Kelly’s Office Furniture in Progress

I had a request for some work-in-progress photos of Kelly’s office furniture and, instead of feeding the Instagram beast I thought I’d put them on the blog.

Kelly requested a bookshelf, three cabinets and a desk for her shed office (we are lucky to have a 100 year old shed in the backyard that I have restored over the years we’ve lived here).

Lately, I’ve taken to hand drawing designs more than using Sketchup. I’m not against 3D modeling but I like the speed of pencil and paper.

I’m in that Venn diagram somewhere that combines a leftist outlook with extremely conservative design tastes. I find there’s a hard to express and paradoxical freedom that comes from working within historic design limitations. It certainly makes staring at the blank sheet of paper easier when you have some rules about proportions and standard practices to fall back on.

I’ve also been practicing my hand tool methods. I took a class last year on how to hand cut dovetails and have spent some of my quarantine time practicing this skill, which gets down to learning how to cut an angled line with a saw. It’s actually not that hard once you spend some hours practicing on scrap wood.

Kelly did not like how long it took for me to make the bookshelf (made out of inexpensive beech wood, by the way) and requested that I put the cabinets together faster. I used birch plywood which was more fun to work with than I expected and certainly saved a lot of time. Hardwood has to be milled, the edges jointed and small pieces glued together to make wider boards. It takes days of work. Plywood cabinets come together in hours not days.

The plywood cabinets for Kelly’s office ended up being a kind of ironic, post-modern commentary on the fuddy-duddy bookshelf. Rather than hide the edges of the plywood I decided to bring attention to them. I like the look of the edge of a decent birch plywood. Speaking of plywood, if you work with it you should get it from a local lumberyard not the big box stores. The plywood I got was a big step up in quality–fewer voids and a better surface and well worth the extra price.

I called a friend who restores vintage trailers for some advice on how to finish plywood (thank you Phil!). He suggested a light sanding with 220 grit sandpaper followed by either spray varnish or a poly finish. I went with a poly finish since it’s what I had on hand it ended up looking great. Wish I had the space to build a teardrop trailer out of ply.

The last project for the office will be a desk from a plan in Christopher Schwartz’s The Anarchist Design Book.

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  1. You know, I’m in that same Venn diagram. Fairly progressive with most things, deeply traditional when it comes to furniture and architecture…although I do have a deep and abiding love for the wackiness of 70s vernacular. Also, the beautiful simplicity of Arts & Crafts design and Danish modern do very well with more whimsical artwork and textiles. The lines and details on your pieces are gorgeous!

  2. Thanks for showing us the photos! Wow! As always I am impressed with your beautiful work. Lucky Kelly! Please keep us updated with more photos. They are an inspiration.
    I subscribe to an internet magazine called Craftmanship Quarterly and love to see the work that impassioned people create. It gives me inspiration to continue learning and practicing my own passionate creativity. Your woodwork is a wonderful example for us to keep creating, practicing, and producing and to NOT get caught up in news and negativity.
    BTW have you ever posted a finished photo of Kelly’s office shed? I’ll bet it is really nice!
    Blessings to all.

  3. P.S.
    I think using paper and pencil/journals are so much more nicer then using computers apps. There is something fulfilling about not having to turn on a computer to check what you have done. I realize that this might be an antiquated idea but I still like the feel of paper and real books. JMO

  4. I am very progressive but furniture made over 80 years ago is my choice. I like the techniques. I have taken junk store finds and turned them into repaired pieces that my antique dealer friends want to buy. No.

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