Like most individuals, I consider myself to be self-taught. I have no formal training as a woodworker, I did not apprentice under anyone, nor do I possess any formal education in design or art. But it would be dishonest to say that I have not had any teachers. Like anyone else, I read everything that I can get my hands on and I have inflicted myself on many a hapless professional craftsmen.
I want to introduce the LJ community to one of my mentors. His name is Mike Blatnick and he lives in Billings, Montana. He is an extremely talented designer and craftsman that can fluently speak in all the design vernaculars from Rococo to Modern. His work is absolutely impeccable and has been a benchmark that I have been chasing from the day that I met him.
A few years ago I hired Mike to build a mahogany door with a full view glass for one of my remodel projects. When I was in his shop, he was working on a table that had some swayed legs. I thought the design was the neatest thing that I ever saw and I obsessed over the shape of the legs. This obsession expressed itself in what I consider my breakout piece, the Mahogany Sofa Table.
When you know someone of this caliber, you can’t help but get excited about furniture making and design. The company a person keeps has an amazing influence on creativity. By sharing this I am really paying homage to someone that I consider a mentor and friend. (I am not sure, but he may just consider me a hemorrhoid for hanging around his shop too much.)
I stopped by Mike’s shop a few days ago and saw his latest work. It is a modern desk designed for an office here in Billings. This was just too good not to share, so he is allowing me to post this for the LJ community.
The desk is a modern design made with a solid beech top and beech veneers for the curved work. The finish is catalyzed acrylic from Sherwin Williams. This is a very durable finish for the writing surface and will withstand the abuse.
The drawers do not have surface mounted handles, they are opened by a recessed pull on the side. Just above the drawers, on both sides, are pull-outs to increase the desk area when the client has papers spread out.
The modern style of furniture looks simple but it is incredibly difficult and technical to build. There is very little margin for error in the finished product because all of the reveals have to remain constant. To achieve this level of excellence, Mike took the design to a larger shop that has a CNC machine and contracted out all the curved cutting. The story is that the CNC ran for an hour just to carve out the solid top with the bevel profile. He conceded that all the templates and patterns that he could have made would never have resulted in the same level of accuracy as what the CNC can produce.
Adding to the level of difficulty is the curved work. The accuracy of the work has to go from the top to the bottom over a curved surface. This is incredibly technical.
Mike’s knowledge of woodworking and furniture history is extensive and he can do everything from design to finish. I have used him as a benchmark for all aspects of the craft. Mike is certainly one of the individuals that I owe much thanks to for my growth.
Mike does not have a website and he is currently looking into this. When he gets one going I will be sure to let you know so that you may see more of his work.
Share the Love~Share the Knowledge
-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana, http://americancraftsmanworkshop.com