Sunday, November 21, 2010

Practicing What I Preach

At the last meeting of the Sin City Woodworkers I gave a hands on demonstration on how to set up and use hand planes in our woodworking.  You can see the blog here, everyone was asked to bring their own plane and a piece of wood to work on.  I think all agreed that it made for a very interesting meeting and I know that personally, as the presenter, I had a great time sharing what I know with the rest of the group.
Currently I'm working on a set of three picture frames for Diane.  She has a new series called "A Square Foot of Art" which is a series of 3 separate paintings.  I've designed a frame for the first three.  Obviously, they are 12" x 12" and the molding I've made is about 3" wide.  Here is a shot of the work in progress:

Smooth Plane 
What I wanted to show is how I actually use the plane just as I talked about during my demonstration -- there's no way to get a finer finish than with a nicely sharpened and properly adjusted plane.  I mean really, check out those shavings!
I started this molding with some 5/4 Poplar and cut the beaded profile on the sight edge.  The back is cut at 10 degrees to set the frame away from the wall and add some visual depth to the piece.  The next step was to use the dado head and cut a shallow (3/32") groove on the face of the molding.  At this point you can see the slots for the biscuits which is the way I always join frames; glue, biscuits, and clamp over night.  For the finish there will be 4 coats of traditional gesso mopped onto the frame.  After the final coat I add more whiting to the gesso to make it quite thick.  This thickened gesso will only be put into the shallow groove and then I use a comb on it to give it some interesting texture.  Once that's dried completely the entire frame will be sanded.  Here's where using the plane to smooth the face and edge is so important.  The gesso will telegraph every defect through and it will show.  The final finish is black applied over a deep, red base.  The technique I use is to allow the black to set up for a couple of days and then use BriWax to carefully cut back the finish and reveal the red base underneath.  This replicates the aging process and gives the frame the character Diane is after with her work.

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