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A tray for the countertop

The making of a tray for the countertop to host the essence of what we use every day to make food.

a year ago

Latest Post 30 years and counting by Victoria Esposito public

By now you have got an idea that I am following this trend of reusing fallen branches to make something creative out of it.

If you didn't, here's clue one and number two. Today, I will walk you through how I built a tray for what we usually keep on the kitchen countertop.

We still cleaning up the yard from vegetation and repairing water pipes as I go. Sure enough, while I cut grass, I accidentally cause some damages to the unknowns hidden by the grass. Like the same pipes that we're repairing...

It has been a custom now that as soon I realize that something was damaged by the blade "Honey..." without adding any other words, Victoria grabs the toolbox and heads to the repair point. We're mapping the lines digitally so that once all is done we can automate and monitor water consumption using Flum. It's a neat device that over the years proven to be accurate and helpful.

During one of the clean-up jobs, I found this little rotten gem. A log and immediately an idea popped into my head. A tray for the countertop!

You see a log, I see... an opportunity.

Grabbed it, dragged to my ever-growing maker spot, and start cleaning it.

It was really in a bad shape, I should have thrown it away or used it as scrap wood for the BBQ. Mom always says "every cockroach is the beauty of his mommy" therefore I thought harder and longer and decided to come up with something that would have allowed me to use it – Interestingly enough when mom makes that comment she doesn't look at my freshly grown brother but rather to me...

The looks haven't changed much since gone full islander, just a bit of tan...I guess 🤣

My routinely self-mocking in the pixel is getting better but I forgot to blonde the beard I had last year.

He on the other end is not getting any younger! While I write this post, he's crossing a milestone. I digress...

I have traveled over 70% of the globe over 34 years and that desire to explore and what to know what's out there started when my dad took us to the movie to see The Goonies. I remember staying inside the theater and rewatch it again, so much I end up loving the thrill and the discovery feeling behind the story.

Looking at the horizon, I had a flashback of that movie and I looked for a scrap of wood that was leftover from when I built the desk for my remote working office.

 At this point I had the vision of what had to be created and the criterium :

The bLife project as initially conceived is dead but the spirit, the motto, and the idea behind it should never be stopped to be passed on to others around the world. Just like my friend Fabio passed it on to me 25+ years ago. I have been asked a lot about what's next with the bLife project. Yard work is giving plenty of time to frame and thinking about details, and usually, those are the ones that make a huge difference in the outcome. I haven't figured it out yet but I am actively thinking about it.

I will post what our next project is going to be and its details as soon I figure it out. One thing for sure, it won't be connected to Molokai the island, because people here have strong opinions about commercial use and development. There's a Unites States bylaws standard workflow to get things done but that has to be married with a local community that rules and counterweight over it. Not in a prescribed way but more ad-hoc and by confidence ranking. Like on a Facebook relationship status, it can be complicated 😄 – I have been here only for 7 weeks so it will take me time to understand the full dynamics but so far that part is very clear. Back to the project Mario!

I salvaged a chunk of wood and from the most "straight" parts of the whole log, I cut four pieces and pulled out the carving tools, to start the clean-up (termites and rotten) and then started crafting.

I sanded the pieces using 80 grit sandpaper in between clean up and slowly but surely the beauty of the core was getting out. Never judge a book by its cover as my successful writer friend would say or a log by the number of sanding swipes... they say. Or something like that!

I highlighted some of the imperfections and cleaned the dark spots with a smaller carving knife.

I cut a section, snag enough to have my wooden The Goonie doubloon fit inside just right. It took several carve and try steps because the geometry didn't have to be exact, as per requirement, and at the same time has to hold pulls and drag from the countertop.

An hour later...

Now it was time to build a base that was following the contour of the surrounding parts and that was as easy as sneaking out of the house at 14 for a party and then hoping that coming back drunk and stoned no one would notice you had ever left...

the image doesn't show but that was not a straight line all around

Only one side was straight and I was able to make an indent with the table saw

that lined up perfectly on the edge of the base.

for the other parts, I used the table saw to make the cuts and then manually carved the unevenness needed for having the wood flashing right to the base.

at first, I wanted to save myself some time and have the platform at the bottom and not inset between the parts. But it looked too much of a shortcut and less "natural". Even cutting by the external contour would have added that space at the bottom that wouldn't have been pretty to look at. Instead, I wanted the wood to be the bottom facing the counter.

