Wood carving made easy- part 2

We are currently making a custom door handle that will be hollow and will be lit by an LED strip which will be positioned inside the cavity of the handle. As the decorative details that form the theme of this will be cut out of the pattern we decided to make the hollow sphere by hand. If the pattern had been a simple and uniform geometric shape then we would have turned to 3D printing and created an SLA resin print from a CAD file. We will be working with 3D printing later to develop a light diffuser but will cover that topic in a subsequent post.

For those who are new to wood carving or are physically tired of laboriously removing large areas of wood from a block of wood then I would recommend using a mechanically assisted wood carving tool. There are several on the market but we use the automach wood carver available from Woodcraft. When we were more focused on furniture we used several of these to help speed up the carving process and they were invaluable in adding textural chip details to our Hedgerow dining chairs.

While the mechanized chisel is useful we revert to hand chisels when adding very fine detail and when we need a larger wider angled blade. We have shown both methods in the video featured here.

If you play the video you will also get a glimpse of the raven sculpture’s feet in the background which is an ongoing video project that we will be adding to soon.

Gecko Cabinet Pulls

We have just completed an order for Gecko cabinet pulls in interesting and contrasting finishes.

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The bright gecko is an example of brushed natural bronze, a finish created by buffing the gecko on a buffing wheel. The dark gecko is also buffed but to a lower luster and then dipped in a solution of M20 to create an overall black appearance.

The gecko is one of 2 lizard cabinet knobs and forms part of a compete series of lizard door hardware that includes entry door sets and interior door handles.

These 2 pieces serve as a good visual approximation for the industry finishes US4 (satin bronze) and US10B (dark satin bronze) which is described below.

Patina by Conversion Coating

Using M20 by Birchwood Technologies we make a solution using 1-part M20 and 1-part distilled water mixed in a non-reactive dipping vessel. The piece is immersed for 30 to 60 seconds and then neutralized by immersion into another vessel of distilled water.  If upon inspection we see that certain areas have not reacted to the solution and are still bright we re-clean those areas and dip again.


The chemical conversion creates a uniform patina so to accentuate the gecko’s markings we gently burnish selected areas by hand with a fine nylon abrasive pad and thereby re-expose the golden tones of the bronze casting.


To seal the bronze, we use a soft cloth to apply 2 coats of oil and once dry finish with hard wax. There are many products to choose from we have found Sculpt Nouveau’s metal oil and black wax easy to work with.


Mushroom Cabinet Knobs and Pulls

When is a mushroom a cabinet knob and when is it a cabinet pull?  Until last week I thought the question was at best a case of semantics and at worst a case of pedantry, but I stand firmly corrected as the wrong word choice can result in oblivion. I am not alas an expert in the field of SEO but when describing our cabinet accessories my primary focus has been on the design element, in this case mushrooms, with my secondary focus being the shape of a piece, if round a knob, if vertical or horizontal, a pull.

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What had not occurred to me is that the word “mushroom” has on the internet come to mean button mushroom shape and so all manner of cabinet knobs that have no resemblance to a mushroom happily populate the image section for this search term.

Why does this bother me, have I perhaps been eating the wrong mushrooms?  Rest assured my concern has nothing to do with what I have been ingesting but has a lot to do with becoming frustrated with searches that come up short on fungi.


Thankfully there are some very talented and tenacious designers like Suzanne Childress  out there who know a mushroom pull/knob when they see one and who take the time to search through the maze to find the right piece for their client. My sincere thanks to Suzanne for finding our elusive pieces.


Spring Has Sprung the Ladybirds have arrived

We recently visited Idyllwild, a small town with impressive mountains, forests and a prolific ladybird population. On first sight my mind was confused by the sheer number of ladybirds which conservatively numbered into the thousands and which were all huddled together on rocks, tree branches and fence posts.

I have wondered about the curious name of this beetle and visiting www.wikipedia.com discovered that the name originated in Britain where the insect came to be called “Our Lady’s bird”. The beetle it seems is part of the Coccinellidae family of beetle, a name that is derived from the Latin word for scarlet which was a color often used in early paintings of Our Lady’s cloak. In the United States the name was adapted to Ladybug.

Whatever the exact origins of this beetles name it is still a colorful and beneficial addition to any garden as it preys on herbivorous aphids and so helps keep our plants free from foragers.

