The Laura Desk


Every two years, there’s a furniture design competition in Portland, OR called ShowPDX. I designed a new desk for Phloem Studio called the Laura Desk.



I wanted to design a writing desk that was simple, functional, and modern.  It was inspired by the classic George Nelson Swag desk that has influenced so many other modern desks.  It’s origins also reach far back to utilitarian Shaker writing desks that I admire for their simplicity and craftsmanship.

There are three open cubbies at the back end of the desktop, hiding two cord ports back in the shadow.  The front edge of the desktop contains two angled drawers that pull out to reveal themselves as simple storage solutions for small items like pens, paperclips, smart phones, and notebooks.  The drawers are actually wedge shaped to follow the profile line of the sides of the desk.  They have playful shapes routed in the front to help with organization.  It stands 34 inches tall to the top of the cubbies in the back, the writing surface is 30 inches off the floor, it’s 42 inches wide and 30 inches deep.

Each Laura Desk is made to order by hand here in Portland, OR with the finest domestic hardwoods available.  It is currently available in walnut, cherry, ash, or white oak.  Lead time is approximately 8 to 10 weeks. Contact me directly to order or with any questions.


Below are some pictures of it coming together.

It’s essential to prototype to solve potential problems.  The process of refining prototypes gradually evolves to the final design.  This one was made out of plywood and maple scraps.

Then patterns are made, milling begins, and shapes start to form.

Even high quality plywood with premium veneer has veneer that is only less than a 1/32″ thick.  On a writing surface, this absolutely will not wear well over time.  We choose to hand cut and stitch 1/16″ THICK veneer and lay it up over a solid plywood core.  This produces an heirloom quality writing surface.  You’ll never see it nor be able to tell, but it’s one of those very important hidden details that truly matter.

One leg assembly.

The part pile grows…

There are shapes routed into the front of each drawer.

The strangest (and coolest) pile of drawer parts to ever come out of the shop.

Those tapered drawers getting glued up.

Each desk is finished in a very eco-friendly oil and wax based finish that’s easy to touch up over time.

The leg assemblies bolt to the back stretcher then to the desk top, with a total of eight allen head bolts.  This makes it very easy to come apart and ship in a box directly to your doorstep.  Very minimal assembly is needed to put the desk together.

The Laura Desk has a simplicity of form that is both elegant and timeless.  It’s stance is modern and playful, but inspired by classic functional writing desks from the 20th century.




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Jordan Tull at AIA PDX


Jordan Tull is an artist here in Portland who explores spacial relationships with site specific installations.  His work is generally full of repetitive, sharp geometric patterns.  He currently has a really cool installation called Ecto-Paraprism at the Portland chapter of the Architects Institute of America’s Center For Architecture at 403 NW 11th.  It’s made of thin transparent plastic and a whole bunch of small magnets attached to the existing steel structure in their showroom.  It’s a part of the Portland Architecture & Design Festival, and it’s on display from October 4th thru the 31st.  Jordan and I recently got a chance to catch up at the opening night reception where we drank some wine and talked about repetitive patterns.  I sent him an email with some questions.

Ben Klebba — What’s your background?  Where’d you go to school?

Jordan Tull — I’m from Derby, Kansas – which is where I spent most of my life. I studied sculpture and design at the Kansas City Art Institute in KCMO.

BK – Did you have any mentors that nurtured your vision?

JT – A professor at KCAI, Steven Whitacre, taught me architectural drafting during my freshman year – and it completely and forever altered my aesthetic language. He hosted a summer internship for me once I graduated and he essentially gave me the reigns to be a interior architect. That summer I tricked-out his clinically-modern work studio downtown with a family of steel and glass dividing systems that I designed, engineered and fabricated. Steven introduced me to a machinist in Kansas City, Dick Jobe. Dick taught me how to be a machinist.

BK — I met you way two years ago when I needed some steel brackets fabricated for some floating shelves and you went above and beyond what was necessary.  Now, you’re not doing steel as much these days in your art – why?  Do you miss it?

JT — I do not need material permanence in my work right now. I find it refreshing to be able to trash (or recycle) an installation or idea easily as opposed to caressing and caring for heavy metal objects. I’m coming from 8 years of high-output welding and fabrication. Doing this for a living and making art about welding — I’m just over being a metal fabricator. Ultimately, I think working with metal restricts my potential to explore this whole new frontier of conceptual possibility, so I’ve abandoned metal for the time being. But anyone that knows my work will recognize the fabricator at hand, even if the work is plastic. I will always rely on my fabrication skill-set. Knowing how to actually build is invaluable.


