Saturday, December 28, 2013

Sinker Cypress: Nature's Underwater Treasure

I have been asked by many people: "what is sinker cypress." Well, let me take a moment and explain all about sinker cypress and the process of turning it into beautiful wood for the home and business.
Sinker cypress, sometimes called deadhead cypress, is exactly what the word says - it is cypress logs that have sunk in rivers and bayous. During the mid to late 1800s, much of northern Florida was covered with cypress forests growing in swamps and bayous. Due to the growth of the country, there was a great demand for cypress for building. Enter the lumber barons. Much of this old growth cypress was harvested and shipped to saw mills for processing into lumber. The best way to transport the logs to the mill was by water - creeks and rivers. The logs were rafted together for efficient floating. Along the way to the mill, some logs became waterlogged and sank to the bottom. Where they have remained until the past 30 years, when the law changed and limited permits were issued to reclaim the logs.

Transporting the cypress logs to the mill - 1800s. Things certainly have changed.

The reclaiming of the sunken logs from the rivers created a niche business for those enterprising individuals daring to take the risks to recover the logs. In addition to having zero visibility, these men could encounter many types of "critters" while submerged. Not like diving in the Caribbean. 

Once the logs were discovered and brought to the surface, they were floated to local saw mills specializing in converting sinker cypress to useable lumber. The logs were sold to the mills and the process of conversion began. Bruner Lumber Company in northern Florida is a saw mill specializing in old growth cypress and pine.

Cypress logs at the river haul out. Doubles as an alligator walkway up to solid ground.

Cypress logs recently reclaimed from the river. Notice the end cut. It was done by hand with axes, prior to power saws. These lumbermen were tough men. And they had no Deep Woods Off for the swamps.

Cypress logs stacked for drying, prior to milling. No this isn't one of the lumbermen, it's my friend Mark "Gator" Nesbit. He is tough however.

Bruner Lumber Company. This excellent northern Florida saw mill specializes in creating beautiful, old growth cypress and pine lumber products for homes throughout the country. 

Once the logs have been through a partial drying process, they are milled into beautiful cypress flooring, paneling, beams, and large table tops. 

Cypress flooring and beams ready for the market.

Saw mill yard with logs ready for milling. Gets a little muddy after a good rain. No place for Gucci loafers.

Then where do I come in? Well, I buy rough unusable cypress pieces from my friends at Bruner. I try and visualize how a particular wood chunk can be transformed into a beautiful usable item for the home or business. Once at my workshop, the sizing, sawing, sanding and finishing takes place. This is the fun part of the process. Creating something that will enhance someones home.

Rough pieces of sinker cypress from the mill. I think I need to get a bigger car or a trailer.

Then after a few (a lot) of hours, this is the result. Magic, when you have beautiful wood to start with. These pieces are all sinker cypress from large reclaimed logs. Most of the logs are over 300 years old.

Have a great day and a Happy and Healthy 2014

Natural Creations
John "Gabby" Gabrielson
Miramar Beach, Florida

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Recycling Crafts with Grand Kids

I love doing craft projects with my five grandchildren. It is creative, fun, and gives me a chance to spend quality time with each of them. I find it amazing what creativity they come up with if one just gives them a raw piece of wood, metal, a rock, and simply ask the question "now what would you do with this"?  You know, we adults could learn a lot from this process.
I try and use recycled items as the raw product. This summer we used old silver plated spoons, left over pine from a saw mill, blocks of cedar from Eric's remodeling, tree branches, rocks, scrap cypress from Florida. Why buy new things, when with a little creativity and an open mind, wonders can be invented from existing "stuff."And the best thing - you are working with your loving grandchildren on a pretty equal basis. Here is our Minnesota summer creativity with Eric and Jenn's three kids: Nick, Sophia and Noah.

Last spring while in Atlanta for an Antique Market, I showed my granddaughter Bianca a photo of a pile of old spoons for sale in an antique fair. She said, Ompa (that's me) why don't you make me a spoon ring. Now, what is a spoon ring? You can't turn down your kids, so I said OK. Went onto YouTube and learned how to make spoon rings and here are the results. Made some for B and Sophia in Florida. Then Sophia and I made these 8 rings in MN for the granddaughters on The Sween Floater Houseboat Trip.

 Pile of flatware for sale at Scott's Antique Market

Finished spoon rings

Nick then came up with an idea for taking a block of cedar and drilling holes in each side, going all the way thru. Who knows what the end use would be at first, but we went ahead with a scrap block, drilled the holes and finished it. Nick came up with the idea to string small battery powered holiday lights through the holes and hang it from the ceiling. We call it the Disco Cube. Great idea. Then Sophia wanted one so we made one together and painted it to match her room colors. We added a frame for her recent painting. I can't wait to see the installed lights, hanging from the ceiling.

