Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Pair of Front Doors for my Daughter

My daughter and her family have returned from years of living overseas to reside in Portland.

I am thrilled. 

I designed a pair of doors for her new house that are eight feet tall, five feet wide, and two and a quarter inches thick. 

Lang, my daughter, and I designed a family crest in the style of a Japanese Komen. 

This is what we developed. The idea was to carve it into the center panel on both sides of each door.

It's getting exciting!

After hours of carving and fussing I was able to assemble the doors.  Here they are leaning against the wall in my shop.

Here they are with a finish on them. I opted for a delicate oil finish on the interior (shown here) and a bulletproof exterior finish that is almost clear with a bit of orange / brown pigment.
I started these doors in September and here it is February and they are ready to install.
I'll send pictures of the final installation.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Lovely Woodworking Studio

One of the positive effects of aging is that I am now working on a project for the son of one of my special friends and sometimes client.

Rex and Emily approached me about a design for a very special combination garage and shop.  We started out thinking alot about Bernard Maybeck's work and we were especially taken with the Mathewson House

I've always loved this design and have long wanted an opportunity to play with it.

Here is what I came up with.....

We kept working at the fenestration and we arrived at this.
Lower siding will be horizontal lap, the window sills wrap around the facade to seperate the lower siding from the cedar shingles above. 
Above both doors will be a clear red cedar 12" wide vertical board and batten siding.

The owners are going to build the windows and doors under my direction.

We have the shell built, here are some photos....

 The big pile of trash on the right helps to anchor the picture.

At this stage it takes some imagination..

We're pretty stoked.

 One whole side of the building is set into a low bank with a handset retaining wall.

The view from inside the shop is across their backyard.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Garden Gate Revisited

I continue to work on my garden gates.  Lately I have designed a cane bolt for it. This is a drawing of it in my sketchbook.

I later went on to make a full sized drawing that I took it to my good friend Arnon Kartmazov to forge in stainless steel.  He turned the project over to his partner, a colorful Chech blacksmith Nitzan Lille.  This was the result.........

They both put their stamps into the handle

It works beautifully.
I'm thrilled.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Two Gates - Two Brothers

Kevin Downing

Kevin has been my brother and a woodworker all his life.  For a number of years he worked with me in the craft.  He stopped doing it professionally some time ago and is now an important force in the DEQ significantly contributing to the air quality we take for granted here in Portland.

He continues to do woodworking creating great beauty though.

This is for his home. It is western red cedar with a bamboo screen in the gate. 

The rafter ends are painted white.  I especially like how some of the rafters are paired closely together.

The gate posts are cut to fit on the granite boulders of the foundation. There is a 3"x1/2" x 24" steel bar running vertically inside the post, through the rock and into a buried concrete foundation.  It looks so great and it is powerfully strong.


My Own Gate,

You have seen the watercolor of this in a previous entry. Here it is. 
It's a combination of styles with carved almost Gothic tracery in bottom panels and the organic Art Nouveau
top rail.

I'm enjoying hand carving more and more.  The tracery was hand carved as was the little sweeping roof over them.

That top curve became more and more thrilling as I carved. 

Monday, December 02, 2013

It has been a while since I last posted on this blog.
I hope you have all missed me. 
I'm back.

I am going to try to be more responsible and post more of the special projects that I am working on and I also plan to spread out a bit and write not only about me. I hope to share some of the more interesting and beautiful details I come across daily.

My current project is a pair of garden gates for my own home. Here is a watercolor I just did to illustrate them.

The bottom panel will be solid with the pair of cutouts. the perimeter of the cutouts will be deeply  relieved by hand carving. I may put a curved cap piece on top of the top rail. We'll see how my motivation holds out. The upper panel area will be 1 1/2" x 1 1/2" vertical pieces set on the diagonal with a 2" spacing.

I have recently come upon some salvaged old growth heart redwood beams. That will be my material.

I'll keep you posted.

And, oh yes check out my website 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Monday, December 03, 2012


I am slowly working on creating a new blog and website.  Until that is up, though, I will continue to try to post here.

I recently had a project I did about a year ago, photographed professionally.

I was asked to design and build an armoire that also opened out into a murphy bed.

We wanted this cabinet to look very old, refined, and elegant and yet present a very deep character.

The wood that was chosen was Oregon white oak.  It is never chosen for cabinetwork because it has so much variability.  It is the preferred wood, though, of Burlington Northern Railroad for its rail car beds. This wood proved to be one of the most difficult I have ever worked with but also the most exciting.

Then there was the opportunity to work in fine detail.

This piece of furniture is suffused with character.


Where most stains are finely ground pigments smeared on the surface of the wood to color it, the finish that I used is a chemical compound that has a chemical reaction with the oak fibers. Bichromate of potash, also known as potassium bichromate, is both carcenogenic and toxic. It is a glow in the dark bright orange water that is brushed on the surface of the oak and in a matter of about five minutes develops this beautiful color that seems to be intrinsic to the wood. You can stand there and watch the change happen as if you were watching a black and white photograph develop in a darkroom chemical bath. After it dries it then gets a clear coat over it to protect it.

The hardware is also very special.  The hinges are barrel hinges five feet long. the finish is a distressed iron. These I got through a company that imports them from Europe.

The pulls are two art nouveau door knobs and a chest handle.

I want to build more cool furniture like this.

Again,  please note that if you are interested in seeing more of my work you will have to go to
until I have my new website up.

Thank you for your interest.     Mark