Shop’s Coming Together — Lots of Work!

John Deere 125

John Deere 125

In the last post I shared our relief at overcoming the “real estate hell” and finally settling down here in our new home in Phoenix.  The house was built in 1951 and has been beautifully remodeled but there are still things to do/repair or bring up to our specifications.  Had the A/C checked, discovered some obstruction in a sewer line that Mr. Rooter took care of, and in the process of replacing some ceiling fans discovered that an existing fan in another part of the house has the same code for the remote!  Most importantly though, here we are in the most urban area we’ve lived in and a big purchase was this; a John Deere riding lawn tractor.

As for the shop, I’ve focused a lot of energy there so I’ll share the progress with you.  It started out having a porch area that is about 80 square feet.  The initial plan was to simply remove the single door and replace it with a double door so that larger material could be taken in and larger projects could be taken out.  Diane suggested enclosing that porch area which is what we ended up doing.

To span the complete opening required a substantial 4″x 12″ beam of about 12′ length.  Hard to find a good, straight piece like that anymore so after calling the city planners learned that a GlueLam would support the roof load at only 7 1/2″ wide rather than the 12″ beam.  Ordered one from Ponderosa Lumber at 10′ and it was delivered the next day.  Installation was relatively easy with Diane’s help until it rolled on me and allowed me to add my blood to the project!

The GlueLam rolled on me when I set it up on two ladders.  Head wounds like to bleed a lot so once that was under control Diane was able to set it on one of the cripples at one end while I did the same on the opposite end.  Once in place an additional cripple was nailed on either side for good support.  You can see in the left hand picture the temporary supports placed under the rafter tails on the outside — this is a load bearing wall.

The west and east side walls were framed on the porch then slid outside and stood up.  The west side has a window while the east side is solid wall.

Steel gussets were screwed to the top plate and existing facia board.  The south side wall was a bit more of a challenge since it had to be framed up on the dirt/mud!  Luckily, the previous owner left all of the form boards used for the shop stacked up behind.  They became the platform for framing that wall.  It will have a six foot pair of French Doors to allow plenty of light into the shop.  They will look better than a garage type door too.  This wall sits on the outside of the 4″x4″ posts that support the porch roof.  Great effort was taken to make sure the door opening is square!

The slab is about 7″ above the grade so after Diane and I set the wall up against the posts I’d lift one end, she’d stick a couple of 2×4’s under it then repeat that on the opposite end.  Now, we could lift it to the slab level, square it up and secure it in place — Nice!

Wrapped, Wired, and Windowed

Wrapped, Wired, and Windowed

There was some new wiring that needed to be done, boxes added for exterior light and outlet and then the entire structure was wrapped prior to installing the window.  Home Depot is just a few blocks away so next up is buying the siding to match and get this addition closed up.  The door should be here in 2 weeks and if the salesman was right, should just slip into my perfectly square, 72″ x 80″ opening.  At this point the addition is completely wrapped and the window has been installed.

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Long Time Coming — In Phoenix Now!!

There have actually been a couple of you readers of this blog out there that sent me questions about what’s going on with the move — I do appreciate that.  It was one of the most convoluted and screwed up real estate transactions you could possibly imagine!  Diane and I ended up in an empty house for 2 weeks sleeping on a borrowed foam pad and eating off of a borrowed bistro table and chairs thanks to our wonderful neighbors.  The folks we had working for us on the sale were fantastic, namely Audrey Tolley here in Phoenix, Susan Daichendt our Las Vegas agent, and Myron Chamberlain from Prime Lending here in Phoenix.  That team cannot be thanked enough for their hard work and diligence in completing this transaction.  The agents for our buyers on the other hand were terribly incompetent and were the reason for all of the problems.  The lender for our buyers, Noble Home Loans was terrible!  I had several phone contacts with the president, Brad Malkin and the principal Herman Vander Veldt.  After threatening to file complaints I was asked to “not phone again” by the president and given unkept promises by Herman.  Seems that they are a broker for home loans and sub-contract their work out to underwriters in Dallas.  As such, they have no control over the process.  The sales agent for the buyers, Jonathan Jacobs can best be described as one who over-promises and under-delivers.  He contracted three different closing dates which was the cause of Diane and I living in an empty house.  Like my friend Randy likes to say: ” to make a long story short” don’t use either of these companies for your Las Vegas real estate transactions!

