Category Archives: In The Neighborhood

The Joy of Salvaged Wood

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A few weeks ago, we got an order for a custom table- a lovely, long variation of our “Monster Island” tables. We needed more wood, and I found myself browsing the stacks at M. Fine Lumber in Brooklyn. It is an easy trip from the studio, simply three miles east. I have been several times now, but I am still amazed at the mountains of lumber there. Most of it has been pulled out of old factory buildings in the area. A lot of it is softer, coniferous woods. There is a fair amount of hard oak too. It is easy to find beams that are twenty feet long and more. Most of these trees were felled fifty to one hundred and fifty years ago. Their growth rings are different, and they do not have the uniformity of today’s woods. Sometimes the yard staff pulls the nails out for us. This time, I did most of it myself. A single plank might have fifty nails of varoius sizes. When you see the old nail holes surrounded by an inky black stain, that is the way that the wood reacted to decades of contact with an old nail. These old planks present a lot of challenges, but we love the process!

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Building with Children !

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This summer is one of work, and fun for Noble Goods. The colorful pics show a bench that we built for our son’s school. The project was this: build a simple, easily understood bench with sixteen, white wooden tiles for the top. Next, deliver the bench and simply discuss its design in a way that three-year-olds can grasp (these kids are very perceptive!) Then we passed out the tiles and Molly set them up with paint and collage supplies. Later, back at the shop, I glued everything together and gave it four coats of a water-based varnish for durability ( juice+sand = scratched up furniture).

I think the kids will enjoy this for years to come, and both Molly and I really loved creating with them. I hope that we always find the time to embrace the wild, spontaneous energy that comes with children’s creativity. It is an energy unfiltered, and unrestrained by our decades of experience. Love it.

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Floating Shelves (Monster Island 2)

In addition to our Monster Island Tables, we’ll be showing a collection of floating shelves at the BKLN Designs show this week.

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The shelves are made from the same lot of salvaged wood as the new tables, and feature some of the same resin inlay techniques. The palette is muted, but the designs are fast.

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More images coming soon!

Contact us for details and pricing.

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Broken Curves Reveal Squares

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ok. This one is hard to explain, but I want to give it shot. If you look around at the biological, “natural” world, you will see a lot of whole, but also a lot of broken things- seed pods, sand, tree branches, leaves etc. These objects are rarely square or precisely linear. They do not conform to humankind’s numerical systems. They were curvey and spontaneous in their whole state, and when broken, they continue to display this. When humans design things, we often strive for a curvey look. Call it biomorphic, aerodynamic, or “hydroformed” (that’s a new trend), we make curvey stuff. But when the time comes to design every accesory and interior component of that curvey thing, we get a little stumped. It is difficult to draw, sculpt, and mass produce these elegant blobs. Their curves actually consume more data and computational processing power when compared with a simple box. (ie Ford Taurus vs Snoopy’s dog house) So we shy away… and we compromise. When the plastic skin of this car got fractured and stripped away, I saw some proof of this. Power drills, kitchen mixers, jet airplanes- they all have this lovely exterior, but when you crack them open, you expose our limitations as designers. Seeds, trees, eggs, the human body? You will find very few squares in there.

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Bicycles and Furniture

Happy New Year to all! We celebrated the passing far from NYC, in a very small town. There were a lot of small children around, and we launched some small fireworks on New Years Day. It was a lot of fun, and I am grateful for the time away. Now back in Brooklyn, I think we have a refreshed perspective on life and work.

