Thursday, December 27, 2012


Floor-ni-ture (noun) - that part of a room, hallway, or the like, that forms its lower enclosing surface and upon which one walks… after which you have invested so much time and energy where it becomes more like furniture than a floor.

That about sums it up… just registered in case you were thinking about it.  Just spent the last 2-weeks installing the flooring that I bought in July (Down on the Floor, July 15 2012).  This is one of those endeavors that make you question everything when you are half way through, but the end results were certainly worth the effort.
One of the beautiful knots that make this material so interesting.
Reclaimed flooring is, to say the least, very irregular.  The typical method for installing flooring like this is to simply nail it down, float it with a huge amount of neutral wood filler, sand the hell out of it, stain, and urethane.  What you end up with is a smooth floor with a lot of detail, but certainly not something that was true to the original wood you laid down.  I wanted something different. 

We ended up running every plank through the shaper.... twice.
If you will remember, this was wood pulled from a barn in West Texas that was built in 1901.  With its quarter sawn grain and scars from heavy use, I wanted to preserve as much of that character as I could.  So after careful consideration, I decided to run each plank through the shaper again to round over the edges and committed to laying down and finishing each plank by hand.  This would give me a floor that actually looked reclaimed.  A much more authentic and irregular floor, made up of individual hand crafted planks.

Some of the initial planks we laid down.
Beautiful stuff, but a real pain to work with.
How we laid the floor was just one aspect of the project.  The other was how to fill the immense number of holes and imperfections in the wood without losing the detail.  After deliberating for several days, I came up with the idea of using black wood filler, thinking that it would provide a good contrast and highlight the imperfections that make reclaimed wood so interesting.  I spent quite a bit of time researching black filler and couldn’t come up with anything I could get in quantity that wasn’t cost prohibitive.  Not deterred, I set out to create my own tinted wood filler.

Experimenting with filler bases and tints, came up with several viable formulas for bulk tinted wood filler.
It took a few days, but I persevered.  I now have two or three alternative formulations for tinted wood filler that I can use depending on what I am doing.  Any color of the rainbow.  After a few tests, I decided to stick with more earthy tones for the floor and settled on a deep green, navy, and of course black.

What it means to fill each hole and crack by hand using a palette of different colors.
Navy and some black
Keep in mind that by the time these are stained and urethaned, they are super subtle. Since the filler is harder than the wood, over time they will become more pronounced as the floor gets worn a bit.  All in all, I am very satisfied with the results and especially like the creative options it gives me later in the studio.

First urethane coat (this was our test area, one of the bathrooms)
Once the staining was complete.
The final product.
I think the dark tones are going to go well with the steel and glass door I have designed for the wine cellar.
After the stain and urethane went down, the true character of the wood emerged.  This was certainly more difficult than I had originally anticipated, but whatever misgivings I had as we were going through the process evaporated once I saw the final product.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Staircase (Phase One)

The design of the staircase is coming along nicely.  It’s important to get this one right because it is a focal point when you first walk into the loft.  For a number of reasons (extensive indoor welding being one of them), I have decided to fabricate the piece in three distinct phases.  This first phase will be the design, fabrication, and installation of the supports for each stair.  Each tread will be a reclaimed 5” x 12” beam protruding from the wall supported by a steel upright welded to the beam already in place.

Initial sketches of the staircase design.
My initial prototype for the upright.
Straying from the original sketch, I decided to build a more elaborate prototype for the support using MDF and placed it on the beam to ensure I got the angle correct.  Once this detail was hammered out, I then started to fabricate 17 of these out of ½” steel.

The 1/2" steel version beside my final prototype.
Once complete, I then welded each of the uprights to the beam.  This will be as far as I go this round.  Most of the messy stuff is done and I feel comfortable laying down the floor.

Final fitting before I fabricate the remaining 16 supports.
Lot's of welding...
View from the side.
Once the floor is down, I will work on an architectural to go underneath the stairs to give it more depth (phase 2), and then there is the task of creating and installing the steps themselves (phase 3).  Stay tuned...