Fun with Chisels and a Stanley 271 Router Plane

In my last blog I went thought the process of making a small, dovetailed box from Red Oak and Chechem — some small pieces of wood from my shop.  I’ve never had a large supply of wood on hand and with the Covid-19 crisis of course I can’t just run down to Woodworkers Source to get more.  The dovetails turned out okay and the box will be added to my inventory at the Store at Mesa Art Center.  Here’s how it looks, the lid design is based on a series of boxes I did quite some time ago and called the A River Runs Through It:

Red Oak has never been one of my favorite to work with, seems as if in the 80’s and 90’s every cabinet job I had was out of that material.  Although good for cabinetry I’ve always found it difficult to work with hand chisels since it tends to be grainy even with the sharpest of tools.  For this little box I could have easily had a lift off lid but decided it would be a great time (socially distanced as we are) to spend the time to install stop hinges from Rockler.  Could have been done rather quickly by making a jig and using a router but enjoy hand tools and the challenge much more.

Scribing on the Masking Tape

Lay out was difficult because of the graininess of the Oak. Scribed lines quickly disappear, especially with older eyes!  I remembered a trick way to lay out dovetails using masking tape and decided to give that a try — it worked so thought I’d share it with you.  It starts by putting down a piece of tape and then locating and scribing the hinge locations directly onto the tape.

Beginning Chisel Cuts

 

Once they’re on, simply peel back the tape outlining the hinge location and chop it out with your chisel.  I use the same technique here as you read about in the dovetail blog, after severing the fibers of the wood across the grain I take a sliver of wood from the back edge to get a sharp edge for the hinge to reference to.  If you’ve chiseled hinge mortises before you’re probably wondering how did I set the depth?  My technique for this is to use a small router plane, in my case an old Stanley 271.  I set the depth off of the thickness of the hinge and use the edge of the blade to score the depth. Just like cutting a larger mortise, the ends are squared off and a series of shallow chisel cuts are made along the length. First pass is with a chisel to about half the depth. After another series of chisel cuts the router plane is used to remove the waste and the hinge is ready for installation.  The same technique is used on the box.

The lid lift was installed the same way, you can see the mortise for it on the picture above.  Anyway, that’s my trick for the day and hopefully you’ll find it useful in your own work.

 

 

Posted in Hand Cut Dovetails, Hand Planes, Hand Tool Woodworking, Mesa Arts Center Store, Tutorial | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Another Dovetail Tutorial: Social Distanced!

The Covid-19 virus really changes how we go about our daily business I figured another tutorial on hand cut dovetails may be something my followers would be interested in seeing and hopefully sharing with their fellow woodworkers and friends virtually since our normally isolated manner of working is now even more isolated.  I’ve always referred to all of my contacts I have on Facebook, WordPress, Instagram, etc. as my imaginary friends — I hope you’re all well and healthy.

This subject is almost like sharpening tools, ask 10 woodworkers the same question and you’re likely to get 12 different answers!  My clients are unable to complete some orders they have with me because of their work layoffs and artists I have frames for have had their shows cancelled.    Checked my limited supply of wood and found a piece of Chechem and also some Red Oak so decided to make this little box.  Any project is a good one to hone and keep your skills up is my philosophy. This is the way I’ve been cutting dovetails for decades and for sure not the only way but here goes.  For starters, I’m a “tails first” dovetailer.  I won’t get into all of the various ways of  laying them out but these are a bit different in that I’m starting and ending with a half tail.  It’ll be a small, lidded box and I like to see a continuous piece of wood when the box is opened.

I start by rabbeting the ends, similar to the old Stanley 140 trick.  I used to use the tablesaw but now use a skew rabbet plane for this operation. My preference is to cut both boards at the same time.  For the tail lay-out I use a pencil since the pin board will be cut to what is scribed from the tail.  Regardless of what type of saw you use for this it’s a good practice to wax it.

