Saturday, April 3, 2010

16th Annual Sonoma Wine Country Sheepdog Trial

The 16th Annual Sonoma Wine Country Sheepdog Trial
Oak Springs Ranch
Judged by Don Helsley of Idaho, and Denis Birchall of Ireland

Sheepdog trials are a quintessentially British event- Border Collies having originated in the border country between England and Scotland- but there are several important trialing events in Northern California and the ION (Idaho, Oregon, and Nevada) where ranches with large sheep herds are found.
The handler's task, with the help of his or her Border Collie, is to move a flock of sheep through the course in the shortest time, and with the least amount of fuss. The handler stands at the post and directs the dog with whistled signals. A well-trained Border Collie will respond to upwards of 15 distinct commands. Bonus points for style, points deducted if the dog nips at the sheep.
I went looking for leads on a puppy- we lost our red-and-white Border Collie Britta 3 years ago, and it's time to get another.
No litter leads, but it is always a joy to watch these dogs work...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Nice Legs!

Work table with re-purposed machine legs
Artefact; Schellville, CA

Conference table by Sit And Read Furniture for ACL

Cast iron table legs designed for Lee Valley Tools by Mike McGuire

Advertisement engraving via Antique Machinery Scans

Advertisement engraving via Antique Machinery Scans

Advertisement engraving via Antique Machinery Scans

Industrial kitchen worktable with cast iron legs
Modeled in Solidworks
Rendered in Photoview 360

Detail: Raised lettering on leg stretcher
Modeled in Solidworks
Rendered in Photoview 360

Worktable legs
Solidworks drawing

Several weeks ago, on a spin through Sonoma and the Napa Valley, I stopped at one of my favorite retail design establishments- Artefact in Schellville. Pick of the litter was the work table pictured above, made from a pair of antique lathe legs with a steel top and shelf, and skirts of wood salvaged from the factory that once was home to the cast iron legs.

A massive pair of cast iron legs salvaged from an industrial-sized Oliver lathe have served as the base for my woodworking bench since my days as a studio furniture maker, and they've been eyeing a massive chunk of end-grain butcher block sitting in my shop- threatening to hook up and become a work table in our kitchen.

My workbench legs are not nearly as elegant as the salvaged cast iron legs that Kyle Garner of Sit And Read Furniture used to make ACL's new conference table, and they are just a little too wide for the butcher block top. Usually the reverse is true- lathe legs are designed to support a bed that is long and narrow, and paired with a wide top, start to look out of proportion.

Some years ago, Lee Valley Tool started producing a set of cast iron legs for their workbench kits. They aren't all that attractive IMHO- especially compared to designer Mike McGuire's early concepts for the project- but the price is right, and they are a great idea.

So I set about designing a set of cast iron legs in the spirit of early industrial machinery, with size and proportion specific to supporting a work table top. Is the potential market large enough to justify the cost of making a pattern, and having these legs sand-cast?
Stay tuned...

Friday, March 19, 2010


Portrait of Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky
Alexander Rodchenko

Monday, March 8, 2010

Herse-inspired Bicycle Crank

Rene Herse-inspired crank for a city bike that I am designing.
Modeled in SolidWorks, and rendered in Photoview 360.

Rene Herse Randonneuse

Rene Herse Randonneuse, Paris, 1946
Illustration by Daniel Rebour
via Vintage Cycle Press

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Southwest Icon

Southwest Icon frame
Stephen Gaines
Banded inlay, charred and polychromed wood

The frame made by longtime friend and buckaroo artist Stephen Gaines.
I found the Catholic holy card buried in the wall while renovating our ca.1905 bungalow.
It just seemed to fit...

Mark Knopfler- Quality Shoe

J. L. Powell

Waxed canvas Safari Bag

Black Hills Moccasin

Roosevelt Jacket

J. L Powell- The Sporting life.
Clothing and gear for the well-heeled sport

J.L Powell

Saddleback Leather Co.

Saddleback briefcase in dark tobacco brown

Dave Munson of Saddleback Leather Company in Texas designs and sells some really nice leather bags. Bloody expensive, and no doubt worth every penny.

What really grabbed my attention though, was the quality of his website- a little rough around the edges (mis-matched type &etc.) but transparent, honest, soulful, amusing. Marketing built around a growing and enthusiastic family of loyal customers.

