Paul Discoe – Master craftsman – Icon

I took my CCA cabinet-making class to visit with Paul Discoe of Joinery Structures today.

I have the honor of co-teaching this class at CCA this semester with Paul: a woodworker for whom I have immense respect. Paul is an ordained Zen priest in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki Roshii of the San Francisco Zen Center. He was trained and ordained by Suzuki Roshii and subsequently lived in Japan for 5 years working with builders of traditional wooden building. Paul has enlarged on this unique experience by working on many important projects since his return; including major buildings at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center and Green Gultch Farm Zen Center, other traditional building projects around the world and sumptuous private homes created entirely in the immaculate Japanese tradition. His recently published book is a great resource and a joy to browse – available from SF Zen Center. Here is a link to Paul’s lecture at CCA as part of CCA’s Design and Craft Lecture Series in Fall 2009 – available for viewing or downloading for free at iTunesU.

Paul showed all of us around his extraordinary complex tucked away off Grand Ave. in West Oakland – just around the corner from my much more humble studio. Here he has the capacity to accept a wide variety of trees from our Urban Forest, which he then then can mill and dry entirely on site. We started by looking at some of the furniture pieces that Paul’s company Live Edge produces and at some samples of the woods that people bring him to mill, dry and then work with – Monterey Cyprus, Deodar Cedar, Redwood, Black Acacia, Camphor, Elm, Poplar and Port Orford Cedar.

Then we wandered out past several herculean piles of logs sourced from around Bayarea.

Redwood bones piled...

He has the capacity to slice these logs with relative ease on a full bandsaw mill – The Wood-Mizer!!

And has LOTS of equipment to dry, resize and finish the slabs.

Air-drying slabs

Deodar slabs fresh from the kiln.

A small part of Paul's irreplaceable archive


Trestles stacked ready for action

Dollies on rails to move the slabs

Eventually it comes down to handwork. Laying out and cutting joints with finely tuned handtools, assembling, detailing and finishing – all with a craftsman’s carefully honed senses.

One of Paul's master craftsman working with exquisite Port Orford Cedar.

Hand tools arrayed

Paul’s son sharpening Japanese style – using waterstones, on the floor, with great efficiency.

Thanks Paul!! For your time today, for working with us at CCA, and for honoring and maintaining great traditions.

Devil’s Teeth

I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Devil’s Teeth’, a great short film about living, dreaming and aging!

Made by local Bayarea film-maker Roger Teich about Ron Elliot the only urchin diver in the Great White shark infested waters of the Farallon Islands off our coast. Such hard work under such perilous conditions.

The New Year at Steep Ravine

I spent the last two days at my favorite retreat in NorCal, Steep Ravine. I’ve posted about this special place a few times – here and here. Each time I go, its a great mix of the familiar and the totally new. This trip Sandra and I went with our friends Tania and Philip. It was their first time at Steep Ravine and they were enamored.

We caught a delicious sunset as the westering sun snuck out under the last of the weekend’s rain presaging a clear star-filled night of talking around the potbelly stove followed by a  gorgeous sunny Monday of bush-waking and beach strolling. In my other Steep Ravine posts I focussed on the ocean and the cabins themselves, this time I’d like to take you up into the redwood forests in the hills behind the cabins!

Sandra, Philip and Tania soaking up winter sun

Bridge over Steep Ravine

Handrail Wabi Sabi

Ancient weathered redwood log

Banana slug heaven!

Flowing on...