Friday, August 16, 2013

Mr. Lecount Gets Fitted For A Bonnet

Le Count Ready For Fitting
I have spent several days this week fitting the Lecount works to the case, which is assembled without the bonnet.  I prefer to make the bonnet last, as I don't work from plans, and need to see where the works end up to actually put the top together.  It is important the bonnet fits exactly right, since its primary purpose is to keep the dust away from the works, and it needs to be a relatively airtight fit.

As I said in earlier posts, my method for making tall case clocks is to start with the back board. This becomes the spine of the clock and all measurements are taken from its center line.  Then I build a lower case (just a box) and fit it onto the back board.  That allows me to cut and fit the sides and front frame, which makes it easy to fit the large door properly.

The door itself has a wide overhanging molding around it, which needs to be carefully measured so the the edge of the molding clears the case when it opens.  That is why these doors have a unique type of hinge that has an offset pivot.  Also the door has an opening, the "lentical" which allows the owner to see the weights and pendulum from a distance.  In my case I am having a glass blower make a bullseye glass oval to fit in this space.

The last job for the lower case is to make and fit all the molding.  In these early cases the molding is short grain, so it is usual to cut and glue sections of short grain wood (olive) onto strips of beech or oak and make the molding lengths this way.  I am also using cherry molding which is ebonized to provide contrast, like the original clock.
Initial Fit 

Now that the case is assembled, I set up a thick piece of wood on the floor and make it absolutely level.  Standing the case on this floor allows me to properly fit the works.  I have lots of lead weights on the floor to keep it stable.  Placing the works on the cheeks of the case, I can then adjust the fit and set the crutch to make the beat even.  That means that it works perfectly in an ideal flat and level location.

However, not all homes have that ideal flat and level place for a clock.  I have made a special modification for this clock, which is not original to the 17th century.  The works are old and some of the gears are worn slightly uneven, so the beat is not always regular.   Also, the works are designed to run for 30 days, so when the weights are low enough to reach the pendulum bob, it sets up sympathetic vibrations which can act to stop the clock.  That took about 2 weeks to happen when the works were running on my test stand, which is not that stable.

I solved this problem and also the problem of making sure the case is level with a modern solution.  The round feet are turned from cherry around a large bolt.  This bolt is set into the bottom of the clock with standard "T" nuts, so the feet can be screwed up or down slightly to fit the floor.  At the same time, I made a large hollow space above the bottom board and covered it with a second "false" bottom board.  Inside this hollow space I added a fair amount of lead shot.  When you look inside the case at the "false" bottom, it looks fine.  You cannot judge the distance easily so it just looks like a standard case.  However, the addition of lead shot provides stability for the case and the loose shot absorbs any vibrations which may affect the operation of the clock.

As soon as I put the works into this case, standing on the level floor, they ran perfectly, even though the weights were all the way down into the case.  Problem solved.

Today I was able to glue together the basic bonnet, which fits nicely to the works.  During the next week, my attention will be to add all the veneer and molding which will dress it up.  I expect that the clock itself will be ready for the finishing process in a couple of weeks at most.

I cannot wait.  Either can Mr. Lecount.

The Bonnet Assembled

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.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Assembly Board Videos

Lately we have been encouraged to make more videos, and YouTube provides the perfect venue for others to see what we do and how we do it.  We are working on a series of videos which will explain the different methods for making marquetry, according to Dr. Pierre Ramond.  Those will follow as we get the time to put them together.

However, as we are building the second series of Treasure Boxes, we thought it would be nice to show how a picture is put together on an assembly board, according to the traditional French process.

I have posted previously about this method, and it is important to note that the idea of building marquetry face down in hot glue on stretched Kraft paper is something developed by the French and not usually done in other countries.  In fact, the type of Kraft paper used is not even available in America, and I have searched for it.  We import rolls of it from a company in France, and the shipping costs exceed the cost of the paper.  (Last shipment arrived by air freight, and the "friendly" customs inspector drove his fork lift over the shipment and thought that was funny.)

Anyway, the French Kraft paper is shiny on one side and dull on the other.  The shiny side resists moisture and is the side we glue to, and the dull side absorbs moisture, and is the side we apply water to to remove the paper from the marquetry when we are finished.  By applying moisture to the shiny side and allowing it to soak in for several minutes the paper expands.  Then when we wrap it around a board and glue it to the edges, it shrinks tight.  That is an assembly board.

A more exhaustive explanation of how to build an assembly board is found on this blog by searching earlier posts.  Use the search word "assembly board."

Patrice finished cutting all the pieces for the marquetry panel using the Classic Method ("piece by piece"), and we set up the camera to film the incrustation of the elements.  Each picture took about a half hour to assemble, working normally, and we speeded up the video so it takes half that time to see what goes on.

Hot hide glue is spread on the paper and the background is laid face down on the board.  Each piece is then picked up, flipped left to right and placed into its appropriate cavity.  We use a special marquetry knife to install the pieces.  It is a soft steel, so we can pry with the point without breaking the tip.

When all the pieces are in place, we clamp it under a piece of plexiglass and start over.  It is fast and easy.  Note we are using sawn veneers, which are quite thick, and you can easily hear the "click" as they plug into place.

As soon as we posted this to YouTube, we noticed that our friend, Paul Miller, had made a similar video last month.  The difference is that he is using sliced veneers, which are much thinner, and he has applied paper to the veneers before cutting them to strengthen them.  After he installs the pieces on the board, he must then carefully remove the paper with a slight amount of water and scraping to clean off the surface.

In either case, once the picture is done, we mix hot glue, hot water and fine sawdust to make a mastic.  That mastic is applied to the entire surface, which fills any gaps and holds the parts together.  Only then can the picture be cut away from the assembly board and applied to the final project.

Hope you enjoy this.  Patrice's video is HERE

Paul Miller's video is HERE