Poplar, which is not a poplar.

Above a freshly cut piece of wood that had been outside. It is what in lumber yards would be called Poplar, white or yellow, though it is actually a Tulip tree. It is also called Popple. Normal color is white or green as the example above shows, turning brown upon exposure. Sometimes a fresh cut will reveal a variety of colors, purple, red, black; from mineral staining. Called Rainbow Poplar when so colored.

A good choice for moldings to be painted, as in architecture; not used that much in framing. The piece above came from a scrap pallet that was mostly oak, destined for the wood stove/fireplace, when I saw the green. Also used as a secondary wood in furniture, where it can also be used as the primary, stained and finished as cherry.

The botanist's identification of wood is often at odds with the lumberman's.

Odds and ends.

A corner of the studio. Most of my painting is done at the small drafting table, though there is an upright easel, that is affixed to the wall.

The easel with one panel of a tryptic having some of it's gilding touched up. The table to the right has an automobile jack as a lifting mechanism. Hanging on the left side of the easel, a leather bag that usually has my watercolor kit in it.

A small commission of two awards I designed and manufactured. Top, mahogany, bottom, black walnut with a carved and gilt panel. The bottom is waiting for it's name plate


Pocket Cameras addenda.

The two pocket cameras. On the left, the tiny Elph 110HS, and the bigger S110.  The Elph is sporting a camera grip from Flipbac, which does improve it's "grippability".  I'm trying the grip on the new camera for awhile; so far it does add to the ability to one hand, hold the camera.

Two things of some import: the larger camera has the tripod socket centered on the lens, which helps if you are doing tripod aided panoramas. Far more important to me is that both cameras have a self contained lens cap. Lens caps are ... a ... PITA. Even if you 99 percent of the time put the damn thing in the same pocket, ... well sometimes you don't, and you can't find it. And, they have the despicable habit of coming off during transport. And, if it stays on, you have to stop and remove it, put it somewhere, and then take the picture. PITA, cause when Elvis does walk by, he's not waiting for you to fumble around trying to get your camera to work.

I routinely paint out the garish white paint, or silver that Canon uses, to announce what brand of camera being used. Just me.


New pocket tool, and a failed experiment.

About a year ago I tried an experiment, going to a completely automatic camera as my pocket tool. Not exactly a failure, though I found it's limitations limiting. Ultimately it's greatest quality was it's tiny size, though because of the smoothness of it's body it required the addition of a small silicone handle, partially defeating the size.

Well, I've gone to a slightly larger machine, the Canon S110. Real camera controls if one desires, shoots in RAW, which I do, and holdable in one hand due to the sandpaper like texture of the outer case, along with an actual thumb grip on the back. Lot's of reviews on the interwebs.

The RAW advantage allows me to control the image rather than the camera doing it, and is really neither more complicated or time consuming, until you want to "save" an image.

The S110 is selling for an attractive price right now; Amazon has it for $219.00, and was adding a 16 GB class 10 SD card. Very good deal, as the previous S series, the S100 is selling used, for only a little less. (link to Amazon on the right, hint hint) This may be due to some bad reviews on some new features in this model. The S100 had GPS for geotagging photo locations. The S110 loses GPS, implementing a complicated Wi-Fi, that if one is so inclined, will allow the use of a smart phone to provide the geotagging. The new Wi-Fi can also be used to move photos around. I am, completely uninterested in either feature. So, no big deal. If I want to show somebody a photo, I have a smart phone that does that very well, and takes quite nice pictures, and I can tell from the photo where I was most of the time. Ehh.

Now, the camera itself, is an "enthusiast" machine, with a slightly larger sensor than most small cameras, and the complete range of manual controls. The S series, and the larger G series, are Canon's top level compacts. The photo of my dusty S110 (it's a pocket camera) was taken with my elderly G9.

As a pocket camera, in spite of all the manual controls, my machine is set for program, auto ISO up to 1600. It is possible to get usable images in available darkness, and compared to the "crap" we got with film; it's a wonderment. There is a customizable button that I have set to access the self timer; when I have time I'll punch that for a 1 second delay after releasing the shutter to minimize any movement. The ring around the lens is customizable also; mine is set for exposure compensation.