Cutting Boardwalk

Cutting Boardwalk

So, let’s get to the good part of the move.  Having been in the same house for 20 years the change wasn’t easy.  We used the PackRats for moving our “stuff” and were very pleased with them.  They arrived at the Phoenix house a couple of days after we did which gave Diane and I time to paint the dining area, our bedroom, and the master bedroom.  We were able to move almost everything ourselves but hired a couple of guys from Silverbell Moving Services to help with the shop equipment.  The shop is located about 30 feet from the house over a dirt area.  Luckily, the former owner left a bunch of 2×10’s behind the shop so I created a “boardwalk” to get the heavy equipment out there.  It worked well but let me throw something very unusual out about how we irrigate our lot.  Our home is in an historic district of Phoenix called Rancho Ventura.  It used to be orchards and so we have the remnants of that by being able to irrigate our lots with water from the canals, this is called flood irrigation and costs about $80.00 per year.  We had our first experience with it and it’s really something to see, water runs for about an hour and subsides into the soil within 3-4 hours.  During the summer, we are scheduled once every two weeks and in the winter time we get it once a month, check out these pictures:

As any of you that have ever moved know, there is a myriad of things that need to get accomplished when you move.  Painting, unpacking, organizing, changing insurance, registration, etc. — the list seems endless.  We’ve been here since the first of September and today is the first opportunity I’ve had to get out to the shop.  You may have noticed that there is a porch in front and only a single entry door.  My initial thoughts were to add a double, french door so I can get in sheets of plywood and get my larger pieces out.  Diane suggested expanding the shop onto that porch area which makes sense and will give me an additional 85 square feet or so.  The double doors will be on the end with an additional window on the side.  The drywall installed in the shop hadn’t been taped or mudded so removal was easy.  Here’s a few shots of the shop before I started:

After removing the screws and stacking the drywall against the far wall, the insulation was taken out as well.  Lucky for me, no staples  just pressed between the studs.  Notice the funky ceiling insulation, kind of looks like those foil blankets you put in your car windshield — looks like I’ll need to put up a new ceiling as well!  Here’s how the wall looks now plus  a shot of the porch area that will be enclosed.

As I said earlier, this is quite a process.  Besides just the normal moving items the shop will need 220v electricity added to run my equipment and I’m definitely budgeting for a mini-split a/c unit.  This will pretty much wipe out my woods budget so it’ll be like starting over again but I plan to be up and running within 2-3 months making furniture, easels, and carving/gilding frames.  Thanks for being patient during this process — John

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Due Diligence? – Not our buyers Agent!

A term I’ve learned during this process of buying/selling and moving is “Due Diligence”.  That’s one my excellent real estate agent in Scottsdale; Audrey Tolley , introduced me to during this time.  Basically it means that your agent will make sure all of the steps required to complete the sale are performed in a timely and ethical manner.  Audrey and our loan processor in Phoenix have completed all of them and followed that “Due Diligence” process.  Last Thursday I flew to Phoenix and was picked up at the airport by Audrey so we could do the walk-through on the house there.  It was really great to see it again and the excitement Diane and I have about the upcoming move was re-kindled!

While waiting for my return flight I received a call from my agent here in Las Vegas,  Susan Daichendt.   She informed me that our contracted close of escrow date could not be met due to the fact that the agent for the people buying our house hadn’t performed his duties which I’ve referred to as “due diligence”!  These are things that I’m learning more about than I ever thought I would such as underwriting of loans, setting up inspections, being upfront with all parties involved in the loan process, etc.  I won’t name this person yet but if you’re planning to make a real estate transaction here in Las Vegas contact me and I’ll tell you who not to use.  There’s a definite question of ethics as related family members are involved in both the sale of our home and the financing.  There may be a real estate attorney in the future but as of now Diane and I want the house to sell so we can get back on our schedule to move.

