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

Category: Friends

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!

Birth of a Gallery

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We have been busy at Roaring Dog! While it was always my intent to make our products primarily available online…my crew has talked me into setting up our own little brick and mortar gallery…seeing as we already have a butt-load of actual ‘brick and mortar’ in our 1896 restored brass foundry…home to our parent company CabFab.

Today the gang started assembling the gallery display units that they designed. They put together a little preview of our products mostly for my benefit I think. Erin came into the office bubbling over with excitement saying to me…BLOG PHOTO! What a nice surprise greeted me…and now greets you…a blog photo indeed!

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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A Remarkable Sunday

While our brothers and sisters in New England took the brunt of Nemo’s fury…we in central New York had a proper 8″-10″ snow storm…just enough to leave our landscape looking lovely and inviting. We awoke this Sunday morning to a warming sun and for a couple aging hippies who live in a home both heated and energized by these rays this is special gift.

Our friend and gifted artist Tara Hogan (the creator of the Roaring Dog brand) had asked me to take some photographs of our home Wagmore to share with a stylist friend of hers. Apparently Tara thinks our handmade house might prove interesting to folks outside of our immediate world. There is not much in this house that we did not create ourselves often with reclaimed materials saved from the landfills of America.

Here is a small sampling of today’s camera exercises. If anything strikes a cord of curiosity…feel free to ask.

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Gratitude List

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I so want the last thought for today to be a grateful one. Every couple of weeks I have to remove myself from the often creative work of our shops to make a blood sacrifice at the alter of Quickbooks. This is the dark side of small business… taxes… insurance… payroll… purchasing… inventory… cash flow. Carolyn calls this part of the job ‘soul-sucking’…a perfect description.

Last Sunday our son Ben and his girl Erin (who is also part of Team Roaring Dog) came for an early dinner. I caught this picture of them from our living room window strolling back from a visit with the geese and ducks at the pond’s edge. The dogs were very happy to see them and we had another of our many Sunday dinners together.

I am grateful for moments like this and truth be told my life is filled with an overabundance of them. I need to make a gratitude list in my mind…maybe even on paper…a persistent reminder to keep the dark side at arms length.

I so want the last thought for today to be a grateful one…

‘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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Immigration Reform

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Please meet our motley crew of illegal immigrants…

We are blessed to live on a beautiful 11 acre parcel with a critter-filled 2 acre pond in front of our house. We call this mini-Ponderosa Wagmore.  Normally this time of year our little pond is frozen solid and the sensible water fowl have either flown off to warmer climes or if domesticated… not opted to run away from home just as winter’s grip begins to stiffen. This crew seems to have done just that!

What we have here are 3 African Geese, 2 Khaki Campbell Ducks and 1 Pekin Duck…no…before you ask smarty-pants…no ‘partridge in a pear tree’. This crew literally sauntered across our field this fall and took up residence in our pond. No visas…no passports…no job prospects. We thought they would wander off soon enough…perhaps their people-parents would come looking…nope…just swam around with not a care in the world. They mixed gregariously with wild ducks and geese until the skim ice started to form…the sensible birds saw this as a definite sign to vacate. Not our little gang of delinquents!

So now what? I know…let’s buy them a bubbler to keep a bay in the pond open all winter…build them a custom lean-to at the shop and buy a couple hundred pounds of cracked corn to walk out to them each day. So here we are…foster parents to a veritable UN of water fowl. Who played who…I think the winged-ones knew exactly what they were doing…Life at Wagmore bubbles on.

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!

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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