Harbor Chair

 

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I grew up sailing on Lake Huron with my family.  We’d head out on one of the wooden sailboats my dad built and hang around the harbor.  Sometimes we’d head out to the lighthouse on the edge of the breakwall or venture beyond the harbor, but mostly we’d feel the wind and the waves and enjoy each other’s company.  It was a simple pleasure.  I miss it tremendously.

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I’ve wanted to design a chair with a rope weave for a while now.  As with the entire Phloem line, this chair remains as lean as possible, almost primitive in form.  The legs are turned on a lathe and the stretchers are connected with floating tenons.  The backrest is a simple, but comfortable tube shaped by a router, rasps, and sanding.  We used a modern rope similar to lines on sailing ships that will barely stretch over years of use.

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My father, Ron Klebba developed the prototypes and built the first batch out of white oak and walnut from my sketches and our talks.  It’s been amazing working with dad these past few years.  His expertise and support has been invaluable.

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We’ll be showing the Harbor Chair at two events in October –

Show PDX — a biennial furniture design competition here in Portland, Oregon on display for the whole month.  There will also be a retrospective show at the Museum Of Contemporary Craft showcasing pieces from past shows.

West Edge Design Fair – happening in Santa Monica, California October 16th through 19th.  We’ll be a part of Super PAC — a group of designers and artists curated by Design Milk in booth 201.

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The Harbor Chair is available in domestic hardwoods and grey, black, or navy rope.  Please contact me directly for pricing.

ben@phloemstudio.com

 

 

 

 

 

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The Jess Side Chair

jessontableIt’s been a great summer in the midst of a very busy year.  We’ve had more new clients this year than any before it.  We’ve had the opportunity to collaborate on some great large scale architectural work. And Phloem showed at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in NYC for the second time back in May.

If you’re in San Francisco, we’ll be showing for the first time at the American Craft Council Show at the Fort Mason Center August 8th through 10th, booth 524.  I’ll be there with pieces from our line, including our recent Jess Side Chair.  I hope to see you there.

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The Jess Side Chair is named after my sister, Jessica Klebba.  The seat gracefully cantilevers over its front legs, each limb tapering slightly outwards.  The back is made of solid wood laminations glued up in a curved form.  The stretcher is turned on a lathe, it’s slight arc echoing the curve of the carved seat and the back.  It is appropriate for long meals at a table or studying at a desk.  She’s small, but mighty.

Available in domestic hardwoods.  Contact me directly at ben@phloemstudio.com for pricing options and lead times.

 

 

 

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Huron Bed


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The Huron Bed is a contemporary portrait of a traditional spindle bed.  It marries the tapered long gentle slopes of the spindles to an angular frame.

It is available in domestic hardwoods in full, queen, or king sizes.  Shown above in rift sawn white oak.

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Spindle, spindle, spindle, spindle.

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You can see more of the Huron Bed here.  Shown above in cherry with the Elaine Four Drawer.

Contact ben@phloemstudio.com for pricing and options.

 

Swing low the rumble of a hundred ribbons tied to clouds, the smooth grace of memories roll and wake and roar to life again.  Rely on wind, your sail, and sleep.

 

 

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Building The Prospector Canoe, Part 3

 

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Hello, dear reader.  It has been a looooong time since last I spoke of any progress on our canoe.  I initially decided to build a canoe so I would spend more of my free time out on mountain lakes fishing, camping, and exploring.   I’ve been swamped with work and free time has been in short supply.  I get to it when I can but am encouraged when other boat builders tell me it took them years to finish boats.  My hull has been hanging from the ceiling for almost two years now…

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You can see how we got to this point here and here.

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Once the hull was stripped it was time to clean the glue squeeze out and fair the hull.  I spent many hours with my dad (shown here) and other helpful hands sanding.

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So much dust.

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hullfillAfter the squeeze out has been sanded back it’s time to fill and voids between the strips with epoxy and dust and fairing compound.

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After the sanding and the filler, we needed another round of filler here and there, but ended up with this.  Smooth satisfaction.

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I decided to put a keel on my canoe.  I’ve heard it helps the canoe track more straight in the water, which can be a great thing in windy waters.  The keel will go the length of the boat, from one stem into the next.  This requires a 14 to 15 foot board…  OR you can make a scarf joint.  I opted for the scarf joint.  Our boat’s keel is ash.

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Scarf joint glue up.

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We cut the stems to accept the keel.

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Then fit the ends of the keel.

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The keel is then attached from the inside of the boat with screws.

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This was the boat the night before we moved on to fiberglassing the hull.  I was really nervous about fiberglassing and epoxying the hull.  It was something I had never done before, but I had dad on my team and he’s done it quite a few times.