Nick and his Disco Cube

Sophia operating the drill press.

Sophia with the finished Disco Cube and a frame.

Then Noah, who takes after his Dad in building, made "Noah's Wood Town" out of scrap pieces from Eric's woodworking. It is amazing the creativity that comes from using imagination and a lot of glue.

Then, what is a fun way to display photos, art work, and jewelry? Well, how about a "photo board." Off to a local saw mill we went and bought some larger pine slabs with live edges. They looked terrible to begin with, but with a little elbow grease by all of us, and some clips from Office Depot, they turned out great. All three kids got involved with making their own board. Noah's photo never made it, but he did make one.

Nick's Board - needs more photos.

Sophia's Board - also needs more stuff.

Now here is our future weapons inventor. Nick took some scrap wood, tree branches, tape and rubber bands to make this cross bow with a tree branch arrow. It really worked.

Watch our, here comes Ninja Nick.

I brought up a frame making jig and some pecky cypress scrapes from my Florida workshop. For Sophia's frame, we found some old white oak at the local saw mill. Her frame is shown above.
The below frame was made as an experiment. I showed it to an artist friend, Gary Thorp, who liked it and said he might have a painting to match the size. The result: a great art piece.

I find it amazing when one opens up their mind, take off the blinders, eliminate the "can't do's', what creativity can result. Especially when using recycled and reclaimed materials. When you combine this with child enthusiasm, wonders and love result.

John "Gabby" Gabrielson
Natural Creations
Miramar Beach, Florida

"Being creative is not a hobby, it is a way of life."

"Around each corner lies a new adventure."

Monday, May 13, 2013

How About Sculptures from Reclaimed Treasures

What I really have fun doing is to try and create unique sculptures from reclaimed wood. To me this is an interesting challenge, looking at a piece of cypress that has been eaten away hundreds of years ago by fungus and trying to figure out what it could look like finished. I now have an appreciation for what sculptors go through in their creation process. No, I am not a sculptor, but it is fun going through the process. All of my work shown here is deadhead cypress which I obtained from my friends at Bruner Lumber.

This is the end of a pecky cypress log, sliced to 2 inches and very rough.

And here is the finished sculpture, with a metal base from my friend Mack.

These were quite the visual challenge.

The left one was turned into a lazy susan.

The right one made into a large appetizer platter. Sure these are not sculptures, but then the brain went this way instead.

Back to cypress sculptures:

This cypress piece I found half buried. After the first power wash, it was ready for sanding.

And here is the final 60" sculpture with a metal base.

Pecky cypress round sculpture #1

Pecky cypress round sculpture #2

Pecky cypress round sculpture #3

Pecky cypress round sculpture #4

40" rectangular pecky cypress sculpture #5

And here they are, all dressed and ready for the ball.

When I started doing sculptures, I found that I needed to have an artistic metal person to work with for my bases and other metal needs. Luckily I found Mack Corley who runs Mack Metal Art in Panama City. He did the above bases, a real boring and simple job for an artist like Mack, who does great metal art work for houses - gates, railings, wall mounts, table bases, etc.
Here is my friend Mack with an idea for a plant bracket and table bases in his truck.

And finally, here is the latest cypress sculpture from the end piece of a pecky log. This one is 4" thick and I refer to is as the "boss hog." I reclaimed this from the bottom of a stack of lumber, being used as a spacer.

Well, that's it for now. Hope you enjoyed another tour of Mother Nature's reclaimed treasures. Here's an idea: if you have an old favorite tree that has passed away and would like to keep some of it as a memory, why not have your local tree man cut some to make a table top, stump table, stool, or a sculpture. Then it can live forever.

Remember: "Around each corner lies a new adventure."

John "Gabby" Gabrielson
Natural Creations
Miramar Beach, Florida

Monday, May 6, 2013

"Around Each Corner Lies a New Adventure"

I have been talking about creating unique products from reclaimed wood in previous blogs. Let me take a moment and digress into other types of recycling things into useful and maybe not so useful products. Rather than just throwing an item into a dumpster, often I will look at it and say "what other use can be made of this thing." It might end up in the dumpster anyway, but sometimes the creative juices flow and  bingo, a new "something" is born. However, it still might end up in the dumpster. I have to admit I learned this from my daughter Lisa. While living in Italy, she would pick up old furniture and stuff in many places. Then take it home and create something neat. Then when she moved to America, she did the same thing, along with flea markets and garage sales.  I started my "recycle" career by working with her on some of the stuff to create saleable items. Thanks Lisa for the training.
So, here I go with some good and not so good recycled things to share with you.