Lady birds.jpg

We are keen fans of most insects and have been inspired to use them as cabinet pulls, turn pieces and as decorative medallions to cover dowelled joints in our furniture pieces. The cluster of bronze beetles shown here are ones that are used in our Rickshaw lounge chair and they decorate the dowel that joints the chair arm and leg. These small beetles can also be used to decorate holes when a door pull is secured with a through screw or bolts.


Spring is in the Air



Our Netsuke rabbit door knob is taking a break from vegetables and has turned her appetite towards chocolate eggs that seem to be in abundance at this time of the year. So, we hope you will take a leaf out of her book, yes the pun is intended and turn your appetite towards chocolate Easter eggs or maybe some hot cross buns or other delicacy enjoyed at this time of the year.

From us here to you there have a good Easter.

Carving made easy - Raven sculpture video

The title of this post is very much tongue in cheek as this observer and videographer can attest. I have in recent years carved the occasional textural detail on furniture pieces that our company makes but confess that these were mere chips of wood removed with minimal precision to create an interesting tactile surface and not an example of fine wood carving.

For the carvers who may be reading this the major shaping and removal of large areas of wood was done with either a large flat gouge or a flat pairing chisel. The large feathers were carved with a “V” tool and pairing chisel. The small feathers were created with various different shaped gouges which were pushed down into the wood and around the edge of the feather to create a vertical wall and small pairing chisels were then used to remove the tops of the abutting feather to create a step. Describing Martin’s carving was far more difficult and far less informative than making and viewing this video.




Cabinet Pulls in Brushed Steel and Brushed Bronze

We have in previous posts discussed how to create colorful patinas and oil rubbed finishes on bronze hardware, but we are often asked to create more understated finishes and are able to do so by brushing or sand-blasting or polishing the surface of the piece.

While the Ergo cabinet pull is contemporary in design it takes on a jewel like appearance when highly polished and becomes subtler when brushed or sand blasted to a low luster.  As with most of our cabinet hardware this cabinet pull can also be ordered in silicon bronze which is a warmer golden toned alloy. Natural bronze, like stainless steel can also be highly polished for a mirror finish or brushed for a subtler effect.

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Once the right amount of luster has been achieved color and highlights can then be added either by creating textural tones with polished and non-polished areas or by applying colored patinas to all or part of the cabinet pull.

In the group photograph the Ergo pull is shown in 4 quite distinctive finishes. The top view shows this 7” wide piece cast in stainless steel and finished in a two-tone luster with the face highly polished and the balance in a softer fine sand blasted finish that accentuates the shape of the wave design. The bottom picture shows the pull cast in silicon bronze and finely brushed. The center pictures demonstrate how the bronze tone can be developed from a light antique to an almost iron black finish using cold patinas that are sealed in place using with oils applied with a soft fine cloth.

One Feather At A Time - The Raven Sculpture Journal

Continuing the journal of Martin Pierce’s Raven sculpture. 

Following his visit to Big Bear where he was able to see  raven’s up close Martin decided he needed to change the pose of his sculpture to show the raven cawing with his beak open and throat puffed to make the distinctive sound raven’s use when declaring their territory or courting.

Once captured in pencil, the raven’s 3  perspectives  were outlined onto rough wood blocks, one for each section of his body. In deciding  how to sectionalize the raven’s shape Martin had to reverse engineer the sculpture by determining how the bronze would eventually flow, where the  gates for the bronze could best be added and where thereby the bird could best be sectioned.

 Constructing and de-constructing a Raven for lost wax casting

Constructing and de-constructing a Raven for lost wax casting

If Martin had been intending to make only one wood sculpture he would have chosen a wood with more character than basswood and would have sculpted the bird from one block of wood rather than several pieces. However, as this sculpture will be used to create several molds for lost wax casting the sculpture was made so that it could be de-constructed.

The raven will be cast in bronze and will be available as a limited edition. The raven will join his feathered friend the scrub jay in Martin’s collection of bronze sculptures, which as well as portraying birds also portrays insects in fictional settings.

Color Changing Door Handles

We have just changed our profile photo to a collage image of colored door handles taken from our Morphic and Coral styles of door hardware. Our illuminated handles began with the introduction of low voltage LED lights into our Morphic cylindrical handles. To do so we had to solve the problem of how to incorporate a hard wired LED spot into a cylindrical handle the smallest of which has a mere 1.25” internal diameter.  As the cylindrical handle is vertical and as the design is open we could not use a strip of LED lights but needed to work within the confines of a small downward projecting light with a narrow 10 lens that would center rather than diffuse the colored beam.

