Our new home …

Whistler Woodcraft has moved to Niagara-on-the-Lake!

Our new workshop is located among the orchards and vineyards on Lakeshore Rd 300 metres south of Lake Ontario between the Niagara River and the Welland Canal.

Here is the view from my shop:

The nectarine orchard behind my shop.

My new shop is almost 1,000 square feet with 100 Amps of power and is wired for 110V and 220V for my new, bigger machines.  It also boasts a design studio where I can design, photograph and store my merchandise.

If you are ever in the area, feel free to stop by and say hello.  We are located at 758 L:akeshore Rd., NOTL.

Wally.

 

Did I say Hot? House & Home magazine agrees!

House & Home magazine selected our tap maple charcuterie board for their “2016 Made in Ontario Holiday Gift Ideas” article.  We are proud to see a major magazine recognise our hard work discovering innovative raw materials and creating unique gifts.

Supplies of tap maple are limited, so we expect this item to go fast.  I know supplies are limited because earlier this fall I bought all the tap maple I could find from a major mill.  I’m still looking for more, so drop me an email if you know any maple syrup producers who are cutting down trees.

 

Tap Maple in House and Home magazine

Earlier this year I predicted that these boards would be popular.  The ambrosia streaks caused by drilling the hole to insert the spile (look it up), along with the tap holes themselves, make for a unique and stunning design in the wood.  No two boards are the same. They are a lot of work to build, as the wood is usually damaged and the holes have to be filled, but the results speak for themselves.

The serving bowls in the picture are from Tammy Heyman of Ladybird Ceramics.  I liked Tammy’s work so much I sell her products alongside my own so you can have a complete gift set ready to go at your next party.

Use our tap maple charcuterie board to serve fresh Ontario cheese with locally-made jellies and be as Canadian as you can be!

Wally.

52 Candles Project

Nothing motivates you like telling the world that you are going to do something.

I have started a new Instagram project called @52candlesproject where I plan on creating and publishing a new candle every week in 2016.

The original idea came from Matt Cator who created his @52tables Instagram account as a personal challenge.  Matt was interviewed on CBC Radio and The Windsor Star.

I have a few candles already underway, and I may have to pad the project with a few that have already been completed, but I hope to make it through 2016 with 52 new candles.

Wish me luck.

Wally.

It’s SHOWTIME!

Christmas is coming up quickly and we’re starting to get busy with weekend shows.

A lot of our products are unique and you really have to see and touch them to decide which one you want, and a show is the best time to do that.

We are going to be at the Craftadian Fall Show this weekend at the International Centre, 6900 Airport Road, Mississauga. The show runs Saturday, October 17 and Sunday, October 18 from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm both days.

Admission is $7 and parking is free.

Come see us at booth #10 just to the left as you enter.

More info at www.craftadian.com.

This is a great opportunity to start your holiday shopping early.

Come see us at our next show August 14th in Toronto

We’re looking forward to our next show at the Toronto Art Crawl in David Pecaut Square on Friday, August 14th. If you’re in downtown Toronto that day, drop by our booth and visit the 60 other artisans at the show as well.

We had a great time at the Toronto Art Crawl Entertainment District show in June, where we got to test out our new tent and display racks. Our clearest lesson that month was not to bring so @?!$?%! much stuff. It can be a long walk from the car to the tent, and doing it six times in the morning and then again at night can be very wearying.

The Toronto Art Crawl show in David Pecaut Square on July 10th was another fun day. We had no idea what to expect, especially when we realized that day was the opening ceremonies for the Pan Am games two blocks away. The media had disturbing stories about traffic jams and crowds, so we got there early and hoped for the best.

It turns out the doomsayers were wrong; highway traffic was lighter than normal and the great weather brought out lots of people. We even got to see the Pan Am flame run by on King street.

So we hope to see you on Friday, August 14th at David Pecaut Square from 11 am to 6 pm. We have another batch of Firewood Finds that just came out of the kiln, so shop early for the best selection.

Wally.

Free Media? Count me in!

The crew behind the Craftadian spring craft show, besides putting on a great sale, also do great PR.  Some of my products were featured on Global News at Noon, as was my personal story.  An excerpt of the coverage is below.

 

 

I am really glad that our name is getting out there.  We will be at a lot more shows over the rest of 2015.  Keep coming back to our site to learn when we will be in your area.

Wally.

 

What’s cooking?

Wood; that’s what’s cooking.

Well, it’s actually drying at a low heat in my new kiln.

I came across some awesome thick-cut cherry slabs that have been drying outdoors in a stickered pile for a few years.  I have some great ideas for this wood but before I can use it I have to dry it to a lower moisture content.

When you buy finished wood from a store it has been dried from its 50% moisture level to about 8-10% moisture.  At that level the wood has shrunk about as far as it is going to so it is safe to build with.  Building with green wood can result in cracking, twisting and cupping and could easily ruin your project.

The stickered cherry wood has air dried to about 20% moisture, so I need to get that down to 10%.  At 2 inches thick, I can leave the wood in my heated basement for another year which should get it down to 12%, which is pretty safe to work with.

But I want to get it to 10% or less, and I do not want to wait a year before I can build with it.

The problem is that you cannot just buy a kiln at Home Depot.  Very few woodworkers dry their own wood, so no one makes small kilns.  I could probably find a $100,000 commercial kiln, but I do not have the money or space for one.

So I built my own kiln.

They are really quite simple.  All you need is an insulated box, a heat source and a fan.  You have to maintain the temperature at around 100 degree F and the relative humidity at 40%.

