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So, What’s New At Sippican Cottage? Is

It’s been a very long winter. There’s glacial ice, covered with six feet of snow, in my yard. The calendar claims it’s March, but the calendar appears to be either illiterate or innumerate — or perhaps it’s a foreigner. The temperature still routinely drops below zero at night, and likewise struggles to begin with any number higher than “one” during the day, too. The sun comes up, looks ashamed of itself for a few minutes, and slinks back down below the horizon as fast as it can. The entire state of Maine, where I live, is almost out of firewood, pellets, and patience.

Me too. How about you?

So what’s a fella to do? Keep working, and trust in the promise of Spring. We might only have Spring for four hours, and those four hours might not appear until July, but sooner or later it has to show up, doesn’t it? I need to reset the tumblers on the year, and right now.

So let me be the first to plant the flag of rebirth in the snowbank at the end of the driveway where the plow driver really lets you have it: I’ve got a new website.

I call it

I’ve decided to offer a line of ready-to-ship, solid figured hardwood, heirloom quality furniture on its own website. is a portmanteau of FASt and anTIQUE. Of course if you don’t want to reach for your dictionary, the word portmanteau means “a gibberish word designed for the Intertunnel.”

Everything on is already made, so there’s no waiting around for it, except for the time it takes to put it in a box and ship it to you. I’ve partnered with Amazon Payments, too, so you can pay for your purchases by using your existing Amazon account information. My new website has a better picture viewer, more pictures of the items, and a real, live, shopping cart instead of plain old Buy Now buttons. But if you see something you like, you’ve got to buy it right away, because there’s only one of everything you see.

Same great quality we’ve always offered at Sippican Cottage Furniture, but no waiting. And to kick things off, everything is discounted, and ships for free. What’s not to like? Hmmm, what’s that smell? Smells like Spring. Let’s Dance!


by: Sippican Cottage

Sun’s beaming in the window,
There’s rumbling from the floor,
We’re rollicking and pulsing
Boxes dancing out the door.

Oh how our muscles ripple,
We’re making twenty knots,
We’re alternating; current —
We’re glowing with the watts.

Pounding down the corridors,
With Bills of Lading, piled;
Our output’s put the boss on ice
We’re blowing out the dials.

They count the beans but can’t keep up,
We’re cooking with the gas;
Our arms are made from tempered steel,
Our heart is made of brass.

That brass is rolled to make a tube,
The tube is bent just so;
And when we blow that trumpet, Jack,
The girls get all aglow.

The whistle blows at five o’clock,
It’s twenty-three skidoo;
The guys and gals that made that stuff,
Go out for dancing too.

They box the compass of the steps
Then swing from chandeliers;
They leave the clerks there in the lurch
Then kick it up a gear.

They pound the floor into the ground,
They swing and then they sway;
They’d drink to all their troubles,
But they’ve long since gone away.

They close the places late at night,
And walk beneath the stars;
Arm in arm, exchanging charms
One’s Venus, one is Mars.

Mighty children spring from them,
To keep the flame alight;
They nurse them with acetylene,
And ultra-violet light.

They grow some whiskers when they’re old,
And sit down for a spell;
Their Ercoles will take their place,
And raise a little hell.

Sippican’s Christmas Whatsis 2013

Well, it’s that time of year again. A couple of weeks until
Christmas, and you’re still frantically looking for that one, last thing
to max out your credit card and dazzle your significant someone or
other. I have some suggestions.

For all your Christmas fixins, you should visit our friends at 32 Degrees North. They have old skool decorations, ornaments, cards, and gifts, the kind we adore here at the Cottage. They always send my children Advent Calendars, which brings a big smile to their faces and a wistful tear to my eye. They’ve got Easter stuff, too, which is like Christmas with less shoveling, so I like it even better. Go there now, there’s no time to waste: 32 Degrees North. 

Our friend Nora Gardner has forsaken Wall Street and started her own business, the eponymous Nora Gardner. She’s as bright as the star atop the Christmas Tree, and she’s even better looking than the pretty models she’s got showing off her demure but dazzling dresses, which doesn’t seem fair, really.  Her stuff is made right here in New York City, too. Buy American! Get Gardner!

