Fret Sawed Ornaments


This was the first of several frames and designs using pierced and fret sawed ornaments. The corner is fret sawed from a block of wood, then "bread" sliced, flipped as needed, then glued to the corners where the waste has been removed., followed by carving as needed. The ornaments are only about an 1/8 inch thick, but due to the perpendicular sides, there is an entirely different quality than from straight carving, and with a definite Mid Eastern influence.


Another example of pierced, cut and carved ornaments, on an architectonic frame designed for two paintings. These ornaments were cut from 1/2 inch Birch plywood, bread sliced, thus getting two, matching ornaments. Carved after glue down. Designed for paintings by Kim Hoffmann, see elsewhere on the site. Neither of us seems to have an image with the paintings in the frame.



Kim Hoffmann paintings

 "The Pony"

I've put some of Kim's paintings, with my frames on them, up on my main site. Or, you can go directly to the thumbnail page.

This is an ongoing project, as some items need to rephotographed, and some slides need to be scanned, and some of the slides that have been scanned need to be run through Photoshop. Speaking of Photoshop, I have been using Elements mostly; and only use Photoshop now, because my old scanner isn't recognized by Elements.


Conservative Framing

Another unusual frame for Kim Hoffmann:

Pussy Willow Ram

The frame is stained and shellaced basswood, made from waned and knotty boards. The top and bottom sections have been butt joined to add knots and wanes. When Kim commissions a frame, often the painting isn't finished, nor do we always have a frame "design" finished. This grew, like the wood, quite organically.


Construction of "Boom Table".

The lightening bolt is a two piece face lamination, tapering on all four sides down to the base. Captured in the lamination is a 3/4" threaded rod, that bolts the base and the leg together. The polychrome was probably artists acrylic, with a lacquer top coat. Visible in the larger image, center of the top, Boom!, clear epoxy and large metal flake, filling an incised area. I've used automotive finishes, candy colors, metal flake, on other pieces, usually as design elements, as here.


New old stock.

While digging through old photos I've run across some of my own pieces that have not been digitized.

 Boom Table

Done about 15 years ago, and this is the only image I have, a dusty slide. The whereabouts of this piece are unknown.

Here is another, probably same time period, and whereabouts unknown:


 The frame is a poured ornament, leafed and toned very dark. I not only have no idea where the painting is, I don't remember doing either the painting or frame, which is unusual. Incipient "old timers".


More Kim Hoffmann

"Bride's Well"

Fecundity of the land is symbolized in venerated springs which are
considered sources of power, knowledge, and cures. Holy wells were later
Christianized and the attributes and rituals of early deities jointed
with the saints ascribed to them. Women about to marry are still sent to
the local holy well for blessing. Coins, pins, clooties, and other gifts
are left for “well wishing”.

February 1st is Imbolc, or St. Brigid’s Day, the halfway point
between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. St. Brigid, or BrĂ­de, is
linked to fire and fertility, and the hope for the return of the sun and
nature’s verdure.

Kim Hoffmann

I don't have, yet, the exact dimensions, though this is a large canvas. It can be seen in the background of the previous post. This is the first painting that has been rephotographed, and processed for use here and on my main site.  In the rush to photograph, writing down dates and dimensions seemed minor.

A side note. The quotation from Kim is a cut and paste from another document. One of the things I dislike about Blogger is WYSIWYG is NOT. Even in the HTML, there aren't the breaks as done in the post. ??? Right now, I have neither the time, nor the patience.

Kim Hoffmann Exhibition

An exhibition of paintings by Kim Hoffmann, noted here as she has many of my best frames on her paintings. Soon, I will have more images on my main website, showing the frames and paintings, along with some didactic material.

 Here is the website for the gallery space, and the exhibition.



Inlet splines

Inletting for the plywood splines used for reinforcing frame mitres. I use a carbide tipped, 1/2 inch groover. The wood clamp is a stop. The splines are 2 inches, approx. wide, so 1 inch from each frame section. 

The frame, with splines waiting to be marked for trimming, prior to glueing and nailing. In the vise is a grooved block, for holding the splines to be trimmed with the small block plane, to fit. I nail the splines with a pneumatic finish nail gun.


Ongoing arch commentary.