Spend some time with his website (be sure not to miss the FAQ page) and his Facebook page.
I haven't had so much fun reading product copy since the early J. Peterman catalogs.

This is the new marketing- watch and learn grasshopper...

Saddleback Leather Co.
Saddleback on Facebook

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Dale of Norway Classic Ski Sweaters

Toni Matt and Luggi Foeger at Incline, Tahoe- late 50s

Dale Classic with pewter clasps

Vintage NOS Dale crew-neck

Heavy wool, made to last- a life-time purchase.

Dale Classic with pewter clasps- a keeper
Dale vintage NOS crew-neck- bound for E-bay

Dale of Norway

Friday, March 5, 2010

1962 Renault Dauphine Gordini

My old Dauphine Gordini in front of Shadetree-
5th Ave. Wharf, Oakland, CA
February, 2010

I was a young starving artist/art furniture intern, and living in a burned-out warehouse on one of Oakland's seedier wharves. I quickly learned that buying lumber in my convertible MGA was a tricky proposition, so I sold it and began looking for a more suitable car. Still more style than sense, I bought a 1962 Renault Dauphine Gordini from a race car mechanic in Pt. Richmond. The car was in prisitine condition, and came with enough spares to build most of a second.

In 2007, Time Magazine named the Dauphine one of the 50 worst cars of all time:
The most ineffective bit of French engineering since the Maginot Line, the Renault Dauphine was originally to be named the Corvette, tres ironie. It was, in fact, a rickety, paper-thin scandal of a car that, if you stood beside it, you could actually hear rusting. Its most salient feature was its slowness, a rate of acceleration you could measure with a calendar. It took the drivers at Road and Track 32 seconds to reach 60 mph, which would put the Dauphine at a severe disadvantage in any drag race involving farm equipment. The fact that the ultra-cheap, super-sketchy Dauphine sold over 2 million copies around the world is an index of how desperately people wanted cars. Any cars."

Actually, the limited edition race-modified Gordini model was zippy enough for a small car, and was raced and rallied successfully for a couple of years of its production life. It was a cheap POS tin can...but quirky in a mid-century French sort of way, and suited my needs well enough. Driving carefully, I could squeeze almost 50mpg out of it- important when you are working for slave wages- and with a roof rack, I could pack 50 board feet of lumber before the springs started to bottom out.

Several years later, I moved to rural Mendocino County and needed a truck to navigate the miles of unpaved roads to my remote cabin, so I sold the Dauphine to a local guy who bought it for his girlfriend, visiting for the summer from France. Of all of the stuff I've let go of in my life, I most regret selling this car. When he brought it by a couple of days later- fully detailed and polished- I nearly sat down on the sidewalk and cried.

Flash-forward 20 years:
A while back, I took my wife and daughter to see some of the places that I had lived and worked "back in the day", and there, parked in front of the old warehouse in it's old designated spot was "my" Dauphine. Somehow, over decades and miles, she had found her way home.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Rockabilly- The Skip Rats play "Morse Code"

The Skip Rats, a rockabilly trio based in the Northeast of England (go figure).
There must be rockabilly this good happening in the US, but I don't know what it is.

New Boots- Red Wing No.9013

Known variously as the Beckman, 6" classic round, and the Gentleman Traveler, these are from Red Wing's "Lifestyle Heritage Collection." Am I the only one who cringes at the mention of "lifestyle" anything?
The first issues of these were made with Horween Chromexel leather uppers, and available, I believe, only in Japan and Europe. Later issues- including these- are made with Red Wing's own Featherstone leather uppers. Vibram roccia half soles, goodyear welt construction. These look like they were made to last a while, so I'll get back to you in 2020 with a field report...
A Valentine's day gift from my wife. Available from Sundance Catalog and other fine outlets.
I'd say these run 1/2 to a full size larger than true-to-size, so try before you buy.

Red Wing Shoes- Lifestyle Heritage Collection

Sundance Catalog

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Staking out my territory

Northern California
The Great Basin
The Columbia Plateau
The Sate of Jefferson
The ION ( Idaho-Oregon-Nevada in buckaroo-speak)
The historical range of the West-Slope trouts...

I've been thinking about what defines the territory that I consider myself to be a product of.
To simplify things, I'll define it as the country West of the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific, and including Hawaii.
Much of this Trad/Resurgence quadrant of the blogosphere originates in New York and New England and with the point-of-view of East Coast tradition and heritage. It is my hope that this blog adds one man's West Coast point-of-view to the conversation.