The cylindrical handles range from 16” to 32” in length and are available either with a single color constant voltage LED spot with built-in driver or a color changing constant current spot.

The profile collage also shows the illuminated Coral handle which is one of 3 panel style door handles These are also color changing handles but are lit using multiple diodes encapsulated in a weather proof flexible strip that fits into the inner perimeter of the handle.

Both types of door pull are made using the lost wax method of  casting and  are available in bronze or stainless steel and are UL listed.

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What determines the direction of a door handle

For many the question of a door handles direction is seen as a question of door handing and not a question that has much to do with design and possibly whimsy.  While it is true that the handing of a door lever is determined by the location of the doors hinges this need not always apply to door pulls or door grips. The answer is further complicated when the designer, in our case, Martin Pierce has a keen sense of what is correct from a natural perspective. This recently came up in a conversation with James Cunningham a photographer who we recently worked with to enhance the background of our Morphic Scroll door pull. The scroll pull is clearly a vertical pull but the curved grip can just as easily face outwards or inwards. Martin designed the piece for the Baha Mar project in collaboration with Mike Hong the projects architect. The   concept drawings have always shown the piece with the curve pointing outwards but this is not how James Cunningham saw it.

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There are some door pulls where it is up to the artistry of the designer or consumer to determine the best direction for a piece.


Then there are the practical aspects to consider - when a door stile is narrow while the width of the grip may fit the space it may be wiser to have the grip face away from the door jamb as this will reduce the risk of grazed knuckles that would occur if the grip direction were reversed.


Tree Door Handles - when to through bolt

The Hedgerow tree handles are made either as large scaled heavily canopied door grips or as smaller door pulls. When they were designed we had planned the larger 19” handle to function as an entry door handle and its smaller cousin as a 9” cabinet door pull.

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The different functions impact how the tree is mounted as cabinet pulls are typically mounted through the back of a cabinet with a wood screw that is screwed into the back of the threaded and taped tree. Occasionally the smaller trees are surface mounted as was the case recently when they were mounted on a wall and used as decorative fixtures for curtain ties

The small tree is increasingly been used as door pull for smaller interior  doors where its scale is more appropriate or on wood framed glass doors where a lighter handle is preferred. When used as an interior door both sides of the door are seen and so 2 trees (a left and a right) are used. The 2 trees are connected with a custom bolt one end of which is welded to the tree while the other passes through the door into the back of the second tree where it is held in place by 2 discreet Allen screws (set screws)

Through mounting works equally well for larger entry door grips though for added security the welded bolt should be attached to the exterior handle thus preventing its removal by someone equipped with the necessary Allen wrench.

Yacht Door Handles in Polished Steel

The fluid design of the  Morphic door handle is increasingly being specified for yachts and oceanic projects in a  highly polished finish. The mirror like finish compliments these watery locations and as it is cast in stainless steel it has excellent rust resistant properties. The physical durability of stainless steel also makes it ideal for high traffic public areas which are the norm in the hospitality industry. We have recently completed 12 sets of our Serpentine handle for a new yacht designed by SMC a  London based group that leads the field in maritime design.

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Working closely with the projects specifiers, DEKO Ocean of  Denmark, we made necessary modifications to ensure that the handles would work for the projects 3” deep aluminum fire doors.

Coincidentally the Morphic style chosen for SMC’s project is one that owes its inspiration to marine life forms and in particular to the lace like appearance of  coral and to the tentacles of squid and octopi. Despite its oceanic origins  we named this piece “Serpentine” to more immediately convey its shape and to set it apart from other pieces in the series.

The Serpentine handle measures 31”H by 4”W ( 812mm x 100mm) and is suitable for most wood, glass and stone doors. The handle is mounted over a small concealed mounting bracket that is attached to the door. Once the bracket is firmly in place the Serpentine handle then clips over the bracket where it is held in place by Allen screws on either side of the handles tips.

Traditional artistic methods and 3D printing

One of the advantages to old school artistic methods is that they allow the artist to make more immediate design corrections. While CAD does allow the artist to see his virtual sculpture from a 3D vantage, the same holds true for perspective drawings done free hand with pencil and vellum. No doubt the ease and speed of both methods owes a lot to the different ways our brains are wired and to the different way we learn our artistic skills. While Martin Pierce does use a Wacom tablet with built in mouse, for his initial development drawings he finds he can achieve a faster result by adding and erasing pencil lines.