BK — What’s the obsession with repeating geometric patterns?  I love them.  I think it’s really beautiful.

JT — I have an obsessive compulsive personality and I love to sacrifice my body for my art – therefore working in repetition suites my fetishtic need for creating systemic order through geometric abstraction. You could say that I’m an ordealist – but without the performative aspect of the work being made apparent. For instance, for Ecto-Paraprism behind the scenes I cut out all of the parts by hand and then folded them, and then taped and glued each one before meticulously installing them each within a reflexive geo-pattern utilizing yet another pattern of magnet connectors. The work is layered with repeating geometric cycles in the same way techno operates musically. I set up certain variables for this installation that are purely logic based, like time and money, (life cycle patterns we all know) the intuitive-artistic aspect of the work manifests in the fact that I simply trusted my gut about how everything would appear installed without physically mocking anything up before committing to buying materials. The installation is completely reckless. Being reckless is also a pattern of mine but I can usually accurately predict the rational consequences of my irrational behavior.

BK — What’s next?

JT – I’m giving an artist’s lecture in April at Clark College in Vancouver, Washington.



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Portland Design Show Curated By Beam & Anchor

There’s an event/gallery space in Portland, OR at 525 SE Pine called Union/Pine.  They recently asked Robert & Jocelyn Rahm of Beam & Anchor to curate a First Friday event showcasing the works of local artists and designers.  It’s this Friday, September 7th, starting at 7 pm.  Phloem Studio will be introducing a new chair design melding thick tufted upholstery from the turn of the century with a mid century modern shell.  This cozy seat will be nestled in a stark wooden frame, with tapered, angled limbs.  Her name is Regina and she’s very very comfortable…

There are many other very talented people who are showcasing some beautiful new work just for this special night.  You really should make it.

Jocelyn & Robert Rahm – Beam & Anchor

Ben Klebba – Phloem Studio

Bren Reis – Earthbound Industries

Matt Pierce – Wood & Faulk

Leland Duck – Revive Upholstery & Design

Erik Johnson – Hankbuilt

Shannon Guirl – Caravan Pacific

Eric Trine

Kyla Mucci

Meghan Morris

Indian Vs Indian

Laura Buchan

Hickory Mertsching

The Kenton Collective: R. Rolfe & Jake France – Boys Fort

Preston Browning – Salvage Works

Sarah Helmstetter & Alea Joy – Solabee Flowers


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Building The Prospector Canoe — Part 2

It’s August!  And I’m not paddling yet.  “Free time” has been in short supply.  My canoe project has taken a backseat to work.  But, here we are again and I’ve got some progress to share.

The last Prospector chronicle left us with a fully constructed mold and some stems.  My dad, Ron Klebba has helped with some of the process as well as my girlfriend, Laura Buchan.  I’ve been hanging it from the ceiling from a pulley system and bringing it down when I’ve had time to work on it.  That orange spraypaint you see on the strongback legs matches up with some orange spraypaint on the floor so I know it’s consistently level.

We’ve since milled that pile of cedar strips to it’s final thickness and put a cove on one edge and a bead on the other edge of each strip.  We sent all the 18 foot strips through our wide belt sander then each strip went through two different router table set ups.  That process was a bit annoying.   It was pretty much a half day of router noise…  not a glorious refined noise.  If you’re planning on making a canoe and are not concerned with building or milling every aspect of your canoe, here’s a helpful link.

After the all the router milling, we spent some time fairing the molds to the curve of the boat.  We spent a couple hours with handplanes and rasps, beveling the edges of the molds.  We tacked a strip of cedar to the center mold and gently curved it towards the stems.  This gives you an idea of the eventual shape of the hull and you shape the molds to it.

Then we shaped the inner stems.  We took a shorter strip of cedar, curving it over the first and second molds towards the stems.  From there, it was easy to see how to shape the stem to accept the planking.  Dad excelled at this task.  We made pretty quick work of the top near the shearline, then down the bow.  We didn’t shape the stems all the way down — Dad recommended shaping them a little at a time — this made a whole lot of sense later, because it’s really hard to  accurately tell exactly what the hull was eventually going to be shaped like — it’s easier going bit by bit and not taking off too much.