Mark and I created drink coasters. I found and cut the logs and he painted them. Sold a few and gave many away as gifts.

Then while at Jim's and Norm's cabins, I noticed some great birch logs. The result was a number of holiday centerpieces that Lisa sold at her antique booth in Atlanta. They don't have birch trees here in the South and they sell well.

5 candle centerpiece with white birch log.

Birch log centerpieces ready for Lisa to sell in Atlanta.

Several years ago, our South Walton beaches went thru a beach renourishment project. We normally have few shells, but with the new sand came a lot of shells. What to do? Well make something. My grandchildren and I had a great time finding the shells and making things when they visited. I found that not only can one make fun things from recycled stuff, it is also a fabulous thing to do with grandchildren. Good memories.

Shell ball with Lucine shells from South Walton beaches.

The grandkids dyed the Lucine shells and made this fun ball.

We had a lot of fun making these shell frames, then putting in photos of the trip.

A lot of poked figures came from making this Auger shell ball.

Then my friend Diana sent me a photo of cut wine bottle candles. This led to another "adventure." Recycling wine bottles by cutting them and pouring wax to create candles. Must have gone thru 100s of wine bottles before I learned the process. Fortunately, my community has a recycle dumpster for glass. I became know as the "dumpster diver." Even have a few scars where I cut myself on the doors. Here are some of the results. A lot of fun.

Cut wine bottles and soy wax candles

Large wine bottles cut on the bottom to form hurricane toppers with poured wine bottle candles inside.

Caught in the act of pouring the candles. If you look closely, you will see the empty aquarium Mark and I used to do "research" on sea creatures - too bad, they all died.

Then Mark and I read about hydro - planters. We decided to try them with recycled cut wine bottles, bamboo  and air plants. He made the plants grow, I killed mine. Sold a few of these also and had fun, but then we moved on to new "adventures." Here are our Hydro Planters.

Me and the two piece planter.

Hydro planters with bamboo and air plants.

Me and Mark with our creations.

It is fun to see how new, fun things can be made out of old, recycled stuff once we open our mind. "This could be that" - "this could be that" - "this could be that."
Here are some of those "thats" that came from a loose brain.

A bamboo serving tray made with a frame that Del made and bamboo harvested nearby.

After seeing small glass fragrance containers with bamboo sticks and oil, I thought this could be a seller. So ahead with a new idea. Wrong. Well, I still have a lot of them. They do keep my garage-workshop sweet smelling however.

Then Ki saw a photo of a copper penny backsplash in a magazine. The result - we have a penny backsplash along with reclaimed pecky cypress from Bruner Lumber.

Fun lamps can be made from recycled or reclaimed materials. Lucky, no electrical shocks, just a couple of cut fingers on these "creations."

One day Ki and Lisa were in a local antique store and saw this old porch post. They loved it and the colors matched our living room. "Sure" some lamps can be made, I was told. Well, can't argue with the two of them so here are the results.

 Floor lamp.

Table lamp.

Then when visiting Lisa, she gave me these "finds" to create lamps. Can't turn down your daughter.

Old minnow bucket lamp. Perfect for a cabin. How many of these are sitting in old cabin garages.

And the old hollow post lamp. Thank goodness they sold, would not have wanted them in my house.

Here's a good one. When I partnered with Lisa at the Atlanta Scott's Antique Market last month, a vendor across the aisle specialized in silver furnishings of all sorts. One item that was popular was old spoons. He had 1000s of them. I showed this photo to my 15 year old granddaughter Bianca and she said "can you make me a spoon ring." Never turn done a grandchild request. So here are the results.

1000s of old spoons for sale at $1 apiece. It was a feeding frenzy. The woman in the stripped shirt asked if I was single. Said no, then she asked if any of my buddies were. Any takers?

And here are the spoon rings for Bianca and Sophia.

Had a scrap piece of cypress so made a mirror out of it. Jane sent me a photo of a reclaimed wood mirror and here we go into mirrors.

Thanks for looking at this latest blog. We had a lot of fun making all these items from reclaimed and recycled stuff. And best of all, a lot of memories came from the process. I love the saying "around each corner is a new adventure." Especially when you are rounding each of Nature's corners.
Let the adventures begin.

John "Gabby" Gabrielson
Natural Creations
Miramar Beach, FL