Mark Love Furniture
Custom Furniture Austin, Texas
1430 South Rainbow Ranch Road
Wimberley, Texas 78676
512.963.4134
mark@marklovefurniture.com
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unfinished : a woodworker's journal

Working wood changes me inside. So I write about it.

August 10, 2018

Image: Bones by Corinne Schulze, used by permission

I sanded all day today. My hands are dry, raw, sensitive. I can feel the texture of these computer keys more than most nights, which makes me wonder if at least some of the dust that’s now covering the floor beneath my workbench was once the calloused skin of my now aching fingers. Sandpaper is relentless. Which is the point, I suppose.

Wood dust fascinates me. Each tool in the shop creates its own unique brand. I will often pause for a beat after usi...

August 4, 2018

Whenever I meet someone for the first time and they find out what I do for a living, invariably the next question they ask is, “What kind of furniture do you make?” I always answer the same way, “Wood furniture.” Then they say, “But what style?” I hoped they wouldn’t ask, because my answer always disappoints.

They want to hear Shaker, or Mission, or Midcentury, or Colonial American, or Modern, or something they’ve heard of. They’ve got stories and opinions about these styles, they’ve got specimens in...

February 28, 2018

When I was 26 I rented a little gray house in a very old south Austin neighborhood. Before I even signed the lease I decided that the overgrown patch of ground adjacent to the quiet street would become my new vegetable garden.

So the last trip on moving day was interrupted by a stop at the hardware store to buy a shovel. Something every man should have unless, like me, he’d lived in downtown seminary housing until about 20 minutes ago.

It would be my very first actual garden and I was happy. Looking b...

February 23, 2018

So many people are shut up tight inside themselves like boxes, yet they would open up, unfolding quite wonderfully, if only you were interested in them. - Sylvia Plath

“Miss, es no bueno wood, es caca!”

So said Lisa’s tree guy when she asked him to save her a chunk of the enormous limb that was currently lying across her front yard. She’d told him her friend Mark was a woodworker and wanted to make something out of it.

“Porque el quiere?,” he pleaded. “Es caca!!”

Assuming my Spanish still works, I don’t...

February 21, 2018

I have a woodworker friend who refuses to work with mesquite. ‘Firewood,’ he calls it. ‘Makes excellent steaks, horrible furniture.’ He has a point.

But as I stood in the lumberyard two days ago with my new clients, helping them choose which slab of wood would make the headboard for their new bed, I was hoping they’d pick the cracked and battered mesquite over the smooth, perfect walnut.

I’m not sure why. I must have a strange draw to broken wood. It probably relates to my affection for broken humans....

February 20, 2018

We take big pieces of wood, cut them up into little pieces of wood, then glue them back together again to make big pieces. That’s all there really is to making furniture.

I’ve always cherished these words, spoken to me by one of my mentors when I first visited his shop at age 23. A folksy bit of false humility thrown out there to help rescue this calling from all the lofty romantic rhetoric that usually engorges it. There is nothing more charming than when a true master understates his art, like Lyle...

February 13, 2018

I got an email from the owner of the coffee house where one of my newer pieces lives. It’s a cabinet for storing newly-roasted coffee beans. The top is shaped like an actual bean.

“We love it!,” he said, “but…” Everyone I know has a big but. 

“…one of the sliding doors is dragging, hard to open. I wonder if you can come fix it.”

Impossible, I thought. Those doors were perfectly fit and burnished with wax. They glide effortlessly in their tracks. There must be some other explanation.  

Larry met me t...

February 8, 2018

I read an interview with The Edge years ago where he said that before every U2 tour he has to go to a record store (ask your parents) and buy all their albums (ask your hipster uncle) so he can sit down and re-learn the chords to all their songs.

At the time it felt like a tiny bit of quaint, self-deprecating fiction. But now I think it’s probably true. Because next week I’ll be visiting a piece of furniture I made seventeen years ago, so I can figure out how it was made, so I can make it again.

A love...

January 26, 2018

I knew better, but I went ahead and did it anyway. Yesterday I tried to glue together wood parts that were swollen and too big to fit into each other any more. And it didn’t go well.

Did you know that wood swells when the air gets humid? I did, but I acted like I didn’t. Because I didn’t want to wait another day. I just wanted to get this dining table done so I could deliver it and move on to the next piece.

Early last week, when I made the all the parts and their perfectly-fitted joints, the humidity...

January 11, 2018

There’s a ritual that all experienced woodworkers practice at the end of each day, just before turning out the shop lights. A real craftsman wouldn’t forget to do this any more than you’d forget to grab your phone every time you left the house. It’s one of those naggy, unconscious things:

Sticker up the parts.

It’s probably not what you’re thinking. It’s got nothing to do with stickers in the Billy-was-brave-for-the-doctor sense. A sticker in a wood shop is just a stick. Someone in history must ha...

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