The two arch elements clamped, and the first, inner cut, being refined. I used a Sabre saw to make the cuts. Clamping the two "boards" together to cut them, caused the plastic material to melt and refuse behind the cut, though a single cut worked well.

To refine the edge, and smooth out the waviness from the hand cut, I'm using a Sureform rasp, and cabinet makers rasps and files. These are tapered, one side flat, the opposite slightly round. Final finish with a random orbit power sander. The clean edge is then used as a reference to mark the outer cut. Another "tool" used for this are a pair of Wells-Lamont mechanics gloves, going by the name "Grips", as rasps and files tend to work on the hands as well.

The finished arch elements.


Brave New World, plastic said the spider ...

I sometimes take on some "odd" jobs, both for the challenge, and the getting paid part. This one involves a material I was only vaguely aware of, plastic millwork. I've seen the plastic frames for years, thank goodness for odd painting sizes, but don't spend enough time in the regular lumber store. Recently I was asked to make an arched element for some ornamental work for a porch, and was supplied with the material; two 18 foot by 11 1/4 inch boards made of plastic, polyurethane.

Above, one of the 18 footers, halved and now being laminated into a 9 foot by 22 1/2 inch board from which to cut the arch from. Gorilla glue, after some research seemed a good choice, the deciding factor being reasonable availability. The glue joints only need to last til the arches are installed; then contractors adhesive and mechanical fasteners will hold it in place. I did try and snap my test piece; two little cutoffs glued together, by pressing down, hard, on the supported and unsupported pieces. Still together.

This image shows the layout on the boards. I did the layout prior to glue-up, so I would know where the critical areas were for clamping. The arch was drawn from a 1"  x  10'  x  1/8" piece of plywood, that I cobbled together from 2 5' strips of the plywood held together with a small third strip, about 3 inches long, super-glued to the back of the longer strips. 5 minutes, done. Capturing the 10' strip at the center, between 2 thin, clamped pieces of scrap, I could bend the strip, clamp it at the end, and draw the arc out to the center, then do the other side.

More, later, as it progresses.



Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture, Real Clear Arts.

"To hear some people tell it, connoisseurship is a concept that has been lost by much of the art world -- or at the very least, underplayed. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts this week opens an exhibition that instead puts connoisseurship back in the spotlight."

Ms. Dobrzynski regularly  finds interesting items. Personally, I think connoisseurship is in decline, but I might just be a grumpy old man.

There is a slideshow version of the exhibition.


Other Tools

 Case Pocket Knife with modifications.

The all purpose, go anywhere, indispensable handy-dandy pocket tool. Sharpen pencils, cut the foil from wine bottles, open those pesky blister packages, clean the gunk from under finger nails.

Mini-Copperhead with pen blade and Wharncliffe blade. I've modified the pen blade with an indent at the top, and I leave the last 1/4 inch dull, for cleaning gunk from fingernails. The rest of the blade is very sharp, as is the Wharncliffe.

If one was so inclined, it can also be used as a carving tool. Wow!


Meanwhile, back at the ranch ...

A helping "hand", support for the weary. A photo tripod, with a plywood platform, with a 1/4-20 threaded insert, attached to the head. Adjustable for uneven floors, etc. Amvona tripod, from e-bay, bogen head, all for about $70.00, and I can use it for photos, too.



More Painterly Photos, Robert Bergman

Judith H. Dobrzynski writes about Robert Bergman on her blog, and an article at the WSJ. The portraits display a very beautiful use of color and composition. Worth looking at.


Gordon Lewis at TOP

Over at TOP, Gordon Lewis is offering prints of this image, at a very good price for a limited time. This is from his review of the Pentax K7.

The image, itself is a very "painterly" photo. Possibly the most "painterly" I've seen. That's good.


More holding stuff.

Another approach to holding stock for small hand operations, talked about here. The above photo shows the bench dog, extended, to hold the "shelf" board or raiser bar. The bar is held to the bench by the rare earth magnets, which supports the stock along its length while clamped by the left vise.

This photo shows the bar in place.

A second bar has been added.

The above photo shows a second bar, with countersunk holes for screwing the bar to the stock. Holding the stock this way allows a range of angles for shaping the work, unhampered by clamps or vises.