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This is the boat in it’s fiberglass ghost costume with Lucy the Wonderdog, faithful springer spaniel companion to my parents.  Unfortunately since this picture, Lucy has passed away.  Lucy was a rad dog.  She could jump pretty much straight up and was always in good spirits.  Rest in peace, Lucy.  You were a damn good dog.

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Fiberglass followed by brushing on the first heaping coat of epoxy…  the weave and the wood just soaks it up.  We’re trying to get the weave to sit flat on the wood.  You don’t want to lift it with the brush…  and it starts slowly curing…

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Next, you squeegee the epoxy.  I had a hard time getting my technique down, but dad was a champion.  You wet out the weave then time it about 10 to 20 minutes to come back and squeegee off the excess.

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When you get to the end of the canoe, you sort of pull the fiberglass tight past the stem, trim it, and let it soak into the wood.  If you didn’t cut it, it would fold over strange and be very weird and hard to remove later.

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My mom is taking pictures and stirring batches of epoxy.  It really helps to have a third person help you with timing the epoxy curing and making fresh batches.  This is a pretty great shot, eh?  Nice job, mom.

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This is what it looked like after the first coat.  You can see the weave through the wet epoxy.  That’s AOK.  The next couple of coats will fill that in.

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The cedar really shows itself off with the wet epoxy on it.

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After that first coat, we re-attached the keel.  It’s best to apply all three coats of epoxy in one day, otherwise you have to sand back the epoxy after each coat has cured, making the process take days and days.  If you apply all three coats in one day, you have to wait just long enough that the epoxy is starting to cure, but not too much…  you will be able to touch it but it will be kind of tacky.  We had to wait about four hours before we could apply the second coat.  We had a few beers in those four hours…

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Coat two we rolled on and brushed on.

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As I said earlier, we had beers…  so I don’t have the best selection of pics for the other two coats of epoxy, but honestly it’s more of the same and would make for a rather boring blog entry.  You get the idea.

trimming epoxy

After the epoxy had cured for two weeks, I trimmed the weave that was hanging below the full.  And then I began sanding with a random orbital sander hooked up to a vacuum.  Epoxy dust is some seriously gnarly stuff.  Don’t breath it in.  Use a vacuum.  Wear a respirator.  For real.

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Contrast.

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After many hours sanding, the glossy, rippled cured epoxy was sooo smooth.

sanded This will be our future canoe.  I don’t know how many hours are into it, nor do I know how many more there are to go.  I do know that I’m on my way down the hill now.  In the next post, we’ll flip it and sand the inside.  Be patient, dear reader.

 

 

 

 

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A Family Table

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I am fortunate enough to be able to design and build furniture for a living.  The pieces I create will last beyond our lifetime and undoubtedly be handed down to future generations.  It can be a very humbling profession.  I recently had the pleasure of building a dining room table for a young family.  The couple had just welcomed their first child.  One day, this table will belong to their son.

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The couple wanted a table that could handle their daily hustle and cycle as a small family and extend to accommodate larger gatherings.  They wanted a design that was sturdy and timeless.  Originally from Vermont, they decided on a curly maple top (a classic Northeastern wood) with contrasting walnut legs, all locally sourced here in the Northwest.  I sketched up a table with tapered, angled legs and a top that had a gentle bevel on the underside edge.   The curly maple we used has some of the most surreal grain I have ever worked with — maple from the west coast has tremendous amounts of color.  It was overall creamy white, but had massive streaks of orange and pink, with small streaks of brown, black, and hints of green.  There were shimmers from the undulating grain curling and quilting through all of the boards.  It was absolutely gorgeous.

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Dining room tables become the center of family life.  It’s where we gather our nourishment, plan our future, and recollect what the day has offered.  I remember growing up around a table my dad built.  I would eat oatmeal in the morning at the table before rushing off to school.  At dinner, we would share our experiences from throughout our day, tiny or triumphant.   It was where my sister and I would do school work, where I liked sitting with my back to the window, where my mom would put fresh baked goods out, and where we had family and friends over to enjoy each other’s company.  It would become cluttered and cleared at regular intervals throughout the weeks.  It gained some scratches and wear, a history of our time together. Next to the kitchen, it was the heartbeat of the house.

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To build a family a table that will be with them from the beginning of their journey is a pretty awesome thing.

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Shaped Pulls

 

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 This custom twelve drawer walnut dresser had quite a few pulls.  We outfit the drawers to our Meredith Cases with leather tabs or solid wood pulls that are turned and shaped on a lathe.  My dad and I spent quite a while perfecting the solid wood design.

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Here are some of our attempts.  We started with a traditional knob that was turned on the lathe.  While I like keeping things simple, I also really like objects that feel natural to hold.

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I remembered back to some threaded knobs dad had made for music stands and plant stands from my childhood.

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These knobs had a place for both your finger and your thumb to hold onto.