Ted Moores book “Canoecraft” primarily uses the staple system to make a canoe, wherein you adhere a strip to a strip with glue, then staple it to the molds to hold it in place while the glue dries.  He discusses another, more elegant method in his book called the “stapleless system”.  We opted for that.  I didn’t want the look of staple holes in the side of my canoe.  And, realistically, using wedges and shims to push the strips into each other creates a tighter gluejoint than just stapling a strip to the mold.  And who doesn’t like a challenge, right?  We’re fully grown mammals.

There was a lot of preperation next.  You have to put packing tape or wax over the molds so the strips don’t stick from their glue squeeze out.  We used packing tape.  Then you have to make all sorts of small blocks out of plywood or hardwood to accept the first strip.  Then you need to make a small army of hold down blocks that will accept a wedge and shim to push one plank into the last.

The first strip sets the stage for everything else.  Bead down, cove up, set on blocking to hold it tight to the sheerline.  You get to set a nice gradual curve with that first strip to start most of the other strips out on.  I clamped it in place, stepped back, let gravity do most of the arch, and went for it.  It is very important you level that first strip on each side to the other side — port and starboard.  Or left and right.

Each strip gets glued to the next with a bead of glue in the cove and glued to the stems at the bow and stern.  I handled the stems with my trusty cam clamps — they apply an appropriate amount of pressure and are quick.

The stapleless system makes good use of shims and wedges.  You hammer in wedges til you see that sweet glue squeezeout over there in the right of the photo.

Move blocking.  Glue.  Place next strip.  Screw blocking back in.  Wedge.  Shim. Clean glue squeeze out.  Repeat.

Early in the process of stripping the hull, Dad went back to Michigan for the summer.  I realized very quickly that I needed a second pair of talented hands…  My girlfriend rules.  Our date nights working on a canoe were much cooler than that romantic comedy you had to go to…

We used some of that color variation in the cedar to create some stripes on the canoe.

The strips flew on initially.  When we got to the bilge (the underside curve of the hull) around the future waterline, the strips had a compound curve to them that was tricky to hold in place.

When clamping the ends of the planks to the stem, you have to get inventive.  I made different wedges, odd shaped shims, used packing tape (Ted recommends this) and the occasional precarious clamp set up.  Squeeze out?  Check.

At this point, we’re past the stems.

The sheerline on the Prospector extends up (down on the mold) past the first strip.  One thing that wasn’t too thoroughly explained in the book was this process, but I basically wedged cut off strips UP into that first strip.  it worked really well.  Later, we cut the gentle curve of the boat into these strips.

After both stems are covered by strips, we crossed the centerline on just one side of the hull.  This process goes really fast compared to the bilge.

Once the centerline has been crossed completely with odd, jagged cutoff planks sticking out into the other half it’s time to cut the centerline.  This process was very gratifying.  We tacked a nail into the center of the bottom of each stem, then ran a piece of string between them.

From there, we took a nice, straight flat ruler sighting along the string and put a sharp line with pen into the cedar.  Then we used chisels to cut right up to that line

That’s Laura Buchan chiseling up to the centerline.  Laura is an amazing sculptor and I highly recommend you check out her work — she currently has pieces on display at The Northwest Woodworkers Gallery in Seattle.

After chiseling really close to the centerline, a rabbet plane puts the final edge on.

Center LINE.

Each strip from here on out has to be fitted from end to end.  And because of the fact that there’s a bead that is going into a cove, each strip has to be a little bit longer than you think it should be…  Laura and I had some serious cedar wrangling.

In Ted’s book, the last 2 strips are glued together at the curve, then basically scribed into place.  The above shot is a picture of the setup we did on my workbench to glue them to the approximate curve.

Notice all of those curly shavings?  I would try to fit it…  then realize it was too tight, mark it, take a little bit more off with a hand plane, then do it all over again…

…until FINALLY I had the shape I was looking for.

Then, we put the glue on, put it in place, and tightened it with packing tape.

The final shape of the hull.

I really wonder now how many people have been ambitious enough to take on a canoe project around April and expect to use it by summer time, only to reassess and aim for fall.  Or spring.  Next up, we’re fitting the outer stems, SANDING, and then some…  Enjoy the rest of your August…  summer is fading FAST!




