Break from the Routine — Road Trip !!

Diane and I took some time this weekend to do change up our usual routines.  Now that the bathroom remodel is complete we knew it was time to get out of town for a few days and do something different which we managed to do in Pasadena, California.  There is a huge (and I mean HUGE) flea market that is held at the Rose Bowl  which had always been on our list of things to do.  No way can you see every booth there in one day, we walked a lot, saw a lot, and; although we didn’t make any huge purchases we did have a wonderful experience.  The night before we went to the Norton Simon Museum and enjoyed the paintings, sculptures, and of course, picture frames there.  It’s always a treat to see paintings in person that you’ve only seen in books before.  Added to that is seeing other works from those famous artists that aren’t widely publicized.

FosterPlaningMill LogoAnother thing that has been on our list was to visit Foster Planing Mill located in Los Angeles.  I first learned of this place on-line when we were looking for moldings for Diane’s paintings.  They also exhibit at the annual West Coast Art & Frame show which is held every year here in Las Vegas.  Besides exhibiting they provide frame materials for the various educational workshops held in conjunction with the show.

Previously, we’d order a couple hundred feet of pre-finished molding and I’d make the frames from that.  As time went by, Diane wanted something to make her work stand out from everyone else’s.  We’d notice many paintings in shows and other galleries that had the same frame as hers!  Enter Foster Planing Mill and their excellent service.  Diane designed the profile she wanted and we worked with Bob to finalize it.  We’ve re-ordered that molding but when the economy tanked and Diane decided to put her painting on hold my framing days dwindled.  That’s changed now, and she has a new website and is also blogging about her work.   I’m happy happy making frames again for her work

80 Feet of Seconds Molding

80 Feet of Seconds Molding

Foster Planing Mill is located at 1258 West 58th. Street in Los Angeles and has been there since 1922.  In one of their newsletters they mentioned that they offered tours of the mill so I called last week and talked to Bob who said he’d be happy to show us around.  As you can see from this picture showing the moldings we bought, it is an old facility and I must admit — I loved it!  As a teenager I was hired at Silvera Lumber in Antioch, CA.  Started there in 1965 and worked until I enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1968.  When I was discharged in 1972 I went back to work for them.  The owner (Lou Silvera) and his son Dick were the best bosses I ever had.  Even though I quit them to begin my apprenticeship as a carpenter, they hired me back a few years later when the construction industry fell upon hard times telling me it was time to change occupational goals.  They worked around my schedule as I studied to become an Industrial Arts teacher.  That led to my 31 year teaching career.  Sorry about that long “back story” but taking the tour of Foster’s brought back many good memories about Silvera’s.

Foster’s is a company that still works the traditional way (no computerized equipment) and makes quality materials.  During the tour, Bob explained that much of the machinery dates to the 60’s and older!  To create custom moldings the first step is to cut the profile on a piece of steel plate.  Once that matches the design on paper, it will become the template for making the required number of cutters.  The machine that makes the cutters is similar to a lathe duplicator to ensure that each cutter is identical.  Depending on the complexity of the molding, two to six cutters may be required.  We started the tour with the gang rip saw that cuts materials to the required width before they go through the molding machine.  The molding machine cuts all 4 surfaces of the material.  From personal experience I can vouch for the quality and consistency of their materials.  No chatter marks and the wood is of excellent quality.

Sticks of molding that don’t meet their quality standards are destined to the seconds area.  This is where Diane and I spent some time picking out bundles of molding she thought were suitable for her work.  It’s also an area that reminded me of my work at Silvera’s — let’s just say I learned that pigeons and lumberyards seem to go hand in hand and learned how to eliminate them in my teens!  Diane prefers moldings that are at least 3″ wide and since she works primarily on canvas needs a deep rabbet.  That means they all start out from 8/4 stock.  You can’t break the bundles and pricing will vary with the profile.  Some of the pieces may have splits or knots I’ll need to work around.  Occasionally you can tell where the end of a piece was slightly narrower and the cutters made a pretty good snipe for a foot or so.  To make a long story short, we yielded about 75 feet of molding for $35.00.  Just to put that in perspective for you, I checked my price list from 2012 for the moldings we picked up and they ranged from $5.00 to $7.00 per foot!

The weekend was a great break from out normal routines but both of us missed our work spaces and being creative.  The Etsy order is almost complete, just down to the last of the finishing steps and I’ll blog them when they’re done.

So many projects — so little time!


About woodworksbyjohn

I'm a retired woodshop teacher. I build one of a kind furniture pieces and custom picture frames. You can see some of my currently available work, boxes, carvings through my Etsy store: Contact me about your project -- always up for the challenge of unique work.
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4 Responses to Break from the Routine — Road Trip !!

  1. Kathysue says:

    What a great trip, fun and productive. I wish Silvera lumber was still in business!!


  2. Pingback: Change in Focus — Picture Frames, Carving, & Gilding | Woodworks by John

  3. Pingback: Waterleaf Molding — Exercise in Repetition! | Woodworks by John

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