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With this as our reference, we came up with a way to arc a radius for a thumb at the top of the pull.  At first we mimicked that on the bottom of the knob.  Not content with making the pull symmetrical, we ground another radius perpendicular to the thumb radius to make a home for an index finger on the underside of the pull.

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The solid wood pulls on the Meredith Cases are unique in shape, but familiar in your hand.

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The Peninsula Chair

Phloem is exhibiting for the first time at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York City this May 18th through the 21st.  I’ll be in Booth 1370 with some brand new furniture debuting at the show.

The Peninsula Chair is one of those new pieces debuting at ICFF.  It’s a leather sling chair I designed with help from Matt Pierce of Wood & Faulk.  Matt and I are studio mates and we’ve been talking about designing a leather sling chair for a while now.  It was inspired by a sling chair from 1964 by Jerry Johnson.  Alex Olavarria of Quimby TV documented the entire process – from the initial design phase, through prototyping, and into building the first batch of chairs.  You can watch this little video he made below.

 

The Peninsula Chair is a lounge chair composed of a leather sling attached to a solid wood frame with simple brass rods.   The profile limbs come together tightly towards the center, giving it added strength and a nice visual weight, with each limb spiraling and tapering outwards.  The Peninsula slings are easily interchangeable by removing the rods, and the entire chair comes apart with 8 oval head brass machine screws.  I grew up in Michigan, a state surrounded by water.  The name is fitting for a chair that is simple, honest, and distinct.  It is a chair for lounging in refined, relaxed form.  The Peninsula Chair is currently available in domestic hardwoods or ebonized ash, with heavy leather sling options in earth tones or black.

Please contact me directly with inquiries

Benjamin Klebba – ben@phloemstudio.com

This website will be completely new on Friday, May 17th, 2013.  We’ve been working very hard over the past year or so creating a pair of new lines — the Arris Collection and the Meredith Cases.  I can’t wait to show them to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Adventures in Sofaland with Leland Duck

 

This sharp shooter in the funny hat is Leland Duck, owner and operator of Revive Upholstery & Design.  We work together.  Any Phloem piece you’ve seen or sat in that has upholstery was upholstered by Revive.  Our shop spaces are just across the wall from each other in the Beam & Anchor building, so collaboration is easy.  It helps that Leland is a nice guy as well.  There will soon be quite a few new pieces on the Phloem website that Leland has been involved in.  We’ve got those pieces dialed.

A while back in 2012, we made a pair of sofas…  one for me and one for my sis.  This was a “side project”, in the midst of a very busy year.  Leland has upholstered plenty for Phloem, but I was itching to design a sofa.  My sis needed a new one, I needed a new one, so it seemed like an easy way to experiment.  Sometimes things take longer than you think…

I started with a drawing, then we talked at length on how we would execute.  I then made a simple plywood frame.  Leland has torn apart countless vintage sofas and chairs to redo them, but working from the ground up with a new design was a little fresh.  We stuck to what we thought we knew and found out plenty along the way.

Large arms were essential to me.  You can casually sit on this arm or set a tumbler glass on it without fear of it falling over.

We adjusted the spring tension in the seat twice to get the right touch.  And in the process, Leland found that he would never, ever buy the individual noodle roll type again.  It’s no fun untangling the mess, cutting them, then pulling each one tight by hand.  And if you should slip and let go, make sure to jump out of the way.  They’re fast.  And painful.

THAT is the face of an unsatisfied sofa mock up participant.  There is no magic “back angle” that I know of.  I’ve done plenty of different chairs with different angles.  And a sofa was no exception.  I adjusted the angle three times.  We planted all sorts of bodies in that frame with various different foam densities, springs at different tensions, and plywood behind existing cushions.  It was essential to get it right.

After plenty of trial and error, we DID get it right.  Eventually we opted for a back angle that was further back than either of us anticipated, while still supportive.  We replaced the springs in the back with plywood behind the foam for firmness.  This felt really comfortable.

When it was finally comfortable, it was time for fabric.

This finished sofa has buttons along the back for a nice detail.  There is stitching at every angle, which adds a very nice subtle touch.  The legs are walnut — turned on the lathe, tapering to the inside, and parallel with the vertical sides of the arm on the outside corners.

Would we do things differently next time?  For sure.  Were we happy with the final product?  For sure.  It’s absolutely fine to make mistakes.  As long as you learn from them.  You don’t just push a button and out comes the perfect sofa.  Or the nicest chair.  Or whatever.  Designing, building, and creating always should involve refining.  Processes evolve.  People change.  Your relationship to your craft matures.   We’ve got a sofa commission coming up soon and I can’t wait to do it better next time.  And learn from that experience as well.

