Monday, August 12, 2013

Chicago Kitchen Job

Some time back we received a call from a designer who wanted us to supply marquetry surfaces for a kitchen remodel in Chicago.  Although this is not our normal market or business, we agreed to make the panels and began designing some classical motifs which we thought would work.

There were many cabinet doors and some large panels which were made from cherry, and we asked that they be sent to us so we could apply the marquetry here.

When they arrived, we were surprised to see that they were already finished.  They had a deep cherry stain with a blue cast, probably due to the synthetic finish which was used.  Our challenge was to match the finish of the cherry on the marquetry panels which we were making.

Normally, we build our panels face down on Kraft paper, and then use cold water to remove the paper after the panels are in place.  However, the only way we could match the cherry color was by using water based dyes.  Therefore, we had to find a way to assemble the panels to avoid any water cleanup.  If we used water, the cherry dye would migrate into our marquetry, which included lots of lighter woods, and we wanted to keep it clean.

Therefore, we experimented with clear sticky shelf paper, purchased at the local Home Depot.  It had a slight tack, and we thought we could use it to hold the designs (face down, of course) while we did our glue up.

It worked fairly well.  We had some issues that needed to be worked out.  But it worked.

Here is a VIDEO of Patrice and I applying Old Brown Glue to one of the marquetry panels and placing it in the press.  We did this operation each time for each door and panel.  It worked fine and we were able to remove the tape and shelf paper without using any water from the surface.

When the panels arrived from Chicago, they were in a beautiful plywood shipping crate, which was as strong as any shipping crate I have ever seen.  We placed the doors and panels back into the same crate and shipped them back to Chicago for the client.  We received a call after a few days and it was the client, who said, "I have some good news and some bad news."

It seems that the good news was that the marquetry was perfect and just what they wanted.  The bad news was that the crate was smashed in shipping and all the doors had to be remade.  Only the marquetry center panels survived.

Shipping companies always seem to amaze me with their creativity.


Anonymous said...

And did the builder apply the same synthetic finish over your panels as was applied to the doors?

W. Patrick Edwards said...

Yes. Everything worked fine in the end. The client was pleased and her new kitchen had a certain elegance not usually found in homes these days.

Anonymous said...

Is there a reason you prefer your press over a vacuum bag?

Anonymous said...

I asked the question about why you don't use vacuum to suck down the panel but I remember you only use traditional tools. You can answer the question if you want but don't feel like you must on my account.

W. Patrick Edwards said...

When I worked in Physics I used a lot of different and highly sophisticated vacuum systems. In fact, when I built a linear electron accelerator and won the Science Fair Senior Division, I built a very good vacuum system from antique refrigerator motors. It turns out that the brand of refrigerator, made in the 1950s, used a motor which was very well made, and, if operated properly, could pull a nice vacuum. I hooked up two of these motors in series and made it work.

Years ago, when the Furniture Society held its conference in San Diego, Paul Schurch came to my shop and we both held a one day seminar on veneering applications. When Paul was packing up to leave, I asked him if I could buy his vacuum system, as I did not have one.

Mostly Patrice uses that system, and I use the manual system.

There are several reasons I prefer the manual:
1. It doesn't make noise.
2. I can heat the cauls.
3. I can apply pressure only where I want to.
4. I can leave something in the press as long as I want to.
5. Due to the size, I can use it for several projects at the same time.
6, It has lasted 40 years and will last forever.

Negative features:
1. Takes up space.
2. Costly to build initially.

So, It's not a philosophical thing. It just makes sense.

Anonymous said...

Ok. last question. How do you decide which glue to use? On this you used Old Brown Glue, on the post below this one, hide glue was used. Is there a rhyme or reason to this. Is one stronger than the other? Is one more easily reversed than the other?
It would appear the open times of the two projects are similar but you chose to use one glue over the other.

W. Patrick Edwards said...

Both the Old Brown Glue and the hot hide glue pot are similar in many ways. Both need to be heated to use and cure by loss of moisture and heat over time.

The hot glue pot needs to be cooked at 140 degrees and provides a very fast tack, as it quickly sets by loss of heat and then, over time, moisture. It is much more difficult to clean up, and you need a sharp chisel to remove the squeeze out. It will often damage a nice old finish if it is left on the surface, as it sticks to everything.

I use it for gluing up panels in the heated manual press, since I can control the heat and pressure manually for best results. I also use it for rubbed joints and hammer veneering. It is essential to use for assembling marquetry panels on the assembly board, due to the fast tack.

The Old Brown Glue is made from the same protein glue (192 gram strength Milligan and Higgins) but sets much slower and therefore has a long open time for working complicated projects. It is much easier to clean up with cold water, and never damages delicate finishes, since I can use just a wet sponge or paper towel to wash it off. It cures over time by loosing moisture, both into the wood and also into the environment, so actual cure time varies.

I have used OBG every day for over 20 years on just about every type of application. It has replaced the hot glue pot generally. However, I still cook the glue pot for specific applications where it is best.