Three working cameras; the iPhone 4s, takes quite nice pictures within it's limitations, and I can message them instantly, and I can even work on them in the phone. I've taken some keepers with the iPhones, but sometimes, I want more. The S110 gives me a lot of control, or pretty much auto; it does have the green auto setting, JPG only, and scene settings, but I prefer RAW. And then, my venerable G9, my studio, big machine. A lot of the photos on this blog have been done with the G9, using either studio lights or flash, with the camera flash firing an old Nikon Speedlight. I can also fire the Nikon flash directly from the camera with a neutered Nikon cable. And all of them are not current generation machines; I'm quite comfortable being well behind the cutting edge. Image quality only matters if the image isn't saying much.


More on chisels

Some nomenclature. The chisel on the left, a small carving gouge, originally had a thin brass ferrule that cracked. I replaced it with a small piece of malleable copper pipe, more for aesthetics than a practical need. The middle tool is a woodworkers paring chisel with a socket for the handle. The handle is an antique, with a leather ferrule at the end. That is a practical position for a ferrule, in that it helps prevent the mushrooming of the handle end from mallet blows. Handle and chisel are not original to each other. I only sometimes strike the paring chisel with a mallet; it's more of a hand powered tool. To the right is an unhandled skew chisel, showing the tang and shoulder. Skews are used for cleaning undercuts, and as long carving blades.


A Basswood tree, early winter. Officially winter isn't for another three weeks, but with ice and snow, I'll just accept that it is winter.

The bracks and nutlets are hanging on; the leaves were gone about 2 1/2 weeks ago, after some wet and windy days.


Late November, Crows

Crows, in the greasy, gray skies of late November. They fly over around twilight, stopping to alight in the trees in the alley behind the studio, to stare off to the west. (They are all facing west???) It's a brief interlude; then off to wherever a cauldron of crows roosts for the night. Somewhere back in my posts, I've noted similar behavior. It's probably a religious thing.


Some thoughts on carving tools.

Two different brands of carving tools. Bottom tool, a shallow gouge from Henry Taylor, UK. The quality of the steel is fine, holds an edge well. Top, is a shallow gouge from Pfeil, Switzerland. The quality of the steel is also fine. There are some things I like better about the Pfeil tools. The metal is polished overall. This really adds nothing to the working qualities of the tool, though it looks nice. The handles are oil finished, and octagonal in shape, so the tool won't roll. The Taylor tool has some kind of lacquer type finish; you can see the shine in the photo. The handle finish does affect the working quality, the oil type finish being more comfortable. The Taylor tool also came with an enormous sticker on the handle, which required removal, as it was uncomfortable. I'm ambivalent about the ferrule issue; if I'm beating hard enough on the tool to cause the wood to break, I should probably be using my chain saw. There are other brands, including some antiques, in my tool chest, though when I buy additional tools I prefer Pfeil, for the reasons above, and a comfort level with their working quality.

Woodcraft carries Pfeil tools here in the US. Pfeil's website has distributers listed for other parts of the planet. The film is worth watching.

Pauvre Petits

And in other news, we have snow that is sticking. Cold well below normal. Gah! Ahh well, as the Swedes say: "there is no bad weather, only bad clothing". 



I seem to have been neglecting the blog.

Meanwhile, autumn is peaking:

And, a faint dusting of ... frost:


Sanding Machines Addended 11-8-2013

Some of the sanding machines. Left to right, a random orbit with a flexible velcro pad for sanding curved objects. Another random orbit sander, with a stiff pad for flat surfaces, again velcro. Next, an oscillating multi-tool, velcro pad., as discussed here. Right, a belt sander with a sanding frame. Sanding frames let you adjust the depth of the belt, and stabilize the tool for sanding broad, flat surfaces. Mostly I use the random orbit sander with a stiff pad to clean up the backs of frames, or when they have inlet splines, to level the splines. Search "splines for several posts about the process.

The random orbit sanders and the belt sander can also be hooked up to the shop vac via an inch and a quarter hose, seen at the rear of the black sander. Another handy feature, as it really does remove the bulk of the dust. It is, however noisy, having both a sander and a shop vac running at the same time. Earplugs.

Well, I just spent some time looking for belt sanders that offer a sanding frame, and not much out there; Bosch might have one, but I couldn't track down an actual product. My sander, a Ryobi offered the frame as an optional accessory, but I can't find one now. Too bad, as it was a useful addition in terms of efficiency and preventing the belt from gouging the work surface.Belt sanders excel at rapid removal of material; the frame added control. Maybe I should save the Ryobi for resurfacing my bench tops, and get a cheap belt sander for the occasional "wood butcher" job. Using the links at right will send a few pennies my way, at no cost to you.