I have my East Coast bragging rights too- the first Hudson to pay a visit arrived in 1607, and became a permanent resident in 1611 (though not by choice.) He got a river and a bay named after him for his troubles. The first of my branch of the Hudson clan to settle in what is now the USA showed up in Virginia in 1635.
But it is my ancesters who came to Northern California from Sweden, England, and Missouri in the mid-late 19th century that most define me and capture my imagination. Ranchers, carpenters, miners, doctors, teachers...later heavy equipment mechanics, and my dear old dad who played an important part in putting a man on the moon. I am humbled by the hardships that they endured and by what they were able to accomplish.

Many of the heritage brands that we are buying, using, and cheering onward were forged in the Pacific West:
Levi Strauss
Ben Davis
Pendleton Woolen Mills
White's Boots
CC Filson
In my time, new brands have been born here that will be the heritage brands of the next generation:
The North Face
Sierra Designs
Pacific Iron Works/Patagonia
Mulholland Brothers
In your time- if you are younger than I (and you probably are) the next wave:
The bicycle builders of Portland- as good as anything that came out of post-war France
Archival Clothing
Rising Sun & Co.

In addition to the above with an international audience, there is a robust resurgence movement going on in the Buckaroo community that rivals anything going on in the larger Trad/Resurgence world for passion, quality, and authenticity and deserves a wider audience than working cowboys and cowboy poetry groupies.

If New England's poetic voice is Salinger, the Pacific Coast's is Steinbeck, Stegner, and Kerouac.

Northwest Coast wood carvings

Raven Mask
Donald Svanvik
Kwakwaka'wakw Nation
Red Cedar, Cedar bark, acrylic paint
Coastal Peoples Fine Arts Gallery

Grizzly Bear Mask
Stan Bevan
Tahltan-Tlingit Nation
Yellow Cedar, Operculum shells, horsehair
Coastal Peoples Fine Arts Gallery

Raven, Cormorant Dog- Bentwood Box
Andy Wilber Peterson
Red Cedar, pigment
Quintana Galleries

Coastal Peoples Fine Arts Gallery
1024 Mainland Street
Vancouver BC
Canada V6B 2T4

Quintana Galleries
120 NW Ninth Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97209

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mark Knopfler- Song for Sonny Liston

On heavy rotation this week:

Mark Knopfler playing his '58 Gibson Les Paul
From the "All the Roadrunning" tour with Emmylou Harris

Dylan Thomas, 1914-1953

Fern Hill, 1946

C. C. Filson Safari Cloth Shirt

Style No.052 Safari Cloth shirt

I have two of these in my closet, and they are my go-to shirts for fishing and back-country expeditions. Made of sturdy 6 oz. 2 ply x 2 ply cotton poplin, they iron up crisp, and stay looking presentable for several days of wear.
Extra large expandable chest pockets provide ample storage for all of the gear that you need to keep at hand- shades, smokes, cell phone, &etc.- and the buttoned flaps keep it all from falling into the drink while fishing or in the canoe.
Cut full with large arm holes and long tails for freedom of movement.
Filson advertises the Safari Cloth shirt as designed for "scorching temperatures," but mine get swapped for their Feather Cloth version when the mercury climbs above 90.
Sewing for the No.052 is now outsourced to Asia, so try before you buy to avoid freakish fit issues.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Swing-arm Towel bar

Modeled after an early Industrial Age antique found at a local architectural salvage yard.

Polished nickel plate over brass. 12" projection.

Modeled in Solidworks.

The original is fastened to the wall in our kitchen and holds our collection of aprons and canvas shopping bags. Equally useful for its intended purpose of holding hand or dish towels.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Edward Hopper (1882-1967)

Edward Hopper
oil on canvas

The Circle Theater
Edward Hopper
oil on canvas

Early Sunday Morning
Edward Hopper
oil on canvas

1959 MGA 1500 Roadster

1959 MGA 1500 Roadster

Vintage MGA advertisement

Lucas pin from Moss Motors

Reading through Walker Lemond's excellent blog 1001 Rules for My Unborn Son got me thinking about the vintage cars that I've owned.

Rule No.166 Drive a vintage car before you are 30

The key concept here is "before you are 30." After that, you will find that you've accumulated enough responsibility that a vintage car ceases to be transportation, and becomes a toy.