Speaking of nice legs, Sippican Cottage Furniture has some Ready to Ship items that are, well, ready to ship.
We’ve got a brand new payment provider, Checkout by Amazon, as well, to
make purchases easier on your end. If you’ve got an Amazon account, you
can use our buy now buttons and all your payment and shipping info is
already on file with Amazon. Easy!

We’ve got three
striking solid tiger maple Kipling Tables ready to put in a box and make their way to your house, and one extraordinary solid quartersawn white oak Shamrock Table, all with a fat, jolly
33 percent Yuletime discount, and free shipping to boot. Think of the extra eggnog
and mistletoe you’ll be able to buy with all the money you save. The three Kipling Tables are dyed Cinnamon, the Shamrock table is a new color of ours, called Montecito Ebony, which is a rich, dark coffee color, that is if you get your coffee from a Turk and have a Sicilian espress it for you. The Kipling Tables are all very strikingly grained, and super handsome, but man oh man is the grain on the Shamrock Table wild.  They’re all the same dimensions; 15″ square, 28″ high.

To take advantage of our Free Shipping promotion, enter Coupon Code: FALALALA upon checkout, and purchase before Friday, December 14th. 

Kipling Table 1 

Regularly $299, now just $199, and Free Shipping

Buy Kipling Table 1: 
SOLD! Thanks, Teresa!

Kipling Table 2

Regularly $299, now just $199, and Free Shipping

Buy Kipling Table 2:

SOLD! Thanks, Teresa!

 Kipling Table 3

Regularly $299, now just $199, and Free Shipping

Buy Kipling Table 3:

SOLD! Thanks, Greg P. ,and Merry Christmas!

Shamrock Table 1

Regularly $299, now just $199, and Free Shipping

Buy Shamrock Table 1:

SOLD! Thanks, William S, and Merry Christmas!

Got questions? Email me at sippicancottage at and I’ll answer all the polite ones. And Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!


I’m currently beezy making twenty tables for a sale at Sippican Cottage Furniture. I’ve never made that many things at one time. If you want to be notified when they go on sale, (heavily discounted, natch) sign up for an email notification at the top of our home page there. We don’t flood your inbox if you do. It’s a once-in-a-while thing.

In the interim, I’ve still got one lovely Kipling Table left over from the last batch of stuff. It’s deuced handsome:

It’s solid Tiger Maple. It’s our Cinnamon color. Marked down to $199, which includes free shipping to anywhere in the lower 48. It’s 15″ square, about 28″ tall.

Did you know that Rudyard Kipling lived in Vermont for a while, amongst the sugar maples and Calvin Coolidge’s laconic relatives? Wrote the Jungle Book while he was there, if memory serves.  Ah, yes, Wikipedia’s on it:

A little maple began it, flaming blood-red of a sudden where he stood against the dark green of a pine-belt. Next morning there was an answering signal from the swamp where the sumacs grow. Three days later, the hill-sides as fast as the eye could range were afire, and the roads paved, with crimson and gold. Then a wet wind blew, and ruined all the uniforms of that gorgeous army; and the oaks, who had held themselves in reserve, buckled on their dull and bronzed cuirasses and stood it out stiffly to the last blown leaf, till nothing remained but pencil-shadings of bare boughs, and one could see into the most private heart of the woods.

That’s purty good writing. He might add up to something someday if he keeps it up.

Me? I’m angling to have: HE HAS POTENTIAL written on my gravestone.

I Have No Idea If This Is Funny

Reader and commenter and left-coast Interfriend Charles Schneider sent this one along. He said, “Not sure if this is funny or not…”

I wondered if he was being polite, and thought it was funny, but was worried it might offend me a little, since I make furniture. Or maybe he was like me: I have no idea if it’s funny.

I’m not saying it isn’t funny. I didn’t laugh at it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not funny, necessarily. It might be a scream. You tell me.

Remember Night Shift? It was back when Michael Keaton was zany and Henry Winkler was trying to Un-Fonz himself, and Shelley Long still had a prayer of a career outside a disreputable bar in Boston. (me too, babe; me too)  It was quite charming, and there were plenty of jokes in it to carry it along. Somewhere in the middle of it, one of the characters is trying to explain just how much of a misguided deadbeat schlub someone else’s boyfriend is. She says he’s quit his job, and is making furniture by hand.  It was 1982’s version of the same joke.