Rejection as affirmation

"Shame about the comments."
Not really. I remember talking to a religious prosyletizer--soapbox-preacher type--at the University of Maryland a number of years ago. He was being heckled relentlessly by a few students and I wanted to know if he minded. He said, "Oh no. The hecklers are where all the converts come from." His notion was that the hecklers were engaged and passionate; the people who listened silently, shrugged, and wandered away were the ones he wasn't getting through to.
I'm not saying any of the comments here amount to heckling, nor am I saying that Simon's art is something anyone needs to be--or could be--"converted" to. All I'm saying is that rejecting art is a valid way of engaging with it, as far as I'm concerned.

This is from TOP, by Mike Johnson; a comment in the comments section. The idea of any publicity or comment is good, is sort of a cliche of Hollywood, though I had never thought of negative comments about art in this way; as an actual engagement with the art.

An interesting comment, thought provoking for me. Requires more thought.



Shellac is an ancient , natural material; one for which I have found no substitute.  Here, the Wickipedia article, mostly accurate.

I use the white, pigmented shellac, as a base for coloring gessoed frames (an explanation of the process) prior to leafing. I mix my own using dry pigments, usually earth colors, such as Indian Red, Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre. Ivory Black (Bone Black) No recipes, as the color will vary with the job at hand. The various colors become an undercoat, tinting the leaf somewhat, and something to be rubbed through to for an "antique" effect. The clear and amber shades are used to seal the undercoat, and as a sealant and colorant for the leaf.

I use a "flatting" powder to soften the gloss, especially when sealing matte karet gold. It enhances the matte effect. Whiting may also be used to flatten the sealant, though it requires some care in the application. I use spray guns for gesso and shellac, except for the colored coats. Brushing gets all the recessive areas, then I spray a seal coat. When brush applying shellac, the addition of a small amount of high quality turpentine will slow the drying.

Depending on the finish for the frame, I will use , clear, blonde, amber, or button lac, or any of these with dyes added to alter the final finish. The clear and amber are available ready to apply, the others require soaking the flakes. I mostly use the Zinsser, as soaking and filtering, etc. is more expensive, and time consuming.

My choice of spray guns is the small touch up type spray gun.  This is an HVLP gun, with very little overspray, made by Binks, with a 8 oz. container. Small, easy to maneuver in and around a frame, and as opposed to the gravity type gun, with the paint container above the gun, comfortable to use. Double action, meaning more spray the more the lever is pressed, I generally set mine to a round pattern rather than a fan pattern. Fortunately, I own two of these, as Binks doesn't seem to make them any more. Very versatile gun, as I use them for thin sealants and very viscous gesso. All of my air tools are fitted with quick release connectors.

Real wood working.

Not my usual, namby-pamby wood working. Real, manly sort of wood working, with noisy chain saws and splitting mauls and wedges. The Workmate is holding a "jig" for cutting logs to size for my fireplace. The tree is an old, dead maple from our yard.

The tree service taking down the dead maple. The gentleman sitting at the curb is putting on his spiked linesmans boots, to climb and top out a tree across the street.

Going up the tree.


Scratch Stock

 Using the scratch stock, as mentioned here.

Mine is from Lee Valley Tools. They come with some preground cutters, but the idea is to make your own. Using small grinders, files, etc., it's possible to make almost any small molding element required. The "scraping" part is hard, as it's mostly "grunt" labor, though compared to the time spent setting up, jigging, fencing, etc. not much beyond the use of power tools. Power tools are great, but sometimes, doing it by hand is just quicker and easier.

The stock, some cutters, and a stick of molding.

Here, I talk about holding the stick of molding, the other key element in woodworking. The stick above still needs the waste around the beads removed, then a small cove molded at the front, rabbetted, all which will be done with the shaper with power feeder.


Enlarging rabbets

Enlarging a rabbet by hand, no "electric Beaver".  I clamped a straight edge, and scored the line where I wanted to remove the waste. Then using a paring type chisel I removed the waste almost to the bottom. As I got close, I removed the straight edge, cutting freehand. About an eighth inch from the bottom, I use a rabbet or bullnose plane to clean up and finish.


Albert Milch Frame 2

An image of the Albert Milch frame, in process. The red areas are where ornaments have been replaced and bole has been applied before laying gold leaf, in the water gilt process. The bench is 13 inches wide. Big frame.


Trashed Redux

Another shot from the bog, west of South Bend.

