Teaching Historic Finishing At MASW

Right after the conclusion of the Parquetry workshop at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking I dove in again with three days of Historic Finishing (reminder to self — DO NOT do this again.  The logistics of changing horses mid-week is a headache you can do without).  This class had more than a dozen students, and the enthusiastic feedback had led Marc to ask me to develop an expanded  week-long workshop on the same topic, which we will do in 2019.

I’ve pretty much got this workshop dialed in, as I do with Parquetry, so there is a fairly fixed syllabus here.  The emphasis is on processes and work habits rather than having a “completed” project at the end, concentrating on shellac spirit varnishes and beeswax applications.

The starting point is this 24×48 panel building up multiple brushed applications of 1-1/2 pound cut shellac to about 18 layers over the first day and a half.  Getting this to “done” allows us to explore the detailing and polishing of the surface.

We used polissoirs for preparing surfaces and applying wax, and filled the grain with molten beeswax.  Then we made and used polishing pads for applying spirit varnish.

Each student got to address the problems of finishing undulating surfaces,

applying pigmented wax grain filler,

and even making historic sandpaper.

The giant panels were polished out with a variety of period-appropriate abrasives,

and one quadrant was glazed with asphaltum.

All in all, it was a great time of fellowship and learning.  How could it not be, we were finishing!