Entry Door Project

Here’s a picture of our door as it originally was. As you can see, the Arizona heat hasn’t been kind to it. Because of all the clavos and corner hardware attempting to sand/remove the finish while the door was in place wasn’t an option. Diane and I explored the possibility of having the door replaced but that ran into the thousands of dollars — not an option! We both like doing projects so our choice was to do it ourselves. From start to finish was about a week’s time but the results are well worth it.

Here’s the installed door after our DIY skills gave it a do-over; now it’s a definite focal point for our house. We used Jasco’s Premium Epoxy and Paint Remover and as you may guess, the claim that it’ll remove up to 15 layers of paint is a bit of an exaggeration! The first coat only removed whatever top layer had been previously applied. Diane and I each worked on the panels at the center first. We let subsequent coats of the paint remover sit longer than the recommended 15 minutes which helped. The first tools we used were plastic putty knives/scrapers followed by a brush with brass bristles. Didn’t take long to round over the edges on the scrapers and completely clog up the brushes. Thankfully those are relatively inexpensive and well worth replacing as needed. Once they got dull or clogged they weren’t very effective.

The door was placed on a pair of sawhorses in the garage which made it easy to work on. The front door was secured by cutting a piece of OSB plywood to size and then running long carriage bolts through some 2×2’s inside of the door frame. After removing all of the hardware and clavos it was time to tackle removing the finish. As recommended, we began the process on the inner panels. Brushed on the paint remover in one direction, let it sit for 15 minutes, then begin to scrap. Look at the before picture, notice how the lower 2/3’s of the door has really been beaten up by the sun? That area was only slightly easier to get clean. After scraping off as much as possible we used a brass, wire brush to remove as much of the old finish as possible. This process was repeated 3-4 times, the inside was tougher to remove since it hadn’t been out in the weather like the front of the door. Here’s a short slideshow of the project, I’ll describe what you’re seeing in the paragraph under it.

The first picture shows how the house was secured with a piece of OSB plywood using long carriage bolts that go through the 2×2’s and tightened against the door frame. Needed to create a temporary weatherstrip at the bottom out of some rolled up paper towel! The next two pictures give you an idea of the stripping process. I did some experimental sanding to see how that would look and judge how many times the stripper would need to be applied. Using brass brushes after getting most of the “goop” off with the scrapers worked really well. Most of the surfaces needed 4 applications of the paint remover. The final picture is of the hardware which was cleaned with steel wool and denatured alcohol and then sprayed with Rustoleum flat black.

Next up was sanding and yes, my furniture work rarely sees sandpaper since I prefer a hand planed surface but this project is different. When using an oil finish you don’t want to go to a super fine grits like 320 which I saw someone do on a video. That polishes the surface too much and the oil won’t penetrate very well. For this project, 150 grit was perfect. I’ve never been a fan of surface coatings and a project like this that’s exposed to the desert weather that can range from below freezing to 120° plus a surface coating is lucky to last a year! For that reason I chose General Finishes Exterior Oil. Application is to apply a fairly thick coat with a brush, allow it to penetrate for 10-15 minutes and then wipe it completely dry. Very important that the surface is completely wiped dry. We’d let one side dry a few hours, flip the door to do the other side, and then repeat the next day for a total of 3 coats.

After re-installing the clavos, corner braces, and hinges my neighbor helped me re-install it. Also re-hung the “speakeasy” door using a piano hinge. The original hinges were pretty chintzy! The door handle and lock had a dark, antique finish that was pretty much destroyed by the sun. It was replaced with a brushed nickel set from Schlage which gives the door a contemporary flair. I’m sure the door will need to be refreshed every year or two but it will be as simple as wiping on a coat of oil with either a rag or nylon scrubby then wiping completely dry. It won’t stick to the hardware, won’t need to be sanded, and can easily be done with the door in place.

Safety Note: If you’ve never worked with an oil based finish it is very important that you put your rags in either an airtight container (which you probably don’t have) or do like I do and soak them in a bucket of water. After soaking lay them out to dry and discard in the trash. Spontaneous Combustion is real, I know from personal experience!