But not the same joke, I gather. I assume that it’s the opposite of the same joke. In 1982, no one cared if you could make furniture. It was assumed that anyone could do it, but no one would. It appears in 2013 that the same joke relies on the assumption that everyone wants to, but no one can. It reminds of how the same thing spoken in two different times means two different things. In 1950, the prosecutor told the jury that the defendant went nuts and killed two people. In 2013, the defense lawyer tells the jury that the defendant went nuts and killed two people.

I’ve seen an episode of Portlandia. It was funny. I’m not immune to their schtick. But in order to get a broad, topical joke like that, you have to be in on the cultural stereotypes that are the moving parts of it. I guess I’m not. Do the young women of today really go wobbly if you’re able to make a chair, unless it’s a wobbly chair? I don’t know. Who are the stereotypical male males in popular culture now? I find Orlando Bloom, Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, and a handful of other leading men to be interchangeable. They don’t seem to be able to grow a beard yet, though they’re close to collecting Social Security.  I know who Ron Swanson is, but I’m not going to watch that show to figure out if he’s just the handy Archie Bunker I assume he is, or if he now represents an archetype of some sort of an overtly masculine person in a feminine world. If he does, I imagine it’s just to mock him for it.

The actor that portrays Ron Swanson, Nick Offerman, seems affable enough. I’ve seen him here and there on these here Intertunnels. He understands deadpan. Deadpan comedy is best. It’s Ward, via Twain, if you do it right. You can be subversive when you can deliver the payload with a straight face. A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down the pants is fun, but it can’t be subversive.

So our friends in Portland shot some seltzer down their pants while they made a chair, and I don’t know if it’s funny. But then again, I’m too busy actually making furniture to keep up. I’ve made furniture for a decade now. Well, I made furniture for two months, mixed in with looking for my bevel square for nine years and ten months, anyway.

Exactly The Same Kind Of Different

Haven’t written much lately. Mi dispiace. I’ve been working day and night for weeks on end.

There’s a picture of a batch of Evangeline Tables that went out this week. Some had gone out earlier, and some customers have asked me to hold others until later dates for one reason or another. It was fun to see a half-dozen of them lined up at a time. Thanks to everyone that bought one. I hope you like them. It was gratifying making them. I’d make more, but I used all the flame birch material I had. Not sure when I’ll be able to get more like that. I admit that I was a little befuddled that I was able to make tables that look like those. I didn’t think I was capable of such a thing.

They do not look like a machine made them. You can tell that they are made by a person. That’s a double-edged sword. Some people might think that objects that look like a person made them would be a kind of defect. Our machine age brooks no competition from the apes. But no one that reads my blog thinks that the evidence of the hand of the person that made a thing detracts from the item itself — just the opposite,  I imagine. It’s interesting to make 32 turned legs at a time, and try to make them all the same. Exactly the same kind of different, is more like it.

This winter has been beastly. Really cold weather started really early in the year, and never let up. Snowed a lot, too. My wife and son and I had to shovel for two days straight last week, after a blizzard, just to get a truck in and accept the cardboard I use to package furniture. Everything is uphill both ways this time of year.

I’m also making a big table for Julie and her family, who reads and comments here. It’s taking too long to finish it. It’s been too cold in my shop to finish a table that big properly. The small ones you just bring by the woodstove and there’s no problem, or bring them upstairs into the house. There is an old saying about commerce: I am your friend, but my business doesn’t know you. I am Julie’s friend but my business hasn’t known her properly. The winter’s back is broken now, and the table won’t be long now. I will not sleep properly until it goes, and until the one I’m making for my friend Arlan is done, too. Unfinished business keeps a man up at night.

I have all sorts of odds and ends that have collected since last fall in an alcove outside my children’s bedrooms. It’s a neat little spot, a dormer with a window built entirely to bring light into what would be a very dark hallway otherwise. Whenever something gets made that doesn’t have a home right away, it goes there. It’s the best furnished room in my house, and it isn’t a room, and no one goes there. It’s time to empty it out and use the proceeds to buy food, or fritter it away on other silly things like that.