DueDiligence - 1So, where do we sit?  Well not too well!  In my last blog I shared the trials and tribulations with you about loading up the first PackRat with half of my tools and our belongings.  That one was picked up and is now in storage, by the way it weighed 6200 pounds.  We put the rest of our stuff in the second PackRat you see in this picture leaving a space for our mattress and  the last minute stuff we knew we’d need until our scheduled time to leave Las Vegas this morning.  We’ve contacted the president of the loan company to see what can possibly be done to expedite that end of the process.  The buyer’s agent hasn’t been forthcoming or timely in answering emails and phone calls.  We expect there to be an addendum to the closing date on Monday and will see if it falls within a time frame that’s acceptable to us.  Due to this agents lack of “due diligence” he’s affected many peoples lives.  From what I understand, our buyers are living with friends and have already transferred their mail to our address!  We have several pieces of mail waiting for them when the deal goes through, hope it’s nothing critical.

We’re down to this:

We canceled the pickup of the second PackRat so we can keep the mattress to sleep on until the sale finally goes through.  Although we’ve been offered places to stay from family and friends, with the dog and cat staying here seems to be our best option.  We’ll hang in there and see what Monday brings, that was the contracted Close of Escrow date so we’re expecting an addendum from our buyers.  In the meantime, Diane and I are just doing the best we can in this less then ideal situation and putting faith in these words:

Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 12.43.01 PM

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PackRat #1 Packed — #2 Wednesday!

A lot has happened since my last blog post to share with you.  It’s not really about woodworking but it is the continuing saga of our move from Las Vegas to Phoenix.  If there’s one thing I’ve discovered is that real estate transactions are somewhat complicated and like the saying goes: “it ain’t over till it’s over!”.  We are on the final steps, signing  papers with the title company tomorrow for the sale of this house is the first one.  Then I’m flying to Phoenix on Thursday to do a walk-through, decided to spend a couple hours in the air rather than 11 hours on the road.  Our first PackRat was delivered Saturday and we had it loaded up by Sunday.  The second one comes Wednesday so we’ll be ready to load it up too.  Pretty amazing to see how they set the PackRat on the driveway:

Once the truck was in line with the driveway the entire back end of it was like a huge forklift — pretty impressive!

One other item of note is that the Sin City Woodworkers group that I’ve been a charter member of since it was formed almost 8 years ago  had a going away meeting for me.  This group has been a big part of my woodworking life for all those years.  It was founded by Jamie Yocono of WoodItIs who is an extremely talented woodworker that takes on all types of projects and challenges.  She also runs a highly successful school from her studio as well and I’ve been fortunate enough to teach a number of hand tool woodworking classes there for her.

When her, Diane, and I were visiting after our return from Scottsdale Jamie mentioned that she needed a demonstrator for the upcoming meeting and maybe I’d like to share the 6 month experience with of gilding and carving frames just completed.  Well, I thought I was off the hook since all of those are in storage in Phoenix or else at Diane’s gallery — Wrong!!

Framed -- Last SCWW Meeting

Framed — Last SCWW Meeting

Jamie told me she seen the photographs and blogs I wrote during that time and maybe I could put together a computer presentation.  I did and here’s a LINK to the write up Jamie did of the meeting and my presentation, check it out; it’s quite an active group.  Truth be told, I’ve done many demonstrations for the group and enjoy sharing what I can with others.  There were two frames I could bring in, one composition gold gilded and the other 22kt. gold.  My parting shot was this one, framed by the completely hand carved, 22kt. frame.


To sum it up, the next blog I write should be from our new home in Phoenix.  We’re praying that the final stages of this move go without a hitch, it seems as if all’s well and on track but you know the saying about when it’s all over!

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Time Flew — PackRat in my Future!