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Roasted Oak Floater Frame

Keeping it Real by Diane Eugster

Once I published a picture of this project the messages started coming in: “what in the world is Roasted Oak?” Allow me to answer that first before I blog about this frame and painting by Diane Eugster. Roasted Oak is wood that has been placed in a kiln for an extended period of time so that all of the sap and sugars caramelize the wood and essentially turn it a dark brown. I’ve also used poplar for a frame that was treated the same way. It was purchased from Woodworkers Source here in Phoenix, here’s a LINK explaining the process. When you are cutting this wood it smells like you’re cleaning out a fireplace! The color goes completely through and if you look closely at the finished product there is a very slight hint of brown in the grain of the wood which warms it up nicely. The finish is Osmo Polyx Oil #3054 which is wet sanded into the surface. It’s the same product I use for my furniture work.

I added these pictures to illustrate how the wood works and finishes. At left is a piece of the raw wood next to an oiled one. The center shows it being planed which it does nicely. At right you can see how the grain shows through and how (IMHO) how beautiful it is!

A question I’ve been asked quite often deals with how I make a Floater style frame. Many commercial moldings available are a simple L-shaped piece which presets the distance for the canvas to be mounted below the edge of the molding. My method is to cut a dado (groove) in the side of the frame located at whatever distance I need to accommodate the artwork. I’ll glue a piece of Baltic Birch plywood into that to mount the canvas or panel. You can see that in the photo at the left. Another advantage to this method is that the plywood piece reinforces the corner of the frame.

A few notes on the assembly. I was advised to use a polyurethane glue so Gorilla Glue is my go to for that. Each corner is also reinforced with a biscuit. During the dry clamping step the Birch plywood was cut to the correct size. Gorilla glue applied to the corners, assembled and then clamped, next the plywood pieces are glued into their place and left to dry overnight. The next step was cutting a slight chamfer on the inner and outer edge with a router. The inside chamfer was squared off with a chisel. The Osmo finish is applied with a brush and allowed to soak in completely before wiping dry. I used 320 wet/dry paper to complete the process and as you can see, it gave very nice results! Notice in the corner detail how that chamfer has a gleam to it depending on how the light hits it or the vantage point of the viewer.

One thing I noticed during the wet sanding process is that the resulting slurry is dark. Many times I’ll use splines of contrasting wood at each corner of the frame and this slurry would probably color the contrasting color of the spline — guess that’ll be the next experiment!! By the way, the size of Diane’s painting is 24″ x 30″ and it is oil on canvas and the size of the molding is approximately 1+” thick by 2+” wide. That size was determined by the width of the stock I was able to get.

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Redwood Gate

After posting some pictures of this project on Instagram and Facebook a number of followers asked for details so here’s a post explaining the process. Here’s a visual so you can see the before and after side by side:

As you can see, pretty obvious why I wanted to replace the saggy, draggy, peeling one!! The size is approximately 5′ square and commercial gates of that size priced out at $800-1100.00. All things included (welding frame and materials) there’s less than $450.00 invested — we don’t worry about time. Lowe’s had kiln dried, 1×4 redwood pieces which were used for the shiplap and I selected the lightest weight and straightest premium Redwood I could find.

Work began with the frame which is mortise and tenon construction. All pieces were first surfaced to 1 3/8″. The tenons go the full width (5 1/2″) and haunched to prevent any cupping. The haunch is 3/4″ and 1 1/2″ long on each side. That leaves a tenon 2 1/2″ wide and 1 1/2″ long. I always cut the mortise first, to get a consistent depth for the haunch you can use a gage block to limit the depth. The left picture shows the sequence; the 3/4″ x 1 1/2″ mortise was cut for the haunch then the gauge block (pointed to with pencil) is removed and the remaining 2 1/2″ was cut to full depth.

The next step is cutting the tenons which was done on the tablesaw with a tenoning jig.

