Friday, December 21, 2012

The Most Famous Carpenter

Our shop will be closing down for the next 11 days to allow us all to celebrate Christmas.  I was thinking today about how we are all craftsmen here,  workers of wood.  It is a very very old profession,  in fact old enough that Joseph raised his son Jesus as a carpenter.  I wonder what it would have been like being a carpenter all those centuries ago.  Would anything be the same?

Well, obviously the medium is the same - Wood.  Maybe we work with different species of wood or different ages of wood, but it is still wood.    They would have used Cedar, Poplar, Pine and Oak, just as we do today,  but we never see items made out of species such as Almugwood which was used to make the pillars on Solomon's Temple or  or Shittah which the Ark of the Covenant was made out of!

The tools used is what really makes me curious.  I wonder if  they were like Egyptian hand tools or more like the Roman hand tools as they were in power when Jesus was born, or possibly were they like the Greek hand tools?  Or the Persian hand tools?   Joseph and Jesus would have had access to axes, chisels, hand powered 'Drills', lathes, saws, planers and files but  I am sure all of those were quite a bit more primitive then we have now!

Some things haven't changed very much.  A chisel is still a chisel.  But the drill has certainly changed a whole lot!

Nearly 4,000 years ago, the Egyptians were using hide glue for their furniture adhesive.  This is proven by hairs found in Pharaoh's tombs and by stone carvings depicting the process of gluing different woods.  Hide glue is still in use today for wood gluing and we probably use it nearly once a week at our shop.   So that is another similarity.  But we do have many other glues now which work faster and create an almost permanent bond in fact we use a two-part Epoxy nearly every day.

Our ancient Israelite woodworkers Joseph and Jesus, have the wood to use, the tools to create their piece of furniture, the glue to hold it together, what might they have used to finish it with?  Here at our shop we use fancy water based stains and finishes, but I know they didn't have those in Jesus's day.  I do know that Tung Oil and Linseed Oil have been used as furniture finishes for a thousand years.  Perhaps they used an oiled finish? Tung Oil comes from the nuts of a Tung tree and Linseed Oil comes from pressed flax seeds.  We will still use both of these types of finishes when we do restoration work of an older piece.

So many things have changed since Jesus was born and Joseph taught him his trade, but so many things have stayed the same.  I love that someone so important that we still celebrate his birth hundreds of years later, began his life as a humble carpenter.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Reconfiguring a Newel Post

A longtime customer of ours brought this old Newel Post in to us for stripping and some modification.   In it's original location the stair rail wrapped around it in such a way that there were three places where the wood had to be cut to fit the rail.    

 In it's new home in our customer's house these cutouts in the wood would be very odd.  The post was also about 3 inches to tall.    Once the piece was stripped we cut three inches off the bottom of the post and saved this wood for the repairs on the top of the post.  
Using the wood we saved from the base, we filled the three voids on the top of the post.  This ensured that all the woods would match.  We wouldn't have new wood mixing with old wood.

These areas would have to go on the lathe to be shaped so we actually cut a portion of the decorative top off.  We had to be strategic about where we made this cut, so that it wasn't visible to the general viewer.  This means we needed to make the cut under one of the turned curves.
The Newel Post repairs turned out very well.  It will be much more functional in it's new space and could really be a centerpiece bit of architectural woodwork.

Friday, December 14, 2012

'Bird's Eye' Dresser Set

 This set of dressers looks like it has really taken a beating!  The tall dresser doesn't stand up straight and the drawers are completely falling apart. The short dresser isn't in much better condition.
 In addition the 'birds eye maple' veneer is flaking off of the sides of  both dressers and the tops of the dressers have water damage to the finish which is worn very thin.  These dressers needed a complete over haul.   They started out with having the old finish stripped off so that we could get down to the raw wood.  Once this happened we began on the extensive repairs.  All the drawer joints had to be taken apart and glued back together.  Some of the drawer bases were broken and needed to be replaced.   The drawer glides had to be worked on so that the drawers could slide in and out smoothly.
And then we have the veneer issues to deal with..
 The old veneer was so badly damaged that we had to replace it most of it on both of the dressers.  Both tops received new veneer treatment as well as the sides of both dressers.  Bird's Eye Maple veneer is a very high end veneer with namesake 'eyes' scattered all over creating a beautiful ribbony appearance.
Once the many repairs were done the dresser set was stained with a Honey Maple stain and finished with a Satin sheen finish.  While we would have put any color/sheen combination that our client wanted onto this set,  we are very happy they chose the way they did.  Honey Maple and Satin are truely the perfect combination to highlight the gorgeous Bird's Eye veneer.  We couldn't be more happy with how this set turned out.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Elegant Little Side Table

 This may seem at first like just a simple little side table, perfect for hiding your tv remote.  And, with just an ordinary stain and finish, it could have stayed an ordinary little side table.  But, when it came time to choose the stain color, our client chose an elegant dark finish called 'Jacobean'.  It is an almost black color with a hint of red.    In the bright morning light that we took the 'finished' photo in, you can really see that red stand out.  Pair the elegant stain color choice with a lovely satin finish and your simple little side table turns into an elegant eye catcher!  Now this table with it's lovely turned legs isn't just for hiding things, it is for standing out in a crowd.  What a difference the finish makes.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Wegner 'Wishbone Chair' with Danish Cord

These beautiful danish chairs were designed by a man named Hans Wegner.   He was most prolific  between 1944 and 1963, this particular chair began being produced in 1950.  Wegner said of his work "I have always wanted to make unexceptional things of an exceptionally high quality'"  The key designs of his work are known for taking traditional elements and pushing them to the extreme.   He certainly achieved his goal with these 'wishbone' chairs.  The inspiration for this chair design was a traditional 'Ming' Asian chair and while the inspiration is present in these chairs, they are still truly unique.  The back legs are steam-bent into a curve that tapers to join a circular steam-bent back rail.  The joinery was difficult but resulted in a strong, lightweight chair.

These chairs came to us with a pale yellowish finish on them, and a worn out seat.  We removed the seats and stripped the old finish off.  They were then painted a Matte White, which is perfect for our client's beach side home.  The seats were woven with the traditional danish chord and it was woven in a 'diagonal cross' pattern.  It is actually an unusual design characteristic of these chairs to have danish chord in a diagonal cross pattern.  Danish chord is usually woven in a basket weave.  Just one more way that Wegner made his chairs a little bit unique.