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Descending Ashtray

Road Thrill

Published on Saturday, September 3rd, 2011

Good friend Logan Porter is currently on a bike touring trip from Des Moines to Seattle. He is documenting the whole experience on his blog called Road Thrill. Definitely worth checking out and following along. (He also might head down to Portland after Seattle, so he might need a backyard to camp for a night.)

Balanced Rock

Published on Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

After thousands of years of erosion the petrified sand dunes in Arches NP have left some of the most amazing rock formations. So as in this digital world Descending Ashtray still stands. There is no wind and water in this world to erode the pictures or writing. Everything looks exactly as it did a year and half ago. Suspended in a vacuum of stored information. Where is it really? Somewhere among millions upon millions of Gigabytes of information. Suspended unchanging. There is only the delete and the update to affect its existence. With it we can delete and edit and reveal what ever we want to. Friendships, love affairs can be created and then erased at the push of a button. What can you trust? Things that are tangible, things that we can hold in our hand and touch. Or is it the information? Clogging, redirecting, shaping a new form of existence in the digital world.

Descending Ashtray last post 2/21/10

Murals at the Basilica of St. John

Published on Sunday, February 21st, 2010

Rick Van Oel and I have been doing some restoration work at the Basilica. It involves gold leafing the dome above the alter and repainting several murals and stencil patterns.


This is after I have reworked most of the face. The hands still need some work.

A Hammer for Eli

Published on Thursday, December 24th, 2009

My little boy Eli has entered a “banging” phase in his toy usage, and my wife Sarah suggested I make him a hammer for Christmas. Here it is (he doesn’t read this blog, so no surprises will be spoiled). The head is a scrap bit of Oregon black walnut, and the handle is a turned and carved bit of basswood, so it has a nice balance and isn’t too heavy. I used some mineral oil for a finish in case he chews on it. Merry Christmas!

Carved Wooden Hammer for Eli

Creative Pinewood Derby Trophies

Published on Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

I’m co-organizing an “adult Pinewood Derby” for the Portland Advertising Federation with a few friends. For those of you who weren’t in the cub scouts, it’s a chance for boys (and usually their fathers) to take a simple block of wood, and turn it into a car that gets raced against other boys’ cars on a sloped track.

This version is called the “Stumptown 40,” a reference to the length of the track (40 feet) and one of Portland’s many nicknames (Rose City, PDX and Beervana being among the most common). I haven’t started working on my car yet, but I did get a chance to make some of the trophies last week. First, second and third prizes are being given in the “speed” category, and attendees will vote for the “most creative car” award at the event, for a total of four trophies.

Stumptown 40 Trophies

My friend Drew gave me a box of old wooden type before he moved to Brooklyn; given the wood cues in the event itself (Stumptown, Pinewood), and the audience of professional communicators, using the antique printing relics seemed a good choice.

Stumptown 40 Type Detail

For the “Creative Car” trophy, I tried to do something a little different. I used a short piece of some massive, old-growth Douglas Fir I had laying around for the body. The wheels (used on the other trophies as well) are actually the scraps left over from using a hole saw (the holes from the Labyrinth project, in fact) that I stained with vinegar/steel wool aging mixture, and screwed onto the body with rusty screws. The type atop the sculpture rests on an old wooden spool. Thin strips of recycled Doug Fir provide a resting surface for the letters, which are held together with glue and a little bit of hope.

Detail of Creative Car trophy.

Recycled Fir Built-In Desk

Published on Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

Hey there, blog. Been awhile. Sorry about that.

I have been working sporadically away on the attic, trying to wrap up some details like painting trim (apparently the only problem with pre-primed trim is that it looks almost done), and trying not to think of the tile job that lies behind my custom door.

Built-in Shaker-style desk of reclaimed fir

Tonight I installed something I’ve been excited about for some time – a built-in, Shaker-inspired desk I made over the last couple of weeks, using flooring we pulled up from the attic. We had originally intended to re-use the old flooring, but some miscalculation, haphazard removal techniques, and a fair bit of lead paint prevented our doing so. Still, I saved all the nice, clear vertical grain stuff that didn’t have lead paint on it, imaging a re-use just like this (and I have a few more ideas to come). It was also my first time turning drawer knobs – not a bad first effort if I do say so!

I really, really fought the finish on this project, though. I saw Norm Abrams fill nail holes with black-tinted epoxy once. What I didn’t see was how difficult the invariable drips are to remove, particularly from a wood as porous as Douglas Fir. The surface is far from flat where I sanded too long – I call it “rustic.” Next time, I’ll mask the area around the hole with tape before filling with epoxy.

Then, I appled a couple coats of danish oil, hoping to get some nice finish depth, but after two coats, decided it wasn’t going to provide the moisture protection a desk beneath a skylight might require. So I applied some water-based polyurethane. I’m not 100% sure that’s what caused the finish to craze, but I suspect that a water-based finish over an oil-based one is not a good idea in general. I also failed to recall what a bubbly mess polyurethane can be. More sanding, and I ended up reverting to Daly’s ProFin, my old standby.


I really like the look of the finished piece, though. It’s rustic, time-worn look is a good match for the door I finished a few months ago, and it’s nice to give an old material, native to the space, some new life.