Finishing

Historic Finishing Day 3

In one sense the learning velocity for Day 3 is the same as Day 1 and Day 2, but the psychological impact of everything coming together in a beautiful outcome is almost incalculable.  One thing I am mindful of is that most Day 3s of workshops are structured to make sure any meaningful instruction occurs by mid-day, as the typical impetus is for folks to start heading back home sometime in the afternoon.  Sometimes students will stay  until evening, but in this case all three had lengthy drives home (two to central NC and one to CT) and headed out mid-afternoon to get home before dark.


If I had to summarize the events of the third day it would be encapsulated in the word “rubbing.”  The central focus of that action was the very large panels that had been varnished with brushed shellac the previous days.  These panels were divided into four sections to be finished off with different rubbing protocols, including making and using abrasive pads for pumice and Tripoli/rottenstone, both with and without paste wax.   Another section was burnished/abraded with Liberon 0000 steel wool and paste wax.

Though I knew the results in advance the students did not, and their excitement at seeing the results of their own hand work was most gratifying.

One student even brought a sample panel from his previous finish work and compared it to the panels we completed during the workshop.  Needless to say the smile could not be wiped from his face.  I didn’t quite get the camera angle perfect but you get the point between the almist gritty, brassy smaller panel and his new lustrous, almost glowing surface.

Our final chapter of the workshop was shellac spirit varnish pad polishing, a/k/a “French polishing.”  As with the other pad-based processes, rubbing out with tripoli or pumice, they each made their own spirit varnishing pad.   All these pads were made with vintage linen outer cloths and new cotton wadding inner cores, and all these were theirs to take home in a small sealed glass jar.  These pads should serve them well for many years to come.

Spirit varnish pad polishing is very definitely a technique requiring an informed “feel” about how it is supposed to progress.  Even though this was an introductory effort for all three students, they really took to it with enthusiasm and excellent outcomes being the result.  It was delightful to see the smiles and satisfaction of accomplishment.

Though I failed to get a final photo of us all, along with their sample boards going home with them, I believe it was a woodworking-life-changing experience for them.  As I told them at the outset, my primary goal was to give them confidence at the finishing bench and dispel any intimidation they might have in that regard.  If their notes to me afterward were any indication, it was a success.

I want to thank for your “Historic Finishing Course” at the Barn last week.  It was over the top in how it exceeded my expectations; by the end of the workshop I was seeing the process you taught working to a superb result under my own hand.  A really cool result–and well worth three days of my time to learn it. 

And,

I want to thank you for an awesome class!  The fellowship was really great and I came away much more confident applying a lovely shellac finish.

 

 

Historic Finishing Day 2

[Yup, my compewder power cord arrived from South Carolina and I am back in bidnez. — DCW]

Day 2 included the continuation of previous exercises begun on Day 1 and the addition of some new ones to fill out the syllabus.

With the large panels having already been built with two innings of brushed finishing the preparation for the final application of brushed shellac was underway with the surface being scraped.  I find scraping to be a “lost art” among contemporary finishers for the most part, although it was a very common weapon in the quiver of an 18th century craftsman.  For convenience sake I/we used disposable single edged razors from the hardware store that I buy by the hundreds.

For the final application of the shellac varnish I had them switch from a 21st century nylon/sable blend watercolor brush to an oval bristle brush, much closer in style to that of 250 years ago.  This gives the students a variety of experiences for similar tasks.

I presented a very brief demonstration of using a pumice block to prepare the raw wood, which yielded a surface that was surprisingly (to them) smooth.

Then on to the molten wax portion of the program, wherein they prepared two sample boards for different purposes.  The first was to create a “wax only” finish which I think is the most difficult finish to do well, and secondly to fill the grain for a panel to be pad polished tomorrow on Day3.

While the wax was cooling the students moved on to a pair of exercises designed to give them facility at complex surfaces.  The first was to varnish a carved and turned spindle and the second a frame-and-panel door.

While they were doing that I was playing some more with molten wax finishes.  Like I said, it is difficult to get perfect.

Late in the afternoon we saw this “meal on wheels” right outside the shop.  Clearly they are terrified of human proximity.

