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

Category: Shop

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!

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!

‘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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MINI…PickupMan

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I read a blog a while back bemoaning the disappearance of a 1970’s vintage 45mpg pickup truck. I remember the little VW diesel pickups and can’t imagine why we don’t see some modern version of that efficient hauler today. In my day to day life as a cabinetmaker and maker of things I am the proud owner of not one but two big-ass American V-8 GMC trucks.

Truck people like my trucks…I unfortunately am not a truck person. Worse yet I am a ‘not a truck person’ who owns two trucks and a new home in the country some 30 miles from my shop (this is the dark underbelly of bucolic life…big commuting!). Granted…I need a truck from time to time but honestly most days the monsters travel pretty light. Add to this a sizable dollop of eco-guilt plopped on top of my smoldering wallet every time I pull up to the pumps in one of my beasts.

Well friends…meet my new truck… a sweet 2009 35 mpg MINI Cooper Clubman. No…I didn’t ditch the GMCs but I do park them most days in favor of the funky little gas sipper. Eco-guilt is assuaged for now and damn if this thing isn’t a flat blast to drive.

Best yet, the little MINI and I just made our first pilgrimage to the Home Depot contractor’s loading dock. Anyone familiar with this bastion of American truck prowess knows that this is the place where building supplies, testosterone and horsepower meet in a daily dance of territorial chest beating and metaphorical butt sniffing. While I am in general a gentle-man…I am an unquestionably a large man so when my MINI and my 250 lbs frame rolled into ‘the zone’ nestled between a Ford F250 and a Dodge Ram to load a flat cart full of concrete blocks and sand…the dazed looks of the ‘hammer swinging set’ were priceless.

Until some enlightened auto company picks up the pickup where VW left it some 40 years ago…me and my MINI are going to be regulars at the big box rodeos for some time to come.

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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Quilt Welding

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So…I’m taking a welding class in support of the evolving Roaring Dog Studio blacksmith shop. Thus far this has involved several hours of basically unsupervised time in a welding booth each night with just a hint at education. A couple of nights ago the assignment was to ‘lay down overlapping beads of weld on a piece of plate steel’. Yaaaawn! Started welding and realized that ‘overlapping beads’ did not have to be dull…no…this could be fun!

My wife Carolyn is a quilter…pretty much a kick ass quilter. What more would a quilter want from her nocturnally welding husband??? Why…a five pound solid steel quilt square of course. Who says romance is dead?