Archive for June, 2015

I think the time has come to make my big announcement:

I am starting a small furniture business called Wessinger Woodworks!

I’ve had an operating agreement written up, I’ve registered the business with the secretary of state as an LLC, I’ve opened a business bank account, had a logo designed, and created a website. The first run of chairs is nearing completion. I’ve thought about whether I should wait for the first run of chairs to be completed, but I’m excited about it and I decided to share the news now. The first chairs should be completed within the week, and with some final details complete out on the website, they will be available for purchase there. I am planning to upholster 4 of them in the same blue color as the prototype (pictured below), but one will be upholstered in black leather. I’m excited to see that one completed. Its going to look sharp. Stay tuned for updates.

Visit the website here:


The first run of chairs as of last night:


As I launch this business, my goal at least initially is to market the pieces through word of mouth. Posting this announcement here is one small part of that effort. By marketing through word of mouth and selling directly to consumers, my hope is to keep the as low as possible. To that end, if you know of anyone who might be interested in these chairs, please share this link.

Creating this first set of chairs has been quite a journey. I was joking with someone here at ADX last week about how my next design needs to be easier to build. As I continue to teach with the Wind and Oar Boat School, and working occasionally with the ADX fabrication team this business serves in part to fill in the gaps between classes and other work, but it is also a chance for me to push myself to develop my technical skills and my to challenge myself creatively. This chair has served both those needs. Despite the minimal number of pieces, it is one of the most technically challenging pieces I have ever created, and I am very pleased with the result.

Below are some of my favorite pictures from the build process.

One of the most challenging aspects is found where the rails meet the legs. The shoulders are cut to match the radius of the legs.


Every curve was carefully evaluated and revised from the prototype. The cutouts below the sides of the seat were enlarged, the curve on the outside of the arms was filled out, and the point where the arms curve to meet the piece across the back was brought forward slightly. Though subtle, these changes make a big difference.


Much of the furniture being built today is angular but without many curves. I set out to create a piece of furniture that has curves along with enough splay and rake to the legs to create some angularity. The interplay between all these angles and curves means that from every angle you will find something different and perhaps unexpected to admire.


Along the way I discovered that without the seat and seatback, the chairs are stackable at least 5 high. I’m working to keep my overhead and foot print low initially.


The prototype in its delightfully bold livery (please note that the curves on all pieces have been revised from this iteration). This is a chair that will lend a light and airy feeling to your spaces in the summer, and which will be cheerful in the winter.IMG_1447 IMG_1443


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The first issue of Wooden Boat Magazine that I ever bought was a special edition they published in 1994 called Beautiful Boats. It was a selection of previously published articles that had appeared in the magazine and among those articles was one titled “What More Could the Commodor Ask.” The article features an Egret type Sharpie built by a man to cruise the shallow water in southern Florida. Pictures of the man standing on the stern of his boat, poling along in the light evening breeze or sailing in the light blue water have haunted me ever since.

His quiet way of traveling: sailing when there was wind and either using a sculling oar or poling when there wasn’t that immediately appealed to me then, and continues to appeal to me now. There was a sense of freedom communicated through those pictures which I think influenced my own aspirations for how I wanted to travel by boat. In the images within the article it is always a solitary man represented on his boat. Below is an image from that article named “What More Could the Commodore Ask?” (First published in Wooden Boat Magazine, Issue 56, January/ February 1984, page 85).


In the years since I first read that article, I read and admired the accomplishments of many sailors who have undertaken difficult journeys including circumnavigations alone. I’ve read accounts by Joshua Slocum of sailing Spray. I read and enjoyed Bernard Moitessior’s account and eventual abandonment of the initial arround the world race. I read Robin Knox-Johnston’s account of his victory in the same race. My grandparents gave me a copy of “North to the Night” by Alvah Simon, the incredible story of his winter spent frozen into the ice near the north end of Baffin Island. Another story that impressed my is by a woman who tells the story of how she kayaked the Northwest Passage over the course of 4 seasons. The book is called “Kabloona in a Yellow Kayak,” and was also given to me by my grandparents. I have long been drawn to these stories of solitary adventurers facing the mental, physical and technical challenges which they had to surmount during their respective journeys.

