Tag Archives: craft

To make a cube bookshelf

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Because she asked for a bookshelf, I built one. A simple cube bookshelf was the plan. Nothing fancy. Something simple and useful. Something to fit under the window.

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To begin with, I visited the local lumber shop for 1″x12″s and 1″x2″ pine boards. Also, I picked up some screws and finishing nails. Already had wood glue, left over wood stain and finish in the garage.

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If I was a master craftsman, I would have made the shelf without screws and nails. Due to lack of equipment (like a proper workshop with a bunch of clamps, a router, and maybe a tenon jig) and time (the ever elusive weekend commodity), dado joint shelves were replaced with two-inch screws and Gorilla® Wood Glue. The only power tools used were a cordless drill/driver, a sander and a jig saw.

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After everything was glued, screwed and sanded, wood stain was selected. The Minwax can of espresso stain was half full, and was sufficient to cover the bookshelf. The stain dried quickly, but I let it dry overnight to let it set.

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Two coats of wood finish completed the project. The bookshelf was installed in our living space with a vase of roses atop it.

Request for a companion cube bookshelf arrived. More wood was purchased and cut. Request for bookshelf with a honey-colored stain finish followed. A quart of Minwax wood stain was purchased. And so on.

Leaving the oak grove office

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The summer is at an end. Or at least the American tradition of the start of school and Labor Day signify the end of summer. And so, my work at the oak grove office has also concluded.

From the shade of oak trees, I hand-lettered and hand-painted signs for a Renaissance Faire. An anachronistic skill for these highly digital, automated modern times.

“Sure,” he said, the mastermind and owner of the School of Combat. “I can get these signs printed somewhere. But this isn’t a… video game… This is real combat. Real armor. With real swords. The signs need to be real. Anything fake… and the magic is gone.”

DSCN3912[sqr-tilt-dallas]When tasks around the grounds did not occupy his attention, he would take a pencil and sketch out a drawing of a crane or boar on a wooden shield. All the drawings were based on authentic heraldry. My job was to accurately paint the shields.

“Should only take a few hours,” he said after he assigned projects. “Depending on the details.”

All the shields were painted with a combination of six colors. Attention to detail and quickness of brush were essential to the painting of the shields and signs. Some mornings I would draw a double-headed rooster, unicorn or swan. Before noon, paint filled in the background. Red for the swan and unicorn. White for the double-headed rooster and the crow. Water was used to thin the acrylic paint for some techniques like shadows and highlights.

“I like it,” he said after he inspected my work on the wild boar shield. “You should see kids when they enter the ring. They’ll claim one of these shields… They’ll point at it or whack it with their foil. The painted animal or bestiary becomes their totem.”

DSCN3903[sqr-dallas]He asked for my brush. Loaded it with some black. Mixed in some white. A little blue. Touched up a few details on the belly of the boar. I did not mind. Always yield to the master. Some of his crew have told me that other artists did not last past a day with him. Maybe they were untrainable.

“Yeah, this is great,” he said and handed me back the brush. “You don’t know how happy this makes me.”

He took a seat, smiled, slowly ran is hand over his nearly shaved head. I explained a couple details about the boar and the other shields I had worked on that day.

“You know,” he started. “This is spiritual… very spiritual…”

DSCN3904[sqr-tilt-dallas]The fencing ring is violent, he conceded. But it is necessary, he added. America does not have a rite of passage for boys becoming men or girls becoming women. The ring provides a balance to the scales in some manner. Brothers settle festering scores with each other. Young men humiliated for their arrogance. Families learn about justice when they enter the ring of combat. Daughters win matches and glow with achievement. He told me all manner of stories about the ring.

Then he stood up, “No one has ever been injured in the ring. The armor prevents that. Well, maybe injury to their pride. The armor allows for that.”

He smiled his hallmark smile.

After I returned to the task of painting shields, meditation on his words continued. In that oak grove, there was no artificial broadcast of mechanically distributed musical entertainment. The rhythm of framers hammering out their progress on a building competed with bird song. Every so often a circular saw cuts through the hot summer afternoon.

DSCN3421[...]Boys tend to gauge range first before striking, he told me earlier in the summer. Girls go straight for the prize. If you want to win, he told me. Strike first and fast. And don’t stop until someone pulls you off the target.

My brush paused at that thought. I gauged the next brush stroke. Cursed myself for lack of discipline, and applied the next stroke. And the one after that. On target and fast.

Do not stop until someone pulls you away. Until summer fades to autumn. Until the shields and signs are placed.

Box of Poetry

A challenge motivates me to think of solutions. In this case, the challenge was inspired by a reader of this blog who commented: “It would be lovely to cover a little box with beautiful words…” Great idea!

After a couple concepts and a couple drafts of what I hope are “beautiful words” here is a custom origami box of poetry. The reward is to watch the user/reader pick up the box and decipher the order of the poem.

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[Front] “Box of poetry”

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[Left flap] “In a land where/the blind lead the/blind/the poets are the seers/the judges/the priests/the relics of a religious/age… It amuses the/people to hear their words/but few convert/and see the word/written/or

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[Right flap] “spoken/on the wings of/pages/on the winds of the east/or across the western/prairie… Spoken to the/scribes and bound into/the souls of the faithful/the few illuminated by a package/of poetry/written on a scrap/of grocery bag/folded into/a cipher and/left on a/window/sill”

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[Back] “this is your box of poetry to light your way in the land of the blind/after reading these lines eat the words and burn the box”

How to write a book in 15 minutes

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“Give me I subject to write about,” I challenged the oldest kindlinger. It was lunch break and I was home for tea and toast.

After a few moments, the kidlinger offered a subject — a writing prompt, if you will.

DSCN3177webGrabbing a sheet of paper from the recycled bin, I feed the sheet into an old manual typewriter and began composing a manuscript on the spot. The kidlingers watched at a distance and then approached to watch the keys striking the paper. Their amusement fueled the writing and from time to time I would ask them for a color or word choice.

Within fifteen minutes I had composed a draft of a book custom tailored to the chosen subject. There is no trick here. No spell check. No slight of hand. No editing. And no kidding. Handmade mini-books are very easy to manufacture [see my post on the topic here]. Writing a handmade mini book may be more of a challenge. But for writers and parents, it is a lovely experience.

The oldest kidlinger was dubious of the handmade mini-book. The younger kidlinger was all smiles. Their mother read it aloud. The request to sign and date it was meet and the book was carefully examined by the kidlingers as I returned to the afternoon’s labors.