Tuesday, August 16, 2011

From the Woodpile, Part 1

You may be wondering why I have decided to call my blog the woodpile (I'm just going to pretend that you are).

It all started one day when I was studying at one of my favorite coffee shops in San Francisco, Matching Half.  There are many reasons why I love Matching Half.  Of course the coffee's great, but the baristas are friendly, the ambiance is calming and clean, they play music I like and they always have great artwork.  Sitting at the counter, I noticed a roughly cut wooden votive candle holder, which I assume was made across the street by Kelly Malone of my favorite place to take crafty classes, Workshop.  Because anything's more fun than working on your Performance Assessment for California Teachers, I sketched the candle holder and decided to figure out how to make one.

The next time I visited my friends, The Wolds in the east bay, I brought my idea with me and was introduced to the woodpile.  The woodpile is outback, next to the stickle shack, in front of the incinerator and is a glorious pile of old, some rotting, some salvageable, and some very old wood.  I was then introduced to my new friend, the drill press.  I can't tell you how much I love that drill press.  It was picked up by one of the family members at a garage sale and it works beautifully.

My new friend, the drill press.

After measuring a votive candle I made a trip to the hardware store where I purchased a 1 1/2" paddle bit.  I didn't really think it would be that hard, but I also didn't really think it would be as easy as it was.  First you cut some wood (or if you're afraid of the table saw like me, have a friend cut some for you), measure out the spaces where you want to drill your holes, clamp your wood down and go!  The most difficult part, or time consuming anyway, is the sanding.  I wanted a rough finish, so I didn't sand too much on the outside, just enough to make the wood not splintery and make it look nice.  The tedious part was sanding the inside of the holes.  I still have a pile of candle holders that I made just before I left California, waiting to be sanded.

That large piece of wood has been on the Wold property for at least 40 years.

Thinking that maybe I could spend my life making candle holders, Polly suggested that I reserve my Etsy name now, even if I'm not ready to sell anything.  I thought of some okay names and then I came up with The Woopile. Well, The Woodpile is already taken.  After an exchange of ideas that included "the woodpile out back by the incinerator", I settled on "the woodpile outback".  The woodpile now represents a place of creative refuse, learning new skills and of being inspired by something and making it your own.  Interestingly enough, I ran into the same problem when I was trying to name this blog.  Apparently, The Woodpile is also the name of someone's novel that they've self-published on their blog.

First batch, completed.

Gift for my mom.

*One problem that I found after bringing one to my mom in South Carolina is that either the wood swelled in the humidity, or the metal part of the votive candles expanded after the candles were lit and the melted wax rehardened, making it difficult to lift the candles out of the holes.  This either means that I need to use a bigger paddle bit or sand the holes open even more, which is what I did for my mom.  If anyone has any ideas on how to either make this not happen, or make sanding the holes easier, I'd love to hear them.

*Special thanks to David and Polly for supplying the wood, tools and instruction.


  1. Finally, the truth about the woodpile! Okay, I already knew the truth, but I wanted to comment and remind you to wear eye protection the next time you use power tools (unlike in the drill press photo). My half-blind friend recommends them too.

  2. Handheld sanders are amazing things, as are Dremels. Perhaps one, or both, would help? Pawn shops are often full of good power tools for not a lot of dough.

    I second the eye protection thing, too. Better safe than...well, you know.