My once in a lifetime afternoon in the shop of Sam Maloof.

A few weeks ago, when I was in LA,  I snuck out of work one day and drove down to take a tour of the Sam Maloof house.

I was very excited to be in California and to have the opportunity to go down and tour the house.  I read up on the tour and it occurred to me that they mentioned nothing about the workshop.  Hmmm.  So I decided to email them and see what the deal was.  I explained that I was a woodworker from NY and was very interested in taking a peak at the shop.  I quickly received an email back from Kiristine who runs the tours at the Maloof house.  She pointed out that there was one day a month where woodworkers could come for a day and get a tour of the shop.  I explained that while I was still going to be in LA for the next opportunity, I was going to be working that day.  To my amazement she emailed me back and said one of “the boys”,  Larry, would be around that day and could show me the shop.  How awesome is that?

I arrived and for the first tour at noon.  I met Kristine and she told me to come find her after the tour ended.  The grounds are pretty are amazing by themselves, but the tour of the house is really something else.  You really get to walk around a true artist’s space. Nothing over the top or pretentious, just the setting of a very talented artist, with a keen attention to detail.  It’s a pretty magical place. 

After the tour Kristine took me back to meet Larry.  

For those of you who don’t know Larry and John, affectionally known as “the boys” were the workhorses of the Maloof shop. They received the rough pieces from Sam and put all the finishing touches on them from shaping to sanding to finishing.  Every piece went from Sam to the ‘boys’.  While Sam was the visionary, the ‘boys’ were the craftsman. Together they created the most amazing American furniture at an outstanding rate.

Larry White met us at the door with welcome arms.  He first showed me his space where he has begun to set up shop, he told me he recently retired from the shop, but that he was planning to use this space for his own work.  He then took me into the shop.  The shop where Sam and the boys had create decades worth of furniture.  The shop isn’t huge or glamorous, or particularly tidy.  It’s a working shop.  But it’s not the shop that’s special, its the wood and the history.  As we walked around Larry was kind enough to reminisce, telling me wonderful stories, as pieces in the shop would jar a memory.  He’d stop and investigate a template on a table, still curious about what was being built.  Great fun figuring out together what the other boys were creating.  And the templates!!!  Every piece has a template that hangs around the walls of the shop, all dated and labeled (in Sam’s writing) for the piece of furniture, as well as the particular part.  What a unique thing, to have the original templates.  Even after Sam’s passing, his legacy continues and grows as orders are still being filled.  Few crafts offer that ability.

It’s hard for me to articulate the joy I got from my time Larry spent with me.  Just being in Sam Maloof’s shop was an incredible experience, but to have someone like Larry take so much time to just share his time and stories with an aspiring woodworker such as myself is, well, humbling.

I had driven down from Hollywood where I spend my days working with the ‘hottest celebrities’ and most notable people in show business, and all I wanted to do was stay with Larry and learn more about the superstar Sam Maloof.

Woodworkers are the kindest folks.

No pictures at the house *From Larry's site

Thank You Larry!

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Wake up!! It’s Just a Dream Shop!!

Well it might be a dream, but I’ve certainly put a lot of thought into it!  I really think I am on to something.

Shop Inspiration 1

Let’s start with the exterior:

Barn Exterior 1

This is the view as you drive up the driveway. Below is a two car garage and a shed for outdoor tools

Barn Exterior 2

From the driveway you can drive up to a sliding barn door for easy unloading.

Barn Exterior 3

The side facing our house. These double doors would be the main entrance.

Barn Exterior 4

Shop Inspiration 2

Now let’s go inside……

Barn Shop 1

The overall space

The Breakdown

The Breakdown

The Breakdown:

  1. The Office Space–Complete with drafting table and a roll top oak desk.
  2. The Finishing Room–I really wanted to create a separate dust free room for finishing, complete with slop sink
  3. Stairs to Loft–over the office and finishing space I put a storage loft with easy access
  4. Floor Access to basement–This floor board would be pulled up a pully and allow access to the lower level.  I did not want to wast space with a door and full stairwell.
  5. Router Table
  6. Woodstove— I would most likely add another form of heat, just to keep the temperature above freezing, but, much like our house I would primarily use a woodstove while working in the winter, when we tend to be in the teens.
  7. Clamp Storage— I show a rolling clamp rack, but the space under the stairs seems like the perfect place to store clamps.
  8. Drill Press –I would definitely like to someday graduate to PM2800.
  9. Sharpening Station
  10. Hand Tool Area— I designed a dormer into the roof line of the saltbox style room in order to accommodate a window in front of which my bench could sit.  There is not as much natural light as I would like, but this is a place I would find it quite important and well, just a pleasing place to work.  These windows face the road, but given the height and the slope, the view will only be trees and the morning sun.  I also really like the idea of having a nook exclusively for hand tools.
  11. Hand Tool Cabinet
  12. Saw Stop 3HP-– On the other side of the spectrum and in the center of the work area would be my Saw Stop cabinet saw.
  13. Outfield table–no more flimsy Rigid stand!
  14. Assembly Table
  15. 16-32 Drum Sander — would be a nice addition
  16. Oscillating Spindal Sander— I own the rigid orange one now, perhaps an upgrade.
  17. Lathe— I own a Jet 12-36
  18. Jointer—  I own a Powermatic 8″ Jointer, 2HP with helical head
  19. Planer—  I own a Dewalt 735 Lunch box.  It would be nice to upgrade to a Powermatic.
  20. Chop Saw— Definitely an upgrade.  Still use one of the 1st tools I bought: a Ryobi Chop saw–Chop being the operable word (but it works!).  I’d love a Festool Kapex Compound Miter Saw.
  21. Antique Band Saw—   On a surprise visit to a neighbor (who had found our cat) we were invited in to see their shop, complete with the most amazing and interesting collection of power tools.  The stand out in their shop was a beautiful antique band saw.  My wife was kind enough to say “you’ll own that some day”.
  22. Powermatic 13″ Band Saw— Which I presently own.
  23. Mortiser–I own a Delta which has served me well.  If I used it more I’d be inclined to move up to a Powermatic.
  24. Large overhead factory lamps–always a favorite of mine.  We installed 12 in our cheese shop and the provide plenty of light.  I would never use fluorescent lamps.  To me woodworking is the the most romantic activities I can think of and this lighting designer loves the warm glow of an incandescent bulb.
  25. Sliding Barn Doors— on the driveway side for loading and unloading.
  26. Double Doors–Main Entrance.
  27. Basement–Storage and large cyclone dust collector system.
  28. Two Car Garage
  29. Wood Storage under eaves—  Not shown in the ground plan or model is the large amount of storage space under the eaves–I planned this for wood storage.
  30. and of course–ME

Barn Shop 1

Barn Shop 2 Barn Shop 3 Barn Shop 4 Barn Shop 5 Barn Shop 6

Finishing Rooom

Finishing Rooom

 

Barn Shop 8 Barn Shop 9 Barn Shop 10

 

The one thing I guess I’ve left out of the dream is that I really want to build it myself.  I was scheduled to take a timber framing course this fall, but schedule wise that just wasn’t in the cards.  No worries.  I have years before I will need those skills.  In the meantime I can perfect my timber framing, sketchup skills.

A Guy Can Dream Can’t He?

The weather in the northeast and much of the entire United States has been unreasonably cold over this winter.  I have several small electric heaters in my tiny basement shop, and finally found the motivation to finally rewire a 220 heater I had and now I can get it quite toasty in there.  But that was nearly all the work I got done in the shop the past few weeks, outside of a good cleaning and assembling some Christmas goodies.

So I decided to stay in by the wood stove, work on my sketch up skills and design my Dream Shop!

We have talked about building a barn on the property for almost as long as we’ve owned the house.  In fact, when we were looking for houses, we really were looking for barns that could be converted into a home (thank god we did not do that!).  We own 10 wooded acres, we’ve attempt mini-farming and a barn only seems natural.  Thankfully my wife has always been on board that this barn would also be my wood shop.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been obsessed with barns and timber frames.  Being from New England we’ve had our fair share of amazing barns dotting the countryside. There is something so incredible about these structures.  Although built primarily to house livestock, feed and farm tools these buildings have come to represent so much more than that.  When you stop and think about went into building a barn, entirely hand built by a community, with engineering skills past on from generation to generation.  Then think about the amount of trees that needed to be forested and moved, to the milling and joinery, to the actual raising.  Each and every structure is an amazing feat.  I could go on and on about barns…..in any case what better place to create a shop than within a timber frame barn?

I’ve gone over and over in my head what the best design for a barn/shop would be.  Our property is on a hill– so a bank barn certainly seemed to make the most sense.  I knew approximately the size shop I would want and that I wanted room for a 2-3 car garage, something we do not have right now. I also want to keep the size in scale with our house and the property.  This helped dictate many things and I started pulling together research of barns that would fit the bill.

Barn Research

Barn Research

I say all of this as if I only started thinking about this idea few weeks ago, but the truth is I’ve dreamed about this for years. I love my little shop, but it is incredibly ‘cozy’.  I’d love to be able to spread out and work on larger projects someday.

I drive by barns, sometimes stopping to snap some pics, and try to imagine how that would look on our property and if that would fit our needs.  I’ve sketched out tons of ideas, but it was not until recently that I studied a barn that I drive by constantly and is about a mile and a half from my house.

BarnUndermyNoseThis barn really seems to fit the bill!……….

I’d love to hear about your Dream Shop, leave a comment below.

Stay warm and stay tuned for more on my Dream Shop!