Thus endeth Day 2.

Finishing With A Stick, or “When I Grow Up I Want To Be Maki Fushimi”

I am a sorta youtube.com junkie, in that a typical week finds me watching many (mostly instructional) videos.  I’m even thinking of starting my own youtube channel and posting short shop videos on it, but I have not yet pulled the trigger on that.

One of my truly favorite channels over there is that of Japanese Lacquer Master Maki Fushimi, whose inventory includes hundreds of videos, virtually all with only ambient sound, without any speaking.  They are just videos of his hands at work in the lacquerwork studio.  This a 60-part(!) series on making a set of bowls, and his virtuosity with a spatula always leaves my jaw hanging open.  I tried to make the blog link to video 45, titled HONKATAJI-WAN (45) but it keeps posting this video link.  In #45 he uses nothing more than a stick to do amazing finishing.  Give it a look.

Still waiting for my compewder power cord to arrive and for that part of the world getting back to normal.  For now I am stuck with an ancient laptop from at least a dozen years ago.

Historic Finishing Day 1

 

Last week was my almost-annual workshop in Historic Finishing, three days spent introducing the notions of systematic work with shellac and beeswax.  This year I had three students which allowed for a lot of great fellowship and one-on-one instruction and problem solving.

It began with a discussion of the strategy of finishing I developed many years past, emphasizing the Six Simple Rules for Perfect Finishing.  As always my goal is to not only teach and inform, but to change attitudes.  Usually woodworkers are indifferent at best and terrified at worst to finishing, and again this year I saw the students leave with a whole new level of confidence.  I cannot say they departed with my own mindset of looking forward to any finishing task, but at least they were no longer fearful of it.

After the opening lecture they got to working on the first of a dozen exercises I had devised for them.  This one was brushing shellac on a large panel, building up about a dozen coats in three application sessions, or “innings.”  Using only a one-inch brush this exercise develops excellent hand skills at applying a finish evenly over a very large area, and lays the foundation for some Day 3 exercises.

We then moved on to the means of preparing surfaces in general (the initial large panel exercise has to fall a bit out of order since it required three sessions to complete the applications; the start of Day 1, the end of Day 1, and the start of Day 2).  Thus much of the day was spent building up Popeye-like forearms, a/k/a using a polissoir.

I also demonstrated the use of a pumice block for smoothing wood.  This was a very common procedure in ancient days, an analog to our own use of sandpaper.

Preparing panels with the polissoirs and then a polissoirs-plus-cold-beeswax occupied much of that afternoon, followed by a light sanding of the large panel and re-application of the 2-pound shellac from the morning.

And thus endeth Day 1.

Ready For Class

Historic Woodfinishing workshop starts in an hour or so and I’m rarin’ to go.

the classroom is all set

some show-n-tell

my ultra-high-tech syllabus

Workshop Teaser – Make A Set of Roubo Squares

Every participant will begin with a slab of brass which we will cut on the table saw to yield the preferred number of graduated squares.

Once these have been cut and the corners cleaned up, they will be laid out for the graduated nesting sizes.

Ogees are cut and filed into the ends, and all the detailing is finished in preparation for the silver soldering of the shoe on the outside of the beam.

If this workshop interests you, drop me a line via the Comments or Contact functions of the site.  It will be June 20-22, and the tuition + materials is $425.  You will leave with a completed set of squares.

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Other workshops at the Barn this summer are:

Historic Finishing

Make A Roubo Shoulder Knife

Make A Ripple Molding Machine

Mel’s Wax Available ~January 24!

Wish me luck!  After years of product development and clearing the decks at the Barn on White Run, and finding reliable suppliers for some of the esoteric materials involved (still crossing my fingers on that one), I am thrilled to announce that Mel’s Wax will be in the donsbarn.com Store in the coming days and could begin shipping on or about January 24, 2019.

This is a hand-made ultra high performance archival furniture maintenance product, fussy to formulate and manufacture.  On a good day doing nothing else I can produce 40-50 jars.  But rarely is there a day when I do nothing else.

