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Mikel Tube - Wooden Diving Boards - The Resoration of the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House

The more difficult a high-end product is to attain, the more originality and uniqueness it possesses. The wooden diving boards by Mikel Tube certainly enters this category. What once started as a single project has now become a full time craft with projects all over the world. Years of experience are the foundation of their quality and constant innovation. This makes them unique - and the last of their kind remaining. A current project of Mikel Tube is working alongside the restoration efforts of the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Michigan. By following original design sketches from Jen Jensen, Mikel Tube’s recreation of the original wooden diving board masterfully combines his unique craftsmanship with his immense knowledge base of history and his craft.

Elevated: Thank you both for taking the time. I’m sure you’re incredibly busy so thank you for taking the time on behalf of Mikel Tube and discussing this really fantastic project that he did. So the historic Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Michigan has seen a number of restoration projects over the years, but none perhaps as intricate as the 1930’s era wooden diving board replica that Mikel did.

Clare Pfeiffer, Director of Communications and Engagement: Yes, it is part of a larger restoration project that Rebecca and our leads worked on to restore the entire pool. So the original pool was built in 1928 and it’s Jens Jensen design landscape. So that was a huge contributing factor to us to be nominated as a national historic landmark.

Rebecca Torsell, Historic Preservation : And he’s the Prairie school landscape architect of the Midwest. Like the contemporary of Frank Lloyd Wright for landscape architecture.

Henry Ford’s grandson and Edsel Ford’s son Benson Ford on a diving board in the pool, Circa 1934

Courtesy of Ford House Archives

Amazing. And how’s the project going? What stages are you at?

Rebecca Torsell: So we started this past winter. They basically began with work on the lagoon side because the pool in the lagoon, although we’re separate entities, they engage with each other. There’s like a bronze pan at the end that serves almost like an infinity pool capacity, which creates waterfall features that make their way down and eventually land into the lagoon.

So as we started last winter, they basically used historic photographs to try to place everything. So they look exactly like the historical landscape pictures, because that was really most of the documentation. Besides Jensen’s preliminary drawings, which aren’t necessarily the as-builts, so we don’t want to go exactly back to that time. So with that pool, that’s been pretty much completely demoed.

And by demoed, I mean, they’re redoing the plumbing. They did remove some of the top level of concrete around the gutter to remake the gutter. That’s all been done at this point because of the weather here in Lake Sinclair, Michigan.

So to give you the context of the project, Edsel Ford is the only son of Henry Ford. He obviously was one of the most famous people at the time and one of the wealthiest families, this was after this model that he had catapulted forward to be, you know, one of the largest automakers in the world. They’re a wealthy family, very well-known, affluent people. And they wanted to build this home kinda tucked away. It was farm country out here then, and it was also a time where they wanted privacy, but they really wanted it to be like a merger of like a family home and also an elegant place.

Clare Pfeiffer: And it really feels like a little oasis on their estate. They planted the landscape around it to resemble Northern Michigan Woodland feel. So rather than, you know, a formal garden where everything was in a row and everything looked very manicured, they wanted it to feel natural.

Rebecca Torsell: When Elenor died in 1976, she left this estate or the community so everything is preserved as she left it. So everything here is really preserved to how it looked when the Fords lived here. But over time, the landscape has overgrown. The pool has seen better days and that necessitated this project. So we brought Mikel because. Where else are you going to find someone? He was pretty much the only guy in the world I could find who still made wooden diving boards.

It must be tough for Mikel to do what he does and create the replica without making it better when he knows he can.

Rebecca Torsell: I love that about him that, he has that knowledge base and perfectionism. And he would talk to me so passionately about this.

What he does is truly a work, they really are. I always have to stop and pause and look at them because it’s just so unique and fantastic. It’s so obviously meant to be that you found him and you knew that.

Rebecca Torsell: And it’s also beautiful to work with. You know, we can trust to follow the specifications too and he will make sure it’s perfect. We had to go back and forth a lot on a number of things, because what we found is the shop drawings, but it didn’t tell you the kind of wood or anything.

So Mikel had to basically put everything together to work through the missing information and solve those problems about how it would have actually been installed. Mikel kept looking at the Jensen board, which is the very first board, which was not what we were replicating.

When do you expect to have the board from Mikel?

Clare Pfeiffer: He is pretty much done. I said to him because we’re going to install it right at the end, I said, you know, Mikel, if you want to hang onto it for awhile, it’s going to take a month to get here by sea, I said, just go ahead and hang on to it because you’re the best place for it to go until it’s ready to be installed. It will be really beautiful to see it all come together.


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