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Kitchen/Dining Room Remodel — June, 2012


Phloem Studio shares the wood shop in the back of Beam & Anchor with Earthbound Industries.  Bren Reis owns and operates Earthbound.  Sometimes, we get the opportunity to collaborate on jobs together.  Recently, Bren and I enjoyed working on a remodel together with Jason Riffle and PATH Architecture.  Jason was the lead architect of everything you see here.  We made the kitchen cabinets and wall paneling out of rift sawn white oak with the lineal grain going horizontal.  We built two tables: a counter high table that sits next to the island and a dining table with matching design elements.   In the dining room we built a set of cabinets and benches for storage along one wall out of sweet gum with the grain running horizontally again.  It was a very fun, challenging, and rewarding job for everyone involved.

Sweet gum cabinets in the dining room.  Sweet gum isn’t used enough — the grain is gorgeous and it reminds me of the planet Jupiter.  Jupiter wood!

Dining table made with solid rift sawn white oak.

Notice how the wood grain to the table wraps down from the top.

The grain on the wall with the bathroom door (right side of photo) wraps around the corner into the wall panel and the cabinet drawer fronts.  This involved 12 foot long sheets of veneer stitched together, a lock miter corner (glued up on site!) and plenty of careful planning.

Here’s a close up of that grain wrapping the corner into the drawer fronts.

The island.







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Happy Father’s Day

I love my family.  They are remarkable people.

My dad is Ron Klebba and he’s been a huge influence on how I live my life.  He is a woodworker.  When I was young, he had his own business as a furniture maker.  We lived in the middle of Michigan in a small town with not much to offer.  But he made a go at it,  and he did it.

We lived in a house he built himself with help from his people.  This is not like when you’re at your uncle’s house and he says “Oh, we built the addition…”  and he means he hired a contractor and a small group of subcontractors to build it.  No, my dad BUILT THE HOUSE.   He was up early on days off starting in the spring, with his friends and  family helping set the foundation, frame, insulate, roof, run electrical, plumbing, windows, doors, siding, painting, all of it.  He also built most of the furniture and cabinets in it.  He had a shop that sat about 20 feet from the house, with a tablesaw, jointer, planer, bandsaw, and lots of lumber.  The lot also held a large shed with firewood.  I had a big sandbox and my parents had a garden that seemed enormous at the time.  My mom would can vegetables and we would make tomato juice.  Dill pickles in mason jars lined shelves in the basement.  We lived about 5 miles outside of town on a dirt road across from acres of woodland.

When I was in third grade, my family decided it was time to move.  Dad got an opportunity to teach building trades at a county wide technical center (trade school) 20 minutes from the town he grew up in — Harbor Beach, MI.  It was where I would spend my formative years.  Mom and dad bought 7 acres of woodland property across the street from Lake Huron, 5 miles outside of town.  Dad built another house.  This time, I remember it being built and I even played a very (very very) small role.  It was a really cool thing to be a part of.   I remember string being pulled tight from wooden stakes in the ground that laid out where the foundation would be.  I roofed.  I painted.  We moved in without doors on the bedrooms and with a plywood floor.  It all got finished within the next year.

We had an owl that hung out in our yard and hunted.  You could walk down the dirt road to a creek.  The lake was easily accessible through our neighbor’s backyard.  I would wander the trails in the woods behind our house and beyond for hours and hours.   The trees and the lake were huge. In high school, I would sneak home late on a trail in the dark and through the backdoor.   Looking back, it was a great way to grow up.

In the wintertime, we would selectively log our property for firewood.  Dad and I would get up early, take the tractor and sled onto the snow covered trails deep into the forest. With a chainsaw and a splitter we cut down ash trees for fuel for our woodstove.  It was grueling, but looking back, those are some of the fondest memories I have from growing up in the woods.   The cold holds you and it’s beautiful tall barren ash trees with white.  There’s something really pastoral about a Midwest forest in the snow.   I can smell it.

Dad had a new shop behind the house.  Pretty much every single day, dad would get home from teaching school and go work in his shop.  This man is driven.  He worked on projects for clients or for himself.  He built all sorts of things.  He worked hard.  He taught us (my sis and I) the value of hard work, responsibility, and focus.  I’m pretty sure it’s called discipline.  Not only that, he taught us you really can do anything you want to if you put your heart and mind into it.   He built wooden sailboats in that shop.  Beautiful, gorgeous, functional sailing vessels.  Watching that unfold was absolutely inspiring.

My folks were teachers.  Teaching salaries will not make you rich, but we did alright.  They were smart with their money and they were able to save by building their own houses.  We were happy.