Addendum: 11-8-2013

When using a sander with velcro attachment, especially when sanding edges, or thinner parts, it is important to keep the sander moving. If you hold it in one spot, you can melt the velcro hooks, rendering them useless. Porter-Cable does offer replacement pads, around $20.00 the last I checked.



The morning Basswood, some bracks turning brown and some of the leaves yellow.

The morning rodent, in a maple tree.

A vanishing species, the once ubiquitous water tower.

Sunday afternoon sun. Thats all; have a nice start to autumn!


Recent project

A recent project, one of three deeply ornamented plaster frames, circa 1900, give or take a few decades. The original finish was water gilt karat gold high lights, and then bronze powder for the body. Either painted or dusted over an oil size. Two of the frames were at some time completely over painted. One, had it's original finish; the gold still visible but the body had tarnished to a deep brown. I've seen the deep brown, but also various shades of a muddy green, and a dull greenish gold. The frames had been stored in a basement for many years, with a lot of moisture damage. Corner ornaments were loose or missing, because of separated mitres, and much of the running ornament at the outside back edge of the frame was beyond repair, needing replacement.

These two images are of one of the frames installed as a "frame" for a wide screen TV. The TV is in a recessed area in the wall over the fireplace.The bright windows are due to a foggy day out over Lake Michigan. We're 40 some stories up.

This one, with a mirror, was installed into an alcove, that was not quite an 1 1/2" wider than the frame.  Just one of the many challenges. Here, trying to not smash fingers was the trick. 

Hanging hardware was plywood cleats, attached to the hollow wall with either 1/4"  x 20 zip toggles, or in the case of the TV frame, fine thread drywall screws anchoring into the metal studs of the recessed area. All of the frames were heavy, and this, with mirror was quite heavy. I chose plywood cleats because then I could build out the frame cleat with full size spacer blocks, of various thicknesses of plywood, to accommodate the inner frames sticking so far out the back. 

The painting was not hung, as I, having not seen the space, brand new construction, did not know that the customer desired it to hang in a stairwell. I found this out the afternoon before delivery and installation. Stairwells require special equipment, and hanging a painting and frame, 4'  x  7', and that probably weighs a hundred pounds, is very special. This job requires a 24" wide plank rated for a minimum of 500 pounds; not something that I keep in my tool kit.

The restoration of the frames was originally to be repairs, then regilding in metal leaf. As I got into them, I decided to remove the overpaints on the two frames that had been overpainted. Under the paint, there was a lot of the original gold. Rather than cover that over again, all of the highlights were cleaned of overpaint with acetone and sometimes paint remover, and sometimes lacquer thinner. New water gilt gold was applied to repairs, and bad areas of loss. The body was finished with a shellac based paint, using both mica pigments, and a small  amount of bronze powder pigment. Couldn't achieve the gold I wanted with out it. Most of the frames with the bronze powder finishes for the body, were at their glossiest, only semi-gloss, to achieve the look of matte and burnish gold. I tried for the same effect, a soft, matte body with the mirror like highlights. I was trying for 120 year old frames, with some wear and tear, but in very good shape.   


New Tool

Update 8/27/13

Now that I've actually used the tool I 'm very pleased. Not the fastest, but for unusual cutting tasks, it'l be fast enough. I have removed the depth gauge, and it's holder, as I don't feel a need for it yet. One allen screw holds the whole assembly on. Blades are expensive, though there are some aftermarket ones now. Multifit is one company; and the savings are significant. They have a section just for Porter Cable.

New toys! Well, actually I think this is going to be a well used new tool. It's an oscillating multi-tool, capable of cutting wood or metal, etc., sanding, especially hard to reach corners, and scraping, such as wallpaper, or various adhesives.

The tool was originally invented by the German Fein co. as a means of cutting casts off of broken limbs. The oscillating blade won't cut skin. I've seen a video of somebody touching a moving blade; said it tickled. I think I'll wait until I accidentally touch a moving blade. 8-) Fein's patent has run out, so there are a lot of different brands making these tools.

Some projects that the tool will be used on:

Cutting into a trim board on the house without removing said board to stub in a new piece of trim because of rot.

Scraping wall paper. I've played with it a little in the studio; it will probably be as efficient as steaming off wall paper, and probably far more pleasant.

Cutting between two porch floor boards that have buckled, to give them some room to be laid back flat.

I'm also looking forward to trying it the next time I need to enlarge a rabbet.  I'm thinking this might be the right tool for the job. It can plunge cut, so the corners of a joined frame will be square, and the model I have has a depth gauge, though a masking tape line on the blade would work also.

