each of the sides of the triangle intersect. Final smoothing of the legs was achieved with card scrapers and sandpaper backed with duct tape. After the legs were ebonized I cut through the leading edge to expose fresh poplar underneath, giving the legs a pinstripe detail.

~kelly

joyous

This table is the latest in a series where I am exploring the relationship between repeated strong graphic shapes, negative space and the illusion of pieces hovering away from each other.  The ‘petals’ have birds eye maple veneer on the top and walnut veneer on the bottom over solid walnut edging.

The triangle pieces were cut to a precise angle on the table saw.  Solid edging was applied to all three sides then the pieces were veneered using traditional techniques.  They were then drilled to receive the aluminum dowel which provides the connection points for all of the pieces that make up the table top.  The pieces were then profiled and sanded.  I love how they hover away from each other making you wonder how the top can hold itself together.  And this spacing is what creates a delightful interplay of light and shadow under the table.

The triangle theme of the top is echoed in the legs, which have a rounded triangular cross-section.  The walnut for the legs came from a tree that had to be taken down from a neighborhood in Kansas City, Missouri.  The legs were cut to rough shape on the bandsaw and tapered.  Once this was done, I hand sculpted them into their final shape using a variety of rasps and files.  A hardline is sculpted into the leg where each of the sides of the triangle intersect.  Final smoothing of the legs was achieved with card scrapers and custom-profiled sanding blocks.

The aluminum base was created using traditional woodworking tools and techniques.  I put the curved bevel on the base by tilting the table on my bandsaw when I cut out the shape.  I cleaned up the bandsaw marks by tilting the table on my disc sander and sanding to my layout line.  I put the texture on the base using my angle grinder outfitted with a flap disc and sculpted gentle arcs into the aluminum.  As you walk around the table these arcs captures the light and create the illusion of a pinwheel turning.  This echoes the kinetic energy of the top.

-kelly

enchantment #1

This table is one in a series where I am exploring the relationship between repeated strong graphic shapes, negative space and the illusion of pieces hovering away from each other. The top is made from a piece of bamboo countertop material that was headed for the dumpster before I intervened. This bamboo is a ‘plywood’ with a natural flat grain face and vertical core.

Although I wouldn’t typically use a plywood material for building fine furniture, the grain pattern in the plies had a lot of visual interest that could be used quite successfully in the design. The triangle pieces were cut to a precise angle on the table saw. They were then drilled to receive the aluminum dowel which provides the connection points for all of the pieces that make up the table top. The pieces were then profiled and sanded. I love how they hover away from each other making you wonder how the top can hold itself together. And this spacing is what creates a delightful interplay of light and shadow under the table.

The legs are made from ash which has been ebonized. Ebonizing is a process that relies on a chemical process to turn the wood fibers black. Unlike a stain or paint that sits on the surface of the wood, ebonizing is integral to the wood fibers. Ebonizing is achieved by adding tannins to the wood (although many woods have naturally occurring tannins) and then applying an iron oxide solution. The iron oxide reacts with the tannins turning the wood a beautiful, rich black while preserving all of the detail of the grain. The triangle theme of the top is echoed in the legs, which have a rounded triangular cross-section. The legs were cut to rough shape on the bandsaw and tapered. Once this was done, I hand sculpted them into their final shape using a variety of rasps and files. A hardline is sculpted into the leg where each of the sides of the triangle intersect. Final smoothing of the legs was achieved with card scrapers and sandpaper backed with duct tape.

~kelly

demilune (untitled)

This demilune table is my contemporary take on the classic wall table.  It features walnut burl veneer over solid walnut edging and sycamore inlay.  It has a waterfall edge with radial walnut veneer.  Rather than having the table sit on legs, I chose instead to have it mount to the wall with a bracket.  The bracket is made of ebonized sycamore with sycamore dowel detailing.

