Monday, June 4, 2012

Hand-forged bottle openers

Hand-forged bottle opener
Hand-forged, twisted-handle bottle openerHand-forged bottle openers - vintage twinsHand-forged bottle opener - long-twist hanldeHand-forged bottle opener - short-twist hanlde How to use a hand-forged bottle opener

Hand-forged bottle openers, a set on Flickr.

I made these forged-steel bottle openers over the course of a couple of years. They work and look great!

My New Favorite Creation:
A Bicycle-Parts Bar Stool

Bicycle-parts barstool

I had this chrome exercise-bike seat knocking around for over a decade just waiting for a furniture project. I slipped out to my shop early this past Saturday, and I grabbed a bunch of other bike parts and got to work. Once I got into it, I made up my mind to make a bar stool, and make it as simple as possible. All it is is two handlebars with the original necks, welded end-to-end, with a chopped-down fork supporting the seat.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Find the Best Bike Routes in New York

Even if you're very confident about getting where you need to go in New York on foot or by subway, I wouldn't be surprised if you're not so sure about the best bicycling routes. Fortunately, a group of web-savvy cyclists built Ride the City, an online interactive map that steers riders towards the safer bike lanes and greenways, avoiding highways and major thoroughfares whenever possible.

Just type your current location and desired destination into the "Where from?" and "Where to?" fields on their homepage and you'll instantly get a printable map with step-by-step directions. If you need to share the route with friends, you can grab a link to embed the map elsewhere on the web, or you can email it directly to your friends. Create an account if you want to save routes that you plan to take again some day. If you do register, be sure to rate the roads you love or hate so Ride the City can adjust the routes to match your comfort level.

Ride the City has apps for both iPhone and Android, so you don't need to print a copy of your map to stay on course. Plus, the website covers more than just New York—they've mapped more than two dozen cities around the world, and they're working on adding more.

Visit Ride the City's blog or FAQ page to find out more.

Images: thisisbossi; Screenshot from

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Building Around Awkward Spaces In a Room Makeover

Have you ever had the perfect plan for renovating a room when some ill-placed original detail threw a wrench in the works? That was the case with the den remodel in our 19th-century home in Northwest Connecticut. A cobbled-together plumbing enclosure was smack in the middle of where we wanted to put our old bookcase. Hiring a plumber to move the pipes didn't seem worth the hassle, so my wife and I decided to build a custom wall of shelves around the pipes.

We knew that we needed a place to put our computer, and we figured, since we were starting from scratch, we might as well include an integral desk in the plan. After determining a good height for the desk by sitting on a stool we already owned, we laid out a grid of bookshelves from floor to ceiling. I used a trick that I have seen in Shaker cabinetry where you gradually reduce the shelf heights as you go up, to give the illusion of a taller ceiling in the room and to give a harmonious feel to the overall design.

In the end, an assembly of simple plywood boxes, some classic-but-understated trim, and a fresh coat of paint turned this once-disjointed space into the most inviting room in our home.

Images: Rob Wotzak

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Integrated Design for the Common Folk

I recently commented on another blog where a gardener named Kris lamented about, among other things, diving in without a plan and undoing work that had previously been deemed complete. With my own work focused on green home building and my free time ever more scarce, my initial thought was, "yeah, if we would only get our priorities straight we could really use our resources responsibly and have time left to actually enjoy the fruits of our labor." But as much as integrated design and plan-before-you-build have been drilled into my head, I think that every rule has its context - and its exceptions.

Don't get me wrong. Working for a design/build company for a number of years and renovating my own 19th century home has definitely shown me the value of planning and communication. It's just that most of the people that I know are only able to do this kind of stuff on the fly. Besides, it has taken a lot of work (read "therapy") to let the artist in me freely tear apart hours, if not days, of work, after I realize my creative vision is taking me in a whole new direction - and I'm not prepared to throw that all down the drain.

So, a little out of context here (and slightly revised), but this is sort of the gist of the comment I mentioned earlier:

I think you need to live with a place for a while before you make any big plans. You have to get familiar with how the sun tracks through the seasons, where the sheltered hollows are that let spring bulbs sneak out a little early, and, most importantly, how each unique vantage point makes you feel. That said, you have to make the place comfortable in the mean time. A certain level of what I call "damage control" can go a long way to preserving one's sanity over the long haul. Maybe just a gravel patch with some simple chairs and a couple of potted plants would be enough to carve out a relaxing space until you move on to bigger and better projects.

As spring approaches I sometimes think, “why don’t we just buy a townhouse with a patio so we can do a nice, compact container garden that doesn't amount to a full time job and that we can rearrange at will?” But as soon as the first warm afternoon hits, I’m out raking and digging until dusk. This year I have the added motivation of an energy-filled 3 year old daughter working by my side, wanting to do everything I do. Lets hope she’s still as thrilled about gardening when she’s old enough to take on some of the garden projects herself!