 Plan View of Raven Design

Plan View of Raven Design

This is the same approach he uses when creating custom door handles and as with sculpture, the grid drawings can be placed on solid wood so that the shape can be traced onto the wood’s surface and then cut out with a band saw. While we could use 3D printing to create the pattern, the speed of printing a quick cast SLA model and the cost makes this approach less attractive. By comparison, once a pattern has been sculpted and the artistic and practical bugs sorted out then 3D printing comes into its own if one wants for example to create a left or right version of a piece. We have occasionally used 3D scanning to scan a pattern and then have created a print file that is a mirror image thus allowing a 3D print to be made. The only drawback to doing this is that you end up with a clone of the original and Martin tends to have a preference for asymmetric designs.

 Profile of Raven design

Profile of Raven design


Ergo Epic Pull In a Black Powder Coated Finish

So what do powder coating, grab bars and epic door handles have in common?

Answer: A creative designer meeting the special needs of an artistic client.

We derive immense satisfaction from working with creative designers and over the years have collaborated with many to  customize our designs so they will meet a client’s specific needs.

Diane Morrison is a designer who we first worked with when we adapted  our Grapevine door handle for use  as a hand rail on a corridor wall. Diane is based in Downingtown Pennsylvania and often works with contractor Merv Landis on her local  installations. Recently Diane approached us to see which of our Ergo designs could be adapted for use as a grab bar in a powder room project.  The room had existing pewter and iron trim and while the client wanted to continue with these metal tones we needed to   use a more sturdy metal and one that would hold up to  moisture.  Stainless steel as a rust resistant alloy was an obvious choice but  many of the patinas one can apply to it are not sufficiently durable.  Diane sent us a color chip and with Dan Regan’s help at Primo Powder Coat we were able to find the right powder to bake onto our stainless steel handrail to create a highly durable finish.


The Ergo epic pull was the perfect choice of design from this series being a sturdy 35” handle but we were dealing with an existing space where the supporting studs were spaced at 16” intervals and the Ergo mounting posts were set at 34”. Merv  Landis solved the problem by creating a  sturdy brace inside the interior wall that spanned 2 sets of studs and provided a solid structure for our lags bolts to screw to.


To reach Diane Morrison please contact her: dianedmd@gmail.com

Ravens at Big Bear Alpine Zoo

The Raven sculpture is now taking shape as Martin develops a clearer understanding of this magnificent bird’s wing movement, body stance and general proportion. Having tentatively decided to sculpt a male in pre-flight position,  a visit to the Big Bear Zoo is making him question if this is the pose he wishes to capture as a sculpture.

Finding a live accessible raven has been a challenge as our local Los Angeles zoo could not help. However, the zoo at Big Bear next to Snow Summit has 2 pairs of ravens and we were allowed to freely photograph them. Day one proved frustrating as neither pair was in the mood to be photographed but on day two we were able to take some beautiful shots of their head profiles, plumage and talons.

 Raven Profile

Raven Profile

The zoo is well worth visiting and is just over 2 hours by car from Los Angeles and offers a wonderful range of animals including timber wolves, raccoons, coyotes and 2 snow leopards. As they state on their site ” The Big Bear Alpine Zoo is a rehabilitation facility offering injured, orphaned and imprinted wild animals a safe haven, temporarily while they heal, or permanently, as they are unable to survive on their own. We are extremely proud that 90% of all the animals brought to us for rehabilitation are successfully released back into their native environment.”

 Plumage and back talon detail

Plumage and back talon detail

Equipped with a better understanding of these 4 ravens Martin will turn his focus back to his drawing board to decide what changes he will make to his initial concept drawings.By year end we hope to have a new bird sculpture to add to our collection of bronze sculptures.

New Raven Sculpture Takes Shape

Following on in the quest for a perfect raven sculpture Martin has drawn his intended subject side on and full scale at 22” from tip of tail to tip of beak.  Using old school techniques to maintain the bird’s proportions he drew the raven on a 1” size grid and then increased the grid to 2” to achieve the correct size. While this could have been done in photo-shop with a grid tool, the size of the piece would have made it cumbersome.