Here’s an experimental Console Table. It’s two inches less wide than my regular size. It’s 14 x 32 by 28 inches high. Honey Pot. My wife is starting to look at it funny — the same look she gave the stray cat that’s lived with us for over a decade after the look. Time to get it out of here. $399 includes free shipping:  

Honey Pot Console:
SOLD! Thanks, Emily in Virginia

Here’s another of the experimental sized Console Tables. This one is dyed cinnamon. 14 x32 x 28 inches high. $399 includes free shipping.

Cinnamon Cottage Console:
SOLD! to old friend Ruth Anne down Carolina way. Many thanks!

I’ve got two splay-legged tiger maple Kipling Tables. They’re very strikingly grained. The snapshot camera I’ve got doesn’t do them justice. They’re both stained cinnamon. $199 each, includes free shipping.

Kipling Table 1 in cinnamon stain:
SOLD! Off to the the Pacific Northwest

Kipling Table 2 in cinnamon stain:

Here’s a solid quartersawn white oak Shamrock Table. The top is very wildly grained, but the lighting isn’t too good for the photo. 15x15x28 inches high. $249 includes free shipping

White oak Shamrock Table in cinnamon stain:
SOLD! Thanks, Julie in Florida

I used to make an item called an owl house. They featured it in Cottages and Bunglaows magazine, IIRC. I made three simplified versions of the old design. No steeple. It’s entirely made of clear pine, with a cedar roof. It’s painted with exterior paint. The interior is left raw, like birds like it, and there’s a “ladder” that goes from the floor to the hole for fledglings to climb to get out to learn to fly. You can pull two pins on the sides and the bottom swings open to clean out a nest. It’s really rather large: 14x11x21 inches high, with a 3 inch hole. The box and hole is sized for small owls and larger birds. In Maine, we have saw-whet owls, which are dreadfully cute. $99 each, includes free shipping. 

Owl House in bog red:

Owl House in green:

Owl House in Verdigris:
SOLD! to Kevin in Philly. Many thanks.

I have really nice neighbors here in Maine. I gave some birdhouses last year to some ladies that live downa street. They know all about birds, and they got bluebirds to nest in the houses. Marvelous. Bluebirds are hard to attract, but they tend to stay where they like it, and attract others. You can put bluebird houses in a row, like along a fencerow, for instance, and they move in. I tried doubling down on my luck. Here’s a bluebird house with three compartments. Each compartment is entirely separate from the others, and they’re all exactly the size of the bluebird-approved houses I made. Birds, except martins, don’t really like to live together, but the two end houses face away from one another, and the one in the middle faces forward. Bluebirds will live back-to-back with other birds. There are no perches; bluebirds like diving straight into the holes. The back roof unscrews to clean it out. The back has false windows, too. It’s made from pine. The inside isn’t painted. Birds hate paint inside their houses. It’s 8 x 16 x 9 inches tall, with three 1-3/8 inch holes. $49 includes free shipping.

Bluebird house in white:
SOLD! Thanks, Linda in Tejas

Well, that’s the lot. If you like anything, hit the buttons. If you like more than one thing, you’ll have to buy each separately, because there’s no “Shopping Cart” for these Buy Now buttons. If the button disappears, that means someone else beat you to it. But don’t worry about my family and me if you don’t see anything to your liking. Whatever doesn’t sell I’ll burn for firewood. Hey, a BTU’s a BTU.

Something Special: The Evangeline Table

When I was little, I went to parochial school. I don’t think they call them that any more. The nuns were very kind — still dressed in full penguin togs and fingering their beads by the hour. They read to us. We read Longfellow. Evangeline

    Ye who believe in affection that hopes, and endures, and is patient,
    Ye who believe in the beauty and strength of woman’s devotion,
    List to the mournful tradition still sung by the pines of the forest;
    List to a Tale of Love in Acadie, home of the happy.

Longfellow was from Maine, and lived in the first brick house in Portland. The whole town is brick now. It’s a fitting metaphor for his life. He was one of those people whose work was so accessible and popular that eventually no one wanted it any more. It can’t be any good — everyone likes it. I still like it.

