Category Archives: Family

Wood Lamp: Timponogos

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Wood Lamp Timponogos by Owen Nelson Baker, Jr.

In the late 1950s, when my mother was my dad’s girlfriend, the two of them hiked to the peak of Mt. Timponogos in Utah.  (Nelson and Lucille have been married for 54 years.)  The 20-mile hike ends with optional slide down a steep, half-mile-long glacier.  (I made the mistake of sliding down this glacier 60 years after they did.  I slid so violently and fast, hitting dozens of rocks and holes on the way, that I thought I was going to die.  My backside was black-and-blue for months!)

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Timponogos Glacier

Owen Nelson Baker, Jr., my father, returned from that trip with a large piece of twisted root-wood on his shoulder.  He sandblasted it clean and smooth, drilled it, wired it, stained it, mounted it, and switched on the light of this gorgeous wood lamp, which I have named Timponogos.  The heavy iron base he hack-sawed off of an antique bird cage.  The root-wood still contains a sizable stone around which the roots grew.

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The antique oak table on which Timponogos rests was made by my father’s grandfather, also Nelson Baker, who was a machinist and mine foreman for the Prince gold mind in Pioche, Nevada.

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Notice the solid brace construction.

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I have decorated the Timponogos table top with antique tools made and used long ago by great-grandpa Nelson.

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My father’s beautiful lamp, which I have admired all of my life, is the inspiration behind Baker Brothers Lamps, an enterprise in which I join my three younger sons–John, Caleb, and Hyrum–to make beautiful wood lamps that we sell to fund our attendance at the National Boy Scout Jamboree, and for their future college expenses.  (Sorry to disappoint, but Timponogos is not for sale.)

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Dad and the Baker Brothers on 9/11/2011

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John, Dad, and Caleb coming home tired from the 2013 National Jamboree

We continue to enjoy making beautiful wood lamps together, the pictures and stories of which I will continue to post on this blog and offer for sale.  Here are links to some of the lamps we have made thus so far.  We hope you like them.

Dolphin

Grace

Smoke

Waves

Reach

Little Guy

Stone

No Diving

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Photo by Liddy Mills

I live in an apartment now.  My children come to visit.  Mostly I am alone.  But I have books, music, poetry, crock-pot dinners . . . and a hot tub.  My children and I sit in the roiling 110-degree water even when the ambient air is 20 degrees F, and the steam has condensed in frozen icicles hanging from the hot tub railing.  We talk about life, their soccer goals and rugby tries, sore muscles, ornery pimples, church dances, dates and the prom, stubborn cowlicks and bad haircuts, good books, good movies, hopes and dreams.  We flex our biceps and splash steaming water at each other and laugh.  Sometimes after work I soak alone, watch the steam rise, and write a poem.

NO DIVING

in the hot tub
three feet deep
no diving sign in the tile
ice clings to the chrome railing
steam, and contemplations,
billowing, billowing

Wood Lamp: Little Guy

Little Guy

Little Guy by John Baker

Not all of Baker Brothers lamps are large (like Dolphin and Grace) or ornate (like Smoke and Waves).  Some are small and simple, but still beautiful, like Little Guy, pictured above.  Made from a fairly flat piece of drift wood, it resembles a small floating barc.  A decorative stone placed just so balances the lamp perfectly on the wood’s natural three contact points (don’t worry–it won’t fall over without the stone, just tip slightly, as if riding a wave).  The brass tube containing the wire and holding the shade is wrapped with jute twine for a rustic, seafaring look.

Little Guy can accompany you on your next maritime imagination adventure for $180, proceeds to fund the Bakers brothers’ attendance at the National Boy Scout Jamboree and their college funds.  (An assortment of lamp shades is available.)

Wood Lamp: Grace

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Grace

The piece of driftwood that became the lamp Grace leaned against my shed for about a decade, a temporary decoration with which I might do something someday.  It joined my other decorations, antiques, hanging from the shed by nails, though the wood lay on the ground, frequently obscured by weeds and grass.