So after some "admire the view and meditate" type of spacing in my head, all pieces were fitting together. I wood glued and put clamps around to seal the deal.

While it was drying I went fishing with Robert and while I was at it, he taught me how to throw a net, let's just say that my performance was not matching his standards. Well, even the fish's standards for that matter. But I will get better or Robert will remind me forever that I have yet to learn basic life skills 😅

I enjoy quite a bit fishing even if so far with the rod I caught only slime and a few stolen lures. I even anchored a turtle for a brief moment.

However, the highlight of the moment is when Aleka, after an extreme festive welcome, sits by me and looks for cuddles. Love that doggie!

The next day, I realized that we were out of gas for mowing and polyurethane oil for varnishing the wood. So Vickie went to get one of them...

Yep, one. When she got back, I asked where was the oil, and the look on her face said it all. We both went shooting aloud "IT'S OKAYYY.. it's bLife man 🤙🏽". So I decided to use the time I had left in the day in teaching Vickie some Italian while I was carving and cleaning the parts of the tray. Every Sunday we teach others something new and this time was my time to torture mWUhahahahah 😈

Digital and woodworking have never been this close...

The next morning, we headed to the bank to open an account and the clerk that took care of us was so genuinely kind and helpful that we decided to gift her a Google Assistant Home Pod that my team works on. While we were filling paperwork, she mentioned she had just got married and has a new puppy.

Back home in Seattle, I used to play "Songs for dogs" from that smart speaker while I was working on a project. Akila (our daughter's German shepherd)  would immediately circle on herself and then quietly sleeping down when that playlist was on. When the lady told us about how feisty the doggie would get, and her sleepless... I figured this device and Youtube 😆 will make her life better.

Victoria wrapped and handmade the card - building friendship is an art, after all!

After the trip to the bank, we went grocery shopping and got back home where my project was waiting. Did we get the oil for the varnishing from the hardware store? Of course, we did not!

One time is a sign, two times is a pattern. The universe was telling me something and it was that something was missing. The oil finish would have been a shortcut to something that in essence is simple but to its meaning holds all the goods. Thinking about it, the tray will hold the things we put in our body, more love and care goes into it the better energy for all people around it...

...so I decided to charcoal the wood using a blowtorch, fill some gaps using brown clay, and then finally varnishing, with a sponge so that even if the tray is close to a heat source (the stove) won't smell of exhausted oil. I had bought the clay for some other project I had in mind that back in Seattle wasn't working due to the temperature... Anyway, everything started from that shopping list that was never fully fullfiled.

What a wife missing the only shopping item on the list can do to a husband!

But on the other end when I said "what about some pasta today for lunch?", she didn't flinch for a second and start making homemade tagliatelle. So yes... she can forget even her head for that matter. It still a bLife wife. By the way, she does forget her head, and on a regular basis 🥰 a born hippie-islander indeed. Love her a lot!

Due to the time zone and the fact that uncle Google has a very HIGH demand for performance, I start working at 6 AM every day, so when we get close to lunchtime, I feel like Steven's after a monster bike ride. And the smell of what she was making wasn't helping!

I went back to the man-cave to nudge off the stomach and kept working on the tray. Meetings allowing, I have ~1 hour for lunch and I figured to put half of that time to good use. Burning baby burn!

The Shou sugi ban process was as fun as all times I do that but this time had additional pleasure due to the killing of bugs inside the hosting log. Although contrary to when I did it with pine wood, this Kiawe wood is much more fire retardant than I would have anticipated.

Originating in 18th century Japan, shou sugi ban is a particularly striking method of preserving wood by charring it with fire. Traditionally, this practice is used with Japanese cedar in order to weatherproof it. The wood is burned until the surface is charred, and then coated with natural oil.

I used a flurry sponge ball taken from our cat-house. Scarlet doesn't play with them, so I put them to good use   - I didn't want the tray to soak too much oil, I just wanted it to have a thin coat.

The final work is rewarding and fulfilling. What do you think?

Next week, well it is all fully curated, Victoria will be doing the painting work for the bLife logo in the wood doubloon and the initials of our children on the side of the backdrop. I will Instagram the final finish once it is done but since here time runs on a different timeline, well... in time, I will do that 😎

Have a bLife moment, every day, for life. 🤙🏽

Mario Esposito

Published a year ago