In some high technology circles there is an expression they use when engineers move too quickly to launch a project. They have “go fever” and are willing to overlook horrible mistakes in order to launch a product. When teaching woodworking – especially casework – I find that most students need to take down their protective netting, … Read more
As has been mentioned here before, imitating tortoiseshell on furniture has been achieved with varying degrees of realism down the centuries. The tortoiseshell backgrounds of japanned work often consisted of nothing more complex than daubs of opaque black paint on an opaque coloured (predominantly red) ground, while original standalone testudinal painted finishes usually exhibit more artistic accomplishment. As with grained wood finishes, a proportion of absolute painted tortoiseshell finishes developed into an art form in their own right.
All the same, great strides were made by a number of artists to more accurately recreate natural tortoiseshell, which process involved laying metal foil (brass, gold or silver) on a substrate over which were laid numerous coats of coloured translucent varnish.
Venetian born Joachim Becher developed a method of extracting tar from coal which he used (in conjunction with asphaltum and pitch) to tint varnishes for simulating tortoiseshell.
The ‘projecting genius’, Thomas Algood, (d. 1716), a Northamptonshire Quaker, applied brown lacquer [presumably asphaltum- or tar-based] over irregularly shaped pieces of foil to imitate tortoiseshell.
John Baskerville of Birmingham took out a patent for his simulated tortoiseshell in 1742, describing it as “An imitation … which greatly excells Nature itself both in Colour and hardness.”
The finish on my William and Mary chest of drawers adhered to the practice of building up layers of contrasting paint and translucent varnish to simulate tortoiseshell; however, this girandole attempts to replicate the work of these latter craftsmen using asphaltum and other naturally tinted varnishes over metal foil.
Due to the complexity (and presumable cost) of foil-and-varnish tortoiseshell, it was normally reserved for smaller, more intimate objects for the bed chamber and parlour.
While my chest’s distinct painted finish displays considerable depth and a charm all of its own, it can’t compete with the chatoyance of the girandole’s finish. It’s quite mesmerising and virtually impossible to describe in words or portray in pictures. In the early morning sunlight, the deep scarlet flickers to searing yellow with the merest shift of the body.
The frame and looking glass have been sympathetically aged and I’m just awaiting the arrival of the candle arm castings to complete the girandole.
 HUTH, Hans, Lacquer of the West – The History of a Craft and an Industry 1550-1950, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1971, pp. 111-112.
 JONES, Yvonne, Japanned Papier Mâché and Tinware c.1740-1940, Antique Collectors’ Club, 2012, p. 43.
Filed under: Mirrors & Girandoles Tagged: asphaltum, foil, girandole, Joachim Becher, John Baskerville, pitch, tar, Thomas Algood, tortoiseshell
One of the more common questions I get is people looking for recommendations for infill materials and what the best sidewall material would be - from an aesthetic standpoint. That is a really tough question to answer - most infill wood will look great with either bronze or steel. So I usually ask them if they have a preference for steel or bronze or if there is a particular infill wood they are after. The answer to either of those questions can help the process.
In 2004, I found a stash of Ebony commonly called ‘Black & White Ebony’. There was one piece that stood out to me - it had great definition between the black and white sections and had that wonderful pillowing that Ziricote is known for. It was just large enough for 2 XSNo.4s and I roughed those sets out as soon as I got home. As soon as the dehumidification kiln was completed, they stayed in there for a few years and then back out onto the storage shelf waiting for a home.
After a recent conversation about pairing infill wood with sidewall material, I noticed these 2 sets on the shelf and decided to make these 2 planes to show the difference between steel and bronze with a common infill wood. I made a few ‘spare’ planes a couple months ago and the response was very positive, so decided the risk of making 2 more was not too high. Besides - I was curious to see them myself.
Here are a couple more photos of the pair and then some photos of the individual planes.
XSNo.4 with bronze sides and Black & White Ebony infill. The plane is 5-1/2" long, has a 1-1/2" wide, high carbon steel blade with a 52.5 degree bed angle. The price is $1,700.00 Cdn + actual shipping costs.
XSNo.4ss with steel sides, a stainless steel lever cap and screw, with Black & White Ebony infill. The plane is 5-1/2" long, has a 1-1/2" wide, high carbon steel blade with a 52.5 degree bed angle. The price is $1,850.00 Cdn + actual shipping costs.
