We are often asked the best way to care for rustic and reclaimed furniture as well as stick work and driftwood furnishings. LittleBranch Farms in Tennessee has put together a little primer published by mountainiving.com with great tips to help you keep your treasures looking their best for many years to come!
Pathways are a great way to lead people into your garden area. There are a lot of great ideas and materials available to designing and creating unique pathways that will fit your style as well as your budget!
Fall is a great time of year to get the ball rolling on this kind of project. Often the weather is cooler, and there are fewer yard work demands on our time. Another benefit: we have just spent the summer thinking of changes we would like to make, so the thoughts are fresh.
This is a great article from Houzz.com that can ‘walk’ you through some new ideas: Designing Garden Paths
There are certainly a wide array of products available on the market these days for giving your handcrafted stickwork furniture a protective coating. Today I want to share with you the product we favor: Helmsman Spar Urethane by Minwax. We love this product as it gives an excellent protection and it is readily available to most people. It also comes in Gloss, Semi-Gloss and Satin finishes giving us a wide range of sheens for our artisan furniture. Of course our focus for the product started with outdoor funiture, but I have to share that we have used it multiple times on furniture intended for indoor use, and I love the finish inside as well!
We often give the horizontal surfaces of our handcrafted furniture several coats of Helmsman before making them available for sale. These surfaces are the most vulnerable to standing water and UV damage which can lead to issues. We then instruct our customers that the pieces will benefit from additional applications in the following years as a matter of maintenance. Obviously, outdoor furniture will require more maintenance than indoor pieces.
Taking a look at the Helmsman website (http://bit.ly/1oXXAzS), it is really easy to see why we favor this product so much:
Minwax® Helmsman® Spar Urethane is specially formulated as a protective clear finish for exterior or interior wood exposed to sunlight, water, or temperature changes.
- Contains UV blockers to reduce the sun’s graying and fading effects.
- Forms a protective barrier against rain and moisture.
- Special oils allow the finish to expand and contract with the wood as seasons and temperatures change.
- Ideal for use on doors, windows, trim, bathroom cabinets, bar tops, kitchen countertops, outdoor furniture.
Here’s a sample of our Stickwork furniture to which we have given several coats of Helmsman Spar Urethane…
After spending time with my family this past weekend doing chores together and then enjoying a hike together in the woods, I started thinking about what inspires me.
Nature is certainly inspiring to me! During our hike, I spotted an interesting display of wild grapevines. The way the vines come out of the ground and reach for the sunlight is exactly the kind of scene that prompted several pieces I have made.
The Garden Art Chair has some wild grapevines on it. These elements take stickwork in an interesting direction as the vines have so much more curvature to them than typically found in sticks from trees. I like it!
The Wooing Bench was probably the first piece of stickwork furniture that I made that really incorporated the natural materials with very little alteration. The arched pieces used in the back of this bench were roots that had worked their way to the surface of the ground as the tree above had fallen.
The need for relaxation is also inspiring for me. I love making furniture that people use while relaxing: by the firepit, in the garden, next to a lake, or enjoying the company of others.
The Fire Pit Sit series of chairs has been a blast to make! From those with horse’s heads to the very rustic and redneck version, people have loved these little chairs specifically for the fact that they sit low to the ground – the best position by the fire!
Our Stick-a-rondack chairs are based on the well-loved design on the Adirondack chair. Whether enjoying a relaxing moment in the summer breeze, or watching over the lake, or sitting around a fire, these chairs are a perpetual favorite.
We’d love to hear what inspires you!
Did you know that the Adirondack chair used to have a different name and was first created in 1903?
These chairs were originally called Westport chairs as they were created for a vacation home in Westport, New York by Thomas Lee. He wanted to create a chair that would work well on the hillsides of the Adirondack region and that was comfortable, durable and stable.
Our handcrafted Stickwork version of the Adirondack style chair carries on the characteristics of being comfortable, durable and stable.
We have maintained the classic angled seat for comfort, we utilize great materials such as Locust and Walnut to provide the durability. The stability of the chairs comes from both the overall brilliant original design and is enhanced by the strength of the screws we use to assemble the chairs.
The Stick-a-rondack is our creative interpretation of the Adirondack chair. Because of the natural materials we use, each chair is a one-of-a-kind item. The branches used for the framework of our chairs are evaluated for the most desirable placement to provide the strongest support for the rest of the chair.
In addition, the branches are fitted together to create unique and pleasing designs whenever and where ever possible.
The seats and backs of our Stick-a-rondacks have been crafted with a variety of designs. We have used slabs hand cut from trees, hand-hewn materials, as well as all sticks.
Perhaps one of the often overlooked parts of a typical chair, the backs of our Stick-a-rondacks are given specific artistic detail. Every chair has a unique application of branches, creating one-of-a-kind Stickwork furniture art.
After 110 years, this style of chair is still one of the most popular. The ability to utilize the basic design coupled with unique interpretations certainly makes it one of our most popular items and one of our personal favorites!
This term, “Springing Ahead” is usually used to refer to the upcoming time change for most parts of the country. In our shop, it has a different meaning (but don’t forget to change your clocks this weekend anyway!)
We are looking forward to spring just like (most) everyone else. Our Spring brings a change in activity. All winter Jeff has been making slabs – those long rustic boards – in preparation for making items that have horizontal surfaces, such as desks and baker’s racks, side tables and sometimes he uses these slabs for the seats and backs of chairs.
