Sunday, October 27, 2013

My Plan for Decanters

Does anyone else do their woodworking thinking sessions at night while not sleeping? I think I get this from my mother. She lays awake at night worrying that there isn't anything to worry about.

I'm not quite that bad, but I often will be thinking of projects at work, thinking about an issue at home or with my music, or any number of other things. While my mind is churning away, there is no hope of sleep. When I find myself in this situation, before I get up to give my wife a chance to at least get some sleep, I will try changing the subject in my head to woodworking.

The problem is, if I strike a brilliant idea, I get super excited and charged up about my discovery that any hope of more sleep is gone. This happened the other night.

So there I was, minding my own business, trying to sleep. I started thinking about some of the issues of my upcoming tantalus build. One of the main issues that I haven't quite figured out yet is the lock, because of the front opening doors that need to lock to a hinged lid.

I still haven't come up with a brilliant idea for that one. I'll just have to keep thinking.

Another problem I have had with this project is the decanters. I think I want everything on this project to be new, otherwise I feel I am just doing a renovation. Used decanters, therefore, are not ideal.

Many of you have had some great ideas. I especially liked JMAW Works' idea of perfume bottles. This is sort of a small tantalus, the original only being 6 3/4" wide. With this measurement, these four decanters should be about the size of pop cans. This is a great idea since I have yet to find a decanter for sale in the 12 to 16 oz range, which is what I think I want.

Other ideas are glass bottles, or any other manner of container.

The problem with this, is that I really want something nice. In the movies you see rich people pouring scotch from beautiful crystal decanters. I think there is probably no benefit in decanting liquor, other than the fact that it is just cool. Therefore these decanters and the accompanying box need to be super freaking cool.

Surfing around the internet, decanters in the "super freaking cool" category tend to start at around $100 US. I wouldn't mind spending $100 on a decanter for this project, but I need four of them. Now we are talking real money. I have yet to find crystal decanters in the sizes I want, and I haven't figured out the rest of the project, which may require a custom lock which could cost $300 or more. I want to drink whiskey in style, but I'm not about to spend that kind of money on a commercially manufactured product when I'm just as happy drinking brewskies from the can.

What to do?

This is about where I was the other night in my attempt to distract myself so I could drift off to sleep. Unfortunately, to the destruction of the rest of the night's potential peaceful sleep, I came up with the solution: my cousin Cindy.

The great part about being from a big family, is pretty much wherever you want to travel, there is invariably an aunt, uncle, or cousin that you can impose yourself upon for a free place to stay. The other great thing, is that whenever you need something, perhaps you have a relative in the business.

My cousin Cindy is a professional potter. She left the teaching field in the early nineties to set up her own studio. She has been making pots, dishes, and other containers ever since. I'm proud to say she has always been good at this, and seems to get better with every passing year. Indeed, our house has quite a few examples of her work. In fact, whenever I impose myself upon on of the abovementioned, unspspecting aunts, uncles, or cousins, I invariably see much of her work there, too. I think we all get the same "relative" discount, which she jokes is twice what anyone else would have to pay.

A fine example of Cindy's work from my collection.
 Check out her website:

I have no idea why it didn't occur to me earlier, but the thought struck me that she would be able to make exactly what I'm looking for. That is, once I opened my mind to porcelain rather than crystal. If these decanters are going to cost me, I would feel much more comfortable getting them from her, exactly the shape I want, rather than compromising with something commercial.

I sent her an email the other day with my idea, and happily she agreed! She though it would be a kick to cooperate on a project like this. I gave her dimensions that I needed, and left the design up to her. That is, with the caveat that they look super freaking cool. The great news is she won't be able to get to them until early next year, which of course I won't be able to start this until then, anyway.

Also, with any luck, I might be able to talk her into guest blog about making these vessels. At least someone should blog about their activity in the shop!

photo courtesy
Now to find a relative who can make me a custom lock!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Not Getting Much Shop Time

It is a weird phenomenon, at least for me, how I can get so excited about working a project that every spare second is spent in the shop. Conversely, there are times where it seems weeks go by without my tool chest even being opened.