Think about the chisel bevel, it will tend to force the cutting edge back.  To compensate for that I always cut a little pocket as shown in picture #1.  The first 3/16″ or so of the cut is 90° to the face but after that it’s okay to do a slight undercut.  I don’t use a coping or fret saw to remove the waste between the tails and rarely need to pare the base.  It’s crucial that your cuts are square, adjust them before you lay out the pin board.  I’ve found that a small double square like the one from Lee Valley works great for this.

4.) Bottom Groove

The final step in my process is to plow a groove for the bottom to fit into using a small plow plane.  The rabbet made for that 140 trick is 1/4″ so a 3/16″ deep groove won’t cut into the tail — much easier than a stopped groove.  That takes care of the front and back and the Red Oak was pretty easy to work with.  The Chechem was a different story! This piece has been in my stack for some time so besides its inherent hardness, baking in the Phoenix heat didn’t make it any easier to work.  Here’s a technique I use when I question how well a board will react to dovetailing.  I knew the box would be around 5″ deep and I only had 13″ of the Chechem.  Cut it in half, do the pins on one end and if they fail there’s enough to trim them off and start anew — did that twice on the first piece!

Two tricks here, the first is pretty straight forward and that is to use a piece of chalk in your scribed lines to help you see the piece.  The other is this transfer jig I found years ago on the net from I believe, a British woodworker.  You can see it in better detail in this BLOG.  It’s much more secure than using a block of wood or your plane (traditional way) to support the tail board as you balance it on the pin board. I raise the pin board up in this jig to do the cuts.  It’s a minor issue but flip the board around when sawing so that you always have the cut line in your vision.

In picture #1 you can see the jig in use, everything is securely held while scribing the joint. Be mindful of cutting on the waste side of the line, for this small piece the outer pieces were sawed off.  Same technique to remove waste between the two pins, relief cut for the chisel bevel then chopped out — a mistake many make is trying to take out huge chunks of wood, better to remove smaller ones and have less work cleaning up.

Clamped up till morning, yea; it’s square!

Last of all, it’s time to glue up.  My preference is Old Brown Glue and since it’s a hardwood using softwood cauls covered with packing tape allows the wood to protrude into them.  Sorry, as usual I got a bit long winded but hopefully it was a somewhat enjoyable read and you where able to get something from it.  I do glue ups on a piece of Marlite which is fairly easy to scrap the glue off of afterwards.

 

Posted in Hand Cut Dovetails, Hand Tool Woodworking, Tutorial | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Frame Talk #2: Sherri Profile

Establishing myself as a local “boutique” frame maker means I need to let Phoenix artists know and understand what I can do for them and their art.  Of course I have some prejudice but I look at the frame and the art as a package deal.  There are many reasons an artist doesn’t look for that special frame to compliment their work but the main one is budget. The goal I have is to help them overcome that.

I have several artists that I do work for and have created their own profile.  Sometimes they ask for a one of a kind creation like a tabernacle frame but most times they have an upcoming show or client and just want their works to have a cohesive look that sets them apart from the mass produced, probably imported frames the big box stores and internet have to offer.  In most instances, if I’m asked to make one frame it may be priced at let’s say $85.00 but if I do 3 of them at the same time the price will lower to maybe $65.00 or less.  If you understand the process of making them you’ll see that much of the time is spent setting up my equipment but once it’s set up I can run 30′ of material for several frames in just  slightly more time than it would take to run 6′ for one frame.  Allow me to explain the process without getting too technical as Diane says I tend to get!  Here’s the completed Sherri Profile frame:

The process of frame making is to start with Basswood, in this case 1 1/16″ thick.  The first step is selecting wood that will let me get as many pieces of the required width without a lot of waste.  For this frame we wanted about 3″ wide and the stock I found was slightly less than 6″ but that was fine with my client.  Once in the shop the wood is hand planed to give a straight edge so it can be ripped on the table saw.  I also hand plane the faces to remove all mill marks.

