Monday, December 19, 2011


Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
-Arthur C. Clarke 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Sword Maker

"Many traditional craftsmen respond to modern times when handing down his craft. But the essence of the tradition suffers in doing so."

A lovely video from ETSY via NOTCOT featuring one of Japan's last traditional sword makers.

Video after the jump >>>

Friday, November 4, 2011

Return to Polish

I had been blowing glass for several years before I became vaguely aware of idea of coldworking glass. In the MIT Glass Lab there was old ~12”-14” flat lap at the off the shop which I’m fairly certain began it’s life as a battered potter's wheel. The grit in the tray underneath the lap was fill with some grade of “mystery grit” that was filled with bits of glass and whatever else fell in within the last year. I had used the wheel to flatten tippy pieces and make them less-tippy. To remove any amount of material took forever and, at best, the finish looked as if I had dragged the glass behind my car. One day, my friend Nick showed up with a little glass piece that he had cut in half with a diamond saw and had polished the cut surfaces. My mind was blown for two reasons:

1.    You can cut things in half
2.    You can make rough surfaces smooth and glassy again

This might seem like no big deal, but having never seen the process it all seemed like magic.  Last night, I was in the Cold Shop preparing a blank for next weeks demo for my coldworking class and I thought it might be interesting to go through the process of flattening and polishing a relatively large piece of glass.

Before I get into the how to, I should mention a bit about the process shaping and polishing. Polishing is a progression of actions from course, medium, to fine. This relates to the size of abrasive grits that move from larger particle sizes to smaller particle size, but also the nature of process, more specifically, the inversely proportional relationship of speed and control.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Some good F-ing advice from via Prof Zeke via facebook.

You're welcome.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Think Different.

R.I.P. Steve Jobs 1955-2011


Chris Schwarz just posted several videos on the Lost Art Press blog of perhaps one of my favorite objects that I have never actually seen in person. The toolchest of H.O Studley is one of those things that has always captured my imagination and, until these videos were posted, I only knew it through the handful of images that are readily available and re-published prolifically.  The piece, once on loan to the Smithsonian, now resides in a private personal collection (in an undisclosed location). My mental image of the piece was only reinforced several years ago when Norm Abram visited with the chest of an episode of "The New Yankee Workshop". It was then that I discovered that there was even more immaculate ingeniousness and a whole second layer of tools hidden under a series of swinging racks and doors. These new videos, just a sneak peak, introduce new mindboggling level of detail and refinement. Once again my excitement about the chest has been reignited, as well as my virtuallust to one day see it in the flesh.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Shameless Self-Promotion: Vote NOW for BB Rattles on Apartment Therapy

My BB Rattles are up now in Apartment Therapy's Design Showcase 2011. Voting is only open for four days (ending Tuesday 9/27) so head over there now and vote.

Please submit a vote or three!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Parts & Labor

Here we have the latest images from the damage caused by hurricane Niels this past weekend. As you can see, several trees were damaged and workers are working round the the clock to clear the wreckage.
Go make a mess!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Manual Arts Training: Splitting Hairs

I am a pretty serious do it yourself kind of person. If it isn’t extraordinarily dangerous (home dentistry) or potentially costly, I am game for just about anything.  There are plenty of things that if you are willing to spend some time in research, tools, and materials you can do yourself, save butt loads of cash, and learn interesting things. For instance, last week I learned how to hardwire a radar detector and install an ipod dock in my car (god bless youtube), saving at least 400 in labor cost. Now 400 bucks is pocket change compare to one basic DIY service that borderlines on criminal: Cutting your hair.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Last Wallet

One of my favorite scenes from the book Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk is when the main character is sitting on the curb outside his recently blown up apartment. Lamenting the loss of all of his stuff he says:
"You buy furniture.  You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life.  Buy the sofa, then for a couple years you're satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you've got your sofa issue handled."

While I don’t think that I am ready to get rid of all my worldly possessions and start fighting underground, I am pleased to report that it appears that I've finally gotten a handle on my wallet issue.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Manual Arts Training: Shifting Gears

Sorry for the recent lack of lack of bloggering, I blame the summer (and the government, ha!). Hopefully, I’ll get in to gear and catch up on a bunch of subjects that I have been thinking on for the past month. To get things started, I wanted to talk about my most recent foray into manual arts training: learning how to drive stick.

I am frankly embarrassed that it has taken me this long to really learn how to operated a manual transmission. As a car-dude, my head has hung in shame for far to long. So this summer, I made the decision to buy a new (used) car with a manual transmission to force the issue.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Material Confections


This afternoon I saw these radical wooden bikes made by Sueshiro Sano (via Coolhunting).

