Mt Zion - Andrew Brant

Andrew Brant

Writing from Andrew Brant on Woodworking and Craft

Blog Posts

After the Harvest
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Before I got into woodworking, my apartment was filled with screen printing tools. My day job career brought me to work with one of the largest and most respected marketing departments in the country, and suddenly my desire to produce tshirts and prints when I got home was reduced to almost nothing. I found that the best way to express myself, and relieve stress was by taking a spokeshave to a piece of chatke viga and carving an axe handle while watching the Royals try and win a World Series.

Before that I illustrated and drew political cartoons for a newspaper while making fine art and drawing graphic novels on the side. I would go to Quimby’s in Chicago every month and the art Institute of Chicago every week.

This year is about recentering on myself. Remembering who I was. Emotionally, spiritually, and artistically.

I’ve also quit my full time marketing job to go to school full time, and woodworking & design for myself now and after that. The corporate world is not something I intend on going back to, for the good of my soul.

But luckily, technology has advanced a great deal. Direct to garment printers as well as automated web apps have come a long way in ten years - two things I’ve been aware of, working for a couple years in the design of manufacturing automation software and on the other hand, in my brother’s 101 year old clothing company. I was sick of surrounding myself with caustic chemicals - in my bathtub, with a pressure washer.

So I’ve started designing shirts and partnering some some companies that will print them ‘on demand’ and ship them right to you. It’s a small and intimate approach right now where you can show your support for what I do while I’m in school, and it would mean a lot. I’m excited that I’ll be able to make a watercolor painting, take a good photo of it and put it online in an evening, and you’ll be able to buy a print of it right away.

Please take a look over at the ‘store’ section of this site. But a shirt if you want or you can and know that the money helps put food on a student’s table, someone who’s working to better themselves and the world around them. And that I’m so grateful for your support.

Andrew Brant
Mendocino
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It’s been a full year, and working an often more than full time job, woodworking on nights and weekends, enjoying and exploring a great relationship with my partner, making mistakes, growing from my mistakes, going to therapy, working on self care… all in all has meant i’ve Made quite a lot less online content than I ever meant to.

When I started woodworking it was five years ago, and I was living alone in a town with nothing going on, so I had tons and tons of time to document everything going on. That’s something I’ve wanted to keep up, but just ended up at the bottom of my priority list.

Now, so much has changed. What’s the update?

I quit that full time job. I proposed to my wonderful partner, Ash. We took a honeymoon this summer in Europe and across the western United States, which we just completed this week, ending in Fort Bragg, California, in Mendocino County. Why? Because I’m starting the 9 month program at the Krenov School.

If you’re a woodworker you may have heard of it, but if not - it’s an intensive, 6 day a week (only off on sundays) school where myself and 22 or so other students work, every day under the guidance of some of the best woodworking teachers in the world, on design and construction of furniture. It was founded by James Krenov, who wrote some of the most important and most popular philosophic books on woodworking of the 20th century. Other people, who knew him or studied under him, can speak more to who that man was, but if you want a taste, get ‘The Impractical Cabinetmaker’ and you’ll start to get a taste for what I’m about to embark on.

His approach, which the school still follows under the guidance of the director Laura Mays, is very me. I expect to draw a lot, use a lot of hand tools but not be afraid of machines to do the heavy lifting they are suited for in the early stages of making a tree into a chair or cabinet. I expect to spend endless hours on fine details. I expect to learn techniques that I’ve heard of, read about, but never had the time or space or resources or guidance to even attempt to try, like steam bending or shop made centering or coopering. More than anything, I hope that I will have the time and space and support to make what exists in my imagination but have yet to make in person.

Ash and I found a house not far from school, tucked in next to a redwood state park and a few minutes drive to the Pacific Ocean. There’s a blackberry bush on our acre of land that’s got to be as big as a tennis court. We have hawks circling it every morning, looking for their breakfast while other critters feast on berries for theirs, we have racer snakes and deer and skunks. We have quiet at night and sun during the day. In other words, what neither of us have had in New York or San Francisco or Chicago in our past decades, and even though it’s a big adjustment, I think we are getting used to it one day at a time and the peace to our souls and spirit it provides.

I never did finish the blog posts on how to make the redwood tub. Or on basic techniques, like sawing. But I hope to write more, and share on instagram and everywhere else, what I did when I made my first table five years ago - my joy and wonder and imagination and struggle, in the moment, as my whole world changes and I have the oppurtunities I had always wanted finally laid out in front of me.

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Oforu Build: Getting started

I spent a few months making a redwood tub for my partner Ashley, Wadulisi Woman this winter. It was something she’s been dreaming of forever, that we happened to lack in our house — A really wonderful bathtub. You can see the final photos on the project page

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Since we rent the house, there wasn’t an option of tearing out a bathroom and redoing it, so the next best option was to make a bathtub for outside.  What I ended up making was out of solid California redwood, and we are able to fill it with hot water with a hose adaptor to our shower, which is just inside the door from our garden.  I had a lot of choices - do I make it like a barrel, with coopered sides, and a metal ring holding it all together? I did an awful lot of research for this project, and that seems like the most common solution, especially cedar hot tubs from the 70’s, and also water towers. .  Structurally, it makes a lot of sense, but to make one big enough to really lay down in like a proper bathtub it would have to be enormous, and it would require tools I wouldn't have much use for after this project.

What I preferred is something like that makers in Japan call an oforu. Here is one example that costs over $10,000, and a build video that’s only in Japanese.  I learned that in Japan they are traditionally kept in a tiled room with a drain in the middle of the floor - so they are ‘supposed’ to leak a bit.  Seemed like a good fit.

It was a gamble in a lot of ways - a pretty ambitious project in at least the sense that if it didn’t work, it felt like it would fail in the worst way - just split down the middle, leak water, or worse. I never did the math on how much the water weighs and if the sides could support it.

Luckily, with a lot of careful planning I did make it work.  A lot of the project plans were changing constantly or in my head, so I didn’t work on one strict plan. But I’ll try to document what I did along the way.

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The first step was getting the lumber. I had done some rough math and spent a few months studying how other redwood tubs went together, and had a pretty good idea of how I was going to build mine.

Starting with a top grade redwood was the first step. Luckily, Big Creek Lumber was a source of sustainably sourced, kiln dried, really clear stock. I loaded up my Subaru with 8ft long 2x6’s. By my original math I was going to have four extra, but I ended up with none left when I was finally done. Always buy extra!

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This wasn’t all of it!

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I got them stacked up in the back of my house and stickered to start. I probably spent two hours going through all the board I could, looking for ones that were pretty dry, and as clear of knots or holes as possible. Some of them still needed to dry a bit more, so by properly sticking them I gave them a chance.

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The next thing I had to do, which I had learned the hard way from another piece, is to plane down the edges. I usually try to use only hand tools, but this was a good project to test what I could do with machines, since it was just so much wood and so large. I spent about four hours running all the boards through the planer, very slowly.

The next step is going to be jointing the boards together, so I had to get them as good as possible.

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Here’s the revised plan for how I was going to use my lumber. In December I went to New York City and stayed in a hotel with a fabulous bathtub, big enough for two people, and I decided to use up all the ‘extra’ wood I could to maximize the width. Good thing I bought it.

Coming up next: milling the lumber