Saturday, March 27, 2010

From Ireland to Here and Back Again

Hugh Rogan was an Irish immigrant who settled here in Sumner county back in the late 18th century. He settled the community of Rogana near Bethpage Tn. You can see his original stone house above.Hugh was responsible for bringing Catholics to this area. His son built a second home in the early 19th century. The National Museums of Northern Ireland have purchased this 2nd historic home to dismantle and ship to Ireland to be re-assembled. This is where I come in. Several of us have been commisioned to build furniture from that period based on records from Sumner county to complete the restoration. I will be building a settee based on one fron 1828 that use to sit on the porch of Wynnewood. This is a historic home that was damaged by a tornado 3 years ago. With the help of John Garrott I was able to measure the original settee which was also damaged and in storage. Below is the settee pictured at the bottom of the page out of the book "The Art & Mystery of Tennessee Furniture Makers before 1850".

Pictured below is the condition the settee is in now. It is in great need of repair but I am able to get enough measurements to make a reproduction.
I mentioned John Garrott who at 82 years old could probably work circles around me. He started the Sumner county museum back in the 70's. He is involved with a lot of historic sights in this area. Now he makes reproductions of 18th and 19th century furniture. You can see John below showing me the chair he made for the Hugh Rogan house(pictured at top) which was moved to the Bledsoe Creek historic sight. John made most of the furniture in this house.
The settee has to be completed by late April to be shipped over to Ireland. I will post on the progress soon.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Going Green

I decided to try a green chair this week. The culprit is a fan back you see below. After careful cleaning and scraping I mix a thinned up amount of "barn red" milk paint. About a 70/ 30 mix with warm water and let it sit for half hour or so. You can use the anti-foam agent to reduce the frothing while mixing.Filter the mix through cheese cloth to get a smooth finish.

I brush the chair while keeping a wet edge and trying to keep consistent surface quality. Brush with the grain. Remember the saying, if you aren't looking at it you might not be painting it. Milk paint dries really fast so try not to overlap over dry areas. The first coat will raise some grain so I usually sand very lightly with 220 to break those little fibers for the next coat of red. The second thin coat of red will give a good base for the green.

The "Lexington Green" milk paint is mixed the same way as before. While waiting for the paint to settle I buff out the red with 0000 steel wool. Don't go crazy here because too much buffing might cause some adhesion problems for the green. Carefully paint the coat of green and try to flow the paint on evenly. Try to resist over brushing the areas. Out of habit I paint every coat in this order:chair flipped, legs, stretchers, underside edge of seat, flip chair upright, comb, spindles, deck, then seat. I also allow a day between each coat. Don't rush it because I think it helps the paint to cure a little better to prevent reactivating soft paint with the next coat. I stopped with one coat of green because I liked the look of the red showing through. A thinner second coat would look good too. Seen below is after buffing with 0000 steel wool. This coat I buff really good. If your hands don't hurt then rub some more.

Now if you like what you have then you can put on a finish such as linseed oil, shellac, or a mix of varnish and oil. I decided to play around and use a one pound cut of shellac as a sealer. I just reduced a "new" can of premixed shellac with 50% denatured alcohol. The Zinser brand is dewaxed and works fine if it's fresh.
After 12-15 hours brush on a thin coat of "burnt umber" oil paint. It helps to thin this with some paint thinner to flow on better. This is a glaze technique which after about 15-20 minutes you wipe it all off leaving the oil paint in all the details of the chair. I use a clean rag and go slow to look at every place to make a consistent appearance. After wiping down, let this sit for several days to cure. The final step is 2 thin coats of shellac which is rubbed out with 0000 steel wool and paste wax. This knocks down the high gloss and gives that silky touch to the chair.

I think I could change the way I finish each chair everytime. I am always changing something in the process. You should never be afraid of change because that next new thing you try just might be that perfect finish you have been looking for. Good luck and happy painting.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Goodbye Tyvek

The continuing good weather has once again forced me to be outside working on the shop. As you can see the "Hardie plank" siding is going up. This stuff has concrete in it and is eating my carbide blades at a fast pace. The siding comes this color and I will paint to taste later. It's looking more like a house all the time but I am glad to finally cover the Tyvek wrap.
Well, thanks to 11 hard working students and the amazing direction of Peter Galbert there are 10 more windsor chairs in the world. One husband and wife team made a chair together. All the students worked well together and stayed on pace. Pete has a way of making things make since to non chairmakers. We all had a great time and Kelly Mehler seemed very pleased how the week went. I look forward to working with Pete in the future.