Packrat — what the heck’s a Packrat you say; well check it out HERE.  Hard to believe that almost a month has gone by since the last post I wrote but oh boy, what a month it’s been! Diane and I left Scottsdale on the 4th. of July before the sun was up to beat the 110+ degree heat.  We figured correctly that this would be the best time to beat the holiday traffic.  Once we got home the packing process began.  We had decided that since we were buying a home in Phoenix there wasn’t any sense in renting a trailer just to bring it to Las Vegas, unload and then re-load it to make the move.  Instead, we rented a storage space and filled that up with about half a dozen pickup truck loads.

It’s amazing how much “stuff” you accumulate in 20 years!  We were absolutely brutal in deciding what to keep, what to donate, what to sell, and what to take to the dumps!  So far, the dumps has seen us 5 times!  All of the solvents, stains, flammable stuff, etc. were taken to the Sin City Woodworkers meeting and up for grabs to the members.  I’ve been active in that group since it’s beginning 7 years ago and gave my last demonstration that night.

I won’t bore you with all of the details but this moving process has been quite trying.  So much paperwork, signatures, requirements and timelines to meet but now it seems as if the finish line is in sight.  At our selling end, all the requirements have been met such as the inspection, appraisal, and loan process.  As for the buying end, all we’re waiting on is the appraisal and that shouldn’t be any problem.  Here are a couple of highlights from the garage sale:

Diane and I had quite a collection of art and woodworking books which are heavy to move.  After brutally going through and only keeping our favorites we ended up with three good sized boxes of them at the sale.  Honestly didn’t feel that there was much market for them but bundled them all for a fair price to an on-line, ebay book seller — nice!  The weekend we chose had the disadvantage of being one of the hottest with temps 110-114!  At our neighbor advice we also bought bottled water and added to our profits selling them at $1.00 each.  Unbeknownst to us, our neighbors a couple of doors down and across the street had also planned a garage sale so there was lots of traffic.  Saturday was the busiest and after closing the doors around 1:00 pm we rested then celebrated with dinner and a movie!  Sunday was a bit slower, well honestly a lot slower!

Anything that didn’t sell was donated so that someone else can benefit from our things.  Really, the attitude you need going into donating and selling your “stuff” is that you’ve bought it and gotten your pleasure and use from it so now let someone else enjoy it.  Anything not used during the last year was pretty much “outtathere!”; had to be brutal.  The next big step is the packing.  The garage/shop alone took me a couple of days.  Again, being brutal I needed to decide whether or not that jig I made 3 years ago and haven’t used since warranted the space and weight to take with — most things lost out and ended up going to the dumps or another woodworker.  Same for the household items, Diane did a phenomenal job weeding out those items we really didn’t need any longer or use very often.  We both feel that part of the adventure of making the move is adding new “stuff” as we find a need for it.

Made Sgt. June 1970 Marble Mountain Vietnam

Made Sgt. June 1970 Marble Mountain Vietnam


For example, I had a couple of albums of faded, out of focus pictures from my Vietnam days in the Marine Corps.  Kept a few like this one when I made E-5 but other than that there was no real value in keeping all of them.  Same with high school pictures that were of poor quality to begin with and now faded and brittle.  Did keep my senior yearbook because I’ve kept in touch with some of my friends via Facebook.  My daughter was the recipient of selected pictures of her parents when we were younger, she got a kick out of those and so did the grandsons!


As for moving and packing, best advice I can give is to get boxes that are similar in size, sturdy, have lids, and are free.  Best place we found for that was Total Wine, those boxes are designed to hold some heavy stuff and the way they open them allows us to close and tape securely.  We also subscribe to a meal service called Blue Apron and their boxes are super strong.  Adam and Kim use them as well so have been saving the boxes for us which is a great help.  At this point, Diane’s once art oriented studio looks more like a warehouse as does the shop and storage shed.

After finding them free on Craigslist we probably have enough picture sized boxes to take Diane’s paintings down and pack away.  For me, that’s like the final nail in the coffin;  those blank walls give this process a sense of finality and although we’re both looking forward to this new adventure, twenty years in one house is a long time.  Wrapping and packing up the furniture I’ve made to fill this house will be the last step in Las Vegas but unpacking them will be our first step in Phoenix.

