Anniversary of the Tokobashira

In this designated time of reflecting on our blessings and acknowledging our gratitude, we’re thankful for wonderful clients that allow us the opportunity to get our hands dirty…

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The tokobashira (rough hewn column on the right) has a little story behind it

Many years ago, today, Elizabeth and I were finishing up a walk in the woods with a specific purpose, beyond taking in the crisp air and thinning foliage of late fall in Northern Michigan. It was our Thanksgiving break, and after unsuccessfully attempting to procure either product or supplier of the correct size of tokobashira for a project she had designed and we had under construction, we decided we must procure one personally for our client.

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Elizabeth selecting the finalists…

Disappointed that we hadn’t found anything suitable in the woods, we were passing through a parking lot adjacent to the burgeoning Village at Grand Traverse Commons (converted from the old Kirkbride facility – more on that in another post) and, quite fortunately, happened upon this pile of logs prepared for the oven of the local bakery – Pleasanton (their chocolate pistachio croissant is beyond compare!).

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The Finalists

Enquiring inside if we might purchase a branch, we were told that if we only needed one it was “gratis” – so we gratefully pulled a few for comparison and sent photos to our client. He liked one best, and we loaded it into the ol’ SUV and brought it back to Chicago. Intended for the salient corner of a bookshelf, it needed a few specific characteristics, including diameter and shape.

 

After some requisite curing and a dry fit to make sure the bends and crooks lined up, we instructed the contractor to prepare the tokobashira in the traditional way, scraping to a smooth surface, and had them stain to match the rest of our design.

 

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Notching into the salient corner of the bookshelf
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The tokobashira slotting into the shelves near the pocket door

The result in the end is not only a story worth sharing, but the perfect complement to the room. In this designated time of reflecting on our blessings and acknowledging our gratitude, we’re grateful for generous bakeries (Pleasanton has become a fixture in our Traverse City visits!); we’re extremely thankful for wonderful clients that allow us the opportunity to design outside the typical traditional bounds and, in some cases, even get our hands dirty in order to bring a fun idea to life; and we hope your blessings are easy to count.

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May The Fourth Be With You

Hopefully this digest of our process is helpful if you’re looking to undertake such an effort – and if so, May The Fourth Be With You!

In order to undertake a ceiling installation that takes inspiration from arguably the most popular film franchise in history, one must get in the proper spirit of the project. Just as the theme of hope runs rampant in the Star Wars movie saga, it was our own hope of achieving a convincing result that drove us during this meticulous albeit fun process. Our clients’ requested a room tailored to their young Star Wars fan, and so we conjured a star field ceiling in coordination with the design of the overall bedroom.

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Our initial steps for the installation involved identifying the materials of the backdrop for the star field as well as the stars themselves. We started with a sea of optical fibers or fiber optic “fibers” (that’s how the Department of the Redundancy Department refers to them) to represent the stars.

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Fiber optics lit and ready to roll

After debating heavy materials and cans of paint, we settled on a lighter touch. The black backdrop of “space” is made of two ¾” thick Gator Boards custom cut and carefully placed side by side.

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Looks sparse, but wait…

We proceeded to divide up the boards into 28 panels each, in order to properly spread the optical fibers. Using a silver Sharpie, we clustered the stars to provide a more authentic-looking night sky – gravity does exist in space after all.

 

Once the star locations were marked, we proceeded to drill a tiny hole in each mark to accommodate the fibers. In total there were close to 280 optical fibers (or “stars” – though some are probably actually planets in truth) that we had to individually feed through the boards. That takes some patience. Once we had all fibers in place, the assembly was ready to be hung.

We need to take care to ensure the cables were not tangled and that the thicker and thinner fibers were spaced naturally. We also had to be extremely careful during installation as Gator Board, while rigid, is still easily damaged.  The boards needed to be drilled onto wood members in order to allow space for the sea of optic cables to run to and from their source.

Once the boards were in place, the fiber optic cables were then trimmed flush with the boards.

The final step of the installation came with the addition of the custom designed and CNC milled white frame that completed the appearance of looking out the window of a Star Wars spacecraft.

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Custom frame in 2 pieces before installation

It was our hope that the ceiling installation would tie together the Star Wars theme of the bedroom and transport the young Jedi out of this world. Happy to report that he was indeed thrilled!

Hopefully this digest of our process is helpful if you’re looking to undertake such an effort – and if so, May The Fourth Be With You!

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May the Fourth Be With You!