Sunday, May 11, 2014

In the shop: Painting the lady

If you've read previous entries, (And have a memory that works maybe a little better than mine!) you will remember that I added a little bling to the van recently in the form of some shiny new window covers.

I guess that got me on a roll because now I've painted the lady. But only a little bit. Not enough that anyone's going to label her a hussy just yet. Just enough to give her a little color, a touch of an accent, a temporary focal point to catch and hold the wandering eye for a moment. Not that I mind a little hussy now and then mind you, but - well - that's one of those things you want to enjoy but don't want to be seen enjoying, a lot like that second donut you snuck off the plate in the break room and snarfed down while hiding behind the monitor in your office.

Anyway, ever since I brought the van home there's been this blank spot at the aft end of the kitchen counter that I've been threatening to do something with, and now I've finally gone and done it.

We have an artist here in Texas - OK, we have tons of artists here in Texas, but in the context of what I'm up to here I'm referring to one in particular, George Boutwell - who, in addition to being a prolific painter of things Texan and named Texas State artist of the year in 2006, has a background in printing and is a master marketer. All of which means poor smucks, average joes, can afford to own some of his works in the form of the many prints he produces from his pricy originals. And I'm one of those smucks.

In fact I have a half dozen, roughly 8x10, prints of his that I bought years ago with a project like this in mind. So, while in the throes of roldom following the bling project, I jumped right into this 'paint the lady' project.

So the idea here is to make a simple frame in such a way that I can rotate through my prints as the mood strikes. I initially thought of using some of the same Bird's Eye Maple that I used for the cabinet doors but decided it would be alright to use something else instead, something that made it's own statement. I poked around the shop and found a couple rough-sawn boards I had cut from one of the Red Heart Cedars we had taken down on the property years ago when clearing space for the barn.

A couple of passes over the jointer followed by several more passes through the planer took most, but not all of the rough out of the boards. I didn't want the frame to be too refined so made sure to leave just a hint of a couple chainsaw scars showing.

By now the boards were getting a little thin to be making rabbets in them to set the prints into so I ran them through the table saw and came up with two wide boards which will be the main part of the frame and two narrow ones which will glue to the back of the wide boards forming the rabbet as well as a bit of edge detail.

I struck a line on the back of the wide boards marking where the edge of the narrow board would sit. The x's are to make sure I put the narrow board on the proper side of the line! Seems like that would be an easy thing to keep straight but in the heat of a glue-up things can get away from you. I speak from experience!

Then carefully glued and clamped the two boards together and repeated with the other set so I ended up with two long rabbeted boards from which to cut the four sides of the frame.

Once the glue had set up, (Just barely! Usually I let glue-ups like this sit for 24 hours to make sure they've reached full strength. I was impatient today and I think I gave the glue all of 2 hours to do it's thing.) I cut one end of each glue-up at a 45 so I could measure the length down to the next cut. Whenever possible I avoid using tape measures and rulers for measuring as it's more accurate to use the actual part/item. In this case the matted print, but that was painful. It meant I had to cut the shrink wrap they've been protected in for more years than I can remember!

And now I have to be careful and keep track of the card that is glued to a separate piece of mat-board and gives a little explanation of each print. It wouldn't be cool to get them all mixed up now!

But back to the business at hand. Using the print I marked where I needed to make the next cut then transferred that mark with my speed square

Closed one eye and carefully lined mine mark up with the blade on the table saw, held my breath and cut.

One last check to make sure I haven't screwed up. (OK you can breathe again.)

Then I use the first piece to measure and cut the second.

Repeat for the short sides and a dry fit seems to show everything is good. This is a view of the front of the frame and you can see how the pieces in the back that form the rabbet also have about a 1/4 inch reveal around the outside edges to give the simple frame a touch of architecture, simple but classy.

   The frame is designed to pull off the wall in order to change out the prints, this way the prints have no way of getting loose on rough roads. For that I'm going to use that wonderful invention, the Command Strip. But. . . These things do have some thickness to them and I don't want the frame standing out from the wall that far. That would be especially obvious with a smallish frame like this.

When the two halves of the strip are mated together they are just over 1/8th inch thick

So the plan is to recess the frame side of the strip right at 1/8th inch. That way there's enough left over to ensure the two halves mate when pressed together but the frame will also be pretty tight against the wall. To do this I marked off the area for the recess on each of the short, or vertical parts of the frame, and gently scored on the lines with a chisel.

Normally my first instinct would be to use some sort of power tool to cut the recess because - well - I've got a lot of them and what good are they if you don't use them? But for such small recesses, especially in a fairly soft wood such as Cedar, the setup time for power tools would make the process longer than just doing it by hand. So I grabbed my trusty 1/2 inch chisel, a very sharp chisel never used for rough work, put a freshly honed edge on it and got down to work.

It only took a few minutes of careful shaving, checking with a 1/8th inch brass setup bar as I went, to finish the recesses.

And finally it was time for glue-up. First a dry fit, shown in the photo above, then some wax paper, to keep things that aren't supposed to stick to the workbench from sticking to the workbench, some glue and my strap clamp. No fasteners needed. I don't use this strap clamp very often but when I do it's pretty much the only thing that's going to work short of building a gluing jig.

After the glue set up, again only about 2 hours as I was on a roll and intended to get this finished in a day, a little hand sanding down to 220 and a quick finish of mineral oil. Mineral oil is a non-hardening oil that you wipe generously into the grain, let sit a half hour or so, then give the whole thing one last swipe with a clean, soft rag and you're done. The oil brings out the color and grain and leaves a nice soft satin sheen. To refresh the finish grab the rag that's draped over the bottle of mineral oil over there on the shelf and give the piece another swipe. Because mineral oil is non-hardening the rag will still be wet even months later. (But if you ever decide you want a different finish on a piece done with mineral oil you will have to use a solvent and float all the mineral oil out of the grain before any other finish will stick and not go cloudy.)

I was careful not to oil the back of the frame so that the Command strips would stick and the frame wouldn't leave oily marks on the wall.

While waiting for the oil to soak in I went out to the van and gauged how high up off the counter I wanted the frame to sit then cut a couple of scraps to that length for gauge blocks. With one half of the adhesive Command Strip stuck firmly into the recesses in the back of the frame and the 'wall' half 'click locked' to those, I pulled off the paper protecting the adhesive then, carefully holding the frame tilted slightly away from the wall, I rested the bottom of it on my gauge blocks then tipped it into the wall and pressed. Following directions (Yes, even I can manage to do that once in a while!) I held it tightly in place for about 30 seconds, then another 30 just to make sure, before prying the frame away from the wall just to make sure everything was functioning as planned.

And there you have it. The lady's been gussied up a little. Like adding just a hint of eye shadow with a few flecks of glitter in it.

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