More complete information on the creation, properties and utility of Mel’s Wax will be posted here and at a currently-under-development web site dedicated to it, which will go live as soon as I can get all the documents created for it.  Eventually that web site will also include detailed video about using it and other related topics.

To give you a snapshot of this product I have posted below some testimonials and the text of the instructional brochure that will accompany each jar.

Mel’s Wax will be $49 for a 4 oz. jar, domestic shipping included.  A little goes a very long way.

***THIS PRODUCT WILL NOT BE SHIPPED TO CALIFORNIA.*** 

Do not complain to me, complain to your state gubmint officials and the environmental trial lawyers they are attached to.

 

Here are some of the comments by product testers over the past couple of years.

I do know that [name deleted] has used it quite a bit and likes it. I used it on one commission piece and it worked really nice. It went from really soft to remarkably hard like magic.

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I cleaned the [artifact] and retouched where necessary then as a final layer applied a very thin layer of Mel’s Wax.  She just came back one year later and [Mel’s Wax] helped substantially and though it needs cleaning again but does not have the hazy (ugly) look.  My client was very happy!  Thank you for giving me the tools and materials to think this through.

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The pictures I will send you are of a small table that I first polished out with extra fine polishing compound and a wheel buffer. Then I applied [Mel’s Wax] to half of the top, buffed it by hand and compared the two halves.  I see a difference between the waxed and un-waxed sides. The waxed side has more luster and gives the surface more depth. There is enough of a difference that would make me reach for the wax on a similar project.

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a really lovely 1889 German music box came into my life today and I used [Mel’s Wax] to clean and polish the original finish , which I suspect is shellac though I did not test it, the metal disc also had a treatment with [Mel’s Wax] and I really am happy with the performance of the wax.  It’s very very thin and I like that immensely, it dried very quickly in my 75 degree shop with about 70 percent humidity, and buffed to very pleasing sheen, using a cotton tee shirt scrap


 

[Buffing, Streaking, and Smudging] is where Mel’s Wax excels. My test case is the dining table in this home. It appears to be only a wax finish on the original parts of the top and getting an even shine is difficult. In the past, [another product] was my go-to wax for this job. Mel’s Wax eclipsed [the other wax] in both ease of application and speed in buffing. Best of all, it buffed smudge and streak free–the buffing took a fraction of the time I usually spent buffing out the [other wax].


 

I found Mel’s Wax to be excellent for prophylactic waxing, especially over already waxed surfaces. I would say that I cut my application and buffing time in half from what I usually spent using [other products] and got streak-free finishes. I still have my arsenal of other waxes for either, jobs not worthy of Mel’s Wax, or jobs where Mel’s Wax isn’t an appropriate choice. I think it would be an excellent household wax as I don’t think it could be “over-used”.

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The Mel’s Wax Instructional Brochure (will be included with every jar)

Mel’s Wax is a patented high-performance semi-liquid, easy-to-use furniture care product created by museum furniture conservators for their own professional use. Mel’s Wax is appropriate for priceless antiques, treasured family heirlooms, wooden objects d’art, and even architectural woodworking. Mel’s Wax does not need “elbow grease” for either application or buffing.

WARNING: DO NOT USE on food preparation surfaces or utensils. DO NOT USE on fragile or flaking furniture surfaces, or surfaces sensitive to mineral spirits or water.

DIRECTIONS FOR USE

1. Shake the jar of Mel’s Wax before using.
2. First perform this fast, simple test to make sure that Mel’s Wax will not harm the surface of your furniture.

Apply small dab of Mel’s Wax to an inconspicuous area with a clean, soft cloth or cotton swab, making sure that this area has the same finish and appearance as the rest the piece. Gently rub on Mel’s Wax, wait about 5 minutes, then wipe the area with a clean cotton swab or cosmetics pad. You may notice dirt and grime on the swab, but if the test area looks sound and a bit shiny, you can proceed.

