There was a time when craftsmanship was a source of pride. Furniture used to be both aesthetically pleasing and built to last for generations. When we were deciding on what to do about our kitchen I soon realized this isn't the standard anymore. I was quite disappointed with my options.
After much research, we decided to contract a local carpenter/wood carver to build our kitchen cabinets. This has the added bonus of: supporting local artisan, having a smaller footprint by using locally sourced materials and well ...it's just way cooler!
I've been to visit the workshop several times and Kerry O'Tool at the O'Toole Gallery & Celtic Fox Studio our carpenter has been happy to walk me through his process, explaining his craft and techniques to me. He's been doing this for well over 30 years and tells me that he is a dinosaur in this modern age. Businesses simply can't afford to build cabinets this way anymore. People want it faster and cheaper.
His passion for carpentry is infectious but he is even more passionate about carving, his real passion. I've never met someone so eager to explain his craft and share his knowledge. Kerry actually offered to mentor high school kids. He wanted to give kids who have had hard lives a skill and a way to focus their energy in a better way. No one took him up on it.
Blue Streaks On Pine
Certain microscopic fungi can cause a bluish or greyish discolouration in the sapwood of the pine tree. It's not a decay fungi, it simply lives on the nutrients stored in the cells of the wood. It creates this great contrast that really pops when you apply stain.
Some carpenters will leave the wood out in the summer to achieve this, others hate it and go to great lengths to keep their pine perfectly white. I've seen a sample of pine with the blue discolouration stained and it's quite beautiful!
Square Pegs - Round Holes
Maybe that saying " You can't fit a square peg in a round hole" is wrong after all. This just goes to show that if you want to, you can fit a square peg into a round hole and get a beautiful result.
Perfectly filled holes.
Here's the cabinet for the farm style sink. It was a bit of a pain to get this all to fit just perfectly.
To build the panels for the cabinet he cuts wood into strips and glues them together. Then the planks are planed, cut and sanded. This is a technique that makes the wood stronger. When it's complete it looks like one solid piece of wood - you'd never guess it was strips.
These will be the drawer fronts. It can be a bit hard to imagine how this plain, rough looking wood will become something so beautiful. I've seen examples of what the end product will look like so It's been far easier for me to envision.
This is a cabinet door. We just slid all the pieces together for the photo.
Here are the drawers. They've been sanded and smoothed. They are really heavy and the bases are solid wood.
Here's the inside of one of the cabinets.
I decided to let Kerry build the counter tops as well. I wanted granite or some other type of contrasting material but soon discovered that I could either get laminate for $19 a square foot or thick, solid wood, locally sourced counters for the same price ... not a hard choice. I quickly scrapped the idea of granite and quartz. Although beautiful the prices are more in-line with what you'd spend in a fancy house, not our sweet little log cabin.
When you are working with someone who is passionate and skilled at carving it makes sense to have some special carving added to your cabinetry. We've left this creative process up to Kerry although I did request that a raven make an appearance! :)
I don't know all the correct carpentry terminology so I won't try to explain any of that right now but everything is carefully notched and grooved. The smallest details have been considered. It's heavy and solid and built to stand the test of time.
Building a greener, more beautiful world one seed at a time.
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Photo copyright: @walkerland