Bad-assed woodworking
September 20, 2010 5:46 PM   Subscribe

YouTube video (15:45) description says: "Mike Jarvi badassedly constructs his signature one-piece, the Jarvi Bench." Really?   r e a l l y .   More of Mike's badass work at mikejarvi.com.
posted by spock (26 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
15 minutes ago, I said "Oh, I'm not watching this for 15 minutes". Wrong! There's someone who loves his job, I reckon'.
posted by Lukenlogs at 6:05 PM on September 20, 2010


Late in the video there's an aerial shot of the whole workshop. I was really struck by the contrast between this -- an open space with comparatively few tools -- and the tool collector's workshop featured in a FPP a week or so ago, with it's claustrophobic aisles and no place to do serious work because of the excess of tools.

This was really neat to watch; I could watch videos like this all day long. Thanks.
posted by Forktine at 6:06 PM on September 20, 2010


Well that was surprisingly badass.
posted by ghharr at 6:13 PM on September 20, 2010


Aha! Now I know the secret! All I'll need is about twenty years' worth of woodworking experience, an infinite amount of patience, a workshop full of tools, a forklift, some trees, and I'll be rich! Oh, and a cat. The cat seems to be integral to the whole process.
posted by MrVisible at 6:28 PM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


My father was a woodworker when I was growing up. Two things struck me while watching this video.

First, I'm so glad that he's put the whole process up because people tend to drastically underestimate how long something takes to make. I can't count the number of times I heard someone scoff at the prices in our workshop because they could make that over the weekend. My dad, good-natured man that he is, always responded, "Man, if you can do that, I'd sure like to know how!" Showing that this takes two full days, wait a week, another day, wait a month, another day gives people some idea of how intense it is.

Second, it breaks my heart, because it's so much more intense than the video shows. What this doesn't capture is how hard all of that is on his body. The vibration from those tools wreaked amazing havoc on my pop's body. Those little hand sanders are powerful and vibrate amazingly. The nerve damage can't be conveyed from watching the video, partially because he controls them so well. Eventually, he won't be able to hold the coffee mug anymore because his hands will shake so badly. This didn't happen to my dad, but that's because he watched it happen to half a dozen of his friends and quit. He's got a semi-permanent cough from the sawdust, though. Even with the crazy extractor pipe built into the floor, so much of it gets air born.

This work is hard on the body. In some ways, it is harder on the body now that we've got power tools. Sure, they speed up the process incredibly, but at the cost of nerve damage. On the one hand, you've got to charge so much that you can't make a living and on the other, someday you can't hold a coffee mug.

On the whole, even knowing how damaging to his health it was, I watch this video and miss my days growing up in the shop. The smell of wood and steam is intoxicating. The meditation of leveling and sanding and smoothing. Watching lacquer dry. Seeing hunks of wood turn into something special. The whole thing is magical to be a part of. Our jobs will kill us eventually. Maybe it's better to die having created something beautiful like that than die from sitting down all day. Both those men are a hundred times fitter than I am and decades my senior.
posted by stoneweaver at 6:41 PM on September 20, 2010 [33 favorites]


That was inspiring. I didn't expect I'd sit through the entire thing, but here I am.
posted by flippant at 6:44 PM on September 20, 2010


That was amazing. I've always loved seeing shop-made jigs in action. The setup he had for cutting the diagonals was my favorite- it's simplicity belies its cleverness.
posted by Uncle Ira at 6:45 PM on September 20, 2010


First, I'm so glad that he's put the whole process up because people tend to drastically underestimate how long something takes to make. I can't count the number of times I heard someone scoff at the prices in our workshop because they could make that over the weekend.

My sister tried to make a go as a woodworker, but couldn't get enough to justify the amount of time even a simple object like a fireplace bellows took. It's a shame, she did very nice work and had access to a lot of very beautiful koa.

I keep suggesting she just crank out some skateboard decks, but she's too busy as a civil engineer now.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 6:48 PM on September 20, 2010


Awesome, thanks for posting!
posted by maxwelton at 7:04 PM on September 20, 2010


stoneweaver: Good points all.

It is a revelation to many that work can be done without the "tailed demons" and the sacrificing of electrons. Those who would like to learn how to use the "old school" tools should check out "The Porch" (AKA the oldtools listserv. (FAQ here). I gotta warn you though, it is a slippery slope! (For example, I'm dealing right now on a pair of wooden match planes, made in 1832, that I plan on using to make tongue and groove joints for my first grandchild's receiving cradle). Get hooked on old-fashioned hand tools and I guarantee you'll save on hearing aid batteries, down the road!
posted by spock at 7:11 PM on September 20, 2010


Finally got around to watching the video...warning: it doesn't seem at all like 15 minutes. That bench is a very sweet piece of design, cut and bent out of one plank. Very nicely proportioned.