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Scottsdale Adventure Coming to a Close

Ready to go to storage.

Ready to go to storage.

Our lease is almost up so we’re preparing to return to our home in Las Vegas.  It’s been quite an adventure and great way to celebrate our 20th. Anniversary!  Renting a trailer to haul everything back to Las Vegas and then do it again in less then two months seemed silly.  It was cheaper to rent a storage space then to rent another U-Haul trailer.  This picture shows my workplace of the last 6 months disassembled and ready to go.  Diane is doing the same with her studio and the first load went into storage this morning.  The plan is to have it all there by Sunday, sleep on the floor here, and head for home on the 4th. of July.  Since that’s a holiday we’re hoping that traffic will be light.

I did manage to finish the last two frames so I’ll share those on this, the final Scottsdale Blog.  The one inspired by that old carving book turned out rather nicely, if I do say so myself!  I blogged about it HERE.  Although I said it was the final frame it turned out that I had time to do one more!  Just as I completed the gilding and was preparing to do the toning the weather here turned up the heat, we’re talking 112-119 degrees!  I honestly don’t mind the heat but using the casein to tone was out of the question, even indoors.  Being water based it tends to dry quickly and the effect is one that is streaky.  Since I wanted to experiment with toning with oil based paints (from Diane) thinned with Gamsol this seemed like the perfect opportunity.  It dries much slower which is a plus and a negative.  It means I need to wait longer before the frame is completely done.  It may be hard to tell from these pictures but this was the process:

By experimenting with cheesecloth to remove it a slight textured surface was left on the panel.  After drying for 2 days the last step was waxing with Liberon and a cotton ball.  In addition to that, rottenstone was used to replicate dust in the carved areas.  Even at this stage, areas could be brought back almost to the original gilded finish.  Here is what it looks like now that it’s done:

The size of this one is 12″x 12″ and I personally like how it came out.  There’s enough flow to the design without being busy.  As much as I enjoy creating frames for Diane, marketing and selling them to other artists is going to be a priority once we get settled in the new house in Phoenix.  Speaking of that, there’s a phrase I’m becoming all to familiar with in the real estate world: due diligence meaning check it out carefully or you might get burned!  Every step of this process has a due date, then a response date, and then something else comes up.  It really is out of your hands so thankfully we have faith in both of our agents; selling in Las Vegas and buying here in Phoenix.

The other frame completed is what I referred to as the 9/10 frame because of the size gouge needed to cut the design.  You can refresh your memory on it HERE if you’d like.  Both of these frames were gilded with the same gold leaf but this one had a red undercoat vs. the yellow on the other one.  Also, maybe due to the heat there was more faulting of the leaf and it didn’t seem to grab onto the size as well.  This resulted in a more “rustic look” for this frame.  The oil pigments used on this were in the olive green family, thankfully Diane supervised the mixing of it.  At first it was way to green and I would have never thought that a purple was needed to tone it down.  She gave me a lesson on color wheel theory which hopefully I’ll remember in the future.  Speaking of the future, another thing to explore once we’re settled is water gilding with 22kt. gold leaf.  Having done some in the past I’m familiar with the process but aware of the added expense but mostly the extra time needed to successfully accomplish that.  No comparison to precious gold gilding!

This frame used the same molding (Foster Planing Mill #95) and measures 11″ x 14″.  Both are available for sale but will be left in our storage place here.  Plan to bring them there this Saturday so if you’re interested in either of them let me know before then.  So for now, it’s back to Las Vegas to pack, have a garage sale, and hopefully do something in my shop.  Plan to bring back my portable bench and dovetail tools — it’s been too long since I’ve done that and I’m ready to leave the carving chisels here in storage.

