Alaska Cabin #1: Diamond Willow & Agate Cabin Bed Lights

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Blog entry by Matt Snyder posted 02-05-2019 10:39 PM 416 reads 0 times favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Alaska Cabin series Part 2: Diamond Willow & Agate Cabin Kitchen Lights »

In the summer I work on a remote wildland fire initial attack base in a remote part of SW Alaska. I stay in a small 13’ x 15’ dry cabin. The lights above my bed when I moved in were these ugly canister lights that were in your face and too bright. I knew I could do better.

It was a slow fire season in Alaska last year (2018) so in my free time I decided to make some changes and see if I could make things a little easier on the eyes. This is what I came up with.

Keep reading to see the whole process.

First task was to go find some diamond willow. A coworker tipped me off to a good patch near the radio tower so I grabbed a saw and headed out. There were several good pieces so I started cutting and loaded up the back of the Durango.

Back on base I started skinning the logs. I’ve found that pieces cut in the spring peel easier than stuff I cut later in the summer.

I took a piece around 2” diameter to the band saw and ripped it down the center. Anywhere a branch grew on the diamond willow leaves a dark diamond shape that gives an amazing deep red conrtrast to the white wood of the log. It takes a lot of carving and sanding to bring it out, but when you can make it shine it’s all worth it.

I then mounted the two halves to the 2×4 which gave me 1/4” to 1/2” of overhang. I then wired and mounted an LED light strip above the diamond willow. I had a bunch of agates that my friend Sally game me so I added a bunch of them to the narrow shelf making them glow with the LEDs under them. This gave me a nice ambient light.

I liked the way it looked except for one part. When I cut the branch on the bandsaw I wasn’t always exactly on center. The joint between the two halves showed and caught my eye every time I saw it. You will see from some of my other work that I don’t really like joints and this was unacceptable.

I decided to hide the joint by making it a part of the lights. I cut out the joint area to mount one of my larger agates and cut the light strip so I could splice into it.

The agate I wanted to use had a few rough spots that didn’t look good lit up so I took it to the stone carving station and cleaned it up with the Dremel and some diamond cutting discs. One of my helicopter pilots and I made the carving station out of some scrap wood and a Cheesy Poofs container a couple years ago.

To make the agate glow, I super glued a section of light strip to the base of it. I then added a couple of connectors and mounted it in place.

It’s nothing special until you flip the switch. With the lights behind it, it glows like it’s magic.

The whole project turned out good and looks much more natural than what I started with. The LEDs are dimmable from a switch next to the bed. The project taught me a lot and has inspired me to work on more things that blend wood, stone, and lights.

If you liked this, check out what I did in my kitchen area.

-- - I learn more from my failures than my successes.

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