The next step for this particular frame was forming the beads.  I prefer doing this with a hand plane but in this instance I set up a cutter in my “almost antique” Rockwell shaper and then sanded them with tadpole sanders to remove any mill marks.

After mitering the pieces they are joined with glue and clamped overnight.  I cut a slot for what’s referred to as a biscuit.  This reinforces the joinery.  Commercial frames will only be joined with metal fasteners driven in from behind — no glue.  My technique is referred to as a closed corner frame and is much stronger and better appearing than mass produced frames.  The frame will be finished after the mitered joint is planed/sanded as smooth as possible.  This particular frame was finished with a traditional red burnisher/sealer followed with black Japan black paint which is hand burnished.  The sight edge has been oil gilded with composition gold leaf.  The over-all goal is to replicate some aging and patina to the frame which will expose some of the base coat as well as crackling of the gold.  This aspect of frame tends to be somewhat flexible, you can never predict how the gold leaf may crack or fault or how much of the base coat will be exposed during the process — fingers crossed!

At this time the frame is complete and delivered to my client.  She pleased with the final product and now has a custom frame profile named after her!  I look forward to working with her in the future to frame her art.  I believe this frame and her art is destined for an upcoming show in Sedona.

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Frame Talk #1

Picture Frames: The Why’s and Wherefore’s

As a custom framer, whenever I go to an art show, museum, or gallery my eye tends to go first to the frame and then to the painting.  This section of my blog will be dedicated to a short narrative of why a frame was chosen for a particular painting.  Too often frames are  purchased from a big box store and slapped on an artist’s work with very little thought as to the overall effect.  I read an article by an artist who compared putting a cheap frame on a painting to going to a fine steak house and getting instant mashed potatoes and frozen peas as a side for your premium steak!

This is what is referred to as a closed corner frame, meaning it is assembled before it’s finished. This way any discrepancies in the corners can be corrected.  Something not possible with a cut and join type of frame.  The addition of the Walnut splines are not only for design but for strength in the miter joint.  A frame this size (16″ x 22″) was $135.00 and although a bit more than the imported, proverbial big box stores this frame truly elevates the over-all presentation.

The painting is by Julian Miranda and is titled “The Sojourner”.  Follow this link to see it  on his Facebook page.  He did an interesting documentation of his work which is on a         1 1/2″ cradled panel made by Alejandro of TruArt Canvas.  When he approached me to make the frame and mentioned wanting to use hardwood I jumped at the chance.  It allowed me to use my furniture making roots and create this unique frame for him.  By the way, if you’re interested in one for your work it’s been called “The Julian Float”.

Posted in Artist, custom profile, Floater Frame, Frame Talk, Picture Frames | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Frame #185 Completed — Clavos!

Alejandro by Diane Eugster. Ebonized Oak frame with Clavos

Here’s a picture of the completed frame I blogged about recently.  One of the things I really enjoy about WordPress is not only can is it a way to share my work but it also opens up conversation from like minded folks — great way to counteract the isolation that seems to be part of all artistic endeavors.  It was fun having so many comments about the ebonizing process, thanks for all the comments and questions and hope many of you decided to try it yourself.  Really pleased with the final project, notice how the grain follows the miters; especially on the top corners.

Lets talk about the clavos, knowing I wanted something special my first place to search was Etsy. There was an interesting store  called Sons Leather so placed my order.  I should have read more carefully but only noticed that “orders ready to ship in in 5-9 days”.  Great I thought, plenty of time to get them installed and ready.  Whoops — they’re located in Jordan so shipping was actually 3-4 weeks but thank goodness they came in time and are perfect and well priced.  They specialize in leather and decorative upholstery nails and answered my emails quickly which is a good thing with internet sales.

Spacing for them is 3/4″ on center seemed to work out and was easily accomplished using graph paper.  Setting a fence on the drill press insured that they were aligned and pre-drilling made the installation easier.  To protect the finish on the clavos I attached a cabinet door bumper to the tack hammer.  They were inserted into the pre-drilled hole with hand pressure then eye-balled to 45° and hammered into the frame.

