I walked into my studio this morning and was struck by the colors that seem to have infiltrated it.

Whoaa what happened here? I’m really not a big fan of these pastels, much less this triadic scheme. But there they were.

The boat was something I bought a year ago. I bought it because I have some questions about that particular design. It’s called a Car Topper. It was designed by the innovative and somewhat eccentric boat design Phil Bolger. “Dynamite” Harold Payson has written about building them and sells the plans. This boat was built by the father of a friend of mine. I had been thinking of building it myself but the price was right for this one so I bought it. It needs restoring and I have yet to get around to that.

Anyway, my friend’s father painted that boat those colors. I suppose he may have been thinking of tropical pastels or something. Something¬† like the way houses are painted through out the Caribbean. I don’t know. The odd thing is that my friend is an artist, a pretty well known artist who has many public art commissions in his portfolio and is known for his use of colors in his sculptures.

The surfboard is in for repairs. It’s a Robert August design and was shaped for the surfer I eventually bought it off of. Same color scheme as the boat! What is it about those colors?

Take a look at a color wheel. It’s set up based on the three primary colors arranged equidistant around a circle. That’s 120 degrees apart, which is what is meant by triadic colors, they are 120 degrees apart on the color wheel. Using triads creates a high energy kind of buzz of a color scheme. Adding white tones that down somewhat and shifts the scheme towards a pastel look but it still cries out for attention to me. Hey mahn, look ‘a me mahn, I’m over he-ah. Or something.

I’ve been thinking a long time about getting into boat building professionally. I’ve built a few boats in the past for fun or as the need arose, but now I’m looking to build boats for others. It’s a very daunting prospect. I realized a while ago that I needed to learn a lot more about boats and boat building before attempting this. I’ll be posting more on all this in coming posts. One of the reasons I bought the Car Topper was to do some initial tests on the water and to get my hands on a boat about that size. I’ve moved into a very different direction since buying it and am going to build a very traditional design, lapstrake boat but I still plan to restore this boat and use it for odd jobs around the water.

The surfboard is being repaired where an earlier repair, done before I got the board, failed a few days ago. I was out on some pretty decent sized waves, the first waves of any size for a long time around here. It’s been a very flat summer. About an hour and a half into the session, as I was paddling out and ducking into an oncoming wave as it broke over me I had my hand on the rail and could feel it flex and as it did I felt a crack open up. Not good.

I took the board into the studio a couple of days later (luckily I have another board that I used or the clean up session the next day, which BTW was awesome!) and inspected the damage. An old plug of pink builder’s foam had worked loose and created the crack. I had to grind down quite a lot of the rail, fill with epoxy and micro balloons and have just layered in some fiber glass cloth and resin. It should be ready in a couple of days.

I’m still working through a lot of material on boat building but hope to be starting a boat in a week or so.¬† The surf season is starting here so I’ll be quite busy for some time. I’ve got a new coffee table design I’ll be showing here as soon as I get it rendered the way I want and I’ve been commissioned to build another coffee table to be shipped down to Florida. Did I say I was going to be busy?

Mirror frame completed


The mirror frame was finished in an ebonized finish and is ready for my clients to inspect.



It is too bad that I don’t have the mirror that will go into the frame.


The frame was designed by Deep River Partners for a client of theirs.

Now I have to finish cleaning my shop and get ready for the next commission.

…and winter winters on


This is four days after the last storm I posted about. This is what’s in front of our house. We’ve had several inches since then with more expected today.

Meanwhile I’m completing the the art nouveau style mirror frame. The last ribbon of wood, fret as I call it, is just about finished.


This is how it lies into the back of the mirror frame.


Two other frets, completed and ready to be glued in with the fret patterns.


As I was milling the tenons on my router set up as an end mill, for some reason the site of this graceful arc of wood clamped to this machine inspired me to take out my camera and shoot today’s shop series.


The tenons, or end tabs, are initially milled by this end mill.


I have to finish the joint by hand though. This is because the face being trimmed will have to mate against the inside curved surface of the mirror frame.


After I have the joints completed I shape the cross section into a gentle, flowing curve. I start by carving bevels that are eventually refined into the final curved section.



This flowing bevel or chamfer reminds me of the path a down hill skier might take or even a surfer flowing across the face of a wave. It’s been a very long time since I did any down hill skiing and from the looks of the snow and ice it will be a while before I do any surfing. Winter!

new web site up


I’ve finally got the new web site up and most of the kinks worked out. I’ve still got to get the “client pages” completed but that can wait a little while, at least until I have a client interested in keeping tabs on their project through my site. Here’s a post I did about that page.

I designed the site by first assessing what my goals were in having a web site. Initially, my first three sites were focused on simply putting up on the web a limited portfolio of my work so that people that had already heard about me in some way could easily see what sort of work I do. This time around my goals are a little more.

I want this site to attract new customers, tell people exactly what it is I offer and answer the question why they should chose me to make furniture for them.

I started by surveying past clients and asking them what they would have liked to have seen on my earlier site. Most of them said they found the site by accident and were not exactly sure what it was that I did when they first saw the site. They had a felt need to find someone who would make a piece of furniture for them and even though that is exactly what I do my earlier site did not clearly communicate that. I decided that I would try and communicate to anyone seeing my home page that it was a very easy and simple process to have me design and make their furniture and that I would take personal care to make sure that they received exactly what they were looking for. Their need was met, they found me.