3. Apply a small amount with a clean, soft, lint-free cloth in a well-ventilated area. A little goes a LONG way, less is better. After applying Mel’s Wax you should see an even, slightly glossy residue over the area being treated, indicating you have used enough Mel’s Wax. This gloss may diminish as the polish dries.
4. Wait until completely dry. Generally an hour is sufficient.
5. Gently buff the surface with a second, clean, soft, lint-free cloth. Thorough and gentle rubbing with the cloth is all that is necessary for the polish to produce its luster.
6. Store the sealed jar of Mel’s Wax in a cool place; Mel’s Wax contains natural and synthetic ingredients including petroleum distillate, but no preservatives or stabilizers. Do not let it freeze.

Your furniture is now protected and enhanced with Mel’s Wax and ready for storage, exhibit, or use.

ROUTINE CARE: For pieces treated with Mel’s Wax, ongoing care requires only periodic dusting with a clean, soft, lint-free cloth dampened with a few drops of distilled water. If the surface is dirty, put a few drops of a mild detergent in 8oz. of distilled water and use it to make a damp (not soaking wet) cleaning cloth. Then wipe using a second clean, soft, lint-free cloth dampened with distilled water alone, and finally wipe with a third, clean, dry, soft, lint-free cloth. For furniture in daily use you may have to re-apply Mel’s Wax every few months. If your furniture is not often handled or used, you may not need to re-apply Mel’s Wax for many years.

DISCLAIMER: Follow all directions above. Mel’s Wax is not a substitute for a furniture finish. It has been designed as a museum quality maintenance coating to preserve a wide variety of existing furniture finishes. It is not intended for high-stress surfaces like wooden food-preparation counters or utensils, or floors. If the surface still appears “parched” after buffing, the problem is likely with the artifact’s surface.

SAFETY/CAUTION: Mel’s Wax is a chemical product, not intended for human, animal, or plant consumption. Apply in a well ventilated area while wearing eye protection. Wear non-latex surgical-type disposable gloves when applying Mel’s Wax or wash your hands afterwards with soap and water. Keep out of reach of children. Dispose of any materials used for applying Mel’s Wax as you would any other household cleaning products.

What is “Mel’s Wax?”

This is an archival quality product which will protect the surface finish of your furniture, thereby preserving the finish while the furniture it remains in careful use. Mel’s Wax has proven to be an excellent product for furniture in typical domestic use. It provides a durable lustrous appearance, easily maintained with gentle dusting and cleaning.

Each ingredient of Mel’s Wax was selected after careful scientific review, and Mel’s Wax was formulated to enhance ease-of-use and reduce any harmful effects to artifacts that can be caused by many commercial furniture care products.

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***THIS PRODUCT WILL NOT BE SHIPPED TO CALIFORNIA.*** 

 

 

GroopShop Day 2 +

The second day of GroopShop was just as engaging and instructive as the first, and one again I was paying so much attention to the speakers that my photo record was not as good as it should have been.

The opening session was a demo by one of the reps from Apollo Spray Systems, the HVLP units used widely in our circles.  The blow-by-blow of the history of product development was fascinating to me.

My friends Mark and Valeri from Besway/Benco, manufacturers of chemicals and products for the finishing room, provided a chilling account of the regulatory war against our trade.  Do Gooders are relentless, that is why they win unless they are opposed in a smash-mouth fashion by someone with the means to do so.  Since sanctimonious moral certitude is the regulator’s fuel, I do not expect us to prevail for the most part.

Freddy Roman gave an impassioned and enlightening talk about using social media for marketing his business.  In that realm he really is the Energizer bunny.  Were I less curmudgeonly I might go this route.

I gave my 120-minute spiel on “Decoding Hide Glue,” covering everything from manufacture to modification to application.  We got almost all of it recorded and it will soon  be posted, or at least as soon as I can knit it all together.

Bill Ryan is an on-site-work warrior doing mostly architectural punch-list work in new construction, and he brought his complete traveling workshop with him to show its contents and applications.  Very inspiring.  I am still kicking myself for not taking a picture of his traveling kit.

Tom Delvecchio presented his recent fascination and exploration of 3D printing and its applications to his work in the restoration shop.  I’ve long been considering this technology, and since there is a manufacturer her in this county I will delve more deeply.

The after-dinner talk was one of the most intriguing I’ve seen as a young fellow demonstrated 3D imaging and its link to robotic 3D manufacturing.  The implication for replicating metal furniture parts especially was astounding.  We used to work on 3D imaging at SI and the progress made in this area is staggering.

