Circles of Light

We do the oddest projects.

planning_IR_IR.jpg  Initial Layout  

People who know us, know we are always working on something. It’s true.  Some have questioned what we are up to these days.

bending rings_IR.jpg  Cutting strapping material for circles (rings)

(Besides a gazillion other things), we tell them we are working on a chandelier.   “What kind of chandelier?”, they’ll ask.

compass_IR.jpg  Preparing jig to weld rings

cut template_IR.jpg  Cutting jig template on bandsaw

“It’s kinda hard to describe”, we reply

setup_IR.jpg  Ring set up in jig, ready to weld

“What does it look like?”

“A bunch of circles around a tube”, we’ll tell them.

weldring_IR.jpg  Welding one of many rings

After a pause and a quizzical look, they come up with their next question.

k grnd rings_IR.jpg Grinding one of many rings

“What’s it made of?”

“Metal … mostly.” We say.

grindpins_IR.jpg Grinding steel pin connectors

“How did you come up with it?”

We saw something like it 10 – 15 years ago in a fancy light shop… and were inspired by it’s uniqueness… and thought someday we’ll make something like it. So we wired the house when we built it (a decade ago now) with this chandelier in mind.

mockup_IR.jpg  Mock up of ring assembly

weldrings_IR.jpg  Welding rings together into subassembly

The design has been a complex math problem.  Our ceiling is 14’ high, and we want the chandelier  8 – 9’ off the ground. It should have a decent Length-over-Diameter to have a pleasing aesthetic. So we had to calculate not only the circle diameter, but their circumference as they are splayed out and reduce as it goes away from the center.

weldg_IR.jpg  Welding ring assembly

Should we do a splayed series of 3 circles or 4?  13″, 15″, 17″ diameter or 19″ diameter, (which equates to 30-some inches splayed out), or all of the above… Hmmm?  The bigger the ring diameter, the longer the overall length.  Decisions. Decisions… and lots of layouts and mockups.

grind rings_IR.jpg  Grinding ring assembly

Should we paper mache the exterior of the center tube or sand blast to assure the light bulb doesn’t become overly prevalent.  We’re looking for more of a ‘glow’ afterall.

sprayg_IR.jpg  Spraying spray tack on inner tube

As we work through building this unique project that has been on our project docket for well over a decade, it occurs to me that it isn’t just Circles of Light… but Circles of Life.

Our life, all the many projects, trials and tribulations, friends & family come and gone – on and off.

spraypaper_IR.jpg  Spraying textured art paper to coat tube

papertube_IR.jpg  Applying paper to tube and trimming

Somehow, as it comes to fruition after all this time, so many things have changed in our own life, and it makes us reflect on those things we have accomplished, and those things we have lost.

paintg_IR.jpgPainting interior of chandelier ‘shade’

As it shines down from it’s new home, it casts shadows, points of light, and a soft subtle glow.  It has it’s new beginning, and will shine long after we are gone.

finsished close_IR.jpgThe big reveal

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Mushrooming

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Everyone’s got a hobby of one sort or another.  We actually have quite a number – woodworking, stained glass, etc.  For me, the line gets blurred between a hobby and a sport.  A hobby is something that one does for the pleasure and the relaxation of it.  A sport is more of a physical activity, like golf, baseball, or football.  So I’m not sure where ‘mushrooming’ falls – as it is a source of relaxation, fun, and physical exertion (as in – LOTS of walking through the woods).

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They say one person’s trash is another’s treasure.  For those that don’t go mushrooming, it’s hard for them to understand the draw.  As someone who enjoys the ‘sport’, I get a great thrill every time I find one of the prized mushrooms I seek – like porcini and chanterelle.  It’s exciting, exhilarating, and satisfying.

At worst… it’s a lovely walk in the woods.  At best, one comes home with coveted mushrooms to eat and enjoy.  In what other sport can you eat your spoils?

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I still remember the very first time I ever tasted a porcini mushroom.  It was probably 25 years ago in Pisa, Italy.  There was a basket of porcini’s in front on this lovely bistro.  I stopped to ask the attendant what they were…. when they described this king of mushrooms fresh picked from their local forest, we went straight inside and ordered off their menu those dishes they recommended that were porcini forward.  I will never forget the meaty, earthy delicious flavor they imparted.  Like no mushroom I have ever eaten.

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Years later, now living in Northern Arizona, once I heard there were porcini mushrooms growing in our local forests, I just knew I had to get educated on the how, where’s and what to find them for myself.  Now I forage for my own, and enjoy the ‘foraging bug’ and finding my own wild things to put on my table and in my pantry.  The euphoria and joy of finding these beautiful little treasures is unparalleled.  I’m hooked.  Can’t wait to go back.