Before installing the painting I rubbed on a very light coat of the OSMO Polyx oil which had an additional benefit of removing just the slightest bit of the finish on the clavos, exposing the copper or brass metal of the clavo for an additional bit of patina!  All in all, very pleased with the outcome.  The painting size is 12″ x 16″ and it’s oil on panel.  The molding is 4″ wide.

 

Posted in Artist, custom profile, custom profile, Diane Eugster art, Hand Planes, Hand Tool Woodworking, Picture Frames | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mesa Art Center Demonstration 12-7-2019

Outside demonstration 12-7-19. The Store at Mesa Art Center

Part of being a juried artist with the Mesa Art Center Co-op is the requirement to give demonstrations during the time the store is open.  These are usually monthly and last 3-4 hours depending on the schedule.  On this particular Saturday I was outside from 9:00am until 1:00pm.  It was a little chilly by our desert standards but nice enough.  What makes doing these demonstrations worthwhile is when people stop, talk, and ask questions about what you’re doing.  On this day I had decided to show how to cut dovetails using hand tools.  That’s the traditional way they’re done and what I use in my furniture work.  If you should decide to do a Google search on dovetails you’ll find tons of information and “the best way” to cut them. There is  a lot of mystique around them and they’ve  become the hallmark of fine woodwork.  You can check my blog for various tutorials I’ve written about my method which is tails first!

Being out there that day was enjoyable because I had several groups of younger folks (12-25) watch me and ask questions.  As a retired woodshop teacher I love that part of demonstrating.  Woodworking, especially traditional work as I do isn’t very common these days.  Can’t tell you how many times someone will stop and say: “my grandfather used to do that” as they watch me!  Anyway, the project of the day was a small box made out of some common Pine a friend of mine had given me.  It was well seasoned (dry, cupped, and cracked!) because is came from his fathers garage — they ran across it when they were in the process of moving and he thought maybe I had some use for it.  Well, it was good for this box which will be available at the store after Christmas.  Here are some pictures of the completed box.  You would assume that since Pine is a relatively soft wood it would be easy to work but it requires very sharp tools.  If the chisel is slightly dull it will crush the fibers of the wood rather than cut them cleanly.  The box is lined with brown pigskin and I decided to experiment with the hinge — it’s fashioned from a piece of brass rod and inserted into a pre-drilled hole.  My preference is for clear finishes that are smooth as silk, come visit the store and see it in person.  The measurements are 3 1/2″ tall by 5 5/8″ wide and 9 1/4″ long, the perfect size for holding your remote controls and other treasures.  Here are a couple of pictures:

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Frame #185: Ebonized Oak

Alejandro by Diane Eugster

As a framer, my goal is to have the frame compliment the brush strokes, texture, and palette that the artist put into the painting.  This is a painting my wife (Diane Eugster) recently completed which is 12″ x 16″ and titled Alejandro. It’s from a recent open studio session of the Portrait Artists of Arizona.  When I first saw it I just knew it needed something more fitting than the black finish or gilded frame that I usually do.  This painting evokes words such as rugged, dangerous, dark, rough, better not  mess with me in my mind!  I remembered making a couple of frames quite some time ago from Red Oak and then ebonizing them with a solution that was made by dissolving steel wool into vinegar.  I got quite a response on my Instagram about this frame and the process so figured it’s worthy of a blog.