Once they were all cut the haunch needed to be laid out and cut, again I used the gauge block to mark it out then a Japanese razor saw for cutting. I generally cut the tenon slightly over-sized and then use a rabbet block plane to fine tune the fit. I learned though that Redwood doesn’t plane well.

After cutting grooves for the shiplap pieces (dado on tablesaw) it was time to create the shiplap pieces. I purchased 8′ stock and cut each into 2′ pieces. Then one edge has a 1/2″ rabbet cut, flip the board and cut a 3/4″ rabbet on the opposite edge which will give you a uniform 1/4″ space between each board. The final step was fitting them to the crosspiece to calculate how much the end pieces needed to be trimmed to fit the space and leave a bit of room between each piece for expansion.

A patio table I did some time ago was constructed similar to this. The process is to clamp the entire assembly together but only apply glue to one side. After that dries overnight, loosen the clamps and remove the side that was assembled dry. Now each of the shiplapped pieces are inserted before applying glue to the other mortise and tenons and once again clamping overnight. A coat of Thompsons Waterseal was applied to them before assembly.

The picture on the left shows inserting the shiplap pieces after half of the panel was glued together, on the right is the completed assembly. Sure glad I’ve been dragging those 6′ Jorgensen bar clamps around for the past 30 years or so!

Here’s a view of the back of the gate, notice there are two pieces of Redwood at the top of the panel. The top one was glued/screwed to the top of the panel and rests on the metal framework. The bottom one is screwed to the top and essentially wraps around the metal frame. The entire panel was finished with Thompson’s waterseal first. The back of the hinged side needed to have mortises chiseled out to clear the hinges and nuts. Screws through the metal framework of the gate secure the overlay to it.

All in all, this was a very rewarding project. I was a bit concerned about the weight and added a wheel for support. I’m able to span 5′ with my arms and easily carried it from the shop to its location. Diane helped hoist it onto the metal framework and it’s done. Let me know if you have any questions or thoughts about this project — they’re always welcome.

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2020 Ends – 2021 Begins!

I doubt anyone would disagree if I said 2020 was an unusual and challenging year. It’s very easy to be discouraged, I need to discipline myself to create challenges even with the setbacks. Most art shows have gone virtual which means artists don’t have the need for as many frames. Galleries are seeing less traffic which obviously effects their sales as well. The gallery that carries some of my furniture and boxes (Anticus) has seen a drop in their business. The co-op I belong to (Mesa Art Center) has decided to close its doors until September! So what’s a craftsman to do — push through and take on any challenge that comes my way and set goals to hone my skills.

Here’s a wrap up of 2020, first off the frame for Diane’s painting “Going in Circles” is done. Great challenge to learn how to layout and carve the gulliochs. Here’s a link to that process and a couple of pictures of the completed work.

Another interesting project to wind down the year was creating a circular frame for a local artist. I have used solid wood for round tables which involves gluing together angled segments, routing or bandsawing the circle, then refining it. I knew the time required for that was too costly for this frame so decided to see how MDF would work and — it did! Oh boy, the dust with MDF is awful so I did the fabrication outside. A 2’x4′ piece was all that was needed for the project. The outer edge was doubled to get enough space for the 16″ stretched canvas panel. Several coats of primer followed by satin black gave an acceptable finish. Good challenge for sure and here’s the results.

The final frame of the year was another one for Diane, her work Through the Looking Glass inspired me to use the technique of oil gilding directly onto Red Oak for this frame. This is a technique I wrote about for a Picture Framing Magazine in August of 2011. The texture of the paint and feeling of Diane’s work seems to mimic the gold leaf sparkling in the open pores of the Oak. The profile I made for this I’ll call a “faux floater”. After the frame has been gilded with composition gold a slurry of denatured alcohol and whiting is used to rub the finish back — this is somewhat unpredictable. My goal was to create a sense of light to compliment her painting.

