The Brandegee Blog

Ramblings on Crafting Useable Art (and other things that I find interesting)

American Furniture
Posted on August 2, 2013
Ada and I just returned from an antique show in a crossroads town named Oley near Reading, PA. Our primary purpose for the 3 plus hour drive from our Bedford County, PA log cabin was to entice some of the dealers to come by our Pittsburgh loft to buy some American 18th and 19th century furniture and folk art.
[Read Full Entry]

Barb
Posted on July 24, 2013
Someone recently told me that, when the chestnut blight threatened a century ago, many farmers cut their trees and stored chestnut boards and beams in their barns to recoup at least some value. I’ll be examining one such stash very soon.
[Read Full Entry]

Log Cabin Addendum
Posted on July 15, 2013
With great reluctance, we have put our log cabin complex on the market. Age has crept up on us. Physical limits now curtail the long walks over our rugged countryside that we loved to take and even the minor chores we once relished have become difficult.
[Read Full Entry]

Chi Gong
Posted on June 25, 2013
Today we have the fifth of six sessions of Chi Gong, a Chinese exercise program conducted by a young Chinese man named Joshua. Its extraordinarily slow and graceful movements are unlike anything I’ve seen before, including Tai Chi or yoga.
[Read Full Entry]

Raconteur
Posted on June 12, 2013
Bob, our caretaker for our country cabin was an extraordinary person, a man Ada and I were fond of and miss very much. He was a crack shot which made would-be trespassers wary. He was also a gifted athlete, not limited to marksmanship. His greatest regret was that he had turned down an offer for a tryout for the then NY Giants; he didn’t want to leave his young wife.
[Read Full Entry]

Flat Stones
Posted on June 5, 2013
Sometimes, natural disasters produce happy consequences. That happened for us when the area where our country log cabin sits was hit by a so-called hundred year flood. The stream that normally flowed behind the cabin in the creek bed about six feet lower surged upward to just within 6 inches of our first floor before subsiding over the following three days.
[Read Full Entry]

The Spooky Sphere
Posted on May 21, 2013
Creativity is a bedeviling subject. But endlessly fascinating. How do you make it happen? How do you keep it under control, from veering off in cockamammy directions that distract or undermine what you’re trying for?
[Read Full Entry]

Birds
Posted on May 8, 2013
For years I’ve used saplings cut from birch thickets on our country place in Madley Hollow, PA for the backs of beds and benches. Incidentally, despite concerned citizens often asking, “Don’t they break?” in over 10 years of use, not one ever has.
[Read Full Entry]

The Field
Posted on April 25, 2013
Bob Willison, our great friend and caretaker of our country cabin, was a strong guy, an inch or so taller than my six feet, a difference that stayed about the same as age diminished our statures. Like me, he liked to point out that his loss of height was compensated for by an increase in foot length and shoe size.
[Read Full Entry]

In Memory of Bob Willison
Posted on April 18, 2013
Our good friend, Bob Willison, now sadly no longer with us, was a character of the first and most delightful order. He and his wife, Mary, lived in the next “holler” from our log cabin located in the mountains of southwestern Pennsylvania.
[Read Full Entry]

Where to Store the Wood
Posted on April 9, 2013
I’m a little worried about my storage for the antique building materials I use in my furniture designs. The log cabin property that we’ve loved since the mid 90's is now on the market. Over the years I’ve filled a 40-square-foot pole barn upstream from our cabin with loads of log cabin logs, beams, and joists, and barn boards, and moving it all will be a bear.
[Read Full Entry]

Rocks in My Head
Posted on March 22, 2013
Today, I admit to having rocks in my head, specifically, two truck-size boulders behind our log cabin in the mountains. They sit within arms length across the stream that flows by the footers of our screened-in porch and they’re one of the joys of cabin life.
[Read Full Entry]

Cabin Quirks
Posted on March 12, 2013
We discovered odd details about our log cabin and how it had been occupied as our restoration progressed. Even before he began work on the cabin for us, Jim Whisner pointed out a slim trickle of spring water as he and I first stooped under the flooring in the crawl space under the first floor to inch around and poke at the cabin logs to gauge their condition.
[Read Full Entry]

