Studio Scenes

A new little project. Scenes from my studio. Prosaic, mostly, with sometimes little weirdnesses. But, if you're interested, close observation is needed. I am also eschewing art and going for more informational... ??? 

Watch Toad ...... watches
Antique hardware, heavy duty, hand forged.

Coke Lady, Haddon Sundblom, Master, Master Illustrator of the 20th. century. 
She dominates, but, center left, there are some small oddities.

Well, ... this is just full of little oddments.


Foredom Flexible shaft tool.

My very ancient Flex shaft tool, hanging from it's custom rod and holder. Below it, the variable speed foot control, that has been rewired for longer reach. Image is from just to the side of where I would be standing when working at my bench. This set up allows ready access to the tool, while also being able to get it out of the way.

An image of the board that holds an array of bits, as well as colletts of various sizes. I have accumulated a large collection of bits, ranging from tiny dental burrs, to cut off wheels. I will use the tool sometimes when needing to clean up carving; but the major use is cleaning up, refining and fitting castings for restoration work. Also grinding off nails that have lost their way. Polishing up little bits of this or that. I also use it to quickly grind cutters for my scratch stock.

The handpiece, a duplex spring model that provides more flexibility. To the right is is the cost of that flexibility, the internal spring that drives the cutter. Easy to stress and break, which is why I have an extra. My machine, 1/8 hp, 14,000 rpm max ( I seldom wind it up that fast ), is 30-35 years old, used a lot, and still going strong. Foredom offers a complete line of parts, accessories, etc., even for the discontinued models like mine. Highly recommended, an industrial tool, rather than hobby or consumer tool.

When I acquired mine there were few other options; since then there is some competition, but for a working tool, sometimes running for hours at a time, I would recommend the Foredom.

Burrs, cutters, saws, grind stones, carbide cutters, HSS cutters; there a lot of sources. Dremel has become ubiquitous, and I use a lot of their tools. Dental supply houses are a good source for the tiny burrs I use for cleaning off sprue from castings.

My little corner, where I do a lot of my work, carving grinding ad infinitum. The Foredom tool with the variable speed foot controller.


More on Gesso. Addenda 4-13-13

Gesso tools, microwave, rubber bowl for mixing in the whiting, etc., jar of gesso, salt, a battered brush and a knife for mixing.

My colleague on the Picture Frame Labels blog, Framewright Richard Christie has a recent post about applying a size coat before gesso. Previously, here, I've talked about my approach to gesso, and though Richards method is traditional, I think my method works as well. My gesso is thin, or light on the ratio of whiting to glue mix, as I will spray the final coats. When I brush on what is essentially a size coat, I really work the gesso mix into the wood, scrubbing it in and when the brush starts to drag, I will add more liquid to keep it working, finally "licking" it all out. The idea is to have an even, thin coat. Because I work it, there is ample penetration; with the whiting in the mix I can see where the coating is heavy or light. There are, I believe some recipes that call for different glue to water ratios for the size coats and the actual gesso; I don't believe that is necessary.

Richards method adds a second size coat. My feeling is that coat will not penetrate or soak into the wood more than the first, as the wood has already taken up the moisture from the first coat, and dried. The second coat would need to liquify the previous coat to penetrate more. Just my feeling, though. 

Another variation; Richard fills imperfections first. I usually leave that step to after the gesso is applied and dry. Then I fill, where I can readily see the problems, using either a putty made from the gesso mix, (liquid gesso, with more whiting added to make a putty) or sometimes just commercial spackle. The imperfections are primed, and the materials are compatible, though I doubt wood filler used on the bare wood is a problem. Just a different approach. 

As to which method is best, or a more sound practice, is probably not easily answerable, with out a healthy addition of time. The advantages for me, of readily seeing the quality of the first coat; with the working and licking off, out weigh any advantages, perceived or otherwise, of the traditional approach, and what may be a slightly sounder method.

Addendum: I started spraying gesso after noticing the signs on some antique frames. I had the equipment, but I had never read about spraying gesso, but I went ahead. It does appear to be fairly common, though. Another method is what appears to be moldings that have been dipped in a tank of gesso. They have a very thick gesso, that covers the whole molding. It's pretty easy to work out a methodology for doing so, either as stick molding or even completed frames. Stick would probably be easier and more efficient, and I'm sure a similar method was used for the heavy antique frames using cast plaster ornamentation. 

Moisture meters, addenda 4-14-13

My moisture meter, a Mini-Ligno, from Lignomat. A fairly common, pin type meter, still available as above, and also with a digital readout. 

In the above two pictures, a reading from the face of a recently gessoed frame element, showing 14%. The bottom picture shows a reading from the side, ungessoed at 6%. The wood was at 6% when I started to mill it. I like to be at 6-8% at the start. A pin type meter does leave pin holes, but they are easily filled, and there are always parts of a frame where the holes do not matter. For my purposes, this meter is more than accurate enough. 

I think having the wood at a low level to begin reduces cracking at the miters. Patience helps, in waiting for the frames to properly dry after gesso is applied, because any cracking can be filled before the finish is applied.

Addenda: I've owned both pin and pinless meters, and there are pros and cons to both. Since I like to read the wood before I start milling, a pin meter works better. The roughness of the wood can lead to poor readings with the pinless meter. The large sensor pad also makes it very difficult to do the kind of reading I'm doing on the gessoed frame in the top photo just above. Pinless meters tend to be more expensive, and also require some skill in their use. But, they will allow for a quick reading of a whole board, to see if it's consistent. ( This can be done with a pin meter; it just takes longer, and leaves a lot of holes. ) They also penetrate more than the small pins on the Lignomat above, though larger pins can be substituted. The unit above comes with two sets of different length pins, though MC will be read from the highest MC. To get core lumber readings, long, insulated pins are needed. I'm not concerned about core readings, as the lumber I'm using has been stored in a sheltered space, and is probably pretty consistent through out after it has had some time to acclimate. 

Or, one could take the Steinway piano approach. They store lumber in an open yard for quite some time, before being brought inside to acclimate again. The idea is that by the time the lumber is brought in, it will have done all the warping, woofing ( see here ) cupping, checking, shrinking, splitting, and what's left will be good, well behaved lumber. We don't need no stinkin moisture meter!


The War is Over. The American Civil War.

The McLean house, Appomattox Court House, Virginia. Here, April 9th., 1865 General Robert E. Lee surrenders The Army of Northern Virginia to Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant.

The Wikipedia article.



Bloomington, Indiana Courthouse with War Monument in foreground.

A detail of an eroded Abraham Lincoln tableau, Bloomington.

And some shots of The Indianapolis Soldiers and Sailors Monument. Click on the label "Civil War" at right for more on this and some other monuments, as well as some images from when "Victory" or "Lady Liberty" was down from her lofty height for some restoration work.

Bison and bears. The tarnish on the bison is from water. In warmer weather, the monument is a fountain, with a small stream issuing from the bison's mouth.

A very nice "Deco" building in the background.

I like this image as it shows the "exaggerated" forms of large scale sculpture, which look, when viewed from a distance, normal.

Another, bears, bison, and Indiana's Capitol building, far background. I've never been quite sure of what it is the bears are doing.