|Synthetic Glue Sucks|
Usually, when I am in a social environment and others find out I work in wood, the topic of conversation ends up with someone discussing their efforts to build a coffee table or birdhouse. It is a completely different situation at these SAPFM events. Furniture design and construction is a real passion with this group, and nothing is too esoteric or obscure to merit hours of intense dialogue.
I was an active member in the early years. I was fortunate to be asked by Roy Underhill to tape a segment on his show, The Woodwright's Shop, which required me to ship a large container of tools and materials back East. At the same time, since I was there with all my stuff, I demonstrated on stage during the SAPFM conference and made a short video for them about the chevalet.
It was interesting, since there are two back to back sessions of the "Working Wood in the 18th Century" event, and I had a conflict with the second week. Therefore, I asked Silas Kopf to stand in for me and use my props. During my presentation, I had each segment of the talk prepared in boxes ahead of time. Each box was numbered so all I had to do was reach under the bench and pull out the next box which had the materials for that segment of the talk.
I worked fine for me, since I was familiar with all the props, and had a time tested presentation developed over several years of talks at the Getty museum. It was not so easy for Silas, who does his marquetry using a completely different method.
I need to stress at this point that I think Silas is the greatest marquetry artist working in the US.
As it turned out, he made the effort to use my props and present the talk on French marquetry methods that we had agreed to. But, after about 15 minutes of his talk, he abruptly changed direction. "That's the way Patrick and the French do it. Now I want to talk about how I do it." His presentation was excellent, but not what we had planned.
I also wanted to contribute to the new Journal of the SAPFM, called "American Period Furniture." For issue #1 I wrote "Form Follows Process," which analyzed the different methods of work used by craftsmen before and after the Industrial Revolution. For issue #3 I wrote about my research into the Price Guides of the early 19th century, documenting the time required to make each aspect of furniture using hand tools, "Period Productivity".
|1820 Cuban Mahogany with 1980 Synthetic Glue|
The area which startled me involved glues. Practically every person I talked with used modern synthetic glues to make their period furniture. I could not understand this "blind spot" in an otherwise very academic group of individuals.
So I wrote an article for issue #2 called "Why Not Period Glue" I took the position that traditional glues were used for centuries and worked fine. If there was a modern glue which did something better than these traditional glues, show me the advantage and I will use it. The only one which comes to mind is epoxy, which can be used to repair metal parts. Of course epoxy should never be used for wood repairs, or worse, tortoise shell, ivory or any other material.
|Missing Tenon/ Covered in Plastic Glue|
Only those who made their living restoring antiques seemed to understand why it is important to use traditional glues.
|Cleaning Surface with Toothing Iron|
|Old Brown Glue Ready for Use|
As I removed the leg to begin the repair, it was obvious that the synthetic glue did not stick to the wood. Using a sharp chisel, I was able to pick off most of the glue chips, which came away like flakes of paint. I think of synthetic glue as a plastic, and plastic does not stick well to wood. I typically use a toothing iron to scrape away the glue residue and tooth the surface. You must be careful to not remove wood; just glue. It takes a bit of care, and the toothing iron helps.
|Tenon Replaced, Ready for OBG|
I warmed the glue, brushed it on and applied the clamps. Another antique repair done professionally, using the same glue that the original maker would have used some 200 years ago. I'm sure he would approve.
|Gigi Inspecting Protein Glue|