Unfortunately, I'm in the midst of the latter, rather than the former. However, it isn't for lack of enthusiasm or something to do. I have about a million projects in line. Many of them have already even been started.

Between three weeks vacation, and a household renovation, it seems I am not getting my butt in the shop. The renovation we are working on is re-painting doors and door frames. Not exactly exciting, but once started, this project needs to be on the fast track until it is done. One of those things that disrupts everything about life until it is over. Sadly, if I do it right, no one will ever really see it unless I point it out.

If you are like me, then you will understand that the lack of movement in my shop doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about it. This liquor box has been occupying a whole lot of my grey matter lately. If you didn't see the photos in my last post, then here they are again:

Here is where I am at with this project: Before I can even select wood for this project, I need two things. First, decanters. I have been looking on the internet to purchase some, but have yet to find anything appropriate. I want smallish decanters for this project, as I really like the size of the finished piece in the photo, only 6 3/4 inches wide. Besides that they are all too big, they are all fairly expensive. Not really too expensive, until multiplied by four.

I think I have solved this problem, but unfortunately I can't tell you about it yet until it works out.

The second thing I need, is a lock. As you can see in the photo, this isn't any lock that you could buy at the local Borg. If I want a lock that is just like this, my guess is I'll have to have one custom made. My impression is this will cost several hundred dollars. I'll go out on a limb and say that SWMBO won't be thrilled about that idea just for a box to hold booze.

The reason I get this impression, is because the folks at Horton Brasses say so. Let me plug these guys for a second. I sent a link to the photo to ask them what they thought of this lock, and I got a prompt response. After checking with their lockmaker in England, an adjustment of one of their stock locks was determined to be unfeasible. They actually told me what to look for if I went somewhere else, and offered to have it made (around $300). This is still an option, but not if I have to make two of these boxes. The English lock maker actually gave me some more info about this box, which I will get to in a minute.

I think that another option might be to make a wooden lock. Or perhaps some kind of puzzle joint that will keep the lid secure and not be obvious as how to open it. Right now this is the path that looks most promising.

Any ideas?

One thing that the English lockmaker noted about this photo is that the proper term for this type of liquor cabinet is a tantalus. I googled the term, and found that a tantalus is basically any kind of contraption that can be locked to keep the hired help out of your best single malt. Most of them are an open tote that decanters sit in, with a bar that slides in over the lids and locks to keep everything secure. Some others look like regular boxes with bottles in them. Some also hold glasses and cocktail accoutrements. One thing is common to all, though, a lock for security. Although I usually leave the lock off of a box, I think it is necessary in this case.

Another bit about the tantalus in the photo is that I think it is campaign furniture. In other words, intended for a military officer.  I think this because it is small and easily transported. Even so, this one is fine with a cool gizmocity factor that I like.

Wish me luck in my search for suitably awesome decanters and a suitably awesome lock. My guess is that if I can easily find what I need, I'll start this project sometime next spring or summer.

What do you do when you can't get in the shop?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Back From Vacation and An Idea for a Future Project

I am back from my world travels.

I had a wonderful time visiting family in the US and doing a bit of sightseeing. I do have to say, though, that there is a very strange method of house construction where we went.

Travel can be a real drag, and a nine hour time difference seems to be more and more difficult with each passing year. I hope to get my shop in order and start cranking out some projects in the near future. Lord knows, I have a couple old projects to finish, and a few more on the burner.

Why not one more?

I was perusing an online auction house the other day for inspiration for a great new project, and found this:

photos courtesy Leslie Hindman Auctioneers

It is a small liquor cabinet from the late 19th century. Click here if you would like to visit the original auction post.

This thing looks like a blast to build, and I think it is just my style. Most likely, I won't attempt a reproduction, but I am leaning toward building it in my own style following this form.

The first step will to be to find myself four worthy decanters. That shouldn't be tough, but finding ones of the quality I want that I can afford is a different story.

With this project cooking in my brain, we'll see how far I get on the other projects that were first in line.