Monday, April 30, 2012

The "Susan" Mesquite Table: A "Birth" Day

Birthday Ride to Enchanted Rock
April is our birthday month here at Lou Quallenberg Studios.  Mine arrives first on the seventh followed a week later with Lou's on the fourteenth.  Two Aries rams butting heads until one of us decides to be the lamb. We celebrated mine  this year with a beautiful, bluebonnet filled ride to Enchanted Rock on the Harley.  Lou spent his in the shop where he is truly happiest working with his mesquite. I tried to get him out but he said it was his birthday and he could do what he wanted.

April is also the "birth"day for the "Susan" Table.  She was all finished up and delivered on Sunday the 29th. I know Lou felt a few pangs as he let her go.  She went to a very good home and we know she will be well loved for a few generations at the very least.


Here is her story:

"Susan" Table Mesquite  Slab Top
We first met with the clients knowing that they wanted a mesquite table that would go in an entry way under a painting.  Lou had carefully selected several mesquite slabs for them to choose from.  When  she saw the slab that would become her table our client knew it was the only one for her.

Conception: Lou created a sketch based on the mesquite slab that was chosen and the process began.

Conception: Lou Quallenberg's sketch of the "Susan" Table

Once the sketch was approved the slab and it's flitch (the rest of the slabs from the tree) was taken to Brandon Berdoll in Cedar Creek. Where they were placed in his kiln for drying.  Brandon has kiln drying of mesquite down to a science and he provided us with regular moisture content readings throughout the entire process.  The mesquite was in the kiln for a good eleven weeks.

Mesquite slabs stacked and ready for the kiln
The Kiln

Final moisture content reading on mesquite slabs dried in the kiln
Once the slab and its sisters were all dried throughout to a 7.5% moisture content it was brought back to Llano to begin the construction process.
Removing the mesquite bark
After the basic shape was defined and the outer edges were cleaned up the base curve was copied and calculated to create the laminated curve that is a signature to Lou Quallenberg's mesquite work.
Calculating the curve for the table base
Once the curve is designed the jig to capture that curve is created and carefully crafted.
The jig that creates the matching curve
Lou Quallenberg in the shop with his curve creating jig

The Laminated Mesquite Base Curve and Leg Pattern
The "Susan" Table got a new set of legs.  Lou gave the leg design a bit more curve because he is always trying to improve the design and look of his mesquite furniture pieces.

Mesquite Table Clamped and Ready for Final Design Tweaking

A First Glimpse at How the Mesquite Table Will Look

The Mesquite Base Curves Finally Together

Curved Mesquite Base Ready for the Finish

Lou's finish is a two week process of lovingly hand sanding the tung oil based finish into every nook and cranny on the piece.

Applying the Finish to the Mesquite Slab Top
 He then rubs the piece with a cream wax to seal it all in.  It is so satiny smooth to the touch.

First Coat of Finish on the Mesquite Base

Mesquite Slab Top With the First Coat of  Tung Oil Based Finish
Curved Mesquite Base All Finished
When he is finished with his finish each piece calls out for you to touch it. We encourage the touching an rubbing of a piece.  Even the underside of his mesquite furniture pieces are as finished off as the top.

The "Susan" Mesquite Table Ready for Her Closeup and More

Photography is the next step of the process.  Lou photographs each piece utilizing his skills and experience in commercial photography. The "Susan" was photographed in Tom Suarez's Studio because she was too large to set up properly in the shop.  Lou's work is difficult to capture photographically because of all the curves and curves and curves.....

Lou Quallenberg's "Susan" Table in Mesquite 116"L x 24"W x 31"H

After her photos the "Susan" Table was ready for delivery. Once a piece is "delivered" to the client the process comes to an end  for us and the delivery date becomes each pieces "Birthday" in our catalog of Mesquite Furniture pieces. Where each piece is photographed and the original client/buyers name and location is recorded to help track the provenance of the individual pieces.

Check out Jamail's in Horeshoe Bay, Texas
So going along with the birthday theme, I mentioned last month that I have stepped back into the world of work and my first love: flowers. The birthing or start up of a grocery store is such an amazing thing to be a part of.  It is very much like the birth of a baby with a great deal of pain at the end,  along with the reward of shiny new entity.  I have been involved in several store start ups with HEB's Central Market being the biggest and most difficult. It is challenging, frustrating work, that is at times very exciting and ultimately rewarding. I have seen it make grown men cry many times over.

The Jamail Family has handled this overwhelming task with such grace and efficiency, producing a wonderful gem of a store in the heart of the Hill Country.  I hope the floral department that I create for them can hold up to their high standards in quality and value.  I can't wait to finally get my hands on some of these flowers I have been carefully sourcing and ordering. Because that is when the real fun begins.