The attraction for "dumpers" is that this area is off a twisting gravel road, hidden from view, by the curves of the road and surrounding woods. Some development is happening in the area; hopefully the bog will survive.



Looking Down.

Looking Out.

These images are from the same area, at different times, and with much different intent, and focus. I've never quite understood, how some of the most beautiful spots are so routinely trashed. This is a bog, west of South Bend.



A great quote from Rocco Landesman,  the new head of the National Endowment for the Arts. :

"But actors and artists are part of the real economy. They have real jobs, like working in a steel mill or an auto plant, and they have medical bills and rent to pay and kids to send to college. The arts are tough work. But it's real work, and it counts."

In the interest of full disclosure, I'm still waiting for my, personal, stimulus funds. The check is in the mail?

This is one of my favorite images of this monument, completely off-topic, but I really like this image; gonna start using it more.



I enjoy TOP, as well as Kirk Tuck's "A Visual Science Lab". Kirk has written a book on the business aspect of photography, but it probably has a much wider audience; anybody in a small, artisanal business, unless, the current economy is just fine for you.

Personally, I'm not ready to hang up the carving and gilding tools just yet, but I am thinking about it. This is the worst downturn I've seen; several clients have closed their doors, and there is a seismic shift in the whole business, so ...

That's the idea of promoting a book like Kirk's; I haven't gotten my copy yet, but from the interview on TOP, and reading his weblog, I think it will be a good one. Think different, keep moving forward.

Interested, go to TOP, order the book through his link, so Mike Johnston gets a few pennies, at no additional cost to you.

Moonrise, Warren Dunes, Michigan.
As a side note, some of my posts are going to have pictures of no relevance to the topic at hand. They are there, just because. I like them.


Work, broken hearts, fashion.

Listening to NPR, National Public Radio, catching only part of it, but a conversation about a movie about Vogue magazine. One of the "high", Grace Coddington, willing to continue to have her heart broken, to fall in love with something that won't make it into the magazine, fall in love, fight for it, and move on to the next, when this one falls.

I guess the part I like, is feeling strongly about "art", willing to fight for it. Having some ... conviction, or just having ... ahh, hell, brass balls, put your money where your mouth is, conviction, belief in your own taste; and the willingness to look, and SEE.

More looking and seeing.

Over on TOP, there is a link to an article by Richard B. Woodward, Too Much of a Good Thing. From the article...

"Another factor casting doubt on the authenticity of all these "vintage" Hines is that many look eerily like Rosenblum's own photographs. The Chicago dealer Alan Koppel first pointed out the likeness, to the Santa Fe dealer Andrew Smith at an Association of International Photography Art Dealers show at the New York Hilton in February of 1999. Smith had a gorgeous print of Hine's Three Riveters hanging in his booth. Koppel stopped by and observed that the Rosenblum photographs he had seen and the Hine prints that dealers had bought from the Rosenblums had a "similar tonality—the same clean, hard surface and cold grays.""

Were it not for seeing, not just looking, this may have gone undiscovered. The science and research are very interesting; the timeline of photo papers is significant, but with out a little connoisseurship, this "fraud" may have gone undiscovered.

I'm ambivalent about sympathy for the investors; mostly that they were led by "experts" who were "wrong". Invest some time in seeing, in connoisseurship.  Sour grapes on my part, I admit. Bad me.


True Art History

Tyler Green's "Modern Art Notes" has a very interesting 4 part essay on "Portrait of a Venetian Gentleman".

Combining science and history, an essential element is added, connoisseurship. Seeing, as well.

Very good story.


Albert Milch frame

New to the studio, needing some ornaments and gilding replaced and restored, an Albert Milch frame. I note it due to its extraordinary size. For a 28 x 36 canvas, the frame is 8 inches wide and 4 inches high, karet gold gilt, composition ornaments, early 20th. century.

The verso with labels. The Milch family were dealers and framers in NYC, with some of the family running the galleries and some the framing businesses.

A lovely example of the framers art. Extensively burnished, with the outside coves and ornaments completely burnished.


Art Matters

At Bloomberg.com: Culture Czar Must Say Art Means More Than Money: Jeremy Gerard

I love the line: "to revivify an agency whose greatest achievement in nearly two decades has been merely to survive."