And Finally, I give you, The Bench; a journey of searching, building and generations


From day one, walk through numero uno, we knew we wanted seating in the front of the shop. Michael had some interesting pastel, 50’s croquet, birds nest, wicker thing goin’ on that I think was supposed to evoke the inner tropics of the Richmond. We quietly and politely loaded these furniture pieces into his station wagon at first opportunity.

The Search

On the journey of searching for the perfect seating for the front lobby of the shop many things have happened. The search to me means keeping eyes peeled at all times for something old, beautiful (secretly) and broken to appear on the streets of San Francisco. This is difficult in the age of Ikea. Most potential scores when inspected up close and personal, turn out to be a 6- month- old- compressed- particle- board -sorry- excuse- for- a- piece- of- weight- bearing- furniture. No use as furniture, or not even for use as scrap wood. We did find a lot of beautiful things in this period of searching: vintage clothes, a new back pack for Kirsten, a fax machine and office supplies for the office, new shoes, a vanity with fine woodworking, and speakers for the record player. No bench.

Building

Alas as the opening drew near, I resorted to our only alternative: building the bench.  I didn’t fancy this idea, because the only way I could think to build the bench seemed cheesy or clunky as I am only still learning, and can only really work with wood. I don’t know how to weld (<3) and i have a beautiful 2 years in the running collection of wood from various places. Yay finally an excuse to use my wood instead of just oogling it.

Origins of bench; just for the record.

The material used was all scrap, found or leftover, gathered, horded and hidden under beds and behind doors (my roomates are pleased at the purpose it finally serves). My personal favorite, and the classy finishing touch is the carved poles from a banister that garnish each bench leg. These poles came from a woodpile at the closing of last years Burning Man. The Deep End,  a daylight dance club on the playa. As they stacked wood to burn, I extracted wood that would sit in my house for a year before becoming a bench.

Multiple Locations

As I set to work with my jigsaw, a few 4×4’s and some 2×4’s, things got complicated. But negotaiting these complications was half the fun. After promising the neighboors quiet time on Sundays, I loaded the wood into the Aerostar van and left the shop. Woodshop on wheels! You’d think this would encourage me to take a day off…ha! I got the frame together in one day, listening to stories on This American Life and attempting angles without a protractor. I used the floor of the van and some street furniture as my saw horse’s. At dusk a truck full a fascinated french fellas found themselves helping load the finished massive frame into the van, and back to the shop.

This work on the bench is the first action the basement workshop ever got from me. It was poorly lit at the time, when all the tools were still in the green house (often not even lit). Here the bench and I learned about the importance of sanding, starting from a small grade, to high grade, especially in-between each coat of varnish and after staining. My neighbors daughter Hanna put on the first coat of stain for me. Her first staining project! She’s only ten, we’re starting them young, just like they used to. =) The Ladies upholstered the bench for me and voila! Here i give you the bench as it currently sits in the lobby.

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IMG_7139And here our tall friend Darcy demonstrates the rather tall height of the bench. To his right, his accomplice (not in height) Jonathan experiences the childhood joy of not being able to touch the ground with his feet. Yes the bench is tall, but it’s charming and pretty good for my first attempt. It also features a removable cushion section for easy recovering. Most importantly it’s not wicker.

Front counter interactions and generational (?) differences

After the first week of having doors open for business we’ve had quite a variety of customers, curiosities, and neighbors stop in. The behavior or presence of everyone differs of course, but I have picked up on one fairly interesting pattern, or maybe just coincidence. There is the customer or guest who comes straight to me at the counter. We talk history, personality, and hat needs. We connect, we understand, we hat. The bench facilitates this along with a glass of water or coffee as we size, try on and find our favorite hats. The other kind of customer or guest that comes in doesn’t make eye contact or have any apparent interest in interacting just wants to browse, eye ball, touch maybe, but probably not try on some hats. No talking, usually a thank you on the way out. I’ve noticed this difference correlates with a generational difference. I’d say the first style correlates with people 30+, and the 2nd style with the younger crowd. It’s new being behind the counter. I wonder how these styles will show over months, and years. I wonder what these styles have to do with history of culture and communication over generations.

Alright the end.

~Paul

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