I was in a design slump for quite some time, everything that I was building had either been designed by someone else, or the design parameters were so suffocating that there wasn't room for my own expression. I needed a change, and it needed to be a big one.
My goal as a woodworker has been to design and build a collection of my own unique pieces. Each piece would compliment the group as a whole, a signature style collection of my own work. It's not an easy task to come up with a single piece much less several pieces that are cohesive in form and function, but if you aren't shooting for the stars are you missing out on what's possible?
For a few months I'd carry around a sketchpad everywhere and hoped inspiration was just around the corner. I'd sit in front of the TV and sketch at night, or thumb through instagram and google images to see what other people had come up with. I'd image search different furniture movement periods like Queen Anne, Greene & Greene, Art Deco, or Mid-Century Modern. Nothing special came to me. I sketched a bunch of tables, chairs, benches, and ideas but nothing worth pursuing further than the page.
And then Bob came into my life. I never met Bob in person, but I have come to know quite a bit about him, and continue to learn more. Bob passed away while out on a bike ride, due to a heart attack. His wife Sally, is close friends with my sister's mother-in-law. Word got to Sally that I had started a small business woodworking and Bob left behind a full woodworking shop, which Sally wasn't ready to keep in her garage.
Over the course of several months I'd go to Sally's house to slowly dismantle Bob's three car garage workshop. Each visit I'd learn more about Bob. It's a very intimate thing to go through a person's work space. At first I felt as though I was intruding, as if I was somewhere that I shouldn't be. I'm sure Bob didn't organize this drawer for anyone except for him to be able to go through.
Thoughts of other people going through my shop, and what things they may find started to haunt me. I could hear it in my mind, someone saying "Why are the drill bits stored over here, but the counter sink bits are clear across the shop? Who would do such a thing?"
Over time I came to appreciate the small idiosyncrasies I found in Bob's shop, and started to notice the ones in mine. I also observed where Bob's shop setup was far more efficient and thoughtful than mine, all the while learning about this man whom I had never met.
Sally and I agreed on a fair compensation for the tools and materials that I took from Bob's shop. To this day I still go to her house to help with small odds and ends. As we spend time together she tells me small details about Bob that help me get to know him even more. His love of vinyl records and hi-fi stereos, his photography hobby, the extensive pocket knife collection, a love of cycling, all interests that I share as well!
Moving all of the wood, tools, and machinery was a huge feat. I'd load up my truck at her place, then come back to the shop and look at an entirely full truck with the question of where do I put all of this?! I had to rent a lift gate truck to move the large 1,000 pound table saw, along with other large machines like jointer, band saw, and dust collection. Of course then I had to move the existing machines I had to somewhere safe for the time being because the shop isn't big enough for so many things. All the while on my mind were two thoughts: 1.) I sure am fortunate to be able to use all these tools 2.) I sure wish I could have just hung out with Bob for a few moments, just to be able to capture his aura, what was this guy all about.
Then one day, seemingly out of nowhere inspiration hit me like a rock falling from the sky. I had been frustrated all day when yet another thing didn't go my way. I walked into the shop, grabbed a pencil and sketched out the leg design of this coffee table. It took no more than 30 seconds. If you count the several months leading up to this moment, then it took several months and 30 seconds. This coffee table design would be the linchpin of the collection that I was looking for to design. The angles, the style, and the overall essense of this table would need to be present in each of the collection pieces that will follow, and I could immediately see it would be possible.
I looked around the shop, at several machines and hand tools that came from Bob, and knew I needed to name this coffee table after him. This man has influenced so much of my life by flipping my entire shop upside down in such a short time. I think he'd be proud of the work I do with the machines and tools that he hand picked.
So I present to you, the Von Zirngibl coffee table, an homage to Bob Von Zirngibl. I like to call it the Von Zee for short. Something Bob did as well, though he just wrote 'Von Z'.