On Hannah’s Inlaid Chest from our June 2013 magazine (issue #204), I scratched most of the string inlay by hand using tools from both Lie-Nielsen Toolworks and Lee Valley/Veritas. Of the string inlay tools used on the chest, the most import is the radius cutter. For that job, I selected the tool from Lie-Nielsen (item … Read more
I met Evan Court last month at CraftBoston, where he was representing the North Bennet Street School as one of the students in their furniture-making program. Here’s a brief and informal introduction for you – Evan’s latest work, a great sideboard that was on display at the show: But what I really want to tell … Read more
The post Why Build a Traditional Tool Chest? Wait’ll You See the Sideboard appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.
The dining room table is complete, delivered and installed. It was great to finally see it setup at the client’s house! Before it was packed up, I had a good friend take photos. I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. Many long hours poured into the whole project and it was worth the effort!
[You can click any photo for a larger version. Click it again for full-page.]
The post Morton’s Shop: Dining Room Table Complete – Final Pictures! appeared first on Woodworking Blog.
Walnut. 2 and 3/4 inches in diameter. 3 and 3/8 inches tall. The grain matches from container to lid. This is the first container turned on the treadle lathe, and my first turned container in about 30 years. Coins in the photo are for size reference, a 2 Euro (Italian/Dante) and a US Quarter (Indiana/Indy 500 – we used to live 1/2 mile from there.) The pig is an Austrian good luck charm. Turning and carving details follow these photos.
Having watched half a gazillion YouTube videos about container turning techniques, I did this one a bit differently than what I saw in any of the videos. Being of Scottish heritage and a bit “thrifty,” I haven’t yet bought one of the 4-jaw chucks we so often see used for this type of work.
Instead, I sandwiched the walnut blank between two pine waste blocks (saves wasting 50 cents worth of walnut) and mounted the sandwich on a simple $10 faceplate. I trued the blank with a live center taking up the tail. After truing the blank into a cylinder, I trued a perpendicular face on the tail end of the blank, i.e on the end of the waste block there. That prepared a surface for mounting yet another simple $10 faceplate for working the lid.
The rest of the turning followed fairly standard procedure.
- Turn a rough profile for the entire container.
- Refine the lid profile to nearly final shape.
- Part off the lid piece.
- Mount a faceplate on the lid piece.
- Remove the body from the lathe and mount the lid piece.
- This leaves the inside of the lid accessible. Hollow the inside to desired depth. Refine, sand and finish the inside.
- Remove the lid from the lathe and mount the body.
- Turn a tenon on the body that accepts the lid as a very snug press fit.
- Remove the lid’s waste block and faceplate. (The waste block was glued in place with a paper separator layer, hence easily cut off.)
- Press the lid onto the body’s tenon.
- Complete the shaping and finishing of the lid. For this particular turning, I left a raised ring of wood on the lid that later becomes the “C-bars” in the carving.
- Refine the outside shape of the body.
- Hollow the body.
- Sand and finish the inside. (Did I say “sand?” Hate sanding anything!)
- Cut the body from the waste block.
- While still mounted, turn the waste block to form a plug / jam chuck for the body.
- Press fit the body onto the plug and turn a very slight concave bottom surface. Sand and finish the body.
- Remove all from the lathe.
- Remount the waste block used for the lid and turn it to form a plug / jam chuck that fits inside the lid. This is not used for any more turning, but as a mount for holding the lid while carving.
All that remains is a simple matter of carving. The design is a single letter monogram set between two classic “C-bars.” The carving is different from most in that it is carved in end grain. While that eliminates the usual grain sensitivity of carving, it presents another difficulty. Carving in end grain is like pressing a knife into the end of a bundle of soda straws. Extra sharp tools are the order of the day, along with a healthy helping of patience. Also helpful are a white wax marker and a fine spoon shaped chisel.
I’m not sure what the recipient will keep in such a container. It has enough room for about 211 calories worth of Gummy Bears, or maybe a few spare gold coins. We’ll see.
There's been a fair bit of progress on the Japanese Lamp project, without, I'm happy to report, any dire or assorted 'cock-ups' , which for me, dear peruser, is a bit of a bloody miracle!
The first pic above shows the various smaller components hanging from a line and if you've ever been to Naples, you'll know exactly what they remind you of. Masking off the pre-glued Doms and suspending them from a cord means that I was able to finish all sides in one hit, using a couple of thin coats of matt Osmo-PolyX (great stuff by the way)
Once all the interior surfaces were dry and waxed, it was time for a trial assembly of the lower panels, made in Ipe, or Brazilian Walnut (band sawn veneers over 4mm ply). No real Doms used here, but 5mm bits of ash cut to the right size.
