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Four Decades In…

January 6, 2013 — Leave a comment

Today is my 40th birthday. And four decades into this life of modest professional, personal, and gastronomic accomplishment, I find myself still wondering what I want to do when I grow up.

In any case, I can tell you what I want to do with today. The family, at my request, has granted me a near-full day in my woodshop. So the phone is on do-not-disturb and I am gleefully breathing through a dust mask. I will write more later on the projects I will hopefully finish today, but I think this photo summarizes what is shaping up to be a truly fantastic day:


…using my just-finished, adjustable-height, built-in-Moxon-vise joinery bench while trimming some microdot laminate on my just-assembled torsion box tablesaw extension wing. Next up: flattening the top of my main workbench with a wooden jointer plane.

My workshop. In which I take wooden rectangles and assemble them into larger, mostly-wooden rectangles (but only because the lathe isn’t up and running yet).

Update: didn’t get to the benchtop. But the clamps are up and the extension wing is ready to be assembled. And I am never using solvent-based contact cement again.

Anya Viola Nayar

Narayan, Nara, and Ray are pleased to announce the birth of Anya Viola Nayar. She was born (very quickly!) on May 23rd at 13:29, weighed in at 7lbs 9oz and measured 19.5”.

After Anya and Nara settled into a nap, I went to pick up some Ray and some dinner. My first conversation with Ray after his sister was born unfolded as follows:

Me: Hey buddy, we’re going to get some pizza and some ice cream for your mom…and your sister!

Ray: gasp … Did the baby come out?

Me: Yes, she did!

Ray: Is she a robot that shoots fire from her tentacles?


Ray: Because that would be cool. And dangerous.


Ray: Can I eat my ice cream next to the baby? What if the baby puts fire on my ice cream?

Me: I don’t think the baby will do that.

Ray: That’s great news! So can I have sprinkles on my ice cream?

And so it begins…

Addendum: Anya Viola’s Flickr Set grows almost as fast as she does. If you’re on the main page, some of my favorites to date are after the break.

The girls:




Table Play

January 4, 2009 — 8 Comments

I kicked off the new year by finishing up a project I started last year. This is a play table I just finished today for Ray.


Most of the in-house projects I’ve taken on in my current woodshop have been either for the shop or for Ray. Given the way the last few years have been for me at work, I can’t see it having turned out differently. Adult-scale furniture takes me a long time to construct and finish, and as my shop is not very large it’s difficult to store large boards and panels while a piece is under construction. Also, an unfortunate busy spell at work can keep me out of the shop for months at a time, and the larger pieces tend to require a kind of continuity and focus not made possible by such a staccato schedule. So on a variety of fronts, these small-scale pieces are great.

I’ve made three pieces for Ray so far:

A desk and chairs made mostly with handtools, fabricated out of 2x4s:

Ray's Desk

A stepping stool made with the boards of a thrown away futon:

Step Stool Installed

And this latest piece, a play table.

In Use

With all pieces I make for Ray I try to experiment with skills and processes I haven’t yet tried. The last two pieces used curves and sprayed finishes. The desk and chairs were my first legitimate (i.e. non-woodshop furniture) foray into handtools. And this play table was also the first show-in-the-house piece for which I used a spokeshave and which features exposed handcut dovetails.

A lot of people who see these projects while they’re being constructed wonder why I don’t just run down to Ikea to pick up a step stool for $10 or a desk and chairs for $25. They wonder why I handplane children’s furniture or throw pieces away that aren’t turning out well. Why all this effort for something so…ephemeral? And on some level, I understand where they’re coming from. It’s highly unlikely Ray will remember these pieces when he gets older. I certainly have no recollection whatsoever of even using a step stool, much less what it may have looked like or where it may have come from.

Perhaps I don’t really have an answer which would make sense to anyone who would go to Ikea or Target. Why I make these things goes beyond the fact that I just like spending time in the woodshop or that I want to make stuff for my kid. This might sound a little over-the-top, but through these projects I very much believe that in some small way I’m shaping the way Ray sees the world. I want him to know that it’s still possible to make stuff and to know the people who make your stuff. That not everything we use is disposable. That with just a little bit of effort and practice you can still have something to do with the very artifacts around which your life happens–something other than breaking out a credit card, lugging a box home, and cursing at Swedish assembly diagrams.

All’s Weld that Ends Weld

November 24, 2004 — 3 Comments

I now have no fewer than 204 triple-seam laser spot welds in my left eyeball. The doctor, who referred to his surgical laser as his “death ray”, was quite expert at all-things-eyeball and I my vision couldn’t have been in better hands. I’m quite grateful that he was able to fit me in before I leave for my honeymoon, as retinal detachment had already begun (eep).


Every time I go to the eye doctor I leave thinking that they have the coolest equipment on the planet. I’ve been in nuclear reactors, movie and music recording studios and space command centers, and I have to say–lenses and lights and eye charts and lasers beat buttons, knobs, faders and computer monitors hands-down.

All I want for xmas is a death ray. Just an itty bity one.

p.s. And yeah, the laser surgery was extra-creepy. I was totally blind out of my left eye for about 10 minutes, and when vision started coming back everything was red and blurry, like I was viewing the world through a Jello mold. A few days of headaches and odd vision anomalies and everything seems to have calibrated itself. Yay for death rays!