One thing I’ve learned about paintings is that we, as the viewer can have our own interpretation. For example, what I see in this painting is a woman seeking refuge in a bombed out church, probably in Europe during WWII. You probably see something totally different but that’s what good art is all about — the viewer fills in the gaps and creates the story.

On to the new year, every day is a new one so keep on challenging yourselves — John

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LayOut and Carving the Guilloche Design

In my latest blog I mentioned that I would write up the process I used to get the Guilloche design onto Frame #205 and here it is! Although it does seem rather complicated once you figure out your pattern and concentrate on the work it’s not too bad. When I first began carving I’d look at other carvers work benches and marvel at how many chisels they had. When you do a relief carving you can usually do the majority of your work using a V-tool. I soon learned though that if the design calls for repeating arcs or circles it’s really important to have the proper sweep and width of chisel/gouge to accomplish that. Quick review; the sweep refers to the arc of the chisel where #1 is flat and as the arc increases the numbers go up (#11 is almost a U shape). The width is expressed in millimeters. I’ll explain the process I used with pictures and captions, there may be other ways to go about it but this worked well for me. First work was done on paper. After drawing lines that represented the space available I drew a circle in the center that space based on the size of the gouge I would use. That was a #8/13 which yielded a 11/16″ circle. A compass was then set from the center of that circle to the outer edge of the space available to draw the outer circle. Next, another 11/16″ circle was drawn; it is located on the center line and just touches the outer circle drawn with the complass. At this point I set a divider from the center points of the 11/16″ circles. This measurement is referred to as a unit. Sounds confusing but I believe the pictures will clarify it for you!

So there it is, everyone always asks how much time did that take and each side of the frame took just under an hour and a half; so about 6 hours total time. For me though, I try not to be overly concerned with how long a project takes; rather my goal is to meet the challenge I’ve set for myself. Not having this be my “day job” allows me the freedom to have that mindset. I’m always happy to share what I’ve learned so if you have any questions feel free to contact me. Next will be finishing the frame which will probably be several coats of black Casein followed by shellac and wax. I’ll share the results of that as well.

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Frame #205: Guilloche

I don’t recall the first time I ever saw the carved design known as a Guilloche but it sparked an interest in me; just another challenge to attempt to conquer! A recent painting that Diane has been working on had a circular design element in the background and as I watched it develop on her easel the idea of creating a frame utilizing the Guilloche technique started to hatch in my head!

If you read the Wikipedia link you no doubt noticed the adjective; precise design. The painting is a 24″ square, oil on panel so that means the frame sides will be about 29″ long so that’s a lot of carving to maintain precisely! After doing research on the web and books I own learned there are several ways to go about it, basically you can use carving gouges of a specific size or else free hand with v-tools. Having never done either it was time to experiment. The first step though was to create the molding.

Creating the Molding

The painting is more of a contemporary style so the carve and profile should lean towards flat rather than having lots of flourishes and motion. After experimenting by drawing out the guilloche I decided the carved area needed to be about 2″ wide plus the flat areas. Looking through what I had in 1 1/8″ Basswood I had a 9″+ wide piece that would yield 3″ wide pieces economically. I’m often asked: “How long does it take you to make a frame?” Since I usually lose track of time I decided to keep track of it. To plane, form, miter, and glue this frame up it took about 1.5 hours of actual work time. The process begins with hand planing a good edge then ripping the pieces to width. I always hand plane the face of the board to remove marks left by the planer with a bronze, No.4 smooth plane.

These pictures show the progression, once the pieces were sized the edges were given a 45° chamfer with the table saw then saw marks were removed with a block plane. Not shown are the two shallow grooves which establish the boundaries for the Guilloche and cutting of the rabbet.

Here you see the assembled frame and the beginnings of the process on finalizing the design. The size of the middle circular element is determined by the size of the gouge. I used a #8/13, it’s used to make that approximate 11/16″ circle. Next is using a compass to draw the larger circle around it. This goes from the center to the outer boundary. The center picture shows those outer bands cut with a small V-tool (12L/3). Very difficult to make consistent arcs with this one. The picture on the right shows those outer circles cut with a #5/23 gouge and you’ll probably notice they have more precision. The center part is removed and the outer bands are modelled to achieve that overlapping, interlocked design — wish me luck!