Looks like Jarvi is a devotee of steam-bending, from the other items that were visible at the end of the video.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 7:52 PM on September 20, 2010


Fascinating, thanks, spock.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:14 PM on September 20, 2010


Looking at this from the opposite of forktine's perspective, I couldn't decide which I envied more - the size of his shop or his bandsaw mill. If I hadn't spent the weekend ripping a plank out of an elm log with a chain saw (about the size of the piece he starts with, come to think of it), it would definitely be the workshop space.

It's not my ears spock, it's my lungs. Looking at all the dust that the angle grinder was kicking up made me love my Lie Nielsen 112 scraper all the more (no matter how effing expensive it was). The fact that getting joiner chatter out of a board with the scraper is usually faster than with the sander is just a fringe benefit.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:28 PM on September 20, 2010


MrVisible: "Aha! Now I know the secret! All I'll need is about twenty years' worth of woodworking experience, an infinite amount of patience, a workshop full of tools, a forklift, some trees, and I'll be rich! Oh, and a cat. The cat seems to be integral to the whole process."

The cat may be integral, but the coffee is indispensable.
posted by introp at 8:29 PM on September 20, 2010


spock- most definitely it can be done without the tools. I have a lovely four foot harp that we made completely by hand. It also took two weeks of eight hour days. I couldn't charge enough to make half of living wage if I made and sold them like that.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:31 PM on September 20, 2010


Watching this fantastic video just reinforces the truth that I am such. a. wuss. Just sitting' here at my keyboard. Ow, I got a papercut!
posted by twsf at 10:00 PM on September 20, 2010


Thanks.

I've had a harder and harder time, progressively each year as I grow older, figuring out what kind of things to tell my loved ones I want as gifts (mom always asks as December rolls around, I always say I don't need anything, she is always deflated).

Typically, I already have way too many things. Too much stuff. So I don't necessarily want or need a Jarvi Bench this Christmas. But this provides a nice insight into the kind of quality workmanship I really appreciate being put into the things in my life (be they benches or shoes or vehicles or what-have-you). For the few things that I do decide to surround myself with, I want to look at them, and pause and appreciate what went into making them what they are.

Mom is probably still going to get the list of 3-4 books I've noted that I want to get but haven't bothered to order yet, come December, but this will be nice to share with her all the same.

After watching this I suddenly feel lightened of the need to ever visit an Ikea again, ever.
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:35 PM on September 20, 2010


I intended to watch a minute or so of the video, just to get a taste for it, and ended up watching the whole dang thing. With no sound, because Mr. SLC is sleeping. Is there sound?

This was mesmerizing.
posted by SLC Mom at 10:54 PM on September 20, 2010


SLC Mom - the sound is just some irrelevant, indy music.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:16 PM on September 20, 2010


allkindsoftime: After watching this I suddenly feel lightened of the need to ever visit an Ikea again, ever.

As I was watching this, I suddenly realized that Ikea could make a single piece of composite particle board that you add water to, bend, and place in slots all by yourself. They could call it the Jaarvi.

And that would be a very bad idea.
posted by hanoixan at 11:45 PM on September 20, 2010


That was just stunning. Thanks.

Also, in the gallery, I love the fact that he seems to have two quite separate approaches. On the one hand, there's pieces with intensively worked geometric forms, but on the other hand he's got a whole lot of stuff that just lets the natural forms of the wood do the talking.

Not just badass, but truly flexible badass.
posted by Ahab at 5:26 AM on September 21, 2010


While the subject matter is certainly compelling, I think it is worth noting that the video production itself is a great aid in pulling the viewer through. Guessing from the final musical selection that pineappleboyfilms is Mike Jarvi's son(?) Jake who is quite a talent himself. Props to the filmmaker.
posted by spock at 5:34 AM on September 21, 2010


What is really impressive is the jigs, templates, spacers and measurement notes written on various things. It might take a month for him to make a bench, but it probably took years to make the process.
posted by I'm Doing the Dishes at 5:35 AM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Very nice. I was hoping to see how he makes one of those tree-stump chairs. Lots of time with an adze, maybe.
posted by echo target at 7:02 AM on September 21, 2010


If his tree stump chairs are anything like my family's tree stump chairs - chainsaw out the rough shape of the seat, then chisel out a closer model and then use a sander to finish.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:47 AM on September 21, 2010


I found it hard to be as blown away as some of the other posters by this video, having watched my grandfather do very similar work "na kolenke" (lit. "on his knee", that is, with very minimal tooling). Granted, as some of the previous posters pointed out, in some cases high-quality manual tools outperform the modern equivalents, and with a lot less risk of carpal tunnel.

Russia has had a very strong woodworking culture for centuries (see, for example, the 300-year old wooden churches at Kizhi Pogost, built without nails) which has carried over somewhat into the 20th century, but it's mostly gone to shit now. I really hope the trend of appreciation for traditional crafts in the fashion and design communities picks up over there, as well, so some of the skills can be saved without adopting an air of heavy-handed nationalism (which is the only way I can see it being framed in the present climate).
posted by parkan at 9:04 PM on September 21, 2010


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