We continue to geek out on frame construction on everything Leland pulls apart…  there are always fresh surprises.  But with building from the ground up, we learned a whole lot about what not to do AND how to improve upon it the next time.  We discovered back angles that worked, we discussed the merits of webbing a seat over using springs, we rationalized a plywood back, we found no need to have the arms bolt on after the upholstering, I’ve since designed a base that looks more unique and refined.  It is always ever onward and learning from those experiences.

 

 

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Ping Pong!

Recently, I got a strange, but awesome custom commission.  The Swift Collective is a digital creative agency here in Portland.  You can see what they do here.  They moved into a new space and were in the process of outfitting a game room.  They put in a small indoor archery range.  You read that correctly.  Recurve bows rule.  And they wanted a custom ping pong table.

Yep.  A ping pong table.

This was a FUN project.  Their office is in a brick warehouse space with nice exposed wood truss rafters.  I’m a pretty huge fan of bridge trusses and angles, so that was my inspiration.  For this project the Swift Collective decided to go with powder coated gloss black steel. We went with 1″ x 2″ rectangular steel tubing for the entire base, cut at sharp compound miters, angled together to form “X’s”.  Drew Gaston from Dyadic IronWorks fabricated the base.  The top is European plywood painted slate gray with chalk board/ping pong table paint, so that balls bounce appropriately, and you can write your score with chalk on the table.  There’s a gloss black centerline painted down the middle.  The net is perforated steel.  All of this rests on locking castor wheels so it can roll out of the way.

2012 has been an amazing year for Phloem.  To end it with a ping pong table seemed entirely appropriate.

May 2013 bring you joy and peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Accessory Dwelling Unit Collaboration — Fall 2012

Over the summer and into the fall, Phloem Studio and Earthbound Industries got a chance to collaborate on another job with PATH Architecture.  (You can see photos of an earlier job we did together here.)  This time out, we worked with Jeff Vincent on the interior of an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) for a family not far from Laurelhurst Park here in Portland.  The structure is very simple, with a garage below and a studio/guesthouse space above, accessible by an exterior staircase in the back of the building.  The ADU has floor to ceiling windows on the south and east walls, overlooking the tree canopy of the backyard.  Jeff used the pitch of the roof along the west wall to maximum effect, designing a sofa that transforms into a bed and a dining table that slides underneath a desk surface.  The whole room feels like a magical, modern treehouse.

It was a pleasure to work on such a unique project.

This is what it looked like inside when we took field measurements before building anything.  If you look closely, you’ll see black steel brackets coming out of that wall that will eventually carry the weight of some pretty long floating shelves.

This is after the drywall, while the ceiling is going in.  The entire ceiling is rift sawn white oak flooring, to mirror the floor and match the cabinets and furniture.

It took a very large pile of rift sawn white oak to make all the counters, cabinets and furniture in the space.

Very large oak glue ups were a common sight in the shop for a while.  They were not light.

Here is our pile on the first day of install.  That low wall with exposed studs will soon transform…

Piece by piece we added cabinets, panels and counters.

After we finished installing the majority of the cabinets and the counters, it was back to the shop to finish the stools, table, sofa and some other odds and ends.

Here are a pile of the back legs to the stools…

We were all really into these solid wood cubbies that stored above the flat file cabinet.  Here they are, right before they had finish sprayed on them.  Notice the grain match on the front faces.

Here are the stools hanging out in the finishing room…

And we’re back to the ADU.

It was really cool how Jeff took advantage of the roof pitch — it was a very smart design.  The whole west wall has cabinets running along it that are deeper than average. The desk has room for a full size dining room table and stools to slide under.

Table and stools out from under the desk in the open room.

A very unique custom piece was this built-in sofa.  Leland Duck of Revive Upholstery  (another business in the Beam & Anchor building) did the upholstery.  It also takes advantage of the depth allowed from the pitch of the roof.

As you can see Bren (from Earthbound) demonstrate — the back cushions come off, and an upholstered door opens up to store away those cushions.  It’s also where bedding can be kept when the sofa bed is just a sofa.

The sofa pulls out, revealing itself to actually be a full size bed.

The sofa bed ready for sleeping and dreaming.

The roof pitch also allows for the very deep drawers of this flat file cabinet.  Notice those solid wood cubbies up top that pull out to house art and office supplies.  I wish I had this cabinet!

All the cabinets have these really nice custom made bead-blasted steel handles.

Here is the kitchenette with those two floating shelves and the east wall full of floor to ceiling windows.

The bathroom is on the other side of the kitchenette wall with this small vanity and floating shelf.

In the backyard there is a custom hot tub and small fire pit on the patio.

Here is the exterior of the building.  It’s stucco with cedar and douglas fir accents.

 

The whole project was very unique and extremely fun to work on.  You can see more pictures of the project on PATH’s website, here.

 

 

 

 

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