My sister and I both spent time in Chicago before we moved to Portland.  Here, I make furniture and she’s working in the footwear industry.  Our parents recently moved out here.  They’re spending this summer in Michigan, but they’re in Hood River, Oregon 8 to 9 months out of the year.  We couldn’t be happier.  I get to spend a lot of time with my father and his experience is invaluable.  He is the head of research and development here at Phloem Studio.  Family feels really good.  Happy father’s day, Dad.  And thanks.

The stool above Dad made has followed me around for years.  The chair he made below has gone from Harbor Beach, to my sister in Chicago, to Portland, where it now resides at Beam & Anchor.




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Building the Prospector Canoe Part 1

I design and build furniture and cabinets for a living.  In my “free time”, I try to get outside of the city and into the woods as much as possible.  Nothing is quite as nice as being out on a mountain lake attempting to catch a fish or two.  My shopmate Bren Reis and I are building canoes right now.  We’ll each have a cedarstrip plank canoe hopefully sometime before the end of summer so we can actually get out on the water and enjoy them.

A cedarstrip planked canoe is a beautiful thing.  It is made by milling up a whole bunch of 1/4″ thick cedar strips and wrapping them around a mold.  Once the mold is covered in planking, it is sanded and covered with a layer of fiberglass on the inside and the outside, then coated in epoxy.  It makes a very lightweight, yet strong wooden vessel.  Please realize, that there’s a lot more to it than that easy summary.

We each picked up a book called “Canoecraft” by Ted Moores.  It is considered by some to be the bible of cedarstrip canoe construction.  Ted Moores presides over Bear Mountain Boats, in Peterborough, Ontario, where he gives workshops on building canoes, sells plans and kits, and has been an authority on wooden watercraft for decades.

Bren choose to build Bob’s Special, a 15 foot canoe known to handle well for anglers.  I choose to build the 16 foot Prospector, known as a good “all around” canoe.  My dad, Ron Klebba is a very accomplished woodworker who has built many very beautiful things throughout his life, among them 2 sailboats (both Herreschoff designs), 2 kayaks, and a few rowboats.  His wisdom in this process has been highly appreciated and integral.  These posts will be by no means a “how to”, but a document of our progress and the processes we used building our future yachts.  I hope you enjoy it.

The above picture is a disaster captured and thankfully diverted.  When making a 16 foot long canoe, you need to make a very large pile of Cedar strips that are 3/4″ wide and 1/4″ thick out of really long boards — we bought 16 to 18 foot boards.  These strips will end up becoming the hull.  If you send an 18 foot board through a planer, pay close attention so that it doesn’t get caught on something and bend like this board did.  Apparently wood really is pretty elastic.  You cannot sand that out.  Thankfully we stopped the planer, pulled the board free and no one was hurt.  And we got some awesome photos of this very unsafe tense board.

Ripping Cedar boards into 5/16″ thick strips.  Over.  And over.  And over.  And over.

The finished pile of ripped Cedar for one canoe.  We will sand this with our wide belt sander to a final thickness of 1/4″…  They will then be run through a router setup to make a cove and bead on each strip.   More on that in another post…

This is the strongback.  It’s basically a long beam-like structure made of plywood.  It’s what the canoe is built on.  It’s essential to make it as straight and level as possible, otherwise you’ll have a boat that doesn’t track straight.

Leveling the strongback up on its legs.

Cutting out the mold stations on the bandsaw.  These will be placed on the strongback.  They will form the negative space on the inside of the hull — the cedar strips will be glued together over them (not to them), forming the hull.

The mold cutoffs make a pretty cool pile of shapes on the concrete floor.  After the mold stations are cut out on the bandsaw, they have to be shaped and sanded to make nice uniform fair curves.  That process however does not make a pretty picture.

The stem molds (the bow and stern) are set first.  After they are leveled and plumbed, we move on to the station molds in between.  The Prospector, like most canoes, is symmetrical, so the bow and the stern are the same shape — unlike a sailboat or a kayak where the bow and stern are very different.

A string is run from one stem mold to the other, forming a centerline for the hull.  The strongback has a centerline, as do the station molds.  The string, strongback centerline, and individual station mold centerlines must all line up.  This is done by using your eye and sighting down the string over the centerlines and cross checking with a level for plumb.  It hurt my head and my eyes, but ultimately everything lined up.