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Last Scottsdale Frame: #9/10 Design

Mostly Gilded --- #9/10 Gouge

Mostly Gilded — #9/10 Gouge

With the remaining, pre-joined frame we brought with us to Scottsdale I wanted a design that bridged Art Nouveau and western style and this seems to fit that requirement.  I’m calling it the #9/10 design because that was the size of gouge needed to evenly divide that convex area.  The picture above shows the gilding in progress; just a portion of it is ungilded.  It was a tricky process between the convex surface, straight cuts, and textured areas!

Designing a carving is the challenge.  I wanted to incorporate some sort of repeating pattern in that tricky, convex area of the molding.  Looking through the various Pinterest boards at Art Nouveau and Art Deco designs helped to come up with this.  If it were in a piece of reclaimed lumber I could see a western, desert type landscape in this frame once completed.  This frame is 11″ x 14″ so the short leg was done first.  To come up with  proportions that were pleasing to my eye, the initial design was drawn on paper.  Keeping both sides of the corner the same seemed correct but the center one design was increased proportionally.  Sometimes you need to use that math you thought you never would!  Turning the two sides into a fraction and dividing;  11/14 gave me about .78 so the center carving was increased by 75% and centered.  I think it worked. Here’s a slideshow of the design process:

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Now it was time to carve this, challenging to carve a convex surface evenly, I suppose a back bent chisel of the correct sweep would have worked but not having one did the best I could.  By texturing the carved out area any discrepancies will be disguised.

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Hold, pivot, and never lose sight of the line!

Hold, pivot, and never lose sight of the line!

A straight cut is needed where these elements joined the background area the will be removed.  A V-tool leaves a valley so that wouldn’t  work, I turned to this “specialty tool” I made from an old skew chisel and a golf ball.  You can see how it’s held to do outlines for the design, works well for me!  When using a knife to make the vertical cuts my hand gets in the way and I can’t see the line, this golf ball handle allows me to hold the tool vertically, pivot easily, and never lose sight of the line.  Maybe something like this would work for you too!

Notice that in picture 3, maintaining a straight line with the long bent parting tool was difficult, probably since that surface is convex.  Once all of the carving was complete, a tadpole sander with a v-shaped profile was used to straighten it out enough to look hand cut rather then mass produced, production work.  After a light sanding the frame was given a coat of red burnisher/sealer prior to the oil gilding process.  We have about a week and a half before the lease is up here in Scottsdale and we return to our home in Las Vegas.  I plan to at least get this frame sealed with shellac before then, can’t guarantee getting it toned but we’ll see!

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Gilding the Final Frame

Well for starters, this may not be the final frame since I have one left and a couple of weeks to go.  There is one more frame with this profile that measures 11″ x 14″.  As far as our move goes we signed a contract to sell the Las Vegas home Saturday (6/18) so now we need to work out close of escrow dates with our, hopefully, home here in Phoenix!  I do enjoy my carving but am very ready to work on furniture again.

Last Wednesday I attended the Arizona Fine Woodworkers meeting (my third) and shared a carved and gilded frame.  There was a lot of interest in it and the process of oil gilding which most knew very little about.  The teacher in me thought that okay, this is an opportunity to share my technique!  So,  for those of you that asked about it at the meeting, here is a short video where I lay one 5″ x 5″ composition gold leaf:

The texture of the leaf looks really “funky”, my thoughts are that the reflections from the shininess of the leaf is the cause.  As always my usual disclaimer that I don’t have hi-tech equipment so the quality may not be up to par — can’t complain about the price though!   Once the entire frame has been gilded it’s time to press the leaf firmly into the size.  The old word for size is “mordant” which I kind of like the sound of!  When laying leaf you want to develop your method and stick to it, mine is to begin at a left corner and then work my way around towards the right.  This way, the overlap of one leaf to the next is consistent.  The reason that’s important is for when you press it down firmly into the mordant.  For my technique, this needs to be done from the right side towards the left to avoid lifting the overlap and possibly ripping the leaf.  A little bit of that is nice in that it shows the lay lines.  See if these pictures help explain that:

Compare what the leaf looks like in the left and right hand pictures.  Notice how it’s smoother on the right?  That’s because the leaf has been pressed firmly into the mordant with a Norton dry dust cloth.  These also have a bit of abrasiveness which begins to tone down the brassiness of the composition gold.  Once the frame has dried for a minimum of 24 hours, 4/0 Liberon, oil-free steel wool is used to eliminate the brassiness and then the frame is protected with several coats of blond shellac.  This is applied with an air brush.