The bikes made me think about how signifigant material selection can be in the both function and meaning of an object. It makes me marvel at the versatility of this particular material and deep knowledge of the maker required to pull something like this off.

It reminds me of the all wood airplanes that were developed by both the Germans and the Allies during World War II. The de Havilland Mosquito, for instance, was a mostly-wooden British bomber that at in spite of it's size was one of the faster airplanes in the world at the time. In the case of the Mosquito, these planes were built buy the expert hands of English carriagemakers and shipwrights. These planes could be made incredibly fast, inexpensively, and could spare precious raw material (metals) for other more critical tasks.

On the other end of the spectrum are objects like Jeroen Verhoeven's Cinderella Table. This equally miraculous object was sculpted from a monolithic block of Carrera marble by CNC controled machining. While the utility of this table is unclear, it's one of those objects that makes me happy to know that it exists, and that someone had the chutzpah to actually make one.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

No news from the front.

I wanted to repost this short but sweet interview from Maarten Bass filmed by Dezeen during 2011 Milan Design Week.  I have been a huge fan of Baas for many years now.  I have always admired Maarten's unapologetic (often irreverent) style, but also his uncompromising vision in spite of his meteoric rise to celebrity. In this video we see Baas’s integrity as designer taking front seat to the seasonal  drive to produce that occurs across the design world.
You go girl!

Baanner Imaage and More Baas at:

Saturday, June 4, 2011

It ain’t where you’re from, it’s where you’re at.

It’s been a hectic month. For the past three or four weeks I've been running around bouncing from place to place, task to task. I feel like I've spent more time [driving] in my car than in my own bed. So this week, it came as a real relief to have a couple days to myself in the studio to play.

Earlier in the week, while walking to the L train, the construction at building shown above on North 11th and Wythe St caught my attention. This 100-year old textile factory is one of the many beautiful old industrial buildings in the neighborhood that is being transformed into upscale conversions, in this case a hotel. This building was bought by developers five years ago and has been “under construction” ever since. Like most of the construction in the area, it has been stalled or following the economic downturn. However, the developers are back in the black ink, due to a $15 million dollar tax-free federal stimulus shot in the arm, and this spring there’s been a flurry of activity. I’m glad to see that the government is finally addressing troubling lack of yuppie-boarding in the neighborhood. Drrr.

Friday, May 27, 2011

TED and Nancy

A couple of weeks ago, wrote about the death (invulnerability) of craft. The crux of the issue was the communication of tacit knowledge from one person to another in a contemporary context. I used glassblowing as an example of a craft that is prospering against the odds. Serendipitously, a week later glassblower Nancy Callan gave a TED Talk describing her work and her journey into the craft of glassblowing. In many ways, Nancy is the embodiment of the modern craftsperson and is a perfect example of what I was talking about.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Who says you need to buy a guitar?

I had to post a couple of videos from my friend Zeke Leonard.  In addition to being a very talented maker and musician, Zeke has recently developed a penchant for stringing up inanimate objects and turning them into instruments. Too good!

There also a "canjo" and Jack White after the jump!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Time and Materiality

Last summer, I was invited by Deborah Clemons at the RISD Museum to do an audio recording for one of the glass pieces they have in their collection. The museum wanted contemporary artists to respond to ancient pieces in their collection. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity, if not just to get a closer look at some of the ancient glass they have in their collection. By the way, they have an absolutely spectacular glass collection! The piece that I was to speak about was a beautiful and simple roman glass amphora.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

New Products!

Today is the last day of Model Citizens NYC (single tear). This year's show was better than ever! The work, the people, the space, the shop, the marketing, the everything: all amazing!
This year I decided to sell some goods in the shop and over the last weeks I did some small production runs of some small items: BB Rattles, Stampo Cups, and Acorn Pods.

I'm very excited about all of these new pieces and so far the response has been overwhelmingly positive. I'm planning having them available for sale in an online store very soon!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Model Citizens NYC 2011

It's that time of year again!

NY Design Week(end) and ICFF are just around the corner May 13-16th. Once again I will be participating in Model Citizens NYC, a dynamic offsite show founded/organized by the amazing Mika Braakman.
I wont have a booth this year, but will be selling three different items in the Pop-up Shop: Acorn Pods, Stampo Cups, and BB Rattles.
I'll updating my website and posting some process photos by the end of week so stay tuned! 

If you are in the NYC area or will be coming through for the design circus, Model Citizens NYC is a show not to be missed. Also, There will be cocktails Saturday night May 14 4-8PM so stop by, grab some booze, and say "Hi".