Once they are cut, he then places them in stacks, “stickering” them, so that they can dry evenly with optimum air flow all around them.
Many of our slabs have been cut from Black Locust and Honey Locust. Slabs really show off the beautiful grain within the wood.
So, in Spring, we change gears from the cutting and drying of the slabs to the planning of our event calendar as well as getting into the shop to start creating more stickwork furniture. It has been a while since he made a rocker, so Jeff says that is one item on his to-do list.
Spring also brings invitations and applications for events to our mailbox. We are sorting through the invitations for 2014. We are excited to see the variety of events to consider. Now we have to make the decisions!
One of the projects Jeff has through the winter months is to get as much material prepared as possible for the Spring and Summer months of creating our stickwork furniture. One way this preparation happens is the cutting of lengths of tree trunks and branches into slabs, which resembles dimensional lumber, and rounds, which are slices across the tree parts that result in, well, rounds.
Slabs are often used in tables as horizontal surfaces and in chairs and benches for seats and backs. They lend themselves well to showing off the grain of the wood from which they are made.
From time to time, Jeff will hand hew slabs from branches, but for the bulk of the slabs he makes, he cuts them with a ripping chain on his chainsaw. Once the slabs are created, he then puts them into stacks, each slab layer separated from the others, called “stickering”, so that all the exposed surfaces of the slabs have optimum airflow to dry evenly.
When he prepares to use a specific slab, he will bring out the character of the slab using a draw knife or an adze – I guess that’s a topic for another post!
Continuing our look at the different types of wood Jeff uses in handcrafting his stickwork furniture, home decor and garden art, today we take a look at Honey Locust.
According to Wikipedia.org, “Honey locusts produce a high quality, durable wood that polishes well, but the tree does not grow in sufficient numbers to support a bulk industry; however, a niche market exists for honey locust furniture. It is also used for posts and rails since it takes a long time to rot. In the past, the hard thorns of the younger trees have been used as nails.” Nails? I think Jeff would like to try that! And, as you can tell, we have figured out that it makes great stickwork furniture!
We like Honey Locust for several reasons: it dries evenly, has a beautiful grain, is very durable, and it is plentiful in our area. Many farmers don’t want the volunteer trees in their fields, so they are happy to allow us to harvest our materials from what they remove. Reclaiming branches, roots and tree trunks is good for everyone.
One other tidbit about Honey Locust that would be a great question for Trivial Pursuit: when freshly cut, it emits a smell that is very much like fresh carrot juice. (Hat tip to Tiffany for figuring out why that smell was familiar!)
One of the most asked questions about our stickwork creations is, “What wood is that made of?” The answer to that question can be complicated – but only because many of our pieces are made of several types of wood. Jeff has made pieces from Black Walnut, Apple, Black Locust, Honey Locust, Maple, Cherry, Hickory -and the list goes on and on.
Since this question is asked so frequently, I wanted to offer a few posts about the woods that Jeff uses the most. Today I start with Black Locust.
According to http://www.Wikipedia.org: “It is one of the heaviest and hardest woods in North America. The wood is extremely hard, resistant to rot and durable, making it prized for furniture, flooring, paneling, fence posts and small watercraft.” Wow – what a great wood! We think it is very underrated! That part about it being resistant to rot is especially important for outdoor furniture in more humid climates like Ohio.
Another characteristic of Black Locust is that it grows very rapidly. If you are a farmer, and you see it in your fields, you are less likely to think so kindly of these trees. However, that said, Black Locust has a reputation for lasting 100 years untreated in the ground as fence posts – maybe a payoff for growing in unwanted spaces?
We find most property owners love to have us harvest the Black Locust from their land, saving them the work, cleaning up the down and dead trees, and providing materials for our furniture. To us, using Black Locust is an all-around good choice!
Whether the bark is left on or removed using a draw knife, this wood retains a rustic feel that is perfect for rustic style furniture that fits perfectly in a cabin or cottage.
And since the trees were originally native to the southern Appalachian region of the U.S., the wood has a feel that connects at a deep level to mountain decor. Of course, outdoors, these branches fit right in a garden area and are quite natural on the deck.
Do you see what I see? A familiar line from a popular Christmas song – and what we wonder from time to time when our eyesight is focused on something of value.
This is often the experience in the truck with Jeff. As we live in Northwest Montana, there are trees everywhere. Often when we are driving along, I can tell Jeff is eyeballing the woods for potential material for future furniture projects. He used to get that look when he surveyed the forests for firewood. These days, it’s all about furniture.
What does he see? I can say with all honesty that he doesn’t see the forest – just the trees. And only specific trees. He is always scanning the hillsides for Rocky Mountain Maple – that’s his wood of choice. It is a pretty hard wood – and seems to only grow to the right size for the framework for our stickwork furniture. He also scouts for birch trees. Birch has a beautiful grain to it that is a great compliment to the live edges of bark on the Maple.
Besides the trees and branches, he is also looking for roots. Amazingly, roots have been
used to create some of the most interesting details of some of our pieces. The Mountain Wooing Bench began with finding two tree roots that each had a curve, and the design for the back of the bench sprang to his imagination.
Gathering materials has become a bit of a family endeavor – and we are out to get more material in just a few more days for some gates and an arbor to be built next week. So, if you see our truck at the end of the day of gathering, you might just see what we see.