tortoiseshell & imitation

Preparing for Presentations

After two years of mostly inactivity teaching-wise I’ve got several now on the calendar, all more or less in the vicinity.  Over the next couple weeks I will be diligently preparing for my presentation at the SAPFM Mid-Year in Fredericksburg VA, on the topic “The colonial craftsman’s finishing kit,” with a special emphasis on locally available materials.  If you are there you can come and see it, if not, not.

For this presentation I am creating a set of sample boards to reflect the information I am presenting.

No sooner do I return home from that than I will be assembling all the materials for the three-day Historic Woodfinishing Workshop near Charottesville VA.  I’ve done this workshop several times and have settled on a well-defined syllabus to leave the students with greater confidence in the finishing process.

Over Labor Day weekend my friend Tim, for whom I built the ginormous workbench a couple years ago, will be hosting an 18th century craft shindig at his place just a few miles form here.  He has asked me to demonstrate historic wood finishing and tordonshell work.  Ought to be a boatload of fun.

It’s the best of all worlds in a way.  I get to teach and interact with talented people in a range of skilled trades without having to even travel!

More Boullework Adventures

As I continued preparations leading up to last Saturday’s Boullework presentation to the SAPFM Blue Ridge Chapter I was able to make good progress once I discovered the cause of my earlier frustrations.  Which was, as I realized once the initial center cut was completed and the material removed, that the first blade break resulted in a small fragment being embedded in the kerf.  Every succeeding blade was damaged by encountering this fragment, continuing the sawing difficulties.  When you’re talking 0000 blades it does not take much to throw them off.

Getting a little more sawing done and assembling the demo materials was pretty straightforward.

I even made a scute of tordonshell.   Fun, fun, fun.

PS  Since I am on the home stretch for reviewing the Gragg chair video (probably about a dozen finished half-hour-ish episodes plus a bonus episode or two) and creating the edit sheets for the project, I am casting my brain forward to next winter.  I am thinking about a shorter series on Boullework, Don-stye.  Or at least revising and updating my original monograph from my presentation in Amsterdam.

Some Days The Magic Isn’t There

It’s been quite a while since I 1) did any Boullework and 2) made a public presentation.

The last week or two I’ve been going through the exercises I’m demonstrating this coming Saturday to the SAPFM Blue Ridge Chapter, everything from making tordonshell to cutting some new Boullework panels.

When I assembled the metal and tordonshell packet and set about to sawing, the magic just wasn’t there.  On a normal day once I get in the rhythm I can go for an hour or longer per saw bade, sometimes even half a day.  But not this particular day.  Sigh.

I was snapping blades like I was trying to break pasta.  It took me four hours to saw a 1/2″ circle (and a pretty raggedy one at that) and I broke more than two dozen blades in the process.  When I swept up the pile was truly impressive, but my camera was not handy.

Bad posture?  Bad lot of blades? (it really does happen some time)  Packet too thick?  Rusty antiquated shoulder?  Vision problems?  (well, that is a given)

Some days are just like that.  I’ll aim to get the bear tomorrow.

Attending to Old Friends

Recently I had some time to spend working on a pair of early 18th Century Italian friends near Mordor.  As is almost always the case with wooden objects veneered with tortoiseshell, the delamination problem is never really solved as the wooden substrate and the mostly thermoset protein polymer veneer react to moisture changes at  different rates.  In this particular case that problem has been exacerbated in the distant past by the traditional housekeeping practice of slathering tortoiseshell with olive oil and linseed oil.   The practice is deleterious is every way, especially over time.

 

This time there were two sections of tortoiseshell that had become fully detached like this one, they were reattached with 192 g.w.s. hot animal hide glue after cleaning the substrate.

Then I worked my way around the mirror frames and identified a dozen places with delamination but not detachment and laid these back down after working glue underneath.

In the end I cleaned up the surfaces and applied a thin layer of Mel’s Wax over the surface.

I also documented the two dozen small losses on the frames; these are not detrimental per se and the client may want me to address these losses at some point in the future.

For now they are back up on the wall doing what they are supposed to do – look beautiful.  I no longer accept new clients, but expect to care for these old friends as long as I am abe.

2022 Winterthur Marquetry Conference

I’ve signed on as one of the speakers for a Spring 2022 conference at the Winterthur Museum on the subject of marquetry.  Like many other events over the past two years it has been scheduled, cancelled and re-scheduled, to the point where I am not fully informed myself.  (In 2020, 13 of my 13 teaching and speaking gigs were cancelled.  It was quite delightful to not travel much, hunkering down in Shangri-la instead [“social isolation” is any day ending in “Y” here in the hinterboonies])  I believe it is in late April but don’t hold me to that.  I won’t discuss the other speakers yet as I think the Program is still being finalized, but my presentation and subsequent publication will be on the topic of Boullework.

I have already sketched out my presentation/demonstration in my mind, bringing it into realm of reality will occur over the next eight months.  That progress will be documented periodically on this screen.

This is a demonstration-heavy gathering, so if the topic interests you it would be a great opportunity to interact with some very passionate and accomplished folks, both on the stage and in the audience.

Winterthur is a few miles north of I-95 in northern Delaware.  I worked there while going through college and have many fond memories of it, both the grounds and museum are magnificent.

Stay tuned.

“Tortoiseshell and Imitation Tortoiseshell” Monograph — New To The Archive

Recently while working to impose order to the library of the Barn I came across a pile of articles needing scanning and formatting for posting to the web.  “Tortoiseshell and Imitation Tortoiseshell” was my contribution to a 2002 conference that required travel to Amsterdam for the presentation itself, in complete disregard to one of my personal mottoes, “If I ain’t at home, I’m in the wrong place.”

The scanned article is now in the “Conservation” section of the Writings section of the web site.  There are two versions, one about 4.5 megs and another about 1.5 megs.  I’m still working through the idiosyncrasies of my scanner and compewder, figuring out what settings work best.  If I can get this better I will upload that version later.

A Portfolio of Tordonshell

I recently went through my inventory of tordonshell to see about matching some for a friend’s project.

I can make it pretty much any way I want, matching almost any pattern or dimension required.

At this point I am always working out the finer details, such as toughness, longevity and so on, and experimenting with different chemicals to perform the same functions as those I use already.  One of these days I hope to derive the perfect method for re-creating traditional tortoiseshell guitar picks.

If I get all the compewder stuff right I will post my 2003 article on the subject early next week.  I have scanned it and am now formatting it and trying to get the transfer to the host server right.  Wish me luck.