Many of my own outdoor pursuits have paralleled this fairly solitary approach. At times I pursued outdoor activities on my own because it was difficult to find people with similar goals and interests, and sometimes it was a choice based on what I wanted to gain from the experience. When I was in college and decided to begin racing in triathlons, I did considerable research and trained almost entirely on my own. At the time almost all of my bike rides were done alone, including my first century ride during the spring of my sophomore year of college. After graduating college I set out on a bike tour, starting near Jasper, Alberta with the idea that I would find some clarity about what I wanted to do after college. I wouldn’t say I gained much clarity in that regard from the trip, but I did have an incredible experience covering nearly 1300 miles touring through some remote parts of British Columbia over 22 days. I remember the experience fondly, and remember talking to people where ever I went and learning about each of the places I traveled through. Even so, I remember struggling at times with feels of loneliness.

Though I am often quiet, sharing the experiences I seek out is hugely important to me. Just as sharing my woodworking is a way for me to express myself in subtle ways, and at its heart woodworking truly is all about relationships, my outdoor pursuits are also a way to explore my relationship with the world around me, and to learn more about the places I travel through. At times it can be a way to learn about the natural environment, the history of an area, or about ourselves. Over the years I have come to have a greater and greater sense that exploring and learning in a variety of ways is best done and shared with other people.

Changes in how I enjoy boating have paralleled changes in how I pursue my personal woodworking. Much of my woodworking is now done at ADX where I have enjoyed becoming part of the community of makers that use that space. I have enjoyed sharing what I know about woodworking as well as learning from others. Recently,┬ámore and more of my boating has also been done with others, and it is something I am grateful for. Over the past year I have been spending more time going out with others in their boats, taking other people out in my boats or simply going out in one of my boats and traveling with other boats. Regardless of the manner, I’ve enjoyed being able to share my experiences in boats in a variety of ways, and I’ve enjoyed learning from others.

After so many years of pursuing many of my outdoor activities on my own, I’d be the first to admit that I’m not the greatest at planning ahead and reaching out to organizing folks for outings. My friend Bruce recently started a new listserv to make it easier for those of us in the Portland area who are interested in sail and oar boating to quickly get in touch when we are going out, and to support the growth of this community. I am grateful for his efforts.

While I continue to admire those who have undertaken extended single-handed or solo adventures, I don’t find myself fantasizing about pursuing similar adventures the way I used to. Perhaps some day some series of events will cause me to revisit this more solitary method of travel to gain what can be gained from it. My dad is about to set off to hike the Oregon section of the PCT. I am excited for him, proud of the work he has done to be ready for it, and excited to hear about the experience he is going to have, but at the moment I’m looking forward to spending more of my time out on the water with friends.

So much of sail and oar cruising is about how we relate to the natural world around us, that it would be a shame not to share how we experience that relationship with others.

If you are in the Portland area, and are interested in becoming a greater part of the local sail and oar community you should visit Bruce’s blog and join us.


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Tomorrow morning, at 5am, a race of unreasonable proportions will begin. Participants will begin in Port Townsend, Washington and travel by boat to Ketchikan, Alaska, 750 treacherous miles, and basically the only rule is no engines are allowed. These boats will be powered by the wind or by paddles and oars exclusively.

Tonight I am toasting them, and all the work they have put into their preparations. Entering this race is a bold choice, and as Gothe suggests this boldness has genius, though I also think they are all a bit nuts. That being said I am more than a bit jealous of all those who have entered into this endeavor. That statement might reflect my own level of sanity, and I’m ok with that. Its going to be one hell of a journey for everyone involved, and I wish them a safe passage, whether it is enjoyable or not.

Over the coming weeks I plan to have my Race to Alaska flask with me at all times. I’ll be keeping close track of the competitors and want to be prepared to toast the victor whenever they arrive at the finish line. I will likely also toast second place and their proud acquisition of what I’m sure is a fine set of steak knives.

To learn more about the race and to see how you can also follow the progress of these stalwart individuals, follow the link below:


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