Design Sketch #185

To do this ebonizing process you need a wood that has a lot of tannic acid in it — this makes Oak a good choice.  The painting is on 1/4″ panel so to get any type of visual weight I selected some 5/4 Red Oak from Woodworkers Source.  When I design a profile it’s initially done on graph paper where I add my notes, when the frame is done I’ll usually cut a thin slice of the profile, scan it onto a piece of paper and type it up so I can read it later.  After planing a working edge the Oak was ripped to a width of 3 3/4″.  Next was creating those two  1/4″  beads on the outer edge.  This was done with Veritas’s small plow plane with a bead cutter installed.  This was also used to form the bead on the sight edge, 1/8″ here.  A 1/2″ wide dado head was installed  on my tablesaw to create the area between those beads, there will be a line of Clavos nailed around the perimeter — I found these on Etsy and have been shipped, hope they look as good in person as they did on the site!  Next was cutting the 2° angle on the face, accomplished on the tablesaw then cleaned up with the smooth plane.  Here’s some illustrations to make it a bit clearer:

Vinegar/Steel Wool solution for ebonizing

Let’s talk about the finish,  it is made by using distilled vinegar and either steel wool or rusted pieces of metal.  I prefer steel wool and only the oil free type I get from Liberon — any oil could mess up the finish. Not sure how critical it is but thought I’d note the formula and used about 3.5 cups of vinegar (way more than needed) and measured out 10″ of the steel wool.  In the picture you see me cutting it into small pieces which seems to help it dissolve quicker.  Also putting it in the sun seems to accelerate the process.  It was about a week before all of the steel wool was dissolved.  ** You shouldn’t cap the bottle during this process, I’ve been told that it can explode due to the reaction of the vinegar and steel!  Once dissolved I strain in through a fine mesh filter with a couple of layers of cheesecloth added for good measure.

Sorry, glad I do better woodwork than videography!!  Since there was quite a bit of interest in the process I thought I’d make a video.  My battery in the camera died before the video finished so it’ll stop abruptly.

It’s truly magic what the solution does! It’ll vary depending on the wood but at first it’s a very flat, almost deep bluish color.  Cheap chip brush and just put on and allowed to soak in.  This frame has 3 coats applied and allowed to dry at least overnight.  I suggest making a test piece out of the same wood you use for the project to see how it reacts to your finish. My preference is always an oil, surface coatings will eventually chip, peel, scratch, etc.  Since Watco Danish Oil has changed formulas to meet EPA requirements it’s no longer my go to finish, instead I’ve discovered Osmo Polyx Oil which I’ve been using as a finish for my furniture work too.  I use a white scrubby to work a thin coat into the frame then wipe completely dry.  Two coats will be sufficient, don’t get too carried away rubbing applying it as you’re never sure how deep the solution colored the frame.

That’s it for now, I’ll post the results once the clavos arrive and the painting is in its new home.

Posted in Artist, custom profile, custom profile, Design Process, Hand Planes, Hand Tool Woodworking, Picture Frames, YouTubeVideo | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Custom Cat Furniture

Cabinets Complete 2′ deep by 3′ wide and 6+’ tall.

One of the many aspects of woodwork I enjoy is the variety of work you’re able to do with so many different types of materials.  The last project was made from Baltic Birch and this project is a continuation of that theme!  That project was for the Scottsdale Artists School and although complicated, pretty straight forward.  They are cabinets where artists can place their work to dry over-night during their workshop.  I’m using a technique I started when making a taboret that uses clear coat Baltic Birch plywood.  The beauty of that product is that virtually nothing sticks to the coating, the downside is that it’s very heavy and in order to make good joints (my goal) the plywood under the coating needs to be exposed  so that glue can do its’ thing!  No pocket screws in my work, just time proven dados and rabbets to lock everything into place which is assembled with glue, oval head screws, and finish washers for an industrial look.  Anyway, lets talk about this latest project — cat furniture for what I hope will be our future cat.

Those of you who know me or have seen either my instagram or facebook entries remember that I had a wonderful Oriental Shorthair cat named Ali.  She and I had a bond unlike any pet I’ve ever had!  After living a full life we needed to put her down a few months ago and it’s unbelievable how I miss her companionship.  I contacted the breeder we got Ali from (Susanna) https://purrsiacattery.com  and let her know we were looking for another wonderful cat like Ali . She mentioned that she indeed had a possible cat for us, one who was having her final litter and would probably be available for a “forever home” after that.  At this point it’s a good bet we’ll be able to get her so I’m pretty excited about that, she may be my Christmas present!

