My name is David Jacob Ball. My mother kept her maiden name "May" when she married my father. I guess she preferred to be a month rather than an object that gets kicked and thrown.
When I became a designer and woodworker after studying engineering and working in the corporate world I felt like I was unearthing my buried, artistic self. So, during that transition, I decided to unearth my buried names (many cultures hyphenate their father and mother's last names rather than just losing the mother's maiden name) and use them as my pseudonym for my buried self. Thus Jacob May came into being.
When I started my woodworking business it seemed appropriate to continue on by the name that I was using as a woodworker. Then it got awkward...
"I thought your name was Jacob..."
"If you're Dave who is Jacob?"
So now I again go by the name I grew up with, "Dave Ball" while my business continues to go by the name "Jacob May"
There it is. The genesis of the business name "Jacob May".
So to clarify, you can just call me Dave.
The butcher block bar top that I built for Todd Shoberg, Chef and Proprietor of the restaurant Molina in Mill Valley, has been doing good things for me. In addition to providing me with a good reason to go to dinner and eat delicious food cooked in their wood fired oven, it has brought a few clients into my world.
About six weeks ago an architect from Los Angeles was dining at the bar with his business partner and discussing an ongoing restaurant project they were building in Venice. At the time they were in need of a woodworker who could bring an abstract design to life. Todd gave them my contact information and the next morning when I turned on my phone I received a stream of text messages inquiring whether I was available to meet that day, whether I was available to work right away and could I build this crazy thing that they had drawn.
My girlfriend and I were driving back from visiting her brother in Malibu that morning and when I responded to the architect with that information he wanted me to turn around and meet him at his Malibu studio that afternoon. Instead we met at my studio in Oakland that afternoon and almost immediately I put aside a dining table aside and began working on this bold and beautiful project.
So far I have built and sculpted 17 wild panels that line the front of the bar with the help of another talented woodworker friend of mine, Luke Janson. Describing the design is impossible so below I have included a few sneak peak iphone shots of the work and the process. Look for some better quality photos of the final project in the coming weeks or months. (this project may drag out a bit)
Once these panels are complete we will be moving on to work on the bar tops, which will be made out of salvaged white oak slab that we found in the central Valley.
Alexa Hotz, managing editor at Remodelista, put together a very complimentary and well-informed critique of my end grain butcher blocks. Check it out at the link above.
I recently was commissioned to build two custom pieces for a new restaurant called "Molina" opening in Mill Valley next month. The Chef / Owner, Todd Shoberg, found my blocks online and got in touch with me to see if I could scale up the design and build a work table for his restaurant. I hadn't done it before but had considered the possibility so we decided to give it a shot.
First I built an 8-foot long by 25-inch deep work table for the back bar. This was going to be the only piece at first but the restaurant designer walked in while I was oiling the top and liked it so much that he canceled the plan to build a zinc-top bar and asked if I could do a 13-foot section in a week. In my head I was thinking "well..." but I heard myself saying "sure, no problem". So I drove back to the East Bay and began milling lumber immediately for the new piece. Weekend plans were canceled and I charged until 10pm every night that week to get it done.
Four days later I had a 13-foot-long, book-matched, end-grain walnut slab with 4 logo embossed brass plugs sitting on saw horses in my wood shop. I was tired but proud. I had to build two new jigs and develop a new clamping and joinery technique to make the piece possible. I have never seen an end-grain piece of this magnitude except for the beautiful, but thoroughly cracked, front door to the BDDW show room in Manhattan, which is subject to the severe weather fluctuations of NYC (polar vortex anyone?). But the glue joints are all solid and I have attached the slab to a sub-top in a way that will allow up to one-inch of movement in any direction. This seems very conservative considering the finish will lock in/out moisture and the humidity in Mill Valley is relatively stable throughout the year.
I look forward to visiting the restaurant frequently to check-in on how the end-grain slab is faring and, while there, enjoy some delicious Shoberg cuisine.
When Heidi Swanson and her assistant Emelie, (the two ladies behind the scenes at www.quitokeeto.com), walked into my studio on New Years Eve day a few weeks back, I was expecting them to pick out 6 or 8 of the butcher blocks I had in stock to photograph and list on their site. Instead they picked out their favorite small walnut and small oak board and told me to have 30 more ready in three weeks. Suddenly the first few weeks of the year were spoken for.
The challenge was well rewarded on Monday when I had the pleasure of logging onto quitokeeto to see what Heidi had created. Her photography brought my work to life in a way I haven't managed to achieve on my own and her flattering write-up on the boards was poetic. It is so exciting to be collaborating with Heidi. Look out for more collaborations in the near future.