Having checked it all, there were three gluing stages to get to the point above, where a long 22" jointer was used as a 'super-smoother' to level each of the sides, after which the....
...router could be used (with an extended base) to make the rebates all round for the shoji panels. With the corners squared out, the exterior frame was polished and waxed. The eight little stubs were then individually marked with Roman numerals using a 3mm chisel...
...and if you click on the pic to enlarge it, you can clearly see the markings. This means that by aligning the 'III' on the shoulder with the 'III' on the frame, the stub, once shot in and sanded, will fit...
...exactly with no 'step' or overlap.
Clever, ain't it?
Once the stubs were hung out and polished (as before) they were glued in place...
...a pair at a time.
However, that's not quite the end of the saga, because I had a small parcel of Ipe left over and I found that it's one of the nicest cabinet woods that I've ever used in a long time. Being somewhat of a parsimonious old git I decided not to waste it, so I made a small...
...box out of it.
I bought a new push lawn mower the other day, and like a two year old at Christmas, I had much more fun playing with the box than with the mower.
I've spent lots of time thinking about the shaped of the spindles in the backs of chairs and because I use spindles, it's easy to get stuck thinking vertically. But the shape of the human body doesn't follow a singe vertical curve at every spot. So I started thinking about the relationships as they proceed horizontally. With the hardy cardboard, I mocked up this chair back by aligning four curves. It is surprisingly comfortable and sturdy.
Each curve is actually slightly cones shaped. It was easy and took only a half hour or so, but it confirmed a lot of what I have been doing with my spindles and encouraged me to go even further.
Here is the view of the back. I started by pinning the piece together with drywall screws and adjusting them as I saw fit.
Then I took the small blocks of plywood and spun the screws until the plywood was sucked tight to the cardboard. The single board clamped to the workbench puts the support in just the right spot so I can rest my weight on it. From there, I mapped out the spindle shapes and will be making some patterns and dummies to further test it out. We will be working with this more to design some chairs at the class that Greg Pennington and I will be teaching at Kelly Mehlers in a couple of weeks.
As you can see in the chair below, I have been highlighting similar shapes in the flat spindles of my chairs for some time now.
I've accentuated the chamfers on the spindles which adds a lot of interest to their blonde color.
And I opened up the goat paddock into the woods so my kids could climb rocks and eat shrubs.
This photo was recently sent to me by antique tool dealer Jim Bode. We were having a conversation at a local tool museum last Sunday when he mentioned a photo that was given to him by one of his customers. The image shows seven carpenters posing in a field with their tool chests circa 1910. These were full service country carpenters who could build a house from the foundation to the roof. They have the usual selection of handsaws, planes, bit braces, breast drills, augers, spirit levels, hammers, steel squares, mallets, chisels, etc.
The specialty tools reveal the range of their carpentry activities. The boring machines, framing chisels, lifting jack, and adzes show that they were still building mortise & tenon timber frames during an era when most of the country had long since converted to balloon framing. The expensive miter boxes and combination plane show that they were also doing exterior trim, cornice work, and possibly interior trim & flooring as well. The slate ripper is only used for roofing and siding.
The planes are a mixed group of cast iron and transitional. The wooden soled planes were often preferred by site carpenters because they dramatically reduced the weight of the traveling tool kit. Most of the transitional planes in this image are stock models, but one of them appears to be a user modified plane. It looks like somebody took the hardware off of a Stanley No. 26 Jack Plane and added their own custom four foot sole to make a super jointer.
As for the date, I suggest circa 1910 because the miter boxes in this photo appear to be Stanley models with patents issued in 1904. For that reason the photo can not be earlier than 1905. Several years ago I put together a research paper on miter box patents. If you need help with the identity or age of a miter box, then this document can help.
Miter Box Patents – (2812 pages – 160MB pdf) Right Click – Save As
- Jeff Burks
Filed under: Historical Images
“Ornament is an act of love – or at least a token of esteem. We embellish what we revere. We adorn that which we love. We do not decorate the hero, returning from the wars, to make him pretty – we decorate him to pay him honor. Ornament is deep stuff, greatly misunderstood in recent years.”
— Alvin Holm
This quote above is from an article you can link to by Alvin Holm (Ornament) .
Much of our rabbit hole material comes from the thoughts of architects and scientists. Here’s a few thoughts about ornament from an architect. I find it also applies to furniture. Hope this proves insightful and helps you to see in a deeper way. Feel free to share your thoughts.