So what do bicycles and furniture have in common? Joinery. That’s what this post is about. Almost every piece of furniture can be classified in term of it’s joinery. In the next few months, Noble Goods will attempt to stretch the boundaries of these classifications, and create some work that will be really astounding. I love furniture. But back to the bicycles…

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This photograph shows a type of metal joinery called the “lugged” joint. It’s very common. The detail is right where the seat post slides down into the frame, near the rear wheel. Four separate pipes must come together at this location, and “gathering up” their stresses and strains can be quite a task. This lugged method  speeds things up, and provides a strong and elegant solution. If you like this method, read more here http://lovelybike.blogspot.com/2010/11/lugged-non-steel.html

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This second example is what you get when you carefully cut each tube to “nest” into its neighbor. Then, through welding, you add the same type of metal to the junction. In this case, the weld is left in a raw state. No attempt has been made to grind, paint, or polish it, and it truly says “I am welded”.

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Taken one step further, we have this joinery. What may look like a repair job is actually the original work on this “Spot Coyote” bike. I took this picture because the look really surprised me. Sure, the world has seen the look of the exposed weld- but this takes it one step further. Those black and bluish areas near the welds are a direct consequence of how the tubing reacted to the heat of the welding process. They are like the jet’s  blue sky vapor trail, or like those rocket marks you find in the cornfield after the alien spacecraft left (you did see it, didn’t you?) It is not hard for a metalworker to scrub away these strange colors. They are not deep. Instead, this designer chose to leave every mark, and apply a dense clearcoat (think varnish) to protect the look of the weld. To me, it’s like they took an intimate snapshot of their fabrication process, and made it an inseparable part of the product. Process becomes product. Here, I gotta say, I don’t love the look of the completed machine. But when I saw this frame, it really got my attention.

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Oh, speaking of attention! I could not find a maker’s mark on this Manhattan machine, but it did not look like a one-off. I think there is a flock of these bamboo things out there. And if I find the time, I will do some research. Can I explain this? Maybe. The frame maker loosely cut the bamboo “tubes” until they fit the desired geometry, then placed each tube in a clamp that held them in their exact spatial relationship. (At this point, it probably looked like a bike frame exploding in space). Then they bandaged each joint with a fabric, saturated with a liquid binder. The fabric? Probably carbon fiber. The binder? Probably epoxy. If you have ever looked at the Native American’s early methods of making spear points or snow sleds, then you have seen this. Animal sinew, plus thickened blood, plus heat- it can produce a similar joint. Now could that be the next bicycle frame?

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Christmas Came and Went

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Phew! Do you have children? Are they small and curious with an unending stockpile of mysterious questions? This has added great depth to our holiday season. Molly and I celebrated Christmas very moderately this year. We are both working a lot of hours, and I truly believe that the nation is in a conscious and unconscious state of reflection. Over dinners when we toast, we feel love in the ‘clink’ of the glasses and the eye contact of friends and neighbors. But I wager that champagne sales are down, and that red wine is up.

The east coast hurricane, plus the recent school shooting tragedy has been hard on us. It is a time to reflect, to reconsider, to empathize, and to feel gratitude for the goodness in our lives. To everyone who visited our craft fairs this year, we thank you! What a fun year. To everyone who purchased gifts for yourselves or others, we thank you! And to everyone who had a comment, a critique, or a simple observation on what we are doing WE THANK YOU! The growth of such a small company as Noble Goods is a fascinating and mysterious thing. Without your interest and your faith, we would be quite lost. We wish you all a very happy passage into the new calendar year. Many thanks – Christopher (& Molly)

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Craft Shows

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Oh my! Setting up shop at a craft fair is a lot of work, but we had a lot of fun too! Top selling items were the coaster sets and the large cheese boards. We even brought out a few unique Hazy Floozans that were studio design “experiments”. They were very popular and attracted a lot of attention. Noble Goods is a very young company, and one of my favorite things about Craft Fairs is the opportunity we get to meet people. We hear their reaction to our products, and we listen. We get a lot of compliments for our uniqueness, skills and craftsmanship. I want to thank Molly here, because without her beautiful display skills, the objects would not look so good. Having a business partner with her skill set, who just happened to work at Martha Stewart and Anthropologie… well that’s a big plus. Happy Holidays to All! A few more trips to the Post Office, and I think we can relax a bit.

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