I finally did it. No, I didn’t buy a new bandsaw (though that is coming soon…), but I went to the Sam Maloof house and compound, took the tour, and wandered around for hours.
We were amongst the last to leave. If I lived in that neighborhood I think I’d be in trouble…
I went with two friends of mine; one who gardens (there is a garden tour as well), and one who loves woodworking and photography. Just like Sam, it’s really a friendly, stress-free place to visit. Just call them up at (909) 980-0412, and tell them to write down your name for a spot. If you don’t like talking, or you’re shy, just email them at firstname.lastname@example.org and reserve a spot that way. Can’t get much simpler than that, unless you have a Harry Potter owl that’ll deliver messages for you. It was $10 for each of us. It’s less for seniors and you just pay when you get there. You are free to wander around the grounds until your tour starts.
Our tour started at 3pm, so I just took photos and explored the compound until close to 3:00 when I made my way back to the Visitors Center for a short film before the main house tour.
They offer tours Thursdays and Saturdays, at 1pm, 2pm, and 3pm. In groups of about 10 or so, we watched an 11 minute film, then began the walk over to the original house.
This house was moved over from the original location, because the 210 freeway was being built right through Sam’s property. Due to the historical nature, they relocated his house to its present location in Rancho Cucamonga, and he used some of the money to build himself a new house in the same compound.
Now it’s on the National Register of historic places. The Maloof Foundation, including Beverly Maloof, his wife, currently cares for the property (and gardens) and recognizes artists and craftsmen. They have tons of events there; check them out at www.malooffoundation.org.
The Sam Maloof House tour starts at the front gates of the old house, which are awesome on their own. Our tour guide gave us an overview of Sam, the history of the house, and walked us through each room and both levels. You see examples of his signature round-edged joinery in window trim, door latches, wooden hinges, and the mega-awesome spiral staircase. Unfortunately they don’t allow photography inside the house, I think mostly because with everyone busy taking pictures it would delay the tour, and there would be a lot of potential to knock things over. Still, I was able to take tons of pictures all around the buildings and even peaked inside the workshop windows.
By the way, Sam’s shop is still active on this compound, and his employees still create furniture there (more on that next).
A Peak Into The Shop
Now, the current shop on the compound, still actively producing works of art, isn’t an official part of the tour we took. But, you can freely peak in the windows. If you scroll through these photos, you’ll see some of the things I saw as I peered through the dusty windows, between the scores of pattern boards leaning on the sills. Yep, I probably looked like a stalker with my nose an inch from the windows. But I couldn’t help it. I hope they’re flattered rather than creeped out.
In there, I could clearly make out the Agazzani bandsaws, boxes of wood screws that later get hidden behind ebony plugs, and patterns labeled with things like “Metropolitan Museum, NYC”. There is a thick sculpted seat laying on the table saw. So freakin’ awesome.
Workbenches have shelves under the work surfaces just filled with blanks that will eventually get the curved sculptural treatment. Lots of workbenches, actually. There are compressed air hoses in several of the rooms within the shop. There is a large planer and jointer as well. I also spied dust collection ductwork and a few overhead air cleaners; the shop appears to be quite clean.
There appears to be plenty of light from fluorescent shop lights and of course the windows that I used to be a lurker.
Carpet-covered boards support workpieces and keep them from being dented and scraped as they’re worked with hand tools.
When I went to the other side of the shop exterior, I got a wonderful shot of a nearly complete rocker.
You’ll be pleased to know that this shop, which turns out such artful, wonderfully functional furniture probably has a lot elements that’ll remind you of your shop. Just know that, even though you may not yet have the “perfect’ shop, you can do what you want regardless of the space you have.
A Place for Woodworkers, Photography, Art, and Garden People
As I was walking around taking pictures, I realized that there are stunning photographic opportunities from every angle. The grounds and gardens are designed so well that I must’ve taken hundreds of photos for ideas and inspiration.
What really struck me is that this place is a haven for garden enthusiasts, photographers, artists, and woodworkers all at the same place. Inside the house is an awesome array of paintings, wood turnings, folk art, sculptures, and art objects from modern to traditional. There is even a separate building (Jacobs Education Center) used as an art gallery, which displayed paintings by Lan-Chiann Wu, Tina Mion, and Georgette Unis when we went.
After reading this article, have fun scrolling down and getting absorbed in the pictures. If you click on them, you can get the enlarged view. Enjoy!
In the same building where you start the tour with the 11 minute film, they have a bookstore and gift shop. I bought a DVD focusing on Sam’s woodworking techniques, and a block of wood featuring inlays resembling Sam’s joinery made by one of Sam’s woodworkers Mike Johnson. So if you go, buy something that you like so you get something and you support this place at the same time.
Of course, you’ll leave the compound inspired, but also it will cause you to think in a larger context about your life. Sam lived a life doing exactly what excited him. Creating. Working with his hands both with others and in solitude. Loving his wife. Raising two children. Teaching. Making his home and surroundings match his vision and imagination. Not wasting it feeling trapped in a life situation with imagined fences keeping him in. Something to think about on your way home. I still am.
WoodChip Tip: I realized that within about 6 miles is the Tools R Us store in Montclair. Here is their website. If you go to the Sam Maloof house, you might as well stop by the tool store; but be careful you might wind up with a new bandsaw in your trunk.
The Rest of the Story…
Ok, I took a lot of pictures. But who wouldn’t?? Here are more below.
The Shop (But of Course…)
Gotta get more clamps,