Each stem mold gets an inner and outer stem.  I made mine out of ash, a very strong wood that bends extremely well.  In the book, Ted steams thicker wood then bends.  We’re lucky enough to have a wide belt sander in our shop — so we were able to sand the ash thin enough to bend by hand.  It’s glued up overnight with epoxy, clamped to that curve.  The stems will be shaped to almost a point to accept the cedar strips at the ends of the hull.  The plastic wrap around each stem is so the epoxy doesn’t bond to the mold or get all over your hands.  It also keeps the strips from sliding against each other.

We’re still miles away from paddling, but we just bought a 5 gallon tub of epoxy, so we’re officially committed.  We’ll be shaping the stems and stripping the hull soon.  Ever onward and until next time…



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Beam & Anchor

Beam & Anchor opened recently.  Robert Rahm had an idea.  Then with his wife, Jocelyn Rahm, they made it happen.  They’re my friends.  Along the way, they teamed up with Currie Person who has a store in Austin, TX called Spartan.  Beam & Anchor is a store in a warehouse at the corner of Interstate Avenue & Knott Street here in North Portland (2710 N Interstate Ave, Portland, OR 97227 to be precise).  The storefront faces Interstate Ave, but up the stairs in the back of the building people are making beautiful things.

Phloem Studio shares the woodshop with Bren Reis and his company Earthbound Industries and Robert Rahm.  There are a lot of machines and noise.  It’s very dusty.  If you walk through an old green, sliding fireproof door, on the other side you will find even more action.  There, Matt Pierce is busy working away on his Wood & Faulk line and Leland Duck is making the old new with his upholstery magic for Revive Upholstery & Design.  The people with the amazing view of the Fremont Bridge in the front of the building are Maak Soap Lab – Nori and Taylor make the building smell delightful. Jocelyn has her painting studio in the front as well.  When we’re not making things, we drink coffee, talk shop, and support each other here in our little warehouse in the shadow of the Fremont Bridge.  After a particularly LOOONG day, Robert, Jocelyn and I poured ourselves a bit of Basel Hayden and had a chat.

Ben Klebba — How did the idea for Beam & Anchor come about?

Robert Rahm — It had a lot to do with reading design blogs like mad and my own personal desire to have a place that was different than any other place in Portland, to have a community that was making things.  I felt inspired by that, but I never saw it.  I wanted a place that had some aspect of it.  I didn’t think I’d be able to do it.

BK — But you didn’t have any business models you were looking at…?

RR — I’ve always been a person that takes pieces from things and tries to put them together.  I’ll take a piece of something that I think is really genius…  just tiny pieces from all these different businesses…  and melding it with my own personal experiences and how Portland had influenced me…  the people, the aesthetic, what people valued here.  Plus, where I grew up in the country had influenced me.  And Jocelyn…  our relationship had influenced me a lot.  It’s hard to boil it down to one thing. I’m just trying to follow what feels real to me.

BK — You once said to me that you wouldn’t sell anything in the store that you wouldn’t have in your own home.

RR — When I’m out picking (Robert repurposes and reclaims and reinvents treasures that he finds out in the world), that’s all I think — “would we have this in our home?”  And when I look at blogs…  like when I look at jewelry possibly for the store, I think “would I buy this for Jocelyn?”  That is the foundation for what we choose.  It has a lot to do with what is the person (maker/manufacturer) doing…  do we like what they’re doing?  I mean, is it a small enough company, is it American made, there’s all that stuff that’s important… but all that stuff down in the store — I cannot think of one thing I wouldn’t be proud to have in my own home.

BK — You juxtapose old and new in the furniture pieces you make.  How did you get into that?  What makes you create that way?

RR — I think it’s because of where I come from.  Coming from the country and then living in the city.  They’re so different, and I’m really drawn to both.  And with our relationship, we’re complete opposites aside from aesthetics.  It’s the things I’m always drawn to.  I think what those things do to one another is that they make each other more beautiful.

Jocelyn Rahm — For me, if you want to whittle down old vs. new, I think of it as history vs. innovation.  I think they inform one another.  When innovation references history in some meaningful way, it makes it that much more resonant.

RR — She’s got better soundbites.  (laughter)

JR — There’s a really powerful relationship between history and innovation.  In the old you have history, texture, and wisdom.  And in the new design you have that beautiful new energy.  They’re both exciting, especially in tandem.

RR — I wanna do it my own way, but I love what’s happened before now and I don’t like the idea of erasing the past and the beauty of history and time and relationships and scars.  And at the same time, I love that people are making their own thing that will stand the test of time…like your chairs will still be kickin it in 80 years and they’ll have those scars.  That’s really beautiful.

