A craftsman's ramblings on making art, food, love and adventure

Category: Foodies

Special Order

I received an interesting call at Roaring Dog Studio a couple of weeks back. A very nice-sounding woman was hoping that I might be able to turn a small box of old nails into a unique gift for her son. As it turns out, these nails were hand-cut nails more than a century old that were salvaged from a family home during a recent renovation. So…in she came nails in hand.

We chatted and I realized that she really had no idea of what form this creation would take…artistic…sculptural…functional…YES Please…all of the above! Looking at these old nails…functional stalwarts of a bygone era I new that they needed to be recognizable in the finished piece but also needed to be transformed somehow.

Here are a few pictures of a very pleasurable journey last week in the ‘smithy’…she is coming in on monday to pick up the finished piece…I think she will be happy.

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Creating the elements…

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The antique nails prepped for forge-welding

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A lap joint created to weld nails to leaf forms

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The Finished Piece…we are calling it an Apron Hook…most days…I really love my job!

Island Time

One of the things I am most looking forward to moving forward with this blog and the evolution of roaring dog studio is to share with those interested some insight into how our new products move from concept to reality.

We have an exciting new piece coming to fruition now in the shop. What we set out to do was to create a relatively small, stylish and functional kitchen prep island. We decided that we wanted the island to be round and that it would be made from a pairing of wood and iron. After several versions of design, critique and redesign this is the overview of what we are building:

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One of the unique concepts with this island will be a standard base in cherry and steel with a choice of tops/chopping surfaces. The first versions will offer tops in 1 1/2″ thick Curly Maple, Cherry and a butcher block motif featuring both together. Here are the leg blanks and island tops ready for final dimensioning:

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Perhaps the most exciting feature of this island in a collaborative design element conceived by the Roaring Dog team and executed by a wonderful local shop called Mack Bros. Boiler Works. This old line industrial supplier has most recently been involved in numerous artistic ventures and was more than willing to make the iron rings that will make the core of our island. We just picked them up this morning. Here is a peek at the unfinished pieces. These perfect circles in 1/4″ hot rolled steel are just what we wanted!

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The plan is to keep our readers updated with progress on these islands. There are a few more surprises coming (a few we may not even know about yet). Stay tuned!

Green House

A much anticipated box arrived at Wagmore last week. Like Jack dreaming of his Beanstalk we peruse this cardboard vessel no bigger than a shoebox filled with our seeds of summer promise. While many gardens have come and gone in Carolyn and my lives, it still seems remarkable that in these tiny packages weighing only ounces lives the potential of hundreds of pounds of sustenance destined for our kitchen cutting boards.

The snow still lays in blotchy patches in the yard. The geese are the first to find nutrition in the old grass between. The dogs too have found foul bits of rotty…decomposing earth to wear as spring cologne…pew!

Today we started our first indoor seeds…the calendar does not lie! The snow will go…the soil will warm and sometime in May these little pots filled with infant flowers and food will head to the gardens to perpetuate this ancient ritual of the grower. An act of faith and hope we delight in!

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Brand-aid

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Things are heating up at Roaring Dog Studio! I would imagine that there are not many dogs held in such high regard that they have been immortalized in a brand….even fewer celebrated as a brand-brand!

Check out our multi talented craftswoman Lori Holmes…or Curly Cherry as we like to call her (mostly behind her back)….as she works out on our new branding iron. Roaring Dog is getting ready to launch a whole new batch of products in the next couple of weeks and our snazzy logo will be proudly displayed on each.

I showed Fiona the real Roaring Dog these pics and…yawn…she was most unimpressed…tough audience!

Goats, Books and TV

I have a quirky collection of Blogs that I subscribe to and try to read most days. As a ‘maker of things‘ I am always interested in like minded folks. One that I have been reading for a while is ‘the art of doing stuff‘ written by this precocious Canadian named Karen. She is terminally irreverent and writing mostly for women…how and why I got involved remains a mystery…although Carolyn does on occasion suggest that I have a bit of estrogen flowing through my blood stream. As a hairy 260lb man this is potentially not a pretty picture but so far the side effects have been mostly positive.

Last year Karen posted a blog maligning a small but apparently deviant segment of society that does not own a TV. I am sure if she knew that her loyal closeted blog reader and writer here was a ‘no TV deviant’ she would have been nicer…maybe. I still like Karen and I also still have no TV….

So…what are a couple of empty nesters to do without a remote to share? We are relearning to read…out loud to each other. We don’t curl up in one another’s laps…remember the 260 lb. hairy guy from paragraph one…but we do listen and enjoy.