Finding Materials
Posted on March 3, 2013
People regularly ask me, “Where do you get your raw materials,” the logs, beams, and barn siding used in my furniture designs. Simple answer is, all kinds of sources.
[Read Full Entry]

Local Lines
Posted on February 8, 2013
The mountainous countryside surrounding our 1840 log cabin is Appalachian in character. It’s Bedford County, PA, land originally surveyed in the 1760s by a well-traveled fellow named George Washington. Back then, it was farmland, and much of it still is, even though most of today’s farmers have jobs elsewhere too. The land is very hilly and rocky, so much so, that you have to marvel at the tenacity of those first settlers scratching out a living for their families.
[Read Full Entry]

One-and-Only’s
Posted on January 28, 2013
Occasionally some object comes along that I find irresistible, not necessarily for what it is but what I imagine that it could be turned into. Sometimes, it (or they) were destined to be lamps, sometimes some other thing, but whatever they become, the starting object is one-of-a-kind, at least in my experience.
[Read Full Entry]

Slabs of Sapele
Posted on January 4, 2013
A while back, a great friend, our neighbor and caretaker Bob Willison, who kept an eye on our country log cabin when we were back in Pittsburgh, called me to describe one of the biggest logs he had seen in a long time. Bob’s primary work then was logging in the mountainous parts of Bedford County, PA and he took regular truckloads down to a sawmill near Cumberland, MD. 
[Read Full Entry]

What's It Called?
Posted on December 20, 2012
As a sometime writer, I take some relish in naming my pieces.  Some have names before the preliminary drawing is even started.  Some I anguish over and flub.  Some are names I’m so enamored of that I make more of the item than anybody ever wants, like my Hunkerchunks, the 14″ 
[Read Full Entry]

Barnboard
Posted on December 11, 2012
One of the special pleasures of our loft apartment on Pittsburgh’s South Side is, of all things, barnboard. When we built out the place, we used weatherworn barn siding as shutters for the 6′ x 10′ windows–three on the long side of our main room and two more that we opened by punching through the brick end wall. 
[Read Full Entry]

Useable Art
Posted on December 3, 2012
Something strange happened as I watched the restoration work on a log cabin we bought in the Eastern Allegheny mountains of western Pennsylvania. The logs, beams, and boards hewn by settlers’ axes nearly two centuries ago grabbed hold of me. Their time-weathered textures and colors stirred a passion in me for designing them into contemporary furniture. 
[Read Full Entry]

Comfort
Posted on November 26, 2012
When I talk about my furniture designs, I start with “purpose” as the first filter. And this is where I admit to some impatience with many objects that purport to be furniture. To me, if furniture doesn’t provide some minimal physical comfort and serve some functional need for users, I’m inclined to look down on it as some kind of ego trip by the creator. 
[Read Full Entry]

Green
Posted on November 19, 2012
The furniture I design is hard to label: old/new, rough/smooth, country/city; but we definitely fit the green category, no matter what color it is. We recycle hand-hewn antique beams, barn siding, and cabin logs as the core, then integrate them with glass, steel, canvas, and other manufactured materials. 
[Read Full Entry]

Two Worlds
Posted on November 5, 2012
I live in a loft apartment overlooking the city of Pittsburgh, except when Ada and I are two hours east, in our antique log cabin in the middle of nowhere.
[Read Full Entry]

Burn It!
Posted on October 29, 2012
With great excitement, we arranged for our old friend Bob Worsing to look over our newly purchased log cabin two hours east of our home in Pittsburgh. We were in that first blush of passion about the place and its quiet seclusion.
[Read Full Entry]

First Sight
Posted on October 24, 2012
When we first saw our log cabin up a dirt road in a holler between two steep hills, I was smitten. Sure, the chinking had gaping holes, there were rusty old chairs hanging from porch rafters, and it was hard to maneuver in the kitchen with seven green-and-cream enameled cook stoves crowding the space.
[Read Full Entry]