 

Stained Glass Floor Lamp

glass panels4_IR.jpg  Finished stained glass panels for floor lamp

Remember those stained glass panels I wrote about here? .. https://kritterspaw.com/2019/03/18/one-thing-begets-another/ 

We have been working hard to get the woodworking done to receive the panels I worked so hard on… but the woodworking has proven to be as labor intensive as the glass work.

napkin_IR.jpg Initial back of the napkin concept drawing

I got a hearty laugh, when someone mentioned to me the other day, that as I put out these blogs, that people will know how to make our projects.

pillars groves_IR.jpg Making pillars for uprights to support stained glass panels

We never have plans for any of our projects.  Projects for us start as a hair brain idea and a need for something… in this case for a floor lamp to be able to read by… which morphed to wanting to match it to the stained glass door we had just finished.

pillargroves4_IR.jpg  Cut upright pillars

stretchers fit_IR.jpg  Trial fit of pillars to stretchers

We actually think through the project and ask ourselves questions as to how it might go together and draw up multiple concept cartoon drawings for the different pieces and phases of the project.

plans_IR.jpg  Cutting list

We then make a cutting list of the pieces and parts that need to go together, making sure to include stacked dimensions of the veneered pieces, various tongues, grooves, or other cut outs.

pillars glued_IR.jpgGlued together top section for glass panels

We often design on the fly, and the project may morph as we go along.

shelf veneer_IR.jpg  Cutting mesquite inlay for shelf

shelf_IR.jpg  Gluing shelf together

Which was the case when we decided to make a pull out shelf for the lamp base, so that we could sit a glass of wine (or coffee) on it while we read.

baseboard joint_IR.jpg  Making our own baseboard molding from pecan lumber (started as tree cut from our yard)

baseboard moldg_IR.jpg  Cutting moulding on baseboard 

Of course, in true Ritter style, the shelf had to have 3 inlays, made with birch, mesquite and pecan.

cuttg mirror_IR.jpg  Cutting mirror for light reflection

mirror ret2_IR.jpg  Retainer for mirror on top stretchers

To further complicate things as we went along, we decided to add a mirror to the top of the lamp to reflect back light that would beam through the glass panels… so yet another change had to be incorporated … no drawings to be had.

trail fit_IR.jpg  Trial fit of glass panels with light and mirror

Once we started on the base, cutting all the sides, top, bottom, and lots of pecan veneer… we decided the empty box would be better with a door… and power to be able to charge a tablet or phone.. and storage for magazines and such.

bottom ply_IR.jpg  Cutting birch bottom section pieces

veneer_IR.jpg  Cutting veneer

So with yet another change (no drawings) we are off on the fly again morphing the design to continuously improve this already interesting project we have embarked on (same ol’, same ol’ around here!)

partsnpcs_IR.jpg  Bits and pieces of bottom section, cut and veneered

door hinge_IR.jpg  Hinge recessed for door

With all the bottom pieces cut, veneered, shelf designed, cut, glued, door made, and new designs incorporated… we are finally ready for final sanding (and sanding!) and gluing.

bottclamps_IR.jpg  Lower section glued and clamped together

Someone else suggested once, we could put our projects on Pinterest… What?, and have them steal and make our ideas?  Ha, not likely.

basebd_IR.jpg  Gluing baseboard moulding

staing2_IR.jpg  Staining lower cabinet section

Since only a subset of the actual steps and operations are represented here (none of the jointing, plaining, mortise & tenons, etc, etc), no plans in sight, not to mention the 6 months of labor… I think we’re safe in no one copying our designs!  There I go, heartily laughing again.  You know what they say, ” Laughter is the best medicine.”

sprayg2_IR.jpgSpray lacquering cabinet top, bottom, and pieces

No matter.  We work for ourselves and do projects that intrigue and interest us for our own perceived ‘need’.  We enjoy the work, the problem solving, and the end product.  It is always intellectually challenging, fulfilling, and leaves us with a sense of pride and accomplishment.  That’s all that really matters.

finished vert_IR.jpg Finished lamp with shelf pulled out

finished lamp_IR.jpg Finished lamp in place

 

 

Tinder Table

It’s hard to believe it has been almost a year since the Tinder Fire that stormed up our hill and almost took our home.  But we are still here, stronger than ever…. and found a great way to memorialize our tenacity, good fortune, and strength.

Several years back we cut a burl off a tree (making sure to keep the tree alive).  It has been drying in our shop for the past 3 – 4 years.  We figured it would make a great table top when it was good and dry.  So we used a chainsaw to slab it, then set up a router on boards across the top to slowly and meticulously router it down to a flat even surface… then sand, sand, sand.

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With the top ready, we needed legs.  So we decided to make the legs from the Tinder Fire.  We cut all the wood from our forest, using dead burned trees or fallen logs.

jointg_IR.jpgWe decided to use a combination of oak and cedar for an ‘architectural’ highlight.  The wood was super dry, almost kiln dried.  Using the jointer we cut a flat through the 6″ – 8″ logs to clear the bark and provide a flat datum.  The jointer allowed us to make parellel sides.

joint cedar_IR.jpg

For the cedar we needed to work through the exterior white to get to the ‘red heart’ of the wood.  We used the planer to make numerous passes to reduce the wood to 2-3/4″ squares for the legs.