Model Citizens NYC
2011 Exhibition
The Chelsea Art Museum
556 W 22nd St, New York, NY 10011
(212) 255-0719

Friday May 13: 10AM – 7PM,
Press Event 4 – 7PM
Saturday May 14: 10AM – 8PM,
Cocktails 4 – 8PM
Sunday May 15:10AM – 6PM

Event flyer and more info after the jump.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Flesh is Material Too

The image above is a picture of my right hand taken several days ago (Note: I apologize for the graphic grizzle sports fans, but I am trying to make a point! There's a little more after the jump, so you've been warned.) Looking at this image makes me think about Conan's "Riddle of Steel". In the epic John Milius movie, Conan the Barbarian, Thusla Doom told Conan that the answer to the riddle was "that flesh was stronger that steel". Thulsa was right (sort of), but to see the picture of my cut hand you would think he was wrong, and not because correct because it was glass that actually cut my hand, but hold that thought!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Internet and The Death of Craft


Last month I took a trip up to Saratoga Springs NY for the Northeastern Woodworkers Association Annual meeting. It was the first woodworking event and it was very interesting in many ways reasons. 
Firstly, I was clearly in the minority age-wise. I wouldn’t venture to guess what the average age of the attendees but the predominant hair color was grey. Secondly, I saw with mine own two eyes a handful of woodworking personalities that had previously only existed as photonic apparitions of pixels or merely in printed matter. Yes, Peter Follansbee does exist and his beard is glorious!
Thirdly, I got to hear a firsthand account of the state of craft and the gospel according to Chris Schwarz (who, I was also pleased to confirm actually exists). Chris’s talk on “The Anarchist Toolchest” was certainly the highlight the weekend (Follansbee’s beard being a close second). Chris touched on a wide range of subjects, many of which resonated very strongly with me and that I that I have been mulling over in the past weeks.  In addition to the practical aspects of designing and building a toolchest, Chris delved into the philosophical and subversive aspects of tool storage (I love that sentence!). More specifically what tools do you really need, what you will make with these tools, and what these tools will mean to future generations. Anybody who has responsibly enjoyed beverages with me in the last year knows that one of my favorite topics of discussion is “toolchests and the apocalypse” (fyi: that’s one topic not two) Sufficed to say, this talk (and his upcoming book on the subject) was right up my alley. I’ll get into the apocalypse in the near future, but for the subject of this blog post want to speak to some of Chris’s points about tools for future generations and the state of learning craft.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Scale and Scalability

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email asking about a coldworking job. An artist had a large belljar blown for him and needed a punty removed. Not a problem. I wrote back I would be happy to help and asked how large the bell-jar was. His reply was VERY large: 36”x36”x36”

I thought to myself, “yeah right” (big fish), but the next week when I saw the crate in the back of his pick-up, was like “right on”. I didn’t measure it, but it was just about 30x”30”x32”, which in terms of blown glass is off the charts.

This is where I should tell you that I sort of hate coldworking.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Check Your Pulse

Take a look at the image above. If your heart doesn't beat a little faster, you might be dead.

More quarter-sawn wood porn after the jump:

Friday, April 8, 2011

Feynman Friday: Guessing at Chess

It's interesting to think of how this analogy can be extended to any pursuit of knowledge or skill. You might try to learn how to play a game having been given one set of rules. You spend some time learning to play your game with and get quite comfortable playing with your rules. After some period of time you go somewhere else and see people playing your game, but the rules have changed or perhaps they have a very different interpretation of the instructions. At this point it would seem you have several options: Do you dismiss this new game, or do you try to play along and learn some new rules?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

In Practice

These days I haven’t been blowing glass all that often. I have some time at RISD on Tuesdays this semester, but so far I haven’t really had anything specific to make. In spite of this, I still make the effort to make the hour drive back and forth to Providence from Boston to exercise my glassblowing muscles. Like many manual skills, glassblowing is nothing like riding a bike. Sure, you can not blow for a year and you will still know which side of the pipe to gather on, but there are millions of little subtleties and reflexes that don’t come back so readily. That’s why there is a big difference between me and someone that handles hot-glass 5 days a week.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Feynman Friday: Confusion and Uncertainty

Considering that blog is called "MATERIALOGY" I have decided to start posting some clips from one of my favorite characters, a man responsible for giving us  some of the methods used to describe the interactions of all the "material" around us: the late great physicist Richard Feynman. Feynman had a magnetic  personality and possessed a unique ability to inspire, entertain, and explain. An ability that is as compelling today as it was in his time.  In this spirit, every Friday I'll be posting my favorite clips of Feynman discussing various topics as only he can.