Scale Model by Diane

Diane and I decided that a new cat would need a new place, she’s not going to be a replacement for Ali but a new chapter in our lives so everything will be fresh.  Ever look at Pinterest and various search engines for Cat Furniture?  Wow,  there’s a ton of it out there and much of it is super expensive and seems to be made in Europe.  Well you know who decided he’d make it himself and it would fit our space exactly.  It was quite a long process but we came up with several ideas and finalized what we wanted.  Diane was busy in her studio with mat board, tape, and an X-Acto  knife and made this scale model.  Now the balls in my court to turn it into reality.

The over-all concept is that there will be a tower for her to climb on and get away from it all.  These are C-shaped pieces and will provide a safe sleeping place as well.  The cabinet below is for the litter box which and the top of it is where her food will be safe from a little Dachshund with a never ending appetite!  The doors are centered in the opening with a notch used to open them.  The tower will be centered as well.  The cat can easily access the first step to get to her “safe place” and the litter box entry; that step is too tall for Brandy.  Here’s some details of the build for the cabinet, keep in mind that the plies need to be exposed for the glue to penetrate and the screws keep it all together.

The tower was quite complex, not only to cut but also to figure out how to assemble it. Those C-shaped sections are grooved for 1/2″ plywood and joined with lap joints and brads on the ends.  They’re housed the tower section which was dadoed to accommodate them.  The screw goes through the tower, into the C piece, and then into the plywood.  The longer C piece will rest against a wall and the shelves will be covered with peel and stick carpet.

That’s it for now, the exposed edges of the plywood have been sanded and sealed with polyurethane.  The carpet should arrive the middle of next week so there’s plenty of time to put it all in place.  As much as I enjoyed this project ready to go back to working with real wood — Diane needs about 3 frames and I’ve been contacted about making a small run of tables but that’s just in the “talking” stage.  Looking forward to having a new, cat buddy. She had her litter and Diane and I have received several video’s of her and the babies.

 

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SawStop One vs. Finger Three — stitches that is!

The Cartridge Works!

I must admit that when the SawStop technology first came out I wasn’t  really in favor of it.  The first I heard about it was someone invented a good idea for saw safety but was trying to get rich from it by getting legislation that would require  every saw to have it.  Of course that would bring them royalties and I just saw it as a greedy money grab.  Well, over the years I changed my thoughts and when it was time to replace my worn out Jet, I purchased the SawStop cabinet saw with the sliding table and love it!  Here’s a LINK to when I first purchased it and if you search my blog with the keyword SawStop you’ll find many jigs and uses I have for this saw.   Oh yeah, my finger — I was ripping a piece of Baltic Birch Plywood that has that beautiful yet slippery ClearCoat finish on it.  As I approached the end of the cut, I reached for my push stick and all I can figure my hand slipped and just contacted the blade and WHAM, down and out of the way just like that!  I have triggered it before cutting gilded molding so knew what happened.  That was Sunday 11/3, it ripped off half of the nail and made a good slice that needed 3 stitches to close up, those came out this morning so I’m able to work much better.  To their credit, SawStop is sending me a replacement cartridge which they do if you send them the triggered one.  They’re able to tell if it’s a body part or nail — body parts get you a free replacement!  I’s scheduled to arrive tomorrow and lucky for me, this part of the project required my dado set so I used that cartridge.  Little tough working with the metal splint on my finger but I managed.

My current commission is building two cabinets that are designed to be “drying cabinets” for artists working at the Scottsdale Artists School.  This school is the premier artists school in the southwest and draws students and world class artists from around the world. It’s the primary reason Diane and I moved here from Las Vegas more than 3 years ago.  This job is a welcome  break from the more traditional work I’ve been doing but definitely not without its challenges!  The cabinets  (2 @ 2′ deep x 3′ wide x 6.5′ tall) are made of clear coat Baltic Birch plywood.  It’s a good choice for a project like this but it’s heavy!  Nothing sticks to the surface so dados and rabbeted shelves are needed to expose the wood and have the glue stick.  Construction is similar to this previously made Taboret project but much larger.  I enjoy doing furniture for artists and trying to fit that niche of making items customized for their personal work style.

