Mortise and Tenon Magazine

Two years ago I decided to declutter some of my eclectic interests (goodbye beer making) and focus on upping my carpentry and woodworking skills. Partly, this was out of necessity. Our house needed some work and those skilled with planes and hammers are busy building custom staircases for Barbara Streisand and don’t have the time for a 980 square foot bungalow in the HaFoSaFo district.

I took a few classes, subscribed to some woodworking and home building rags and I now spend my evenings pondering the grain orientation of drawers. To further my interest in traditional woodworking, I just signed up for the twice a year Mortise and Tenon Magazine.

As is fitting for a magazine that focuses on craftsmanship, Mortise and Tenon, edited by Joshua Klein, is itself a work graphic design artistry. In the current issue woodworker Kate Fox turns a neighborhood tree that had to come down into a Viking sea chest in a process she describes as, “four days of hard labor, one friend with a chainsaw, a scissor-jack pinched from my ’67 VW bug, lots of swear words, and a Costco bottle of ibuprofen.” In another article we get to see the inside joinery of a 18th-centry mahogany tea table. Two other articles focus on woodworking in apartments.

I especially liked the article by Kim Choy who does some amazing work in a small apartment in Singapore. What was refreshing about his writing is that it was, basically, a long list of all the mistake he made in his self-educated attempt to build things with traditional Japanese tools. It’s a refreshing take in an era of Instagram boasting. Despite those mistakes and the limitations of Choy’s space, he manages to create large and very elegant furniture.

My prediction: Mortise and Tenon is the new Wired (Un-Wired?).

Saturday Tweets: We Really Need a Cat Pajama Party

No Tools? No Problem

From Wooodworker West, a story that should come with a dental trigger warning,

Designer Nikolas Bentel wanted to create a stool by hand . . . or better said by teeth. Not wanting to use any tools, he harvested wood by venturing up into New York’s Adirondack Mountains and rocked a dead Birch tree until if finally fell over. He then shaped the soft wood by slowly and methodically rubbing it with his hands, scratching it with his fingernails,, and chewing it with his teeth, in much the same way one tackles corn on the cob. “I got a few splinters along the way, but in ended up working out,” with all his teeth intact.

Here’s the video to prove it:

And another video where Bentel becomes an entire (NSFW) furniture collection:

Who needs Ikea?

You can find Bentel at All Purpose Nik.

126 The Wild Yards Project with David Newsom

On the podcast this week Kelly and I talk to David Newsom about his Wild Yards Project. The goal of the Wild Yards Project is “to give you the inspiration and resources to re-wild your yard and to help others around you to do the same. 10,000 Species a Year Lost. 40 Million Acres of Lawn in the US. The New Wilderness Begins at Home.” During the conversation David mentions:

If you’d like to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected] You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. Closing theme music by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

An Arts and Crafts Masterpiece in San Francisco

During a spare hour on a trip to San Francisco to visit relatives I remembered an Arts and Crafts era landmark I had only known through books, the Swedenborgian Church of San Francisco on Lyon Street in the Pacific Heights neighborhood. Thankfully, the church is open for visitors during business hours and we popped in to take a look.

The church was designed and built by team of architects and designers that included Bernard Maybeck, A. C. Schweinfurth, A. Page Brown, William Keith, Bruce Porter, and the Rev. Joseph Worcester in 1895. On the walls are a series of stunning California landscape paintings depicting the four seasons by William Keith that echo the naturalistic theme of the building. The upright and stern chairs allegedly touched off the mission furniture craze.

Should you find yourself in San Francisco this church is a must see–and it’s free! Visiting hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday. The address is 2107 Lyon Street at Washington Street. You can also arrange a tour. See the church’s website for more information.