(Another Clip after the Jump)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

It's Always Sunny in Brooklyn. (Part 4)

The File-nal Frontier (oh dear, that’s bad)

In this the final chapter of our sawing quadrilogy, we will be address this saw’s mettle. First, I’ll prep the saw plate removing any rust and giving it a light polishing. Next, we’ll talk sharpening, and I’ll give this old dog some new teeth.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

It's Always Sunny in Brooklyn. (Part 3)

Shape and bake.

If time flies when you are having fun, then the surface of space-time must be folding like origami when you are shaping the wood. During this phase of the handle-making process, I lost track of any sense of time, and as a result forgot to snap photos of the entire process. Sorry.

Friday, March 11, 2011

It's Always Sunny in Brooklyn. (Part 2)


Back to the lab with a pen and a pad.

Disclaimer: This was the first time making a saw handle and for the most part I was winging it. As a result some of the steps may be mildly-to-fully ass-backward. Also, I once said I wasn’t going to blog how-to's, I sort of lied, deal with it. For what it’s worth, this a more of a how-did anyway.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

It's Always Sunny in Brooklyn. (Part 1)

So I have fallen in love with saws.

My induction into handsaw-dust began with set of joinery backsaws that I purchased last winter. They been largely unused until the past fall when I began making it a point to do regular sawing exercises for joinery. This consisted of milling up a stack of short little poplar boards and cutting hundreds of angled dovetail cuts. At first I didn’t assemble any joints, I just laid out 20-30 cuts and after they were sawn then tried to divide the material left in between by eye (a Klausz exersiz). Then I got to actually making little dovetail cases, chopping out the waste and pairing the joints. Then it was on to practicing cutting tenons, etc, etc. Anyway, I have a gained little skill, and I am hooked. I am also convinced with continued practice and deliberate use my sawing is only going to keep getting better and better and allow me to cut complex joints that would be a nightmare with my machines. But what about larger cuts?
I think we're going to need some larger saws.

Enter my burgeoning handsaw obsession.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Straight and Narrow

But, if truth is the correspondence between appearance and reality, then there are some glaring inconsistencies in this system. Straight lines are strikingly absent from nature. If you take a walk in the woods, it is apparent that there is virtually nothing that is ruler straight. Instead, all naturally occurring forms are curved and arabesque. Rocks, bushes, mountains, rivers, gullies, branches, and leavers all follow an organic outline that does not contain a single perfect straight line. Only tree trunks and the perpendicular alignment of he human form standing upright upon the earth offer a commonly seen vertical that approximates a plumb line. Despite this direct evidence of our senses, we continue to connect everything with straight lines. The nineteenth-century Romantic artist Eugene Delacroix once speculated, "It would be worthy to investigate whether straight lines exist only in our brains"

-Leonard Shlain, Art and Physics 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Haptic Memory

Last summer, I was in between projects and having a sort of “A-ha” moment connecting between my early experience making things and the path that lead me back to making things. I starting thinking about all the things that I made as child and the contrast of being a kid making things with a very limited set of tools, experience, and knowledge as opposed the challenge of making things now having perhaps too much of one or another. It was at this point that decided to start a little side project. A project that may or not be anything except perhaps an exercise in mining the memory. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Aus krummem Holze...

"Aus krummem Holze als woraus der Mensch gemacht ist, kann nichts ganz Gerades gezimmert werden."

-Immanuel Kant 
Idee zu einer allgemeinen Geschichte in weltbürgerlicher Absicht, 1784

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Breaking Boards

First it was a tree, then it was a log, then it was a board, then it was bunch of parts, and then it was a thing.

Monday, February 14, 2011


When I decided to start using handplanes, I was somewhat at a loss as where to start. I had very little experience using planes and,in hindsight, the experience I had was probably more of an obstacle. As I planned my first purchase, I had to decide whether to buy a new plane or fix up on old plane. I ended up buying an old plane: an old Stanley Bedrock Style 605 from the 1920’s off of E-bay for about 90 dollars. The plane was in rough shape, but all the parts were there and nothing was damaged. Using Garrett Hack’s Handplane Book and some tutorials from online, I set about restoring the plane. The first step was to take the plane apart and figure out try to figure out how it did it- I would later have to figure out how well each part was doing what it was doing.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Invisible Hand

This week I cut a set of mortise and tenon joints for the base of a display case. I decided that I would try out the new mortising chisels I got last month and some sweet new sawing skills that I have been working on. After carefully cutting and fitting the parts, I started thinking about how all of the time and effort put into these joints would be hidden from view the moment that I placed glue into the joint and clamped up all of the parts. I also considered about the myriad other ways in which this joint could be constructed(i.e. dowels, dominos, screws, biscuits, etc.) or handful of less manual techniques that could be employed to the form the parts (i.e. mortising machine, a router jig, table saw, drill press and on and on and on…)

The question is why bother this sort of thing by hand?