Thursday, November 18, 2010

How to Enhance and Preserve Manzanita Branches

Fact: Natural red manzanita branches only last for a few months before they begin to darken and peel. 
The good news is that you can lengthen their lifespan and subtly enhance their deep burgundy red tone by spraying a thinned down mixture ofred mahogany stain and mineral spirits with a regular spray bottle. Be generous with your spirits you want it subtle... not gaudy red. Just take note: the chemicals will destroy the plastic spray bottle in a couple of weeks. Ideally you should use a paint or lacquer gun if you have one. Either way, try to spray them lightly and evenly to avoid splatters and drips.

Hang the branches upside down for a few days from the ceiling of a garage, warehouse, or porch after after spraying. This will preserve your natural red manzanita branches and at the same time will lightly stain the grey spots and exposed broken off or cut branches and give the bark a deeper more consistent red tone.\

Ideally we recommend natural red manzanita branches are purchased about two months before your event, and if they appear overcured, treated with at least a light coat of flat natural stain. 

Also consider that sandblasted floral branches last as long as they are not broken and can be resold or reused in months or years to come, so if your hoping to build a little stock of centerpieces you may want to stick with sandblasted and painted ones and order naturals as you need them. 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Manzanita Centerpiece Height

Ok, its time to get schooled on manzanita centerpiece height. Here's the deal-leo with your height. First off, table dimensions are a big deal here because that will determine the ideal centerpiece size in more ways then one. Long rectangular tables call for smaller centerpieces then large round tables do. More importantly - the height of your table is what really determines the size of your centerpieces, more specifically the relative height of your chair seats and tabletops. Think about it...

One of the biggest concerns I hear from brides and wedding planners (notice grooms don't make the list) is that their centerpieces will be too low and block the line of vision between guests across the table. The most reliable way to avoid this and other problems is to purchase a couple samples from the company you wish to get branches from and try them out ahead of time at your venue. Unfortunately that is kind of a pain in the butt and isn't always an option if your venue is a remote or otherwise unaccessible location. (which is very often the case)

The next best thing to do is to have a tall person sit in one of your chairs and measure from the tabletop to their eye level. Add 15" to that and that is roughly minimum size you need. When in doubt buy a bit big because you can always trim down your branches but you cant "trim them bigger."

A good centerpiece branch is generally half or a third as wide or deep at the top as it is tall so a 28" branch might flare out 9 to 14"s of twigs and offshoots at the top. The stems should be about 4" to 6" long and they begin to gradually split and branch out from there. The first 12" to 15" of most branches 28" and over are not very...branchy and will not impede guests vision across the table. Also remember that in many cases you can change the size of the centerpieces by adjusting their height within the vase.

Most importantly 28" branches are about the size you can begin to rest easy - especially if your working with a rectangular table. With a round table - the 8 to 10 seaters popular for weddings and formal events, you might need to go 32" or larger, (I recommend 36" or 40") not for the sake of a clear line of site across the table, but more for the fact that a smaller branch will look small on a table like that. -That's not what we want.

I tried to cover everything without getting overly technical. I mean lets face it - its a branch not flux capacitor. If you enjoyed this post on manzanita centerpiece sizes then please subscribe. Centerpieces are kind of an odd little niche topic and here is one place you can learn alot about them. I'll be publishing a sizing diagram to our website shortly...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sandblasted Manzanita Branches - A Big Pain In the Butt

I set out to write my first post on sandblasted manzanita branches and my first thought was what do I call it. It needs to be informative, interesting, and relevant. Ha! And then it hit me

From a designers perspective I imagine hanging all those little crystals or live orchids on all those pokey brittle little branches makes you want to stick a fork in your eye, I fun and exhilarating - but in my humble opinion no task is as fascinating and...engaging, as the fine privilege of sandblasting the branches yourself.

I've been sandblasting, sanding, drilling, cutting, gathering, cussing at and receiving injuries from manzanita trees for about ten years now.  When I was 10 My brother, who started my first manzanita business with me worked as a sandblaster for a guy who made vases and tables out of manzanita burlwood. He would wake up in the morning hacking and coughing out chunks of well...sand. As anyone who sandblasts knows - silicosis was a big deal for a while there and all the sand companies got sued. Yadda yadda yadda nobody admits to using or selling sand for sandblasting anymore and on the bags of sand that they sell for sandblasting it sais Do Not Use To Sandblast...

For a little bit there I drove around the border roads with my little three wheeler and a trailer and collected burls and sold them to his boss for 50 a truckload, yah I know 50 a truckload is highway robbery for burlwood - this is a guy who had a 15 year old kid sandblasting with a bandana around his mouth and nose. So whats a little highway robbery?

My mom eventually made me stop collecting after one fateful day when as I was trundling down a hill uncontrollably a low lying manzanita branch hooked me through the eyepiece of my helmet and pulled me off my bike by the face. (lodged between the side of the helmet and the side of my face and broke off as it flung me back - missed my eye by a twig.) I landed a** over tea kettle on my back staring up through the dusty underbrush. tweet tweet, tweet tweet...

12 years later

...It get's quiet down here in the canyon...too quiet. Sitting here after a long day of exterior sand blasting (outside with a very hot sandy butted suit) I went though a ball valve, two eyepiece underlayments, a blown hose, and three sand clogs today plus my sand sifters vibrator blew out a bearing. The vultures aren't circling yet but they do seem to be very interested in what I'm doing. You know certain parts of "the back country" could come right out of 'the hills have eyes.' I believe it...especially in August. Stupid branches, stupid little branches.

Our equipment has come a long way in recent years and now its not such an ordeal but for the first four years we worked in a serious capacity it was ridiculous. Ive got a blasting cabinet now and it's nice blasting branches in an enclosed area that is not directly related to me or my face.

If the blasting isn't aggravating enough shipping them is just a pleasure, bulky, fragile, misshapen, brittle, tangly branches. And it costs a fortune. So next time your hanging a veritable plethora of crystal strands on 82 enormous sandblasted centerpieces...don't feel bad, some poor slob somewhere sat there and stared at those branches for a really long time through a dusty mask or awkward viewing port on a hot day trying to determine if he got the back side of every twig. Thanks for reading! Please comment!

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