The sample pieces are about 7″ long, I’m tentatively planning on centering a section on each leg of the frame that will be a length of 16″-18″. In the next blog I’ll attempt to illustrate the layout and cutting process. By the way, I mentioned that I’m going to keep track of the amount of time it takes to make this frame but it will only be actual work time, not the countless hours spent on research and experimentation!

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Carved Frame and Paring Chisel!

I have been working on this frame that I will use for the upcoming class from Charles Douglas. This class is about creating the Dutch Black finish and is the first Zoom meeting will be the first week in January.  

Here are some preliminary photos of the carving process, the frame is 20″ x 24″ so some inconsistencies will only underscore that expression that he beauty of an object made by hand are its’ inconsistencies!

Although I’ve seen pictures of frames finished in this way it’s not something I’ve done so really looking forward to this Zoom session with Charles Douglas.

Ebay Find

While taking a break from the sanding (my least liked woodworking process) of these carved corners I decided it was time to finally sharpen this cranked neck paring chisel I found on Ebay.  No manufactures marking  but the pictures looked pretty good.  My main use for the paring chisel will be to flush the pins/tails on dovetails as needed.

The cutting angle is 20° so that’s what I set the Veritas Mark II jig for.  I’ve used this jig for many years and like it.  As time went by the camber roller assembly and the narrow head attachment have been added.  Check out these pictures, notice anything odd!

Any guesses?  The tip is about 89° so not quite square but look at the difference in how far back the bevel goes on each side!  Just puzzling but for my intended purpose not a problem.  

So that’s what’s been going on here during this pandemic.   As a side note I mentioned in my last blog how much trouble I was having with the supposedly improved WordPress program.  I had started this blog in their Block format and when I went back to it there was an option to go to the Classic format — I clicked on it and it’s just like it used to be; will wonders ever cease!  This is the window that popped up, technology really has m puzzles:


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Unique and Interesting Commission

Furniture Blocks for Letter Press

I was recently contacted about making a set of blocks that would be used for something called letter press. The client is an artist who I’ve sat for in his portrait workshops and his request intrigued me to say the least. He started off by saying he needed “furniture wood” so my first thought was hey, furniture’s made out of all kinds of wood! As we do these days to learn about things is to do an internet search and I discovered that this process began with the printing of the Gutenberg Bible. There is a resurgence of it now for wedding announcements thanks to Martha Stewart! Here’s a link to the process.

The wood chosen was European Beech since this process began in Europe it seemed only fitting to use that species. It’s a hardwood with consistent grain that I thought would work well for this. The pieces are all 5/8″ x 17″ and vary in thickness from 1/16″ to a full inch in 1/16″ increments. I figured that my Powermatic planer with the Byrd head could handle all but the thinnest pieces (less than 1/4″). After surfacing all of the boards to the 5/8″ thickness they were cut to 20″ to begin the process. The job called for three sets of these pieces.

Shop Setup

It was challenging to calculate how much of the lumber I needed so wisely chose to buy more than I thought I’d need. My shop is about 20′ square with a post dead center! The first step was to cut the pieces of Beech into 5′ lengths and uniformly surface them to 5/8″ thickness. These pieces were then cut to the 20″ length. Any leftover material could be used for future drawers.

Establishing the edge with a Stanley #7

This project required quite a bit of precision so I needed to come up with a method to achieve that. The 20″ long pieces gave me 3″ of extra stock to compensate for any snip the planer may give. First up was to establish a working edge on both sides of the 20″ long piece. I began with the widest pieces (1″) so set the bandsaw fence to that plus a sixteenth inch.

I’m using a 1/2″ wide Wood Slicer blade from Highland Woodworking.