The machine pictured, Porter-Cable PCE605K, link at right, I chose for several reasons. Good reviews on the interwebs. (We know if it's on the interwebs, it's true). Corded, as I thought the need to own and keep charged multiple batteries, was less convenient that just plugging it in, and running until the job was done. (Which, should the need arise, not preclude me from buying a cordless one). I own several Porter Cable tools already, and have been very happy both with the design of the tools, and the availability of parts and accessories. That last is huge. The Porter Cable, with a nice case, and a good, though mostly sand paper, assortment of accessories was $99.00 on Amazon. The box stores have them at $130.00. Harbor Freight has their brand at $20.00. Fein has some as high as $400.00

As I've played with the tool I've decided that it will be as precise as I am; it is a hand tool, with out any real provision for guides or fences. I'll need to be patient, as forcing the tool is just going to ruin the blade, and they are expensive, though as more adopt these tools, blade prices will come down.

So, keep calm, carry on, and sally forth to cut something ... 8-)



The Morning Basswood

Leaves, bracks, and nutlets.

Basswood with rodent, also the volunteer shoots from the base of the trunk.


Gluing Ornaments

Above, another of the plaster ornamented frames. I'm using the plastic syringe, foreground, to inject glue into the cracks at the bottom of the ornaments. Directly under the miter is a blob of glue that has dripped. The frame is resting on a support stand at an angle so the glue can run into the area needing glue. 

The crack is visible under the ornaments. This side of the frame has suffered some damage from moisture, and has been overpainted, obscuring the original finish.


Heavy, plaster ornaments.

I'm working on some frames from late 19th. century or early 20th. The heavy, deep, and severely undercut ornaments are in plaster. In order to make replacements, with the materials on hand, I'm basically molding and casting just the tops of the missing ornaments. In the picture above, a top has been positioned with the help of some screws.

Here, I've built a dam of masking tape, prior to filling, through the front, with plaster, the undercut parts. There are wire reinforcements through the "top' castings.

Another ornament top, showing the positioning screws, and the reinforcing wires. The "tops" are resting on the screws, glued into position with cyanacrylate glue.

And the above ornament with the masking tape dam. When the bottoms are filled, essentially I'll be carving the replacement ornaments, using the tops as a guide, along with the remaining parts of the original ornaments.

What you are seeing in the above photos is the original finish applied to this frame. Water gilt karat gold for the highlights; then a bronze powder pigment paint for the body. The bronze powder has tarnished  to the point of being dark brown. Sometimes they tarnish to a dark, earthy green. I'm going to restore the karat gold as needed, and then repaint the body, using non-tarnishing mica powders for the gold pigment, in a shellac medium.

In the last two photos, plywood overlaid splines are visible, to reinforce the miters. I've added hide glue where I could, but these are very difficult frames to disassemble, as the ornaments, and wood substrate are often cross nailed, and there are numerous reinforcing nails for the cast ornaments. So, the add on splines.

Musing on the technology to produce these type of frames, I'm assuming that the ornaments were cast using rubber molds, that could be pulled free of the undercuts. Corner ornaments were probably cast last. Interesting frames, and somewhat rare compared to composition ornament frames, though this methodology is the only means to produce these heavy, and undercut ornaments.

Attic windows.

Nice triple window.

The old No. 6 Firehouse

And, just a garage.


Free Form Carving

In a previous post, here, Studio Scenes III, I mention a random orbit sander. There are actually two, except for color, identical machines. The one in the back, light gray, has a flexible pad, for sanding curved forms. The black one has the standard pad for flat surfaces. Below, some other tools for free form carving, both for furniture and picture frames.

Left to right, a small electric chain saw, an industrial grinder, that has grinding heads, cut-off heads, sanding pads, and just in front, a chain saw wheel. To the right of that, an air die grinder, fitted with a large carbide burr. There are a variety of cutters, grind wheels, cut off wheels, etc., available for it. I have a slightly smaller one that has different size collets allowing me to use some of the same tools for my Foredom tool, here. Then, the random orbit sander with the flexible pad.

Some examples of frames and furniture that used some or all of the tools mentioned above:


Apropos rants.

Andrew Sullivan has a nice response to the President of the United States remarks the other day, appropriate to my own thoughts:


Studio Scenes III

Another corner of the studio. Previously, here, and here. At the bottom, black hump is a shop vac, which is connected to a random orbit sander by that white hose. To the left, a belt sander, which is a handy tool to have in any shop. Grind things, shape wood ...etc. A little higher on the right, a magnetic tool holder holding metric allen wrenches, and old brad driver, and some hemostats, another tool that comes in quite handy at times. Above, and to the left, my joining vise and the two support boards.