Since this table top is an arc I was able to do much of the processing by using a pivot point at the exact center of the circled described by the arc.  To accomplish this I glued an extra bit of wood to one of the long edges of the rectangular ‘blank’ that was to become my top and drilled a hole in what would be the center of the circle.  Starting with the rectangular blank, I used this hole with a circle cutting jig to cut the arc of the table top out on the bandsaw.  I also used the pivot point with a special veneer cutting tool to cut the precise shape of veneer needed for the waterfall edge.  I used my router in conjunction with the pivot to route the groove for the sycamore inlay and later to put the bevel on the inlay after the top was veneered. Once I was finished with all of the operations that would need the pivot, I cut off the extra block of wood and continued my project.

Creating the wall bracket was the most challenging part of this project.  I had a difficult time visualizing the parts that curved, tilted and splayed.  I ended up making models, first in rigid foam then in pine, to understand the relationship of the parts in 3-D.  Once I understood the parts I was able to cut them on the bandsaw.  Then I built a jig so that I could hold them in the proper orientation while I created the plane at the top of the bracket where it would meet the bottom of the table.  I used my router as an overhead milling machine for this part of the operation.  The next thing I had to do was drill the holes for the dowels while maintaining the orientation I had just established.  Once the holes were drilled I was able to complete the shaping process.  I tapered the parts on the bandsaw and then removed as much wood as possible at the router table.  Then I used various rasps, files, custom-profiled sanding blocks and card scrapers as I sculpted the parts into their final shape.

I made the sycamore dowel by cutting long, thin strips a little bit bigger than the diameter of dowel that I wanted.  I turned the square into an octagon by removing the extra wood with a hand plane.  I made the octagon round with a custom-made card scraper that helped me remove the extra wood and establish the exact diameter of dowel that I wanted.

I finished the wall bracket by ebonizing it.  This is a process that causes a chemical reaction in the wood to make it turn black, much the way a rusty nail leaves a black mark around it in old wood.  I use a product from the leather tanning industry to add extra tannins to the wood.  Then I take a solution of vinegar in which I have dissolved steel wool and apply this to the wood.  The vinegar solution reacts with the tannic acid solution and causes the wood to turn a lovely, deep black color.  I love this translucent finish because it allows you to see the wood grain through it.

-kelly

conference table for ‘bridging the gap’

I was recently commissioned to design and build a conference table for Bridging the Gap, a local organization that ‘works to make the Kansas City region sustainable by connecting environment, economy and community.’  Given the ethos of Bridging the Gap I knew that the materials for the conference table had to be reclaimed, recycled and/or recyclable.  We decided that the table top would be glass so the focal point of the table became the pedestals.  My initial thoughts turned to heart pine given the building Bridging the Gap currently occupies and heart pine’s prolific use in old historic buildings.  Of course, I turned to my favorite reclaimed wood supplier, Elmwood Reclaimed Timber, for my lumber.  The FSC-certified heart pine used to create the pedestals was reclaimed from the Curtiss-Wright Airplane Factory, located in Garfield, NJ, built in 1929.  The Curtiss-Wright Corporation was the result of the merger of several companies originally founded by Glenn Curtiss and Orville and Wilbur Wright, all pioneers of the aviation industry.  (Dramatic pause as you consider the history of this wood!)

My design process starts with sketches.  I then create quarter-scale models of the most promising sketches to get a feel for how the piece will look in 3D and to help refine the scale.

initial sketches and quarter-scale top with various layout lines

initial sketches and quarter-scale top with various layout lines


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home studio

Welcome to my home studio.  I have to say that I love my space and you sure can’t beat the commute!  It took almost a year to convert raw, unfinished basement into my lovely studio and get the tools set up.  Yeah, we couldn’t believe it took a year, either, but it was a heck of a lot of work!!

The first thing I needed was access.  We don’t have a walk-out basement so we needed to replace our egress windows with something that would open fully so that I could get sheet goods in and big projects out.  We checked with the company that made our windows and they wanted close to $3000 to make our custom-sized ‘hobbit door’ to fit the space!  Um, no.  So, my enterprising husband made the doors.  He used double-paned glass and everything.

Removing the existing window

Removing the existing window


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