The rest of the site would be dedicated to showing that I had the experience and skills to accomplish the work they wanted done, that they would be very happy with the results and that they could trust me. The portfolio shows the breadth of my experience and the depth of my skills. It wasn’t easy to do because I really do not find it easy to “sell” myself (really!) but, since I think the best way to tell people about the experience of having me build furniture for them is to include testimonials from past clients, I added a page of testimonials. You may notice that the final home page differs from the image above by the added link to a testimonials page.

To build trust I decided to tell my story which is what this blog is all about, so I added a link to this blog. I also added a pretty basic faq page so that some of the initial questions can be answered for people upfront. On the portfolio page I’ve included sections for some of the art I’ve done as well as pieces in my current designs collection. These pieces are priced to sell on a made to order basis and I hope will generate some sales but if nothing else will give an idea of what my charges are like.

As I mentioned in an earlier post about the new site I did the design work for the site by mocking up pages using Paint Shop Pro and I had someone else, Nate Kroll, do the actual coding. We worked together with Nate telling me what could be done and what couldn’t and me getting back him with new ideas to work around initial problems. Nate needs to insert a credit for his work on the site and I keep reminding him to do so. He’ll get to it sooner or later, but I’d like to pass on any new jobs for web site building I can to him. I’ll be adding much more to the portfolio as time allows as I have images of many more projects and I’ll be digitizing my slide collection as well. Before I add too many new items though we have a slight technical glitch I’d like to resolve. The slider bar on the left side of the portfolio page resets when you click on related items thumbs and once the list gets much longer that may be disconcerting for people. I will add new art work though in the mean time.

Surf Board Table III -iii

The legs are cut to fit up against the center arc at a 30 degree angle and mortises or slots are cut on that beveled face to receive the tenons that fit through the arc. I use the arc pattern to locate the slots in the arc.


After cutting those I do the final shaping on the arc. The convex curve is shaped on the belt sander table.


And the concave curve is shaped by hand using a spoke shave.


A test assembly of two of the legs to the arc reveals an interesting form.


I often take a little time to consider the forms created by accident when assembling furniture elements. To some degree there is not that much “accident” involved as I intentionally created the parts with the goal of creating an interesting or compelling shape.

I use to whip out an old Polaroid camera and take a few shots. Then I’d pin them to my office wall. I still study them for ideas.


Now I use one of digital cameras and my hard drive has become the studio wall. I actually like the studio wall better.

Adding the second set of legs makes it easier to see how this could turn into a coffee table.p1010019.jpg

Next I’ll shape the top, add some cross pieces and I can glue up the base.

Next post is here.

The Design Process: A Table, part 2

The dialog with my clients generated an interest in two of the sketched designs I had created, sketch #3 and sketch #4.

Table sketch #3 by Todd Fillingham Table sketch #4 by Todd Fillingham

Sketch #4 was derived from an earlier table I had made and shown in my portfolio. Jackie had wanted to be sure and have the table legs as far out towards the edge of the table top as possible to maximize leg room under the table. Both of these designs accomplish that as part of the design motif.

Since these designs were quick ideas drawn to look for a direction to move in to accomplish a final design I felt that they needed some refining. I discussed this with Jackie and Peter and got their impressions. From those discussions I created two designs, one of each table.

At this point I’ve started looking at the joinery as well as other technical considerations so that I don’t present a design that would be too expensive to accomplish. Here is design #3.

Dining table by Todd Fillingham

I had also modeled the site, the clients kitchen, in my 3D cad program and was able to place the table within that model to give my clients an idea of the scale of the table and how it would look in their space.


Dining table by Todd Fillingham

I did the same process for design #4.


Dining table by Todd Fillingham

I’ll show another view of the rendered model here. I provided Jackie and Peter with several views of each.


Dining table by Todd Fillingham


Dining table by Todd Fillingham


For both designs I also created line drawings with dimensions. Here is the line drawing for table #4. Click to get a larger view. Dining table by Todd Fillingham


Now it was up to Peter and Jackie to decide which of the two they liked the best or whether they would like to think about another approach. Their house had several elements that were of the Prairie/ Arts and Crafts genre. One of the elements of Arts and Crafts style is the use of exposed joinery and table #4 has more explicit exposed joinery. They eventually decided on #4.

After they made their decision I worked out a bid price for them and we signed a Commission Agreement detailing the design, materials, price, completion date and delivery details. I then created shop drawings, selected the lumber and built the table.

Here is a detail of the completed table showing the exposed joinery.

dsc00143.jpg The cherry will darken with age and exposure to light. The kitchen it went into had plenty of light exposure and that is why I rendered the models in dark cherry as the finished table would soon darken.

Jackie and Peter were quite happy with the table. As a matter of fact they wrote this testimonial for me:

Todd Fillingham is the best kept secret of a craftsperson in Milwaukee. He has a beautiful portfolio of lovely, creative and usable furniture. I have known Todd for 25 years but it was only when I heard his name sponsoring an NPR show did I think- “he is the one to design a perfect table for our newly remodeled kitchen.” And I was right. He looked at the site, he listened to my ideas, he did an array of drawings, he made a few alterations after discussions and he used both his sense of design and what I wanted with his skill and computer savvy to do a picture of a table that is exactly what he then produced in beautiful cherry wood. We thought the price was reasonable for this utilitarian piece of art.

Jackie Boynton