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This lamp posed the special challenge of mounting its lithe and twisting form to the base.  At first I used a single nut and bolt, with washers at each end.  But no matter how tight, the lamp still wobbled.  Eventually, after staining and wiring, I added another bolt, and the lamp now stands firm like a ship’s mast to a ship.  While drilling such a lamp for wire would normally be a challenge, only minimal drilling was required.  The wire follows mostly natural cracks running down the back of the wood.

At 4.5 feet tall, a possible companion piece to Hyrum’s lamp Dolphin (4 feet even), we suggest a value for this lamp of $850.

Not just my sons have raised money for the National Boy Scout Jamboree.  I join them in both the fund-raising and the scouting efforts.  I attended in 2013 as an assistant scoutmaster, one of four men accompanying a troop of 36 Boy Scouts.  I will attend again in 2017 in the same role.  I am pictured here with my sons John and Caleb, in the Salt Lake City International airport, exhausted but happy after our three-week adventure.

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I will post pictures and stories of additional wood lamps soon.

Wood Lamp: Dolphin

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Dolphin by Hyrum Baker

Hyrum (14) and I have worked on Dolphin for the better part of a year.  This lamp began as an unassuming piece of weathered drift wood, distinguished by its beaver chew marks at both ends.

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Not owning an air compressor (yet), Hyrum devised an ingenious, low-cost method of cleaning the wood of sand and dust: a bicycle pump fitted with a ball needle.  Quite effective.

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Drilling this piece of wood, 48 inches from nose-tip to tail, was a challenge, due both to the length and the twisting curves of the wood.  We bored several holes with a long 5/16″ bit, then enlarged the holes with a 3/8″ bit.  Having the end of one bore meet the beginning of the next bore was indeed a challenge, but we made it work.

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For convenience, we decided to stain the lamp wood laying flat before mounting it to its base.

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With the lamp stained once, we were prepared to mount it to its base.  I learned the hard way on another tall lamp that a single bolt leaves the lamp wobbly, no matter how tight.  So we used two bolts, ratcheting the nuts down hard, with large washers on both ends, and with a little lock nut to keep them tight.  Black caulk filled the holes and covered the bolt heads.  We drilled and routed the base to accommodate the electrical chord.

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The next challenge was to thread the lamp wire through the several angled drill holes.  We first used a coat hangar to thread a length of electrician’s tape through the lamp, then used the tape to pull the wire through the lamp.

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With all the hardware work complete, we now applied more coats of Provincial WiniWax stain, then three coats of gloss polyurethane.  We often use different color stains for the base and the lamp in way that highlights the lamp (see Waves, Smoke, and Reach), but for Dolphin, a floor lamp, we thought using the same color stain for both was more effective.

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(Dolphin, in the final stages, is pictured in the background, with Grace in the foreground, and Smoke looking on from the sidelines.)

With black felt on the bottom and a simple but pretty shade on top, Dolphin is ready to swim into someone’s home.  We suggest a value of $850 for Dolphin (though we are confident that it would fetch more in many boutiques).  As a reminder, Hyrum is making these exotic wood lamps to fund his way to the 2017 Boy Scout National Jamboree, and then to college.

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Making these lamps together, while each one poses its own unique challenges, has been a true father-and-son joy.  I hope to continue our hobby into the future and Hyrum and his brothers become fathers themselves.

Three Quilts

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All parents have had the experience of children wandering into their room late at night, afraid or disoriented, and asking, “Can I sleep with you?”  Rather than be angry or annoyed, we merely laid out the spare quilts, sewn by the children’s grandmothers.  And we all fell asleep again.  Waking early for work, I tip-toed over and around my sleeping children.  Home in the evening, their quilts lay on the floor like the discarded skins of pupaed caterpillars taken flight.  I hope you enjoy my poem memorializing that recollection.

THREE QUILTS

Three quilts lie in a corner of my room,
folded, again, neatly, again;
three queen-size quilts
sewn and tied by gifting grandmothers
who rest under blanketing memory,
leaving to me these warm tokens.

From night-sleep stupor,
I hear distantly the click of a switch, and a flush,
an apologetic knocking, and a whispered “Dad,”
more like the hiss of heavy breathing than a name.
In my knowing, I find the corners
of a folded quilt and toss it out its full length
upon the floor, by the bed, where there’s room.
I could order them back to their beds, but
there seems to always be room.

