Something to Wine About

I do not consider myself a wine connoisseur. My pallet is refined enough to know what I like and what I don’t like. I can occasionally pick out the odd varietal, especially whites, but I mostly just like drinking wine for the joy of drinking wine.

I like collecting wine. In fact, one of the major motivators for moving the Fairest Cape, and our purchasing our current home was proximity to wine farms. We live on the doorstep of the Durbanville wine route. Our favourite weekend get-away spot is Robertson, and Franschhoek is close enough for a day trip. Over the years I have amassed a reasonable collection of wine. Most of it had been shoved into a cupboard for storage and almost all of it in boxes. We had a bar at one stage, but it didn’t really fit into the house, and so we sold it. Finding the right bottle was a nightmare.

On a trip to Knysna one year, we stopped in at one of the wood stores along the N2. As soon as I walked into the store, I fell in love with a Yellowwood slab. It was everything anyone could ever want in a slab of wood. She was lovely. But love is a fickle thing, and I had no sooner set my heart on acquiring her, when I spied her distant cousin, a Blackwood slab. It was love at first site…again. But this time it was to last. I purchased her and made arrangements for her to be shipped back to Cape Town.

The slab is 2.5 meters long, about 600mm wide, on average and about 50mm thick. It is the centre cut with a live edge on both sides. I was informed that the tree was felled about 100 years ago, and the slab has been hanging around since. I don’t know how old the tree was when it was felled, but I am pretty sure it had been around a very long time. I once read that Blackwood trees can take 70 to 100 years to reach that size. The slab was going to be the new top for our bar with wine storage underneath.

The first attempt at cabinetry was a plywood carcass with a built-in wine rack. I built the carcass and hated it. It never made it out the workshop. It became a small workbench instead. The slab meanwhile sat on the lounge floor covered with a couple of towels. One Saturday morning, during a visit to Timbacore for some garden stuff, I came across the biggest pile of Kiaat I have ever seen. Freshly sawn planks, waiting for me to select what I needed for the cabinetry. Thus was born the carcass. And the wine migrated out of the cupboard and into the cabinet, still in boxes though. I had made the carcass big enough to accommodate 4 stand-alone wine racks. I built the first 2, and then sold them. Which wasn’t a problem, because I built another one.  And gave it to my cousin. By this stage I was able to turn out wine racks at will. Eventually I finished the 4 for the cabinet. It has only taken about 5 years, but we finally have a home for most of our wine. I am still to make the doors, and will do so as soon as I have completed a stained glass course I want to attend. I want leaded glass fronts for the doors.

Orders for wine racks have kept coming though. Some of them with good stories to tell. Like the time I built a wine rack for a guy who felt wine was more important than a dishwasher. We built the wine rack to fit into the dishwasher space, or at least that was the plan. I somehow managed to completely misread the dimensions. Instead of fitting into the space with 5mm space on either side, it slid in like a large hand in a medium latex glove. It was touch and go, but it looks perfect.

Tight fit, but looks good!

A work colleague ordered one with a shelf for her gin collection. I had a beautiful piece of Kiaat with rotted bits. After grinding out the rot and wormholes, I was left with beautiful top. I had a live edge I cut from another piece and added it to the top.

6×6 With a shelf on top

Then there was the monster rack. I got a call from a lady who was urgently looking for a wine rack. We worked out the space she had to fill, and I ended up building a 9 x 11 rack. When I delivered it to her house, her story was that she got caught without wine during lockdown. As soon as the booze ban was lifted she ordered a few boxes. By a few she meant well over a hundred bottles, most of which were stacked on the floor. They are now stacked in her wine rack. I hope she has as much fun emptying her rack as I did making it. I was glad she made delivery before the booze ban was reinstated.

That will last a while. Cat not included!

Which brings us to today. We are currently in our second booze ban, with no end in sight. I heard SA has a gazillion litres of wine that were made this year that cannot be sold. I feel for those farmers, wine-makers, farmworkers and their families. I hope that this ends well for them.

As soon as the ban is lifted, I intend doing my part and restocking my stash. In the meantime, I can’t help with wine purchases, but I can help you create a space to store your wine when it arrives.  Give me shout for a custom wine rack or purchase one of my off the shelf variants. They are made as either a 4×4 or 6×6 in the hardwood of your choice. I am considering a smaller 3×3 variant but haven’t had any takers yet. The white oak with a black stain seems to be extremely popular.

I may not be able to solve your wine problem, but I can solve your wine rack problem. Stay safe and look after yourselves. Have a drink for me and bottle or three for our wine industry.