I don’t create things as much as I’d like. I make things, which is honorable, and gratifying, but it is not always the “whole” thing –the process from soup to nuts, concept to sticks and bricks. I wanted to make the whole thing for a change.

I had this raw material. I’d purchased a pile of flame birch many years ago. It’s the king of all American woods, if you ask me. Hard as a banker’s heart, and beautiful as a girl that won’t talk to you. I tucked it away to do something with it — eventually. Eventually is a terrible word in my life now. There was potential in the rough planks of wood that could be brought to bear for the right project. But what?

Creation is the whole thing, as I said. I set up my lathe again. I like the lathe. It’s quiet. I don’t have to put a vise on my head to use it. It’s not a rote operation, ever, even when making the same leg over again. My little son said, “Daddy is sculpting again.” I adored that. I was. But more, I was thinking. I was trying. I was striving to make something, the whole thing.

What to do with flame birch? Shakers used it once in a while. But I was not thinking spartan. The wood is the hardest stuff America produces. I was thinking of the forests from whence it came. I was thinking of Acadie. And so I thought of Longfellow, and Evangeline.

It was going to be a nineteenth century table, the legs would have tulips for their toes, and the wild, iridescent grain would be revealed, but somehow tamed by the soft shapes of the turnings. The heaviness of the forest would be transformed into something sophisticated and delicate. I went back and forth over dimensions, proportions. I made it small enough to seem delicate, but big enough to be elegant and useful. I think I made it beautiful, but that is not for me to say.

There is a statue of Evangeline in Nova Scotia. It is where my father’s family came from, and the statue was made by a sculptor who used the actress my mother is named for as a model. So I had this whole idea, a mishmash brought together into an object.

The table has a look of  unreality to it. The grain flips from dark to light when you walk past it. It becomes a negative of itself and then goes back again as you move. It’s like tortoiseshell. I made it for my Father, who is gone, and my Mother, who I do not see often enough, and for Acadie, and for the nuns that read Evangeline to me.

I cannot keep it because there’s nothing wrong with it. We can only keep the things that aren’t right somehow. You can buy it. It’s not on my furniture website right now, so my readers can see it first, here. This table is either the first one, or the only one; I’m not sure which yet. But I must put it out in the world because it’s the best thing I’ve done, and there is no eventually for me any more.

$399.00, Ready to ship. Free shipping to anywhere in the lower 48 states. 16″ x 16″ x 27″ high.

[UPDATE: Sold to Bob in Missouri. Why do I have so many friends in Missouri? I don’t know, but I’m glad of it. Thanks, Bob]

[Saturday Update: Due to the overwhelming interest in this item, I’ve decided to accept orders for Evangeline Tables here on my blog. They’ll be ready for shipment approximately six weeks after you place your order. Many thanks to all my friends for their kind words and their interest in Sippican Cottage. Still $399 each, free shipping included] 

Buy one now:

Or if you’d like to buy a pair of Evangeline Tables, use this button:

Many Thanks

My Intertunnel friends sure are swell.

We’re grateful to everyone that reads, and comments, and corresponds, and to everyone that’s purchased a copy of my book, and purchased my Maine-made cottage furniture, and thrown my minstrel boys some coins, and people that have used the Amazon links on this page. Your friendship and support have meant the world to me and my family.

Our friends at 32 Degrees North sent our boys two beautiful Advent calendars. The little feller especially is a calendar freak, and they both enjoy the old-fashioned thrill of turning over the flaps on the way to Christmas. Thanks for being kind to my boys! Everyone should go over to their Intershop and grab everything before they run out of Christmas. Nice people should buy things from other nice people. And it wouldn’t kill you to read her blog, either: Daughter of the Golden West.

It snowed last night, and when I made a fire this morning it was 10 degrees outside, so we’re thinking of visiting Santa at his place because it might be warmer there.

Almost Forgot To Write About Furniture

True to the quote on the masthead, we’re all over the map here at Sippican Cottage. But every once in a while I suffer a blow to the head, or some other pleasant diversion, and it reminds me to talk about what I’m doing all day when I should be answering my email. I make furniture.

