We’re a woodworking husband-and-wife duo who likes to keep things simple. We believe in doing more with less, welcoming mistakes and learning from them, letting found materials embolden our designs, and always being open to the possibilities. Andrea has always felt that our work should be something every person needs in their home, pieces they’ll enjoy using and that get more beautiful the more they’re used. Without a doubt, each finished item has its own distinctive character. When you work with natural wood, you won’t achieve a polished, perfect result. Every piece will be unique in its own way.
This singular expression is in stark contrast to that achieved by advanced technology and mass production, which generates perfect, identical products. And we believe this is our good fortune. The proliferation in new technology has created a new need in people — a passion for the opposite, a strong desire for something imperfect, warm, and human that adds that final personal touch to their home.
All our designs come from the heart and have a story — they’re simple ideas, which we execute as honestly and cleanly as possible. We hope these projects will inspire you to create some of your own individual pieces that represent you and the effort you’ve put into them, and that you’ll be encouraged to find your own stories and ideas when working with different types of wood.
Craft a Cheese Board
This first project is a perfect example of the simplicity and beauty of nature and what it can bring to your home. A decorative slice of tree trunk can create an ideal display board for your cheeses — or for any other foods you’d like to present at the table with style.
For this thickness of wood, Andrea prefers to use wood that’s been stored for a minimum of three years. You’ll be exposing this board to temperature changes regularly when you wash it and when it comes into contact with food, so it will expand or crack if it isn’t dry enough. In this case, the drier, the better.
Tools and Materials
- 2- to 3-inch-thick slice of oak or olive trunk
- Small bandsaw, optional
- Orbital sander
- 80- and 150-grit sandpaper
- Small jigsaw
- Remnant of any kind of wood for a handle
- Wood glue
- 3⁄4-inch rope, longer than the perimeter of the cheese board
1. If you don’t already have a slice of trunk that’ll work for this project, start by looking at your local sawmill — you may find some end pieces of a large tree stump, or you can ask the mill employees to slice you a piece. If you have a bandsaw or chainsaw at home, you can slice the tree trunk yourself.
2. Using the orbital sander and 80-grit sandpaper, sand the top and bottom of the piece of wood until it’s smooth and soft. Then, use 150-grit sandpaper to remove smaller crevices around the edge of the slice.
3. If you’d like to add a handle to the board, or if your piece is cracked, draw a wedge with a ruler and pencil, and cut out this piece with the jigsaw.
4. Cut a piece from your remnants to exactly the same angle as the piece of wood you just cut out. This piece should extend outward from the trunk far enough to act as a handle.
5. Fix the handle in place with glue, and tightly tie a rope around the perimeter of the cheese board, leaving it in place until the glue is dry. Use the orbital sander with 150-grit sandpaper to create a final smooth, soft surface between the handle and the board on both sides.
Shape a Simple Stirrer
At the start of our business, Andrea would only use the core of each piece of olive wood to make his cutting boards. This was before we discovered that broken is beautiful. It just broke my heart to burn all that extraordinary leftover wood in the fireplace in our little stone house. Many offcuts were long, thin sticks, and they just called out for a purpose. Today, a wooden stirrer is one of my favorite utensils. It’s so easy to use, and I love the simplicity of the flat-headed design.
Tools and Materials
- Piece of beech, ash, olive, maple, oak, or walnut, 1⁄2 inch thick maximum
- Orbital sander with 120-grit sandpaper
- Rough and fine wood files
- 150-grit sandpaper
- Linseed oil paint
1. Use an orbital sander with 120-grit sandpaper to smooth the surface of your chosen wood. Design your stirrer on the wood with a pencil. Look at the wood and the grain, and let it lead you — the grain should flow lengthwise through the stirrer.
2. Starting at the top of the head of the stirrer, use the jigsaw to cut around each side until you reach the handle. Turn the stirrer around so the handle is pointing toward you, and cut out each side of the handle until the excess pieces fall off.
3. Use a rough wood file to shape the handle and the head of the stirrer, filing about one-third of the head thinly.
4. Use the fine wood file for the final shape and finish. Because the head is quite straight and flat, your main work will be to sand the handle; it’s all about the feeling of the stirrer in your hand. Finish by hand with a piece of 150-grit sandpaper.
5. Dip the handle in paint, and use the clips to hang the stirrer to dry completely. We use linseed oil paint because it’s free of harmful chemicals.
The unique thing about these stirrers is that each piece always ends up with its own character — you might almost feel like playing with them like puppets. If you’re feeling a little bit more adventurous, you can drill a hole in the center of your stirrer and finish it with a piece of fine sandpaper. This will create a useful utensil for lifting and draining food, such as pasta, from a pot of boiling liquid.
Excerpted from Woodworking: Traditional Craft for Modern Living by Samina Langholz and Andrea Brugi. Reprinted in arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications in Boulder, Colorado.