Let There be Light

My love of lamps was inherited from my mother. We grew up in a house filled with lamps. Bedside lamps, table lamps, reading lamps, desk lamps. They were made from wood and brass, and plastic, and steel. The shades were plastic and glass, vinyl and cloth. Any type of lamp you could think of, we had in the house. Of course, me being me, I pretty much disassembled and reassembled every single one of them at one stage or another. Most of the time without my mother knowing.

After I moved out of the house and into my own place, I forgot about lamps. Life was full of adventure and travel, work and marriage. However, nature is strong and it was inevitable that I would return to the lamps.

I built my first lamp in 2016. I was leaving the office one night when I spotted an interesting looking pallet lying outside our neighbor’s warehouse. The pallet had collapsed and was being thrown out. What caught my eye though was the base of the pallet. There were three solid pieces of what looked like rosewood. I stopped the car and loaded them into the back.

Whether they were truly the rosewood species used for making fine furniture or not is a matter of some debate. But they were definitely a hardwood with a feel and texture like rosewood. It also had that beautiful smell rosewood gives off when it is worked. It nearly burnt out my table saw it was so hard to work, but there was enough of it for me to create a free-standing, articulating reading lamp. I unfortunately can only find one pic of that lamp. The piece consisted of three articulating sections and it could be raised or lowered depending on the users preference. The wood perfectly complimented the style of the lamp. It never looked like wood reclaimed from an abandoned pallet.

Articulating Reading Lamp
Articulating reading lamp. I have another three pallet bases. Hmm… Maybe another one of these is on my event horizon.

I was hooked and started looking for my next lamp project. I had a rosewood door frame that had broken in half while the carpenter was installing it. We could not fit it and had to replace it. I had kept the frame and it had moved to Cape Town with us. I had already used parts of to make a set of candy striped occasional tables, and I thought a pair of candy stripe lamps might be a nice accompaniment. I got some white oak and the candy strip lamps were born. My in-laws had just moved to the Cape and mother-in-law took one look at the lamps and immediately lay claim to them.

Candy stripe table Lamp
Candy Stripe Table Lamp made from virgin white oak and rosewood.

I love the feet on this and which were added as a last minute addition. I would like to incorporate this into other designs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My next lamp project was made from some reclaimed oak barrels. I got these from a wine farm in Robertson. They had been abandoned outdoors after the barrels had collapsed. They had spent a lot of time outdoors, and the staves looked beaten and broken. But the amazing thing about oaks is how tough it is. Cleaning off the weathered wood revealed the beauty of the oak beneath, and I quickly assembled five of the staves into a lamp. The curved based taking the shape of the original barrel while the two upper staves reach gracefully upwards and join to hold the lamp. This remains one of my favorite pieces.

Reclaimed Wine Barrel Lamp
The reclaimed wine barrel lamp, proving just how tough oak is.

 

 

 

The base of the lamp follows the gentle curve that the original wine barrel would have had.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My next project was a prototype of a desk lamp. I love articulating joints, and I that seems to be trendy in desk lamps. I recently bought a stack of wood from my late friend’s wife. The family were moving to a new house, and she had to clear his old workshop. He was a shipwright and a master woodworker. He had loads of bits and pieces of scrap and odds and ends that he had squirreled away over the years. In among the pile was some Oregon pine. It was perfect for what I had in mind. It was just supposed to be a prototype, but the wood worked beautifully. It practically assembled itself, and the result is a beautiful modern articulating desk lamp. I will be making more of these from various woods that I have in the workshop.

Articulating Desk Lamp
Articulating Desk Lamp. These are for sale on my website, and are extremely popular.

I believe that everything has a story. I think that the standing lamp worked because the wood had been abandoned and was given the opportunity to show how beautiful it was.  The barrel lamp was testimony to how graceful oak trees are, but how tough, long lasting and versatile the wood is. The articulating desk lamp captured the spirit of my late friend. He was easy going, friendly and respected by everyone who knew him. He was deeply loved by his family and friends, and I still look back fondly on the many evenings we spent sipping brandy and sharing stories. He always had a good story to tell. That lamp captures his spirit.

But perhaps my favorite story about lamps takes me back to mother. When I first started working, I worked a late-night shift and would travel home in the early hours of the morning. I was still living with my parents. I would come home at two am and go into my parent’s bedroom, where my mother would leave her favorite tiffany lamp burning. They would be asleep and I would turn the light off. If my mother woke up during the night she would know I was home safe and sound if the light was off, and contently go back to sleep. I always think of her and that story whenever I make a lamp.

The articulating desk lamps are for sale in various wood species. Prices range for R540.00 to R750.00 depending on the type of wood. The sample shown here is R540.00 including the fancy light bulb.