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Once both the oak and cedar logs were reduced to ‘legs’, we had lumber ready to process.

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We used a black resin goop to fill the cracks…. a long tedious task, which took multiple applications until the cracks were filled.

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Finally, we were ready to assemble the legs and stretchers for the base.

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With base and top ready to go, final sanding complete…. it’s time to stain.

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… and finish, ironically, as it started to snow.

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I think the finished product came out great.  The red heart of the cedar shows through, as does the tenacity and strength of the sturdy oak.  They made it through the fire to become something lasting and symbolic, and will forever be a reminder of the Tinder Fire, moving on, and persevering.

finished_IR.jpg

 

 

One thing begets another

You know how you embark on a project and once you’re done,  it has created a new list of projects?  Kinda like when you remodel your kitchen and you do the cabinets… and soon as it’s done, the floor now needs to be done.

You read about my stained glass door here … https://kritterspaw.com/2018/12/10/stained-glass-door/ 

The door came out great, and is now a centerpiece in the house.  I was already planning on building a stained glass floor lamp, but something simple.  With the door completed, and the elks peering in on us…  our lamp design took another turn.  Why not use animals from our forest to grace our lamp.

So I began the task of drawing up patterns for 4 panels….

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There would be an eagle, a squirrel, hummingbirds, and a pygmy owl.

With the patterns drawn, the pattern pieces had to be made.. and glass had to be cut.

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I did one panel at a time… pattern, glass cut, grind, foil / lead, solder, pack, repeat four times.

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Once the glass was cut and ground, each piece had to be foiled or leaded.

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After it was leaded, all the joints had to be soldered, and then it was packed with a window caulking and glazed with a gypsum powder.

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All to make a final glass panels to ready for the wood working portion of the project.

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On to the next phase.

To be continued…..

 

Stained Glass Door

All good ideas start with a vision.

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It’s not like I seek out things to do.  They just come to us, with a need.  Well, maybe, need, isn’t the right word.  How about… a good idea.

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For instance… we have these doors.  They are pretty plain.  Wouldn’t they look better with a stained glass window on them.  That’s what we thought!

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So I drew up a pattern that seemed suited for our area… you know, elk, bunnies, blue jays, trees.

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And then set out to build it.  We have never fretted over the amount of work in any particular project.  I suppose if we did, we’d never get anything done.  We just think of the finished project, and how cool it might be… and set out to accomplish it.

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Once the pattern was finished, I set out to choose the colors… and cut the glass for the 6′ tall door.

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And cut glass….

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Then I began the daunting task of a combination of leading and foiling the glass pieces in a long labor intensive effort that took patience, determination and perseverance.

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Then after soldering all the joints, I had to ‘pack’ the lead channel with a DAP window caulking.

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Then use a gypsum powder to clean the flux off the solder joints and lead channel.

 

I actually made my husband a bet… I expected the project to take a year, he gave me 8 months.  Working long consecutive days at every opportunity I had available to me, I finished it in 6 months.

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Now our door isn’t plain any more.  Who knew we needed a stained glass door… but it was a good idea.

 

Rocks in our Heads

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People think we have rocks in our heads for some of the projects we do.  But the rocks aren’t it our heads… they are in our trailer.  More specifically, they start with a need (like a mossy rock wall), or just a ‘find’, like these.  We saw these rocks and couldn’t resist.  So we spent half a day moving them into the trailer…. then had to get them out.

 

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Each of the ‘small’ square rocks we figured were 200 – 300 lbs, the 9′ long monster (we dubbed ‘Big Boy’) was likely 600 – 800 lbs.  We thought getting them into the trailer was hard!  Getting them out was an equally challenging task.  Fortunately, we had the advantage of our tractor to assist in the heavy lifting when we took them out of the trailer.

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We carefully tied each one onto the tractor bucket and ever so slowly lifted it and moved it into place.

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Once we had them set into the area we wanted them, we were ready to move Big Boy.

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We were going along pretty well until Big Boy fell off his log rollers and crashed sideways into the side of trailer.  (We now have a new project – trailer repair!)

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Since he was too heavy to move manually we were forced to drag him out the rest of the way.  Unfortunately in a lesson of physics, the weakest link gave way.  Our tractor didn’t have the strength to lift the monster rock, and the rope tied to the end snapped… and Big Boy crashed and burned, breaking the 9′ rock into two pieces.

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Darn!

Oh, well.  No one got hurt… except Big Boy.

But we’ll patch him together and finesse the rocks a bit more.

But our heavy find makes for a fine rock bench.

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