When Jeremy Grubb starts a woodworking
project, "I'm normally just trying to push out a showstopper,"
One example, from a recent project, is
his wall-mounted camellia flower. Jeremy's client, for whom he had
already built other projects, including a dining table, saw the idea
for a sculpture elsewhere but said to Jeremy, "I know you could
do something better."
The client did not see the 4-foot
diameter flower sculpture until it was hung on his wall. Prior to
that, Jeremy's process was to transfer his drawing of the flower to
the white mahogany wood he used, take a piece to the band saw, and
cut it to shape. Then he would put a piece on the floor, block it off
with plywood, stand on it, "and take an adze to it and start
chopping off" (he did note that "I still have all my
toes"). The substrate of the flower sculpture is "like a
layer cake of Baltic birch, with every petal doweled into it, and set
with hide glue," he said. Of the 37 individual petals on the
sculpture, each starts out 1/2" thick, then sweeps up and
contours into thicknesses ranging from 1/8" to nothing. The
center of the flower is turned, with the stamen finished with a clear
coat of shellac -- "so you can see how yellow the white mahogany
is," Jeremy said; the finish on the rest of the project is a
whitewash made from shellac and wax.
"I'm trying to put stuff out there
that really makes a statement," Jeremy said. "With my
clients, I push them to do cooler and cooler things."
While he has taken "a handful"
of woodworking classes, including one on hand-cutting dovetails,
picked up information from magazines and books -- and sometimes
credits his childhood experiences at the University of Houston's
children's art program as his "educational background" --
mostly, Jeremy said, he learned about woodworking "just from
After leaving the U.S. Marine Corps, he
worked as a bail bond runner and a bouncer while educating himself,
gaining a master's degree in sociology and a degree in interior
design, and also running a remodeling business.
These days, he says, "I design
ridiculously difficult stuff, and then I have to figure out how to
make 'em." With some of his pieces, it requires finishing off
with hand tools because the design he's created can't be made another
way. Other pieces require a different approach.
Currently, Jeremy is working on "really
crazy organic shape sculptures out of veneer skins." He's using
an "outside the bag" process, wherein he's using vacuum
bags, but his tapered and bent laminations are formed by being bent
over the outside of the bag.
His other work with veneer has included
building a chamber to fume his own veneer for a floating cabinet made
of figured eucalyptus (the back panels were elm burl, and a
diamond-shaped inset made from book-matched eucalyptus). A current
project is a bombe chest carcass made from molded plywood with "angel
wings" doors and side panels: dyed wood veneers, which Jeremy
says look like feathers.
"For one job, I might be laying a
ton of veneer; another job might be very sculptural," he said.
"Everything I do, I try to push boundaries and do something
While he does use a lot of African
mahogany, Jeremy's wood choices, he says, essentially come down to
"the proper wood for the piece of furniture." For finishes,
he prefers to stick to a hand-rubbed oil finish, lacquer, or shellac
and wax. "They're all finishes that dissolve into themselves,
and they're also easier to repair in the future," he said.
His joinery might be a combination, of
loose tenons, hand-cut dovetails, or other choices: a bench with
curved joints -- Jeremy's "lace corset" bench -- is drawn
together with double tenons.
He uses some old tools in his shop --
he's currently working on restoring an American Frank H. Clement Co.
36" band saw from around 1900 and makes all his crosscuts on a
1950s Tannewitz table saw with a 16" blade and a restored
Rockwell slide. Newer shop favorites include a 12" Laguna
jointer and a 20" Laguna planer with Shear Tec II cutting heads
to minimize tear-out. Plus, Jeremy describes another band saw as a
"36", nine-foot-tall, monster."
His approach to design, however, is
fairly modern: "I try to keep a sense of harmony about the
piece," Jeremy said. "Modern styles are all about lines.
They don't have a lot of moldings to make them beautiful; you should
be able to sketch a piece on the wall and step back, and it should be
beautiful just from the lines alone."
Overall, Jeremy said, "I just like
to be crazy with it. I like making cool [stuff] out of wood."