Archive for July, 2011

Brazilian Flight for Gangi

July 27th, 2011


At the risk of losing the audience who thought from the title they would be reading about a South American airplane ride for illegal substances, I have to admit luring people in to read about stairs and millwork is not an easy thing to do. Not to be labeled a complete fabrication, the brazilian refers (pun intended) to brazilian cherry, the flight is a flight of stairs, and our customer’s name is Dr. Gangi. His house, located in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is a showcase of speciality millwork products built to exacting specifications. First up is the mahogany front door, whose rich deep, high gloss finish is only superceded by it’s handcrafted details. On the level leading from the garage to the 1st level, notice how the wall rails parallel the pattern set by the skirt board wrapping the wall, florished with a 2″ base cap. Brazilian cherry wood flooring on the first level is accented by the square top colonial balusters and the custom box newels, creating a timeless traditional theme. The treads on the second set of stairs leading from the first level to the second (and indeed on all three levels) are coordinated in brazilian cherry, with nosing and return, in front and the side, to match. The volute at the start of the railing is simple yet elegant. Look closely at the wainscoted recessed panel to see if the “break” for the invisible under stair closet can even be located. You would have to be standing right in front of it to see it, I guarantee, as this is an extremely tight fit. One of the more challenging prospects of this house was to enclose a support column located at the base of the stairs leading from the second level to the third. As the photo clearly demonstrates, the visually upward flowing aspect of this grand column is as gravitating as it is natural. The attention to detail and installation expertise was just what the doctor ordered.

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“Start” To Finish

July 19th, 2011

I have had an idea to highlight the finishing techniques we use on furniture produced in the shop at First Flight Stairs, and was honing in on a radius desk we were producing for a customer. Actually I had taken the photo about a week ago and on walking by the paint room, I noticed the same desk being prepared for finishing. Of course, it had to occur on the day when I left my camera at home, so I recorded the activity with the camera on my phone. Having the affinity for clever titles, I call this one “start” to finish because it happens to be a double entendre (beginning to end; starting with the finishing first coat). Then, due to the fact I could not spell “entendre”, I looked it up on Wikipedia and got a good laugh about Shakespeare’s play “Much Ado About Nothing”, which I never knew ergo the value of research (I will leave that to the readers capable hands to look for themselves). Since my title certainly couldn’t be defined as “risque” I will just label it as ironic. Getting back to the desk, I learned a thing or two from Scotty regarding how the finishing process was completed. This is a radius desk where the curvature is formed on the poplar faced top piece through the process of kerfing it to bend along the base face frame. Similarly, the base cap is attached to the wall, held together with plywood ribbing or studs. Pocket hole joinery is employed as to not cause splitting or splintering where the exterior meets face framing. The Kreg jig system works nicely for this application, whereas the interior plywood end is exposed and requires nailing and glue. Once the pocket hole plugs are securely in place, the furniture will begin the sanding process with 80 grit paper. A second check looking over the surface will reveal any remaining holes, gaps, or imperfections requiring attention. Then, it will be sanded with 120 grit, followed by 180 grit leaving a smooth, finished surface. Next comes the stain, in this case Varicure Satin 35 luster. Spraying the first coat of polyurethane necessitates a drying time of somewhere around 24 hours. The 320 grit once over follows the drying time and a good wipe down. Finally the second coat of polyurethane completes the process. Guess I need a subsequent post to “finish” what I started….

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160 Years Young

July 12th, 2011

7_12_11 The sweltering July South Carolina heat is dealt a slight reprieve in the form of brief afternoon shower. Today may have not been a monumentous event in the course of human history, but it did represent a merger of modern framing and 1851 historic hand hewn timbers. It was 160 years in the making. An unlikely mixture of the past being reinvented for the future. As we look around in our modern world where, for the most part, things of yesteryear have been replaced or strickly preserved, how many things can we point to where the two are paired together? Where the past is given top billing to move forward into the future by utilizing those present day “modern miracles” that aid in the preservation but do not replace the history. All one has to do is walk on the area around the existing home to literally “feel” and experience what it must have been like to be alive in a arguably much simplier time and place. Look at the concentration of over 40 foot tall bamboo trees, which, as it was explained to me, was brought to America via the river on the side yard from Africa. To witness the ghostly grey siding, weather beaten and tattered from lenghty exposure to the elements, certainly is a stark reminder what was nailed up was not dressed up. On my previous visit to the site, the historic past of this house was discussed. Today begins it’s future. A future where the history remains, granted it extended stay into the future by integrating with modern housing components. To ole Blue though, a porch is still a porch, whether it be new or old. It services the purpose of sharing moments of pleasure, laying on the deck or propped up in a rocker, observing the lush greens of the summer yard contrasted against colorful blooms of neighboring flowers. As time marches on, a 160 years and counting, it is consoling to realize what has past has remained present. What is present is enriched by what has past. What is future is a assimilation of the two, and another summer day can eclipse overlooking the setting sun from the slightly new /old porch beneath us.

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Casing The Joint

July 8th, 2011

7_8_11 Walking through the shop today I caught a glimpse of a few “works in progress”. The hardwood of choice today is the rich reddish tint of mahogany. Actually, the term “hardwood” does not infer hardness in texture or density, it is a general term to designate lumber produced in temperate zone deciduous broad-leafed trees. It is a perfect choice for fine furniture and cabinet making due to the lack of knots and smooth grain pattern it yields. The forests where mahogany is harvested usually permit the species to be tall, making continuous board lenghts which do not require seams and joints. Coupled with durability, mahogany becomes a desirable commodity for today’s project; door casing. When completed, this casing will act a wooden trim around the door covering the seam between the wall and the jamb, as well as conceal the gap where the door frame (or jamb) meets the rough opening. Notice the traditional routed flutes running the lenght of the casing, giving it strong impact on the overall style and proportion of the door opening. In the other photo you can see the radius mahogany jamb being formed, which will be used over the arched area of the door. These components, the radius jamb and casing, will be merged at the top with radius corner blocks and at the base by plinth blocks (borrowed directly from ancient Greek architecture). The overall effect? Well look at the plan…

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Oak Masterpiece

July 6th, 2011

7_6_11 Life’s journey is not about the destination, it about the trip getting there. “Are we there yet?” the kids continue to berate the parents with on the family vacation. Then, by the time many vacations have past and the kids are no longer kids anymore, you remember all the details of the trip that got you to where you were headed. It is almost easier to remember each nuisance of an arduous journey than it is to realize where you actually ended up. So it is in the wood crafting business. Often times you are shown the polished finish product, gleeming in the fullness of it revelry, as the stand alone attention grabber of the room. The craftsman though, similar to the accomplished traveler, takes pleasure in the journey. The plan and the execution of that plan, piece by meticulous piece, brings the real joy to one’s soul. It is in that spirit of the journey I present this oak masterpiece. Shown here in all of it’s unfinished glory, adorned with the tools of the trade still covered in sawdust. Being in sales, I love to take potential clients into the shop where they can witness works in progress. Most of them have comments relating to this shared “raw” experience. Doesn’t really matter if it was in their own elaborate and expensive workshop or high school woodshop, the smell of wood, the feeling of creation with one’s hands, reasonates within our psyche. Even if one is incapable of the creation themselves, it doesn’t diminish the experience of appreciation for the craftmanship witnessed. For we all have different tools, different paths, separate journeys. The memories formed taking those paths, those journeys, are the true measure of a life well lived.

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