George R. Walker
College of the Redwoods, indeed.
Photo by Michael Nichols, from National Geographic.
I’m in Fort Collins, Colo., for an in-house conference where editors and community leaders in all areas of our parent company, F+W Media, are getting together to share ideas, talk about the business etc. And last night, we had a trade show so that each of us could demonstrate to our fellow employees what we … Read more
After working the most gorgeous week of the year on the most gorgeous private island in Maine (no seriously… check this place out > Nautilus Island), Mike and the boys came over on Saturday for some tree felling fun. Mike did most of the felling, Casey did the limbing, Kyle ran the excavator for brush and lifting the logs onto the trailer, and I… well, I walked around with a tape measure and cut list directing traffic. I worked through my plans several times over making sure I had a complete list of all the pieces I need. There are about 150 pieces to the frame including braces, purlins, joists, etc. Having not done a project like this from standing trees to complete finish, I was a bit nervous about knowing just which pieces to select for each timber.
Jon Ellsworth has been helpful to me in our discussions about what to look for in size of tree. I trust Jon’s advice. He takes his draft horses up into the woods behind my current studio pretty frequently and takes down trees that he brings to a local sawyer for all the frames he builds. He’s been doing this a long time. I will truly miss hearing the clack clacking of the horses on the road and the subsequent chainsaw in the distance while I am working.
Julia had been busy all week preparing food for the big day. After french press coffee and country store donuts in the morning, we devoured her burritos for lunch, and grilled barbeque chicken with homemade macaroni for dinner. It was so amazing. Thank you Julia!
On occasion throughout the day, Julia would bring Eden up to watch the work from a distance. He, of course, loved it. He frequently talks about how he wants to be like Kyle and run an excavator or like uncle Mike with a chainsaw.
I think the first highlight of the day (besides the sweet fellowship of my brothers) was the take down of the large spruce tree for my 24’ 7 x 7 tie beam in the center bent. All the rest of the 24’ spans I will end up scarf jointing, but this beam is a little more critical. It was pretty cool watching these guys take this down so efficiently. After a little struggle, Kyle’s excavator finally loaded that beast onto the trailer. Cheers abounded as he laid it in place.
The second highlight was the take down of the smallest tree. First Mike, as a professional arborist, put on his climbing gear and worked his way to the top. We had a crew of three guys pulling on the rope from below as he cut the top off. Finally, Casey notched and took down the rest with a little help from the excavator. It was nothing short of ridiculous. And good fun for the end of a long tiring day.
We got the trailers loaded to capacity and only had about a third of what was needed. The plan from here is that Kyle and I will very soon mill what we’ve got and we’ll schedule another work day to get the rest. Next time we will have more hauling capacity so that we can hopefully get the remainder in this second load.
I am so thankful to have such an awesome family. Mike, his brother-in-law Kyle, and Kyle’s brother Casey were so generous to offer their help on this project. I am indebted greatly to these dear brothers and I look forward to helping them fulfill their each of their dreams someday. Thank you, guys. Thank you.
I have often found it beneficial to sketch furniture while examining it. Unlike a photograph, a pencil insists a form be understood to be reproduced. But my sketches don’t always look like my subjects. My failing can be attributed to both my lack of skill and lack of understanding of the subject. I’m not convinced … Read more
We try to keep up with a lot of woodworking blogs here at Highland, and one of our favorites is Chris Schwartz’s blog over on the Popular Woodworking website, where he recently discussed the use of toothbrushes in Canadian woodworking and how they are used a bit differently than in the US. To sum it up, you want to be sure that you know where your toothbrush has been before using it for its normal purpose of keeping your teeth clean.
This technique was demonstrated at one of Chris’s classes at Rosewood Studio in Ontario, Canada, where Chris recently taught his Anarchist’s Toolchest class this past April. Check out the looks of concentration that Hans, one of the students, demonstrates while completing the glue-up of his carcass.
Sadly, this marks the end of this project, but have a few concepts already in mind for the next one. In the meantime, I'm thinking a proper shop tour is long overdue, and it might be the perfect intermission to the next big thing.
Over the years one question I get frequently is in regards to hand plane maintenance. Especially when it comes to what someone should do to keep their newly purchased hand planes from getting ruined.
The folks over at Lee Valley put out a short but sweet video that hits the most important areas of any hand plane that should be taken care of regularly.
Hopefully you’ll find it as helpful as I did!