I’ve made a lot of furniture over the last eight years. Hundreds and hundreds of pieces. The business is like a bicycle, and you keep pedaling while looking at your feet, and lose track of the landscape a little. I should know, but I don’t know how many states I’ve sent the stuff to at this point. There’s a little hole in the middle of the country that are strangers to me, still. I’ve never seen a Yeti, or a customer from North or South Dakota. They must live indoors there now; don’t they need furniture? I don’t know. I wish them well all the same, and lurk in the Intertunnel’s bushes, waiting to pounce on them if they pass by.

I’ve made some furniture that’s ended up in England and Canada, too, but I don’t sell furniture there. People bought it here in the states and took it with them and told me about it. Really nice people in Canada (are there another kind of people in Canada?) have offered to buy things from me fairly often if I could figure out all the paperwork. I couldn’t, so I haven’t. I know you can’t tell by reading what I write, but I’m not a dullard. It just requires more time than I have to figure it out properly, and is fraught with peril for a very small business like mine. One has to be conservative in your behavior to stay alive in the world of commerce these days. Many things are worth doing but there is no time. Maybe later.

I am ashamed to admit that I don’t even have pictures of all the stuff I make. I’ve put a lot of stuff into boxes with the muttered oath: I wish I’d taken a picture of that. If the camera battery is dead or the FedEx man’s arrival  is nigh or it’s pitch dark or something, it goes out, and many times, out of my memory.

But lovely reader and commenter Leslie purchased a pair of tables last month — or was it the month before; what day is it? — and I managed to take a picture of them before they went the way of all lignin and cellulose and corrugated cardboard. I thought they were awful pretty. I made them for her special in all tiger maple with Pumpkin stain. Tiger maple is endlessly interesting stuff. No two pieces of it are quite the same, and so, they’re endlessly interesting to look at and challenging to work with. Leslie even found time to send me a snapshot of the little four-legged buggers in her home way out west where they don’t shovel. Lovely!

My business is sometimes anonymous, but less so than it used to be because I socialize with many customers here on my Intertunnel Logos Stand. It’s always piquant to see the things I make in their natural habitat, because a workshop is not the natural habitat of such things. Your house is.

I’m grateful to everyone that reads, and those that leave comments, and link here, and purchase things from Amazon through my portal which throws me a few bucks which we sorely need and appreciate, and everyone that’s kind to my children, and everyone that buys the furniture. I love you all more than my folks.

Any Fool Can Make Something More Complex; But It Takes Real Genius To Make Something Simple Again

The commendable fellow in the video is making: treenware.

treen, small wooden objects
in daily domestic or farm use and in use in trades and professions.
Treen includes a wide variety of objects mostly associated with
tableware, the kitchen, games, personal adornment, and toilet articles.
The word is never applied to objects larger than a spinning wheel and
does not include objects designed primarily for ornament. (Britannica)

When I see an ironic-looking fellow sporting muttonchop sidewhiskers and pedaling a single-speed bike, wearing Clark Kent glasses, with a six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon under his arm, unstructured scarf flapping in the breeze, I’m often reminded of people like our pole lathe turner. I wonder if anyone else is.

People seek authenticity in their lives. Authenticity is often equated with simplicity. Steve Jobs glommed onto the idea of never showing any screws on the outside of his wares to give the user the impression of a monolithic apparatus, not a machine. It’s fake simplicity, but so what? As they say, If you don’t have good manners, pretend you do; it’s the same thing.

Counterintuitively, simplicity also lends itself to originality in manufacture. You’d think that a lack of ornament would limit uniqueness. And that fellow is trying to make everything exactly the same way, every time — but he’s failing utterly and wonderfully. A human can’t do the exact same thing twice like a machine can, and the wood wouldn’t allow uniformity anyway; no two pieces of wood are identical. Everything you make is one-of-a-kind. I’ve made hundreds of tables. No two of them are remotely the same. I’ll go further, and aver that each has a kind of personality, revealed in working on them. They all have opinions about the weather, and think they have a “good side,” like a teenager being photographed. The pieces of a table will fight with you if you don’t listen to them.

People can’t all make everything for themselves, or there would only be room for a few million people on earth. But the urge is there, a kind of respect, and straphangers use the power of their purses to rub elbows with authenticity as a worthy substitute for doing it themselves.

(thanks to reader and commenter and customer and friend JHC for sending that one along)

Tag: shameless commerce

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