BK — I like that a lot.

JR — It’s COOL to picture your chairs in 80 years, right?

BK — Robert once said to me that there was a cool thing about a worn piece of furniture…    it’s like jeans — you can’t fake that.

RR — You can try.  (laughter)

BK — Like the “whiskers” on jeans — you can’t fake this sofa…  (we’re sitting on a gorgeous, ancient leather Chesterfield sofa Robert found that serves as home base in the B&A communal area — you can see it in the picture above). I have no idea how old this is, but it feels good.  It feels better than it did brand new.

RR — That’s why I feel they go so well together — they’re really the same thing…  it’s just different times.  Yours will be the same for your grandkids as your grandfather’s chair is for us now.

BK — I want someone to stand on my chairs and sit in them and lounge in them and use them and not be precious with them.

RR — Something that was really important to me was when I worked in wilderness therapy I worked with lots of kids that had tried to commit suicide… and/or (had done) lots of cutting.

BK — How old were the kids typically?

RR — 14 to 17.  And we would talk about it point blank…  just have conversations about it.  And a lot of the times they would say how embarased they were of their scars.  I learned to talk about it by referencing furniture a lot and how I love the idea of a scar on a piece of furniture, and hiding it doesn’t make any sense because it’s part of its history.  A lot of times it makes it more beautiful because it speaks to what it’s been through.  We would talk about pottery in Japan. They will highlight the pottery once it’s broken because they think it’s more beautiful afterwards because there’s this history to it.  And NOT that I was trying to say “you should cut yourself” or anything like that…

BK — But it’s alright.

RR — It’s ALRIGHT.  You are who you are and you’ve been through a lot and you can’t hide that.

JR — Battle wounds.  We all have them in different forms.

RR — It was really interesting.  Kids that had been harmed in different ways that you couldn’t see would say “I wish I had that scar, so someone could see the scar I have inside.”  Which is a really interesting thought process.

BK — That’s beautiful.  And sad.

RR — Yeah, it’s all those things.  In our culture we erase our history a lot.  And we relearn the same stupid things.  You’ve probably learned so much from seeing sofas taken apart and seeing how someone else did it. (I’m currently making two sofas with Leland)

BK — I would say one of the most eye-opening, valuable experiences I’ve had so far being in this building is the amount of stuff Leland brings in that I get to look at and see it pulled apart.  All this mid century stuff and how it was constructed…you get to flip it over and say “they built it like that?!”  And I know 97% is factory made, but it still intrigues me.

JR — I love that we’re moving into a stage in which we’re honoring the things that we coexist with more.  Maybe I’ve been in the Portland bubble too long, but it seems like there is more care and emphasis on how things are made now.

BK — Well, there should be.

JR — And where they come from.

RR — I think the recession had a big part in that.

JR — Yeah.  We just care more about the legacy of things and the genesis of things.  It’s healthy.

RR — I think it has a lot to with people realizing that it doesn’t make sense to buy something that’s gonna last 2 years.  When the recession hit things changed.  People think about a well made thing versus a thing made quickly overseas with crappy wood and crappy glue and whatever.  A big part of me is super thankful for the recession in that way.  It made us reset our values to some degree.  Or at least look at them.

BK — What do we hold true?

RR — Right.  That’s where I connect with the Americana movement.  I truly do believe in someone putting their hands on something and making something.  That’s pretty cool.

JR — For me, I love beautiful things and appreciate good design, but the heart of all of this is that we wanted to create a space that was a catalyst for not only things being created, but things being created collectively.  And what does that mean?  It means people working side by side and leaning on one another and supporting one another and being in community with one another.  I think that that’s where the growth is and that’s where the meaning is in terms of the creative process.  It’s not about just making things in a vacuum — it’s about creating things together and learning from that process and the dialogue and the challenge of that.  My favorite part of this project so far has been the community piece.  And it’s just starting.  What we knew all along was that if we got really good people in here who cared about one another, that would be the foundation for everything else and I think that we’re just starting to reap the benefits of that in terms of the energetics of the space.  People collaborating, and caring about each other, and just having each other’s backs.  THAT’S what we wanted.

RR — People feel it when they come in the building.

BK — It’s a good vibe.

Chairs redone by Leland from Revive.  Table by Eric Trine.

Coolest planter ever.  By John Sardari.