My early 20s found me living in Southern California for a spell, and I set out to find a classic British roadster- my first car purchase. After test-driving a number of Austin Healey 100's, and a nice early E-type Jaguar, I settled on a 1959 MGA 1500 roadster. The above photo shows a nicely restored example. Mine was BRG with a black interior- clean and well-preserved, but far short of concourse material.
Hella fun to drive with the top down on a sunny day, the MGA boasted a number of vexing idiosyncrasies:
  • Twin SU carburetors that required frequent tuning
  • Cooling system way under-engineered for California driving
  • Mechanical oil-dampened shock absorbers
  • Lucas electrical system
Lucas electrics- the butt of jokes among vintage British car owners- have a nasty habit of short circuiting and wafting the acrid smoke of an electrical fire from behind the dash or under the bonnet.

Rule No.372 If you drive a vintage car, be able to wrench it yourself

On an ill-fated jaunt into Northern Baja, the engine overheated and threw a push rod. I managed to limp the car back to San Diego, where it sat DOA until I moved back to Northern California.
I got a crash course in auto mechanics restoring the car. I bought a Chilton's manual and a set of tools, and set about rebuilding the engine, electrical system, and hydraulic system.
Restoring this car from the ground up was an immensely satisfying experience; not one I've sought out since, but knowing that I had the skills was worth the skinned knuckles, spitting and cussing, and the seemingly endless search for rare parts.

Eventually, I sold "the stagecoach" to a collector in Marin County to make way for another vintage car, and was not too sad to see it go.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

C.C. Filson Mackinaw Cruiser

Style No.110 Mackinaw Cruiser

Detail: back map pocket

The year was 1897; the place Seattle. C. C. Filson's Pioneer Alaska Clothing and Blanket Manufacturers was founded by Clinton C. Filson to supply goods to the horde of adventurers headed for the Yukon during the Klondike Gold Rush. The conditions were so harsh that the quality of their clothing was a matter of survival, and Filson staked his reputation on making clothing that stood up to the challenge. "Might as well have the best" is the company's tag line, and they have earned their bragging rights.

As the rush north ended, Filson began to supply sturdy clothing to the logging industry in the Pacific Northwest, as well as to sportsmen and others who earned their living in the outdoors.
Filson's product line-up is a traditionalist's dream- made in Seattle of the highest quality materials, their core line of heavy wool and waxed cotton outwear is largely un-messed with- same as it always was.

The Mackinaw Cruiser, patented in 1914, is Filson's signature product. Made of heavy (26 oz to the yard) dense 100% virgin mackinaw wool, it was designed to meet the needs of timber cruisers. It sports no fewer than 8 pockets including the map pocket formed by doubling the back panel and accessible via large snapped flaps at the side seams.

I've owned this coat now for more than 15 years, put it through its paces, and it is just about broken in. New, it is stiff enough to stand up on its own. A lifetime investment, my grandchildren will be wearing this coat if it doesn't end up at the Goodwill.

Eventually, no doubt, the Mackinaw Cruiser will be watered down to meet the expectations of the modern marketplace- the fabric lighter and softer, enzyme washed, sewing outsourced to Asia, and re-branded with some heritage collection re-issue nonsense. For now it is still the real deal- made in America for its intended purpose.

C.C. Filson

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Winslow Homer (1836-1910)

'Jumping Trout'

Winslow Homer
watercolor on paper

'Life-size Black Bass'

Winslow Homer
watercolor on paper

What I got for Christmas

Santa Maria Novella showroom in Florence, Italy

Gift box of Santa Maria Novella soaps

My wife and I honeymooned in Northern Italy, and while visiting Florence- being in the know about natural fragrances- she made a beeline for the Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella.
Established in 1221 by Dominican friars, Santa Maria Novella was officially founded as a private enterprise in 1612, making it one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe. They are known for meticulously handcrafted products made from only natural ingredients.
Their Melograno (pomegranate) soap is a Florentine classic. The scent is old-fashioned and like nothing I'd ever smelled before. Evocative of old rooms, antique furniture, and leather-bound books, it is forever etched in my animal brain as the smell of Tuscany.
Sapone per Uomo is another favorite- sandlewood, subtle, musky, old.
All Santa Maria Novella soaps are triple milled, hand molded one at a time on 19th century equipment, aged for 60 days, and hand wrapped.

...because life is too short to shower with crappy soap.

Available in the U.S. from Lafco New York