My preference is to use slow-set, oil based size which this time I did in the house rather than outside on the balcony.  Here in Phoenix we’re hitting record high temps of around 120 degrees so I was concerned about the size setting up way to quickly.  For this frame, the burnisher sealer chosen was yellow, also from LA GoldLeaf.  Here are a few pictures  of the completed frame:

Now it’s a waiting game, first for the frame to cure completely prior to toning and then for the folks we’re under contract with to purchase their home to accept the time frame we need for close of escrow — good Lord willing that will all come together.

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Final Scottsdale Frame?

1-InitialDesign-June-2016 Frame - 1I’ve been debating over whether or not to publish this blog or actually to even get it started!  I’m in the process of starting a frame but since I’m really unsure of the outcome (as always) and wasn’t sure it would be good for “public consumption”.  You’ve probably guessed my decision is to go ahead and start the blog irregardless of the final outcome — after all,  my tag line is to share my discoveries as I pursue this craft!

Foster Planing Mill No. 95

Foster Planing Mill No. 95

I have two frames left that were brought to Scottsdale already assembled.  This frame is 12″ square and made from Foster Planing Mill molding #95 which has a pronounced Ovolo shape for carving.  Knowing that this convex shape would be challenging to carve added to my “publishing” dilemma!  What the heck; nothing ventured = nothing gained and there is a big dumpster pretty close to my apartment door.

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 2.53.02 PMThe inspiration for this design came from an older woodcarving book by Charles Marshall Sayers — still available on Ebay.  The date on my copy is 1942!  You can see in the picture at the top of the post that it is done on a flat frame which would make it much easier.  I’ve mentioned in the past that there doesn’t seem to be much written about carving frames, lots of video’s but not too much in the way of step by step processes.  So, that means I’ll just discover and share along the way what I learn.  To be honest, these blogs help me as much as they hopefully help you, my blog followers.  Much easier than writing hand written notes, sticking them in a notebook, adding pictures, and then trying to find them again.  This way, everything’s as close as my MacBook!  The first step was to draw the design on a piece of graph paper.  After lining out the rectangular area for half of the pattern a compass was used to draw in the major sweeping curves for the center of the design. That can be seen in the first picture.  By guesstimation the spacing of the leaf like elements were plotted using the units on the graph paper and drawn free hand.  Although my drawing skills aren’t the greatest my thought is that even if the lines were all drawn exact the chances of carving them all exact are slim to none, besides; get a CAD program if you want a sterile machine look!  The final step was to copy that design onto a piece of tracing paper.  This can now be used  with a very soft (6B) pencil to transfer the design to the frame.

If you’re unfamiliar with this technique of transferring allow me to explain.  Because the lead is so soft it transfers to the tracing paper on your initial draw.  By flipping the paper over so the side you drew on is on the wood, when you trace the design that soft lead acts like a piece of carbon paper and transfers to the wood.  Flip it over again and now you have even more of the soft lead acting like carbon paper.  Continue to trace, flip, trace, flip all the way around the frame.  You can refine it as needed but this will give you a consistent pattern to follow.

Let the carving begin!  After much arguing between me, myself, and I; this was the method I decided to try.  Break up similar elements of the carving and do them on each side one after the other.  My other thought was to do one side completely, rotate the frame, do the next, and so on.  My theory is that if I carve each element on each side in succession there’ll be a better chance of them all looking similar — yep, time will tell!  I began with the divot at the center of each leg:

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Next up were the two round shapes at the top of the center point.  At first they were to be outlined with a v-chisel but decided on this method instead:

It’s become apparent that between the curvature of the molding and the angle I can get with the gouges, sanding will be needed to smooth this out as well.  Now it’s on to the leaf like sections starting with the three from the center point:

Again, sanding will be needed to refine and soften the tool marks.  Notice the pencil hatching marks by the lines?  This was how I marked the lower edges of the leaves, the hatched section is to be the lowest points.  Hopefully when it’s all done the center 3 leaves will taper to the inside of the frame while the outer three will taper to the outside of the frame.  Another day, another challenge.  Now if we can just get the Las Vegas house sold in time to meet the contingency offer on the Scottsdale house I’ll be one happy camper!