Here the combination at work, with the vise being obscured by the frame being joined. I'll take some better pics showing the set-up, soon, not now. 8-) , and a post with some more clarity about mitre joining.


The walnuts have started dropping, sometimes with a resounding thump. Previously, here, I've written about Walnuts. That post was from September 27, 2011.

Today, July 21, 2013 seems early, not that a few don't drop early, but for me to notice the roof thumping. The squirrels will be happy.

Basswoods, and Rants.

I'm sorry, I seem to have been side tracked, and have been neglecting the Basswoods. Above. petals and bracts on the street. With careful observation, one might deduce that I live on a street that is paved with bricks. A recent post explains bracts.

And now, a little curmudging from the Hinterlands:

Some rambling rants from the Hinterlands. You might sense a certain, liberal bias, but I’m actually a fiscal conservative. Never could figure out, why the so called conservatives ran up such debt; then a tax and spend liberal could balance the budget, and have surpluses. Must be missing something.

Government, why this hatred for government?  This, " drown it in a bathtub"?   Safe food, and water?Paved streets? Police and Fire protection? National defense? Weather warning systems? Well, Grover, back in my youth, there was a saying, "love it or leave it". I just don't get it, hating government from folks who proclaim themselves  "patriots". Yes, I know there are excesses and overreaches, but let's move on, cause I seem to be missing something.

Ahh, Unions. So, how many in favor of no limits on hours worked per day? Hours per week? Benefits? Nah, you don't need benefits, we, your employers will take care of you. And, if business is slow, well, you
could work for less pay, to help us out? Ohh, you’re hurt? You're fired,must have been doing something wrong. Ever hear of company script,that could only be used at the company store? Oh children, you should read some history. But,again, I seem to be missing something; moving on.

Detroit and the auto industry. Not much is ever mentioned about a huge problem; we all drive toyotas and hondas now. I know, they make em here, in non union plants, cause we all think unions are evil. Where do the profits go? Again, I seem to be missing something. And, along these lines, when much younger, I couldn't understand Jewish people, driving Mercedes Benzes, sending profits to people, who in some cases, literally tried to exterminate them. Must be missing something.

Race? The President gave a very nice little speech, talk the other day, in which he very gently tried to explain what it is to be an African male. Mostly, the rabid, right wing attack dogs left it alone, though there are always exceptions. Some egregious exceptions. The more “foamy at the mouth’’ ones are saying racism is over in America. Say What? I’m sorry, but I’ve already had some issues with my “African, Catholic, Jewish” kid, and with my “Chinese Catholic” kid. Not to mention the Polish, Lithuanian stuff. John Scalzi, well known author, has written a nice piece, somewhat on this  subject:  So, if you’re a straight, white, male,  ..... maybe you should  ....  shut up.


Gettysburg, Melville, Longstreets's assault on the Union lines.


O Pride of the days in prime of the months
  Now trebled in great renown,
When before the ark of our holy cause
Fell Dagon down-
Dagon foredoomed, who, armed and targed,
Never his impious heart enlarged
Beyond that hour; God walled his power,
And there the last invader charged.

He charged, and in that charge condensed
  His all of hate and all of fire;
He sought to blast us in his scorn,
And wither us in his ire.
Before him went the shriek of shells-
Aerial screamings, taunts and yells;
Then the three waves in flashed advance
  Surged, but were met, and back they set:
Pride was repelled by sterner pride,
  And Right is a strong-hold yet.

Before our lines it seemed a beach
  Which wild September gales have strown
With havoc on wreck, and dashed therewith
Pale crews unknown-
Men, arms, and steeds. The evening sun
Died on the face of each lifeless one,
And died along the winding marge of fight
And searching-parties lone.

Sloped on the hill the mounds were green,
  Our centre held that place of graves,
And some still hold it in their swoon,
  And over these a glory waves.
The warrior-monument, crashed in fight,
Shall soar transfigured in loftier light,
A meaning ampler bear;
Soldier and priest with hymn and prayer
Have laid the stone, and every bone
Shall rest in honor there.


More Basswoods

The light green, long and slender leaves are bracts, leaves that are usually different from the foliage leaves, and associated with flowers and reproductive parts of the plant.

The flowers are mostly done; the ground under the trees is littered with petals and bracts. The small green balls are the developing fruit. And the rich, round, buttery smell is dissipating.