The final presenter for the gathering was the next morning with the rep from Mohawk covering his line of products, and how that offering has changed over time.  Like many practitioners of the furniture restoration arts Mohawk is what I cut my teeth on; I attended a Touch-Up workshop back in 1974 and still have drawers full of the materials I got then, using them as needed to this day.

And thus endeth GroopShop 2018.  As always I came away inspired and informed.  If you have any interest in the finishing and restoration arts, you should belong to the Professional Refinishers Group.

Mrs. Barn and I spent the afternoon at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.  It was delightful.  Then we drove home.  Less delightful.

GroopShop 2018 – Day 1

Recently we traveled to Greater Atlanta to attend this year’s gathering of the Professional Refinisher’s Group, a/k/a “Groop,” and online forum to which I have belonged for almost twenty years.  Though initially a “virtual” community, we started assembling almost annually for the past 16 years.

Our hosts this year were the cooperative known as Southern Restorations whose large enterprise is steered by Brian Webster.

Note:  If you have even a passing interest in furniture finishing or restoration, you SHOULD be a member of Groop.  For further information on joining click here.  If you attended the HO Studley exhibit in Cedar Rapids IA you undoubtedly met some of our members, as most of the docents were volunteers from Groop.

Once again GroopShop was an invigorating time of fellowship and sometimes idiosyncratic conversations ranging from surviving running a small business in an esoteric marketplace to arcane discussions of technical subjects and all points in between (virtually all the members of Groop are some version of small businesses).  I know my interest was piqued on a regular basis throughout the three days, sometimes so much I forgot to take pictures..

After opening introductions and such the first demonstration of the event was for a low-impact abrasive cleaning system that was especially appealing to our members who undertake architectural work.  Were I a younger man living near the city trying to build a business, this is a device I would certainly consider obtaining.  The results were impressive, and I brought home a cleaned table leg to see how it finishes up.

Next came an excellent presentation on recent advances in waterborne coatings systems.  While I do not use much in the way of these products, if I had a commercial refinishing shop in this age of envirohysteria, I would.

Next came Dan and Tredway demonstrating the process by which they mold and cast replicas.  I especially enjoyed this not only because I have done so much of this, but because they use a very different product line/technology than I do.  (They are Smooth-On guys and I am a Polytek guy)  Somehow I wound up with the fancy eagle, and will probably paint and gild it and perhaps put it in next year’s Groop fundraising auction.  In the mean time I will experiment with making a gelatin mold plaster cast from it.

RandyB gave another inspiring talk about life in the antiques preservation trade.  His creativity knows no bounds.  His many years of caring for collectors’ and dealers has left him with a wealth of experience and knowledge.  I first met Randy while teaching at DCTC decades ago.

BobC gave his paean to oil finishes.  Intriguing.  I think there could be an intersection between them and polissoirs.

After dinner we held our annual Refinishing Jeopardy tournament, with host MikeM invoking Sicilian rules more than once.  Like most things Sicilian it is best not to ask too much about them.  I served as the adjudicating judge for any disputed answers.  Thanks to some curious scorekeeping the hilarity was sustained to the very end.

And thus endeth Day 1.

Shellac Wax Now Available in The Store

At long last, pure shellax wax is now available from the donsbarn.com store.  I know a few of you have already found it as I have the orders in my “Pending” box to go to the Post Office next time I am in town.

Shellac wax, extracted from raw stick lac, is the second hardest of the naturally occurring waxes.  Because it is so hard and tends to be brittle at cooler temperatures it is generally used as a blend with beeswax to render it more useful as a block wax.  It is especially useful for polishing turnings by placing the block of blended wax directly against the surface of the rotating workpiece to melt it into the surface, followed by burnishing with a polissoir. It is also highly prized as an ingredient in paste wax/grain filler used with a polissoir.

My shellac wax is imported directly from the factory in east central India and is further refined here by molten filtering and forming into quarter-pound blocks for packaging.

Shellac wax is $19/quarter-pound, domestic shipping included.  For foreign or overseas shipping please contact me.