Table made from a gorgeous old laundry press and reclaimed Douglas Fir by Robert Rahm.  Stools found by Robert.

Nadine Loungers by Phloem Studio in Walnut and olive strap and rift sawn White Oak and navy strap.

Northwesterner Bag in murder black by Wood & Faulk.

Western Walnut Credenza by Grant McGavin of Heartwood.  Assorted wares from the Good Flock on top.

Cue that Pixies song…




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Port Townsend, WA



I went to Seattle and then up to Port Townsend, Washington last weekend.   It’s the home of  the Wooden Boat Foundation.  The Northwest School Of Wooden Boatbuilding is just down the road a bit in Port Hadlock.  There are a great many boats there.  I spent most of an afternoon walking around shipyards, taking pictures of hulls in various states of repair.  The textures and shapes were very nice.  It was a beautiful spring day in the Pacific Northwest.




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The Nadine Lounger



Back in 2010 my sister, Jessica Klebba and I decided to enter a biennial design competition here in Portland called ShowPDX, put on by Fix Studio.  Jess currently works for Columbia Sportswear as a color and materials designer.  Our family likes talking about how things are made and the subtleties found in certain lines.  We talk about function, form, and keeping things simple.  Jess and I designed a lounge chair and named it after our mom, Nadine.  She taught special education for years and she’s a saint.  Our mom is 100% rad.  The chair won a jury prize.  We were really proud.

Jess and I set out to make a strap chair from the beginning.  We wanted to have a wood frame with a striking profile — something simple, but unique, with a nice stance.   It obviously had to be comfortable.  It sits a bit wider than some chairs, but it leaves your arms spread nicely.  I’ve had many people comment on how nice it is to have that extra width.  The lumbar is supported really well, with just enough give in the straps.

Chairs can be intimidating to design and build at first.  They’re a different animal than most furniture.  You can stare at rectangles on a piece of paper pondering the proportions that will become bookshelves or a credenza for hours, but with that piece of paper you have a really good representation of what you’re going to end up with.  But chairs…  well, they’ve got to be comfortable.  Drawing them is maybe a third of the battle.  You’ve got to build them and actually sit in them.  As long as you’re willing to put in the effort, that’s not as daunting as many people make it seem.  Buy some two by fours.  Cut them into shapes.  Put them together with screws, nails, and use some plywood here and there.  Then sit in it.  Is it comfortable?  No?  Well…  that’s not surprising, nor is it the end of your career.  Start over.  Remember to plant as many bottoms in that prototype as possible.  Does it feel comfortable for your friends?  Have people young and old sit in it.  Have men and women sit in it.  Not everyone is going to notice the same things.  Ask them questions.  Did you get it right the second time?  The third time?  Good.  NOW do it for real with glue and joinery and hardwoods.  Preparation is everything.  You want to have conversations sitting in this.  You want to drink coffee and read a book and do all those things that everyone does in a chair.  Everyone has a favorite chair.

As far as joinery goes…  Spline joints are my jam.  I love them.  I find them highly useful in chair joinery. Not only are they functional, but they create a beautiful and refined detail.    What exactly is a spline joint?  A spline joint is a simple way to connect two pieces of wood — each piece has a groove routed or carved into it, then another piece of wood is glued into those slots.  It creates a very strong connection, utilizing a lot of long grain surface area for the glue to bond with.  On the Nadine Lounger, the back leg is connected to the back with not one, but two spline joints.  Then between those spline joints, a hidden large floating tenon connects the back leg to the seat rail.  This joint is the most abused joint on the chair.  You get up and down, lean back, and your bottom rests on the straps putting downward tension on the joint every time you sit in it.  It is absolutely critical that it must be a strong connection.  The spline joints and the tenon make it solid.

The back rests are actually thin solid wood laminations glued up on a curved form.  When the glue dries those laminations stay at that shape.  It’s a really comfortable shape.  The straps are seatbelt straps – an honest, resilient material that will withstand wear and endure quite well.  They are cut with a tool that seals the ends, then attached to the backside and underside of the frame with 1/4″ crown wood staples.  Years later, the straps hardly give under repeat usage.

We were really proud of the final result.  I’ve since made more of them.  I was recently commissioned to build a pair of them in rift sawn white oak with navy blue straps.  I really like the combination.


Clamping the legs


Spline slots

Back laminations

Assembled side

Frames before the finish

Finishing with Osmo

There’s those splines…

Seat belt strapping


Ready for delivery





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