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Woodworkers Withdrawal !!

Those of you that have been following my blog (thanks!) know about Diane and my “Scottsdale Adventure”.  Just to re-cap, we decided to leave Las Vegas for 6 months and live in the very art friendly community of Scottsdale, AZ for our 20th. anniversary.  Diane has been coming here for many years to attend the renowned Scottsdale Artists’ School and has really enjoyed all of the workshops and open studio sessions during this time.  I’ve also spent time there selling frames and being a portrait and character model.  All in all, we’ve enjoyed it so much that we’ve decided to sell our home of 20 years in Las Vegas and move to this area.

To explain the title of this post Woodworkers Withdrawal  I’ll remind you that all I have is a carving bench and chisels to work on frames.  Although I enjoy that I really miss the creativeness of building furniture and boxes!  Whenever I read the various blogs I follow that are building tool cabinets, staked furniture, etc. I get a pang of jealousy and realize what a huge part working with wood and being creative is in my life.  I’m now vicariously living woodworking through the blogs I follow!  As we came closer and closer to deciding to move here we began looking at real estate.  A Sunday tradition was finding open houses after church just to get a feel for the market.  At one of those, we met Audrey Tolley from RealtyOne and she was intrigued with our quest for a home near the Artists’ School that also had  shop space.  It wasn’t too long after meeting her that she found a couple of houses that met our needs and showed them to us.  One of them was so appealing that Diane and I put a contingency offer on it.  For Diane’s work, there are two master bedrooms; one of which will become her studio complete with a separate entrance for future students and a walled in courtyard.  For me it had a 580 square foot shop space!

The ceiling is a little “wonky” and it only has a single entry door which will need replacement so I can get my table saw in but it fits our requirements to a T!  We put in a contingency offer which they accepted so, good Lord willing; all the pieces will fall into place and we’ll be leaving Las Vegas!  There’s been a positive home inspection on the house, the previous owners have the majority of their stuff moved out already, and we’re just waiting on the final piece to fall into place which is selling our home in Las Vegas.

First off, we needed to list our home in Las Vegas.  We’re using an agent that Audrey recommended and went back last week to prepare the house for listing.  Also, Adam and Kim got married that same time and Diane and I worked like crazy to get the house ready, here is a LINK to the listing — be sure to pass it on to anyone you know looking for a great home in Las Vegas!  After four trips to the dumps, replacing the bathroom floor in the kids old bathroom, cleaning up the back yard (thanks Adam!), and staging it we’re ready to go.  At this point, there have been several showings of the house and an Open House scheduled for this upcoming weekend.

As any of you that have sold and bought a home, there is a multitude of things that need to come together in a prescribed period of time.  From a woodworkers point of view I’d kicked around the idea of going completely to hand tools and selling off my machinery rather than move it.  After deliberating all of that I’ve decided to stay the course and be the hybrid woodworker that I am.  To cut and join my picture frames for carving you really can’t beat the accuracy of the table saw with a good jig.  Since I like to work with exotic woods, being able to use the bandsaw for re-saw work and the segmented head planer for rough preparation just can’t be beat.  Everything will still be hand joined and planed before it leaves my shop anyway.  A feature of this house that helped make this decision is that there are two, single car garages.  I’ll have the luxury of using one of those for machine work, lumber storage, etc.  I will need to figure out the electrical requirements of the 220 volts needed for them but that’s a bridge to cross later on.

Must remind myself of Step One —–  Sell Las Vegas!

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