So I made a 2’x2’x4′ plywood box and insulated it with foam.  I put in two 100 W bulbs and an old computer fan to keep the air moving.  I cut some holes in each side and covered them with sliding covers so I can regulate the temperature and humidity.  I also installed a small window so that I can see the thermometer/hygrometer inside the box.  It’s a good thing that I know how to cut glass.

So my first batch of wood went in yesterday.  I hope to have it ready in two weeks, but the frigid temperatures in my unheated garage are keeping the internal temperature a bit low.

You ‘ll know that the wood is ready when you start to see new wood products appearing on the site.

Stay tuned for updates on my adventure in kiln drying wood.

Wally.

Candles are hot!

This season I have been pleasantly surprised with how popular candles are.

As part of my “found objects” theme I have been turning found objects into candles of various sizes and shapes.  These items include bobbins, barrel staves and rescued wood.

Bobbins make wonderful candlesticks because of their graceful shape and interesting patina.  I offer bobbin candlesticks either as drilled or adapted.

Drilled bobbins are just that – the top of the bobbin is drilled to accept either a standard  candls (7/8″) or a medium candle (5/6″). This is very convenient and looks great, but unfortunately it destroys the value of the bobbin as a collector piece.  If all you want is a candlestick then that is not an issue, but if you collect bobbins or want to display the bobbin on its own without a candle, the top of the bobbin is marred by the large hole.

If you want to preserve that value of the bobbin then I also make adapters consisting of a candle cup on top of a dowel.  The dowel fits into the bobbin opening and the candles fits into the cup that stands proud of the bobbin.

My wine barrel stave candles are also quite popular this season to the point where I am heading back into the shop to make more.

The big surprise is candle centerpieces made from birch branches.  I salvaged these birch branches earlier this year when helping a friend clean up trees on his farm damaged by last winter’s ice storm.  They have been dried (easier said than done!), flattened on the bottom, and drilled along the top to accept glass tealight holders.  Ranging from 11 to 16 inches with three, four or five tealights each, they make an excellent centrepiece for your holiday table.

A final fun candle set that I made is a pair of wooden shoe lasts with candle adapters.  These are an awesome and whimsical display on your table or mantle.

So I have definitely seen the light and I will be working on a new set of candles for 2015!

Wally.

 

 

My head is full of rocks

I recently spent several weeks vacationing in Newfoundland, so I now know why it is called “the rock”; there are rocks everywhere.

All four coasts are mostly magnificent cliffs, the bottom of most “ponds” are covered in rocks, and even their highest peaks are liberally strewn with small rocks. Everywhere you go, there are rocks.

I’ve always had an affinity for rocks, so I was quite engrossed with what we came across.

Even though we were flying home, we managed to pack a few choice rocks in our checked bags.

Towards the end of our trip we visited the Johnson Geo Center in St. John’s, which is a fantastic museum that pretty clearly explains why Newfoundland has such interesting geology.  The island includes both a stub of the Appalachian mountains and beaches that were once connected to Morocco. The age of the rocks varies from recently-deposited sandstone to peridotite  from the earth’s mantle.  A coloured map of the types of geology in the island looks like a Jackson Pollock painting.

So now I am bouncing around ideas for making things out of rocks.  Possibilities include rock candles, rock table tops, and hybrid items made from combinations of my favourite materials like rock & glass and rock & wood.

Keep your eyes open for new items appearing in our store over the next few weeks.

 

Wally.

Woodworking with Barrel Staves

I recently started working in a whole new wood medium – oak barrel staves from reclaimed wine barrels.

This is beautiful wood with lots of character. One side is stained a deep purple from the red wine that aged in the barrel for up to seven years. The other side has a lovely grey patina from being exposed to the weather, with white stripes from the metal rings that held the barrel together.

Depending on the source, the barrel might have held red wine, white wine, or even whiskey (retired wine barrels are often used by whiskey makers to impart a unique smokey taste to their product).

Here is a video about how a traditional wine barrel is constructed.

As you can see from the video, one of the challenges of building with barrel staves is that no two staves are the same shape. They are different thicknesses, widths and even lengths. They are also curved in all three dimensions: they are wider in the middle and tapered at the ends, the inside is concave, and the outside is convex.

They are held together in the barrel by iron rings, and when the rings are removed the wood springs back a bit. The amount of springback varies depending on the wood, the age, the temperature and the humidity. Even two adjacent staves that fit together perfectly in the barrel will not align exactly once released from the rings.

Joining any two staves together takes a good eye and lots of patience.

One of the reasons we do not have a large selection of barrel stave items yet is that the first of each is incredibly challenging to make.

For instance, every piece in our barrel stave wine rack has to be cut, shaped and fitted by hand. The shelves that hold the bottles have to be raised at a 8 degree angle from horizontal to make sure the bottle does not roll off. However, those shelves are attached to a vertical arm that is itself curved. So the bottom shelf has to attach to the vertical arm at a 3 degree angle and the top shelf connects at a 12 degree angle. The base of the shelf also has to be curved slightly because the vertical arm is also slightly concave from the circumference curve of the barrel.

You can see the curves and joints in this photograph.

Barrel Stave Wine Rack Detail

I first have to build a special jig to hold the vertical stave in place while each arm is measured, cut and shaped. The angles and joints are not perfect. Unlike traditional wood construction, where you can plane each piece of wood perfectly straight, flat and square, barrel stave joints have slight gaps, variations and imperfections.

As I dream up new items to make, I really enjoy the challenge of figuring out exactly how it will go together.

And finally, the wood gives off an amazing smell when cut and drilled – my workshop is redolent with hints of woodsmoke, wine and sometimes even whiskey.

Check out the barrel stave gifts available in our store.

Wally.

Welcome to Whistler Woodcraft