So where to the goats come in you ask? We are just finishing up a book recommended to me by my uber-literary mother called ‘Goat Song’ by Brad Kessler. We have been lusting for a goat or two of our own but are desperately looking for distractions like this book to sate us before we end up adding to our menagerie with our typical reckless abandon. This book helps in the self restraint world…no bucolic jaunt down the path of barnyard idealism here and…a tough read. The last book we read out loud together was ‘a dirty life’ by Kristen Kimball which we enjoyed without reservation.

Tonight Carolyn is off delivering a baby and I am wishing our dogs could read to me!

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‘The Soul of a Tree’

“Each tree, every part of each tree, has only one perfect use. How to acquire logs and what to do with them calls for creative skill. There is need always to select and to search, even to look underground where the most fantastic grains can often be found.”  George Nakashima

I have been a woodworker for most of my adult life. Early on this path I was blessed to encounter a show featuring the work of George Nakashima who also was a woodworker for most of his life until his passing in 1990. That was a seminal moment for my evolving design sensibilities and from that point forward, there has been no stronger influence in the art and craft of my work.

Much of the work from Roaring Dog Studios evolves in similar ways to that of Nakashima Studio. The following photographs illustrate a journey from log to finished piece. The logs seen here are remnants from the veneer industry, short offcuts from the ends of logs in the final sizing before processing into veneer. Inside each log is a unique personality and it is our goal to celebrate this ‘Soul of a Tree’ by creating something uniquely beautiful to live on for generations.

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Oh Mom…Kale Again???

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So far the two most significant reoccurring subjects in my fledgling blog-life are dogs and kale. I mean…who doesn’t love the occasional dog post…but Kale…give me a break!

So…here’s the deal…we planted a couple of beds full of kale sometime in early summer. FYI…we checked our records and this super-Kale variety is Winterbor from Johnny’s Seeds. It is now almost the end of January and we are still picking perfectly lovely leaves from these plants!

Last week I picked a bag to bring to my Mom as evidence that… despite the multi-day deep freeze we are enjoying in upstate NY…fresh leafy greens can be something more than a fading memory of a summer long past. So Mom sends me an email a day later telling me about these Kale Chips she had made as her homage to the sun gods (I made that homage part up but I think my Mom will allow me the poetic…or blogetic license).

I have heard mention of these little devils in the past however… despite having controlling interest in several metric tons of Kale…I have never made them…until TONIGHT! Three words for you…EASY AS HELL! Just clean the Kale, cut out the largest part of the stem, toss with some decent olive oil, spread evenly in a single layer on a cookie sheet, season with salt and pepper and put it in a 290′ oven for about 1/2 hour. This action shot above is the whole scene unfolding in real time on one of our styling ‘Chef Boards’ in our Roaring Dog Studios test kitchen (which doubles as the kitchen in our house).

‘Really…that’s all there is to it. Crispy, tasty and I guess better for you than a half bag of Cape Cod Kettle Cooked Potato Chips!

Forks?…we don’t need no stinkin’ forks!

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Almost every time chopsticks find their way to our table I ask myself why we reserve these most basic and satisfying of utensils for Asian fare. Clams Linguini with chopsticks…why not? Applesauce??…OK…maybe a stretch. Bottom line…gotta love a nice pair of chopsticks…especially when they look like these!

The crew at Roaring Dog Studios has finished our first run of handmade chopsticks. This batch of sticks are crafted in Curly Maple, Bubinga, Wenge and Yellow Heart hardwoods. I hope to have these up on the roaring dog studio store this weekend.

Sneak Peak…part 2

We have been busy over at Roaring Dog Studios…I mean not regular busy…I mean really busy. Today maybe a little less busy since we started the day at about 10 below and our wonderful 1896circa foundry building stays a little more closely connected to the outside temperature than sometimes we might wish…like now! Overall like I said…really busy.

Check out this beyond cool cutting board for the cook with style and chops…the removable grain-matched tray actually has rare-earth magnets embedded into the joint to keep the tray aligned with the board to smoothly and oh-so cooly slide your chopping stuff into ahead of a trip to the saute pan or soup pot.

You know you want one…you need one. Should be on our shopping site in the next few days. There are only 6 in existence as of today so keep close.

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Seed Dreams

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January in Cato NY….Dreams of our summer garden…can you smell the fresh cut basil???

The mailman is delivering seed catalogs…a little winter-porn for the soil starved gardener! This weekend Carolyn and I will succumb to this lustful tease…the wonder of seed to table never ceasing to touch something primal inside of us.