In the obscurity of my morning,
I have sense enough
to step gingerly over and around
the boys, asleep in their quilted cocoons;
my boys, rising each day
with a deep life-breath yawn and
a stretching of slumber-stiff limbs,
flying from their crumpled quilts,
like the discarded skins of metamorphosis, with
only air and sky ahead.

Climbing Wall

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For my son John’s 17th birthday he asked me to help him engineer and construct a climbing wall in our garage.  That was the gift he wanted from me, his father.  I let out a heavy sigh, knowing, as a lawyer, my engineering limitations.  I write contracts and ordinances.  I don’t build things.  But I couldn’t disappoint him.  Testing his commitment to project, I promised I would help him if he did all the research.  He spent hours on the internet compiling a book of various designs and techniques.  He had done his part, so now it was time to do mine.

We carefully drew out our plans, bought the materials, and got to work.  The first step was to assemble a kick plate and wall foundation to attach to and cover the garage footing.

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The most difficult step was designing two wall sections, the first at 20-degrees and the second at 40-degrees.  We began this process by cutting angled joists, the climbing wall’s ribs, if you will.

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The angled joists rest firmly on the kick plate/foundation wall, bearing much of the climbing wall’s weight.  This low wall is also where the climbing starts, with the climber in a sitting position.

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The angled joists were also secured to ceiling braces, screwed into the garage roof trusses.

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My good friend Paul (who is an engineer) instructed me that roof trusses are designed to withstand snow loads bearing down from above, not weight pulling down from below.  So I climbed up into the garage attic, crawled through fiberglass, and braced the roof trusses with 2x4s.  We also insert a portable vertical 4×4 post whenever anyone climbers, just to be sure the roof won’t fall in on the climbers.

Next came assembling the climbing wall surface.  Before we mounted the 3/4-inch plywood, John drilled numerous holes and inserted threaded T-nuts, into which the climbing hold would later be secured.

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With the holes drilled and the T-nuts set, we attached the wall to the angled joists.

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(Note the antiques with which I decorated my garage, several made by or belonging to my great-grandfather Nelson Baker.)

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With the most difficult work done, it was time for John to have fun planning his bouldering “problems” and setting the holds.  The climber completes the “problem” by touching the top of the climbing wall.

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2015-08-20 John

In this photograph, John is hanging from holds on a box he built on his own to add to the climbing’s wall’s challenge.  He also built the pyramid.

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Note the crash pads underneath the climber.  Crash pads are mandatory.  These are surplus martial arts mats, to which we add several foam sleeping pads.  (John is a third-degree taekwondo blackbelt.)

Weeks later, John removed all the holds and painted his climbing wall, adding sand to the paint to add texture to the wall.  He used paint scraps left over from previous house painting projects.  Tapes of various colors mark the different bouldering “problems” or routes.

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Building this climbing wall with my son John, though intimidating to me at first, turned out to be a most meaningful experience for us both.  We enjoyed working through the design and construction challenges together.  John learned that he can dream and make his dreams come true.  He, his brothers Caleb and Hyrum, and his friends spend hours in my garage bouldering through the various “problems” John has set.  Just one year after completing his climbing wall, John off on a month-long NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) course learning real-life leadership and climbing skills.  He dreams of following in the footsteps of climbing heroes Alex Honnold and Chris Sharma.  John is pictured with Chris here.

John and Chris Sharma

*  *  *

The week before Christmas 2015, Caleb (16, also a taekwondo blackbelt and climbing enthusiast) whispered to me that he wanted to add to John’s climbing wall by building a “campus board” as a Christmas present for his brother John (now 18).  (Another sigh from dad.)  A campus board is an angleled wall with horizontal rungs cut for hanging and climbing, to strengthen the fingers, hands, and indeed the whole upper body.  Caleb designed it, and we set to work.

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Caleb used his great-great-grandfather Baker’s plane to shave off one corner of the 2×4 rungs so that they would be parallel with the ground, or angled slightly inward, making it possible to grasp with the fingertips.  I felt proud of Caleb for working so hard to bring his holiday plan to fruition, but mostly for wanting to make a meaningful Christmas gift for his brother.

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These are experiences and memories that we will always share as father and sons.