Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Crafty Little Devil

About 100 years ago there was a group of movers and shakers of the city that gathered regularly on the second floor of the building located at 531 Third St in what is now Old Town. The group was known as The Humboldt Club. They shot pool, drank, smoked, talked politics, and probably bad-mouthed a few people along the way. One hundred years later The Humboldt Club has been reborn.

There is a small group of people, me included, who get together a few times a month, usually on a Saturday night. It is odd that I’m normally not that social of a person, or at least I didn’t used to be. It is fun, though to get together with a small, informal group. There are 6 of us and we meet at a different person’s house each time. The person who hosts the night makes dinner and others bring desserts or maybe a salad. Cocktails are served and after dinner we sit and talk for hours. It is a small town and everybody knows somebody. We talk about local politics, architecture, art, history, current events, and whatever. It is very civilized but it does get bawdy at times. One evening someone in the group, I forget who, decided we were the resurrection of The Humboldt Club and it stuck.

It was decided last week that we would get together once more before Christmas and gifts would be exchanged. When I say “decided” I mean that I was told this is what would be happening. Now, I’m not against gift giving. I love giving gifts, but I am a selective gift giver. I don’t give gifts that will end up in the back of a closet before Easter and then be sold at a garage sale in 2 years. I give 2 kinds of gifts. The first kind is something that can be enjoyed immediately and then it’s gone. Something like a nice bottle of wine, a box of chocolates, or maybe some smoked salmon. The second kind are gifts that are well thought out and meaningful.

In my gift giving scheme, members of The Humboldt Club sort of fall in a gray area. It seems odd to serve them dinner and all the free gin & tonics they can hold and them give them a bottle wine in pretty paper. At the same time I’m not going to go out and spend big bucks on nice, well thought out gifts on members of The Humboldt Club. Instead, I’ve decided to make gifts. This has the potential to go over like a lead balloon.

In reality the gifts are not completely hand made. I started by buying a set of eight old, nickel plated skeleton keys off Ebay. I then went to the woodshed to find a nice old piece of redwood. The piece I eventually picked was a piece of blocking used between two joists to keep them from twisting. I spent a few hours in the shop coming up with some nicely shaped…well ok, they’re key chains. But wait there’s more. I’m then going to make a stencil that says “The Humboldt Cub”. I’ll stencil that on the ornately cut piece of redwood and then shellac it. Then the skeleton keys will be attached with a nice piece of chain and waa-la. Keys to the non-existent club for all the new members. A nice gift – I hope. I don’t expect anyone to actually use it as a key chain. That is not really the point.

I really hope this is not going to be one of those, “Oh, this is nice.” {fake smile} “What is it?”. I haven’t finished them yet and I’m fully prepared to ditch the whole idea and go buy 5 bottles of wine if they don’t turn out nice. I think this may work though. This is a crowd that appreciates history, and things made from old-growth redwood and shiny nickel plated trinkets screams history in these parts. It’s funny how much redwood is appreciated here. Especially the really nice stuff. Before I moved here I never thought of redwood being used for anything but decks and fences. The old dead guys really did some nice stuff with it way back when.

I have heard that even back then redwood was considered a second class wood. If you had the means you shipped in oak or mahogany. Few had the means and redwood was used for everything. Even in the wealthiest of homes, the homes of the Lumber Barons and Ships Captains of the late 19th century, you could find furniture and some interior millwork made of burl redwood. Today people speak of old-growth redwood in hushed tones and a sense of reverence. It’s kind of funny, and I guess it’s really a local thing, and if that’s the case you can count me as a local because I really love this stuff. Redwood is a softwood no matter what the age, but the old stuff has a heft and character to it that you just don’t find in the second and third growth wood. You can’t duplicate in 100 years something that took 2000 years to create.

So with that in mind I’m hoping that my old-growth redwood and skeleton key key chains emblazoned with The Humboldt Club logo will be appreciated by the newest members of The Club. I’m normally not a crafts person so this is the extent of my craftiness. I don’t think there is any chance I’ll be found hanging out down at The Scarp Book Get Away anytime soon. If the key chains turn out good I’ll post some pictures, if not I may need some suggestions for nice gifts for The Humboldt Club.

Oh, and this time I seem to have gotten the comments working properly.

Some Redwood Millwork In My House


Suzanne said...

Greg!!! How the hell are you? I'm so glad to be able to comment again.
Your gift idea is great, people always appreciate something you took time and talent to make.
Your redwood is beautiful! Of course we don't have any here, and I've never seen any up close. How wonderful and beautiful! Like pine,(duh!)but not. I love the color.
Your doors rock, too. Mucho kudos on another job well done.

merideth said...

there is nothing, NOTHING like a thoughtfully hatched gift...i think your Humboldt Club members will be suitably entertained by your cleverness

SmilingJudy said...

Geezus, Greg! You crack me up.

deb said...

we always make gifts for christmas... kind of a family tradition, you might say... i remember making ceramics with my mom when i was little, and this year i'm making the usual homemade cookies and chocolates, along with some little christmas pins for the kids! and the grandparents are getting wooden ornaments painted by the wee ones themselves! should be good!

your humboldt members should appreciate your cleverness! can't wait to see your final product...!

Kristin said...

I think that's a nice idea, Greg. Also, your redwood reverence reminds me of the way people talk about heart pine here in Alabam'.