Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Don Williams on True Traditional French Polish

Don Williams, who for 28 years has worked as a furniture conservator and scholar at the nation's largest cultural institution in Washington, D.C., gave a presentation to the Chesapeake Chapter of the Society of American Period Furniture Makers in April on traditional French polish.

Many of us have been under the misapprehension that French polish involves shellac, which instead refers to an English polish. True French polish is a wax finish.

While translating the book To Make As Perfectly As Possible by AndrĂ© Roubo (available by Christmas from Lost Art Press), Don discovered what to most of us is a long forgotten tool that was used in French polishing—a broom straw burnisher.  He's convinced that this wax and burnisher technique was used in 18th-century high style European marquetry.

Don stopped by my shop last week on his way to the Martin J. Donnelly antique tool auction, and I offered to film him demonstrating French polishing.

I also invited a friend over to watch. In other words, the male voice you hear in the background is not me with a cold.

If being period accurate is important to you, or this technique simply seems like something you'd like to try, you can make your own straw burnisher, find a broom maker to make one for you, or order one from Don for $12, plus shipping. In any case, both ends of the burnisher can be used.

You can contact Don at donsbarn250@msn.com.  Eventually, he plans to offer more products and information based on this newly rediscovered knowledge.*

The video is in real time so you can see how much time he spends on each part of the technique, but listen carefully because he offers loads of valuable information while he's working.

To view the video in HD on YouTube, click here.

*I do not benefit in any way from the sale of Don's burnishers or any future product he plans to offer.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Vintage Roy

When I first became interested in woodworking 20 years ago, I relied on Norm to teach me how to build things.  But besides the New Yankee Workshop, there was another show I watched regularly—The Woodwright's Shop.

I was a power tool junkie back then, so I couldn't figure out why I was so intrigued with this guy Roy. He built things with antique hand tools and talked about old ways of working wood—things which were outside of my purview. But there was something Andy Taylor about him that I found very appealing.

I liked his southern accent and conversational style, and his Mayberry charm made the day's stress disappear.

On Roy's shows, he talks about self-reliance and human-powered energy—things that seem to be making a comeback. His episodes are still relevant, entertaining, and educational.

Popular Woodworking Magazine is working to make all of Roy's shows available to us, including the early episodes of The Woodwright's Shop—episodes that most of us have probably never seen and to which we would never otherwise have access.  Until now you could only watch his current episodes on TV, if your local station carries it, or the past few seasons on the PBS website.

So far, PopWood has made the first three seasons available and is planning to add one new season each month. There are several ways to view Roy's shows based on your style.

If you're like me and watch a program only once or twice, the six month streaming option (where you can watch any of Roy's videos as often as you like for six months for $69.99) might be best for you. If you're only interested in watching a couple shows from each season, then you can rent the individual episodes as you would any movie (i.e., you do not own them). And third, if you like to watch shows a number of times and want to develop a reference video library of traditional craft, then you might want to buy the DVD of each season.

You can preview every episode before you make your choices, which is awesome.  Another great thing is you can watch the videos on your iPad, which means you can watch Roy anytime.  And that means I can bring my iPad to Sunday night dinners at my parents' house and opt out of watching Lawrence Welk reruns. (You think I'm kidding?)

For answers to how the various options work, go here.

To watch (for free) The Woodwright's Shop 20th Anniversary episode, go here.

For 32 years, Roy has been animating traditional craft with wit and homespun appeal. He's become part of our history as a woodworking community, and I'm glad we'll be able to share that history with future generations.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Interview with Ravinheart

Thank you to Andrew Detloff for having me as a guest on his Ravinheart podcast

Andrew is a woodworker in Wisconsin who builds and blogs about his projects, writes book reviews, and conducts interviews with other woodworkers. He plans to host a number of episodes with Hendrik Varju.