He will now need to draw the front elevation, plan and top view so that he can correctly show the leg stance and wing position and capture the birds pre-flight position with the wings slightly apart.

Finding a captive raven to study for the other elevations has not been easy but we have found 4 ravens who are residents at the Big Bear zoo so will be travelling there soon to get some footage for the next stage.

Martin will be carving the raven in basswood which is a tight grain but relatively soft easy to carve hard wood. At this point he plans to carve the bird as whole sculpture to ensure its correctness from all elevations. Once it looks correct and mindful of the cost of and weight of bronze he will then cut the sculpture down the middle so that he can carve out the center and thus make the sculpture hollow.

raven drawing 3.jpg

Blue Birds Make A Clean Start in 2018

We celebrated 2018 in Paso Robles with close friends and our dog Iris. The hikes, chilly air and the bird life all helped to revitalize our moods and energy and so like these Blue birds we enter 2018 with a refreshed perspective.

We have incorporated bird designs in both our animal cabinet pulls and in our jay bronze sculpture and will be adding a raven to our collections in the months ahead. While the blue birds shown here are vivid colorful creatures they do not make easy subjects for bronze castings as their markings and multiple colors are difficult to create even with hot patinas. The scale of these small birds with their thin legs is also challenging making it necessary to add an artistic mount to support the heavy body weight. 

Blue Birds First Dip of 2018.jpg

Ravens  by comparison have a more uniform color range and stronger legs proportionate to their body size making them perfect as free standing sculptures. We live in the Hollywood Hills and have several families of ravens that we see on a daily basis and appreciate their flying skills, antics and obvious intelligence.

 Martin has just begun his initial design for this new piece and  has decided that the piece will be close to life size at 22” from beak to tail feathers and in a pre-flight position. He is currently hoping to find someone in the Los Angeles area who has a captive raven so that he can photograph the bird from other perspectives so if anyone has any suggestions please let me know.

Christmas Gift Ideas and the Need to Plan Ahead

At this time of year we often receive calls from parents trying to find the perfect gift for their child’s bedroom and so we wanted to share with you some of the choices people have made.

 Rabbit Door knob                                                             Willow Door Knob

Rabbit Door knob                                                             Willow Door Knob

We are currently making a rabbit passageway set for a Santa delivery in New Hampshire. Thankfully Santa enlisted some advice from a local door and lock installer who helped with tricky issues like dealing with a very old and thin door. The installer understood that a narrow 1 1/4” thick door may be a problem for the latch mechanism as the tongue of the latch in this case was 1” but being a skilled professional he felt that with Santa’s good cheer he would be able make a hole in the door with a 1/8” to spare on either side of the latch. Phew, Santa was wise to plan ahead!

Of course there is nothing wrong in a little self-gifting but the adage always plan ahead is equally true. In this instance, as Santa was not involved, the home owner asked for our help in deciding what to order to replace her old very dilapidated kitchen and dining room door knobs. The doors did not have latches but were held shut by a roller catch or closet door ball catch at the top of the door.  The customer did not want to change the catch so we steered her towards dummy knobs that could be attached on each side of the door by screwing through the knob plate into the door, a low tech but good way of adding beautiful knobs to her kitchen and dining room doors.



Why do Door Knobs and Door Levers use similar but different latches

Deciding whether to use a decorative knob or decorative door lever is partly an aesthetic choice and partly a practical and ergonomic decision. The aesthetic part is self-explanatory and we offer all of our door handles as either round contained knobs or more expansive flowing levers.

The other deciding factor is the user’s ability to easily grip and turn a knob. A lever is by its design easier to use for those with physical challenges and this brings us to discussing the latch mechanism.

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Difference between the latch mechanism for passageway  knobs and levers

The tubular latch used to operate a passageway lever has a stronger spring that serves to return the lever to a horizontal position. The latch can also only operate the passageway lever one way, so one depresses it to release the tongue of the latch but you cannot lift the lever to retract the latch. The lever can be depressed with minimal dexterity and precision making it a better candidate for ADA compliance.

By comparison, a knob latch can be turned in 2 directions clockwise and anti-clockwise to retract the latch tongue but gripping and turning the knob does place some torque on ones wrist as well as requiring dexterous fingers for gripping. The spring used to return the knob to its resting point is weaker as knobs are typically lighter in weight than their counterpart levers.