Bandsaw Work

After cutting it, it was run through the planer. My technique is to also cut pieces of the same size from MDF which serve as test pieces to verify size. Assured that the piece was accurate with the MDF each piece of Beech was run through at 1″. Those boards were then hand planed again to get a true smooth and square edge. The bandsaw fence was re-adjusted to cut the next three pieces a sixteenth smaller, MDF test piece too, and then the planer is adjusted up 1/16″ and the process repeated until I reached 1/4″ in thickness. At the bandsaw, three strips were cut for each size.

Hand planing for the final, small pieces

Even with the Shelix cutter head in my 15″ Powermatic planer getting precise finish on piece that were 3/16″ down to 1/16 inch isn’t possible. Running the thin pieces on a backer board through the planer gave marginal results. Tried to use double back tape to secure the very thin pieces but removing them usually tore the wood. Hand tools are often best so that was the solution.

I’m looking forward to seeing the results of my clients work with the Letterpress process. He plans to send out Christmas cards using this process so if I get one that means these furniture sticks were successful!

Just a side note: WordPress has changed their format and I’ve found it to be beyond challenging! Ironically enough they have told me that it is a block system based on the printing of the Gutenberg Bible. I’d be interested in hearing from other WordPress users if you’ve had the frustration I have with their new format — numerous communications with them unfortunately haven’t helped either.

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Utilitarian Project — Kitchen Improvement

One of the many benefits of being able to do woodwork is that there is virtually no limit as to what you can do.  From rough concrete forms, to house framing, cabinetry, carving, fine furniture, etc. there’s an unlimited spectrum of challenges. During this Covid-19 season we’re now in that’s a good thing!  Kitchens are the center of many homes and we spend lots of time in them so any improvements are good.  In our home we have this very deep shelved cabinet, half of the back of it was essentially wasted space; an area to lose things.  Always thought that pull out shelving would make this a more efficient area and this was a good time to remodel it.

First consideration was the material and clear coat, Baltic Birch was chosen.  Love this stuff for projects like this because virtually nothing sticks to it, including the glue used for assembly.  That means you need to expose the plies for joinery or else the glue won’t stick. The other important thing was the slides.  We went with European style, 3/4 extension and a bottom mount.  This way, the entire bottom is supported and groove/dado isn’t required for the bottom.  Joinery is finger joints which provide lots of strength and give a nice look.  As you can see, there are two doors so my design called for inserts that fit between the members of the face frame.

SawStop with Finger Joint Jig

Measure twice, cut once; truth be told I measure more than once!!  The inserts were made of 3/4″ material using rabbeted joints assembled with glue and screws.  After cutting all of the 3″ wide pieces of 1/2″ Birch these were all finger jointed.  My SawStop has the sliding fence and the jig I made for is works great.  I did a blog about this unit, here is a LINK to it.  Usually you’d leave the fingers slightly proud so the can be sanded flush but with the pre-finished plywood that wasn’t an option.  Instead the blade height was carefully adjusted to the exact thickness of the ply.  A trick is to also use a marking gauge to scribe the the back of the board before cutting those fingers.  No matter how tightly you hold them and even with a zero clearance insert the back inevitably will have some tear out. After all of the pieces were done it was time to cut the bottom.  The bottom is sized exactly to the size required to fit inside of the insert with the hardware.  A  1/2″ wide rabbet was routed around the perimeter.  This will ensure the drawer is square and also exposes the plywood for gluing.  Here’s all of the parts ready for assembly:

The fingers were arranged so there was a finger on top of the long side pieces, this meant I could form a handhold in the front of each drawer and add a rounded over edge for comfort.  My preference for glue is Old Brown Glue, long open time and easy clean up.  With the 110+ degree days we’ve had all I need to do is set it outside in the sun and in no time it’s at 120° or so for the right viscosity!  Process was to first glue up the fingers,  square them up and apply glue to the rabbet on bottom and bottom of drawer.  Now the bottom is put in place, drawer is clamped, and a couple of nails secure the bottom until the glue sets.

