Friday, April 27, 2012

Science Lab??

You Call this a Woodshop?

     This is the second blog for the reeded frame.  Now that the kitchen remodel and the complicated Acanthus leaf carve is complete it's time to work on this frame again.  Since deciding that this will be done with what little 23kt. gold leaf I have left I realize how much more there is to this process than the Dutch gold method of gilding frames.  It really does seem like a science lab experiment more than anything else.  I've taken notes from demonstrations, read books and tons of internet materials, gotten advice on picture framing websites and still; it's baffling!
     I'm using pre-mixed French red clay and gelatin for the glue.  The basic process is to make your glue mixture and then, using a ratio of 1 part clay to 3 parts glue, brush multiple coats onto the frame.  You need to keep this mixture at what is often referred to as "blood warm" or around 100-110 degrees.  That's the purpose of the hot plate, double boiler, and Diane's (shh!) kitchen thermometer in the background.  Other things you see are the measuring cups, cone strainers, scale, etc. needed to complete the lab.  I can't help but think that the frame makers of old weren't this persnickety.  You know, more a pinch of that, a handful of that, and so on.  What ever the case, the frame now has 8 coats of clay on it.  Since this frame leans more towards the modern style I'm not going to put any yellow clay in the grooves and other areas the leaf may crack (fault) when I lay it on.  Just need to see how I can lay and improve my skill with the leaf.
     The purpose of the gesso is to seal the wood and provide as smooth a surface as possible for the clay and the eventual gold leaf.  A technique I've learned and use is to dilute some of the clay in distilled water and paint it onto the frame:

Disclosure Coat

     This is referred to as the disclosure coat and the purpose is to let you know when the surface is smooth.  Very similar to what is done when finish planing a board using hand planes.  In that case you strike a series of light pencil lines all across the surface of the board.  Now when you are doing your final smoothing work it's safe to assume that when the lines are completely gone the plane has gone over the entire board.  That's a simplistic explanation but pretty much what happens.  Same thing with sanding the frame.  I started out with a 240 grit, then when the red was gone went to a 400 grit to polish the surface.

Sanding Process

     This picture gives you an idea of the sequence.  The lower and right leg of the frame have been completely sanded.  On the left leg the process has just begun, notice the hit and miss effect of the red disclosure coat compared to the untouched surface of the top leg?

Close up of Sanding Process
     Here is a close up view of the lower, left corner.  The brushed on gesso has some irregularities and when you first begin sanding the peaks of them will be sanded away and appear white.  The lower areas remain red until the entire surface is leveled.  Once the entire leg is white it's time to use the finer, 400 grit paper.  I didn't bother doing the disclosure coat on the reeded section.  Since these were all carved by my hand I'm aware that there are some irregularities in them.  I saw a quote somewhere that went something like "the beauty of a handmade object is it's irregularities or uniqueness", or words to that effect -- I like it!

     I'm anxious to gild this frame even though I know there will be lots of frustration during this phase.  At the last West Coast Show here at the Mirage, Diane had enrolled me in a day long lecture/demo by Marty Horowitz and Bill Adair.  Want to put some of the things I learned about there into practice.  Practice, practice, and then just a bit more for good measure.  I know that's what it'll take just hope my patience and wallet hold up!

     Ended the day resting on the couch with Ali eye-balling me as if to say "why so stressed man?"

What, me Worry?

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