Although challenging due to the size, dado’s and rabbets are pretty straight forward.  Each 4×8 sheet was ripped in half so that it fit in the shop.  Outboard supports and an L-Fence helped control them on the while using the SawStop sliding table — here’s some photo’s of those operations.

It took several hours to make this jig to accurately lay out the grooves, actually needed to make 2 before the spacing was even.  Never thought I’d use metrics but after doing the Kumiko work I realize how it’s easier to divide spaces in metrics.  Also use dividers a lot to double check and lay things out.

Making the slots and using the jig became a repetitive process, just need to concentrate because one wrong move and the entire piece would be ruined and extremely time consuming to remake — plus, I have no material left!  Here’s the process that begins by locating the jig for the first slot from the edge:

Making good progress, hopefully my next blog will show them assembled.

Posted in Artist Furniture, custom furniture, SawStop Sliding Table | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

New Frame Commission and Drawing Desk Follow-Up

 

Sophia’s Drawing Desk

Before I begin to talk about the frame commission allow me to share the final results of the drawing desk.  If you missed that post here is a LINK to it which includes a YouTube video showing how it works.  Let’s backtrack a bit; I met Sophia while working as a costume model, she was one of the artists.  During the breaks she mentioned how sitting at her desk at home to draw was killing her back and I ended up designing this for her.  The greatest reward in this business, IMHO; is the appreciation of your work.  She was so happy with the results and sent me this picture of the desk in her studio within an hour of leaving the shop!  I think the dovetailed Walnut base looks great on her table.  During my 31 years as a teacher I often shared this with my students — the money you get for your work is nice but you pay a bill, buy a tool, and it’s gone.  However, having someone tell you how much they like and appreciate what you’ve created will be in your mind forever.

An artist who’s commissioned me to do a number of frames for in the past, Tim Rees; contacted me recently and placed an order for 8 frames.  They range in size from 8″ x 10″ to 24″ x 48″.  The profile is one designed for him previously so it’ll be named the Rees Profile in his honor.  It’s a clean, simple molding that measures 1 1/2″ thick and 2″ wide.  They are close cornered frames and his preference for finishing is that the surface is smooth (black) with no visible wood grain.  Semi-production work required to mill the approximate 36 board feet of 8/4 Basswood to the required size and add the rabbet.  Machines are my apprentices for that and then the final frames will all be finished off with a smooth plane prior to a red clay burnisher sealer.  As always, corners are assembled with glue and biscuits then clamped overnight to achieve the strongest possible joints(Link to my process page).  Here’s a picture essay to illustrate the process, after bringing home the raw 8/4 Basswood from Woodworkers Source  it is cut and planed to the required dimensions:

To make cutting the rabbet and mitering easier, these pieces were cut to length plus an additional amount for miters.  These frames are various sizes so rather than measure and mark each piece individually I marked the required lengths on a piece of tape using the cutting list as a guide — you know the saying about measuring twice and cutting once, make that 3-4 times!

After that step was complete a fine tooth crosscut blade was installed along with my mitering sled.  Again, if you’re unfamiliar with that, here’s that LINK to my process page.  Mitered pieces were then received slots for biscuits and were glued, clamped, and allowed to dry overnight.  Gluing seems like a mysterious process in a way; for me though, if I get an “ooze line” along the entire joint I feel assured of its’ strength.  I allow that to skin over before using an old chisel to remove it.

Three down, five to go

I have three, Merle steel band clamps which I would recommend to anyone making frames.  There’s an assembly concept that about freshly cut joinery creating a stronger glue joint so since I have three of the clamps I only miter, biscuit, and glue up three frames at a time.  At this point all 8 plus one for a painting by Diane have been assembled.  Finish is next!

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