Let me share an old school method of installing drawer hardware.  Back in the day you didn’t find all the jigs available today.  Rockler, Kreg, Woodcraft, Accuride, etc. are only to happy to sell you theirs!  A low cost option is to cut a piece of sheet material to the measurement of the highest drawer.  Make sure it’s square, set it on the bottom of the cabinet and hold the slide firmly in position so you can drill for screws.  Once all are installed simply cut the sheet to the height of the next set of drawers and repeat until done — easy/peasy!

Installed, note notches for the hinges

Installation went well, I needed to add a piece of 1/8″ masonite so that the bottom of the cabinet was even with the face frame.  Also added some material to the inside to attach the insert to.  I didn’t consider that the doors needed to be attached to the face frame which the insert covered!  This required removing the unit, taking it back to the shop, and notching out the insert at the hinge locations.  A jig saw and router template took care of that.  The installed unit works like a charm; the pantry is full and there is one dedicated drawer for spices. Cost was around $250.00 — money well spent.



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Frame Talk #4: Traditional Water Gilding 23k Gold Leaf

In this edition of Frame Talk I’d like to give a short explanation of the traditional water gilding process vs. oil gilding.  There is absolutely no comparison to the final results of these two processes.  Very difficult to photograph but this painting titled Drifting by Diane Eugster is framed with a floater frame of my design which has a 23k gold leafed edge.  My goal was to rub back the gold to expose the lay lines and also the red clay base to compliment the palette of the painting.  It’s on stretched canvas and measures 24″ x 30″.

Drifting by Diane Eugster

The work began by milling the frame from Basswood which is 3/4″ thick by 2″ wide.  The width is usually determined by the material I have on hand and how I can get the most from a given board, since I had an almost 9″ wide piece it was economical to rip it for 2″ wide molding.  Precious gold leaf comes in sheets just over 3″ square so again, to economize on that cutting, them into 1″ wide pieces would yield 3 strips per sheet.  To mount the canvas there is a dado cut into the inside of the molding which places the canvas about 1/8″ below the frame, 1/4″ plywood is glued into that.  Once the frame was mitered, glued, and clamped it was time to begin the water gilding process.

That process is quite involved and exacting.  Always feel as if I’m doing a science experiment!  It begins by making a 10% solution of rabbit skin glue and distilled water.  After soaking overnight this is heated to 120° then filtered into a clean container.  It will be used to initially coat the frame and then to make up the gesso and clay/bole required for the process.  Multiple coats of the gesso (distilled water and basically chalk) mixed with the rabbit skin glue are applied to the frame and then sanded.  This is followed up with more coats of the clay/bole mix which is also mixed with rabbit skin glue.  Both of these need to be kept within a specific temperature range which is why you see a yogurt maker!

Next is that gilding process which I hope to master before I leave this earth!  Genuine gold leaf comes in a book of 25 leaves and costs can range from $40.00 to $100.00 or more depending on the country of origin.  To prepare the frame to accept the gold leaf it must first be wetted with a solution of distilled water and isopropyl alcohol.  Remember all of that rabbit skin glue? This solution reactivates it so that the leaf will adhere to the frame.  You can’t touch the leaf but need to pick it up with what’s called a gilders tip and forget about breathing or running your a/c — this is fragile stuff!  I won’t bore you with the details but here’s a little montage.  The magic comes in when after the newly gilded frame is dry enough it can be burnished and it’s stunning!

The final steps are aging the gold leaf and adding patina by gently rubbing it back with rottenstone to expose those lay lines and the base coat.  For this frame the outer edges have been finished with black casein paint and a ruby shellac wash.  Mounting is through the back and directly into the stretcher bars of the canvas.  I drill oversized holes so that the painting can be positioned with an equal reveal all around.  So, the question is how much time to do this.  I tried to keep a record and from raw wood to finished piece is about 14 hours plus approximately $100.00 in materials.  Market value?, hard to say but for me it’s more about the challenge and satisfaction of the artist and their future buyer.

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