Monday, October 24, 2016

Half Way Update

I have been at the State University of New York at Purchase, just north of White Plains since early October thanks to a grant that gives me the opportunity to make new works without the pressure of making a living. My time here ends in mid December. It's been an eye opening experience. The energy of the students here at the art school is inspiring and brings me back to my own time in art school 20 years ago! I teach 3 hours a week and have a studio space next to the wood shop where I get lots of interaction with the school community.
Besides chairs, I've been making small sculptures from cherry logs, carving them with embedded objects. Splitting logs is always exciting for what one can find, so I thought I'd add a bit of my own drama

I've had lots of great things happening lately. Next year I will be continuing to teach at North Bennet Street in Boston and am happy to be lecturing again at the conference at Colonial Williamsburg in February. Some of you may recall that I helped Dave Sawyer and Curtis Buchanan present there about 10 years ago. I think that the Old Yankee and Young Whippersnapper routine that Dave and I played out endeared me to the organizers. I recently visited Dave in Vermont, and while his health is not so great, I was thrilled to see that his son George continues to practice the craft and that the environment is still charged with that special aura of slow engagement that changed my life. You can read more about Dave and George in issue 2 of Mortise and Tenon Magazine.
I also have a video coming out that my friends at Lie-Nielsen produced. It's in the can and I am just awaiting all the logistics to work out before I can offer the release date. It's was fun to make and I am very happy with the content. It focuses on green woodworking and the project is based on one of Dave's firewood carriers. More to come.

I've also been lucky enough to get a section in Nick Offermans new book "Good Clean Fun". Nick is best known for his character on the TV show "Parks and Recreation" and for being married to Megan Mullally (he'll appreciate the attribution). Last December, while in Boston for a play, he took my chairmaking class and I can honestly say that he was one of my most enthusiastic students. He is using his public position to shine a light on the value of craft and craftspeople as well as setting forth a very useful philosophy on good living. I've been listening to his books while in the shop and I highly recommend them (not just the one that I'm in).

On the tool front, I have been sorely remiss in not updating the blog. While Tim and Claire have continued to crank out amazing tools (these are solely their businesses and I am their best client), I have ceased the wholesale selling of my caliper. My retailers have been great partners for many years, but the margins on the tool are basically nonexistent when I sell through them, so I've chosen to sell the caliper solely through my website after I return from the residency here in NY. For all those looking to purchase one, thanks for your patience and check my site just before Xmas for details.

And for all my friends out there who have been following all the changes in my personal life, I'd like to bring you up to date. It's been a year since the unexpected loss of my dear Lily and sadly, Rockets health took a turn recently and Claire bravely gave her friend up to peace. For those who don't know, after my divorce, I had both dogs and Claire was working with me at my house in Sterling. Her bond with Rocket was unlike any I've ever seen. So when she moved south, it was obvious that Rocket should go with. It was a great choice and Rocky lived out his days in such good care and love that we should all be jealous. I got to see him a few times in the last year and it was always great to see him living the good life as the happy scoundrel that he always was.

I am excited to go back home to Boston and start looking for another dog to adopt.

So many of you visited me in my years with Sue that I wanted to let you know that we remain friends and that we have both found new partners to share our lives.  I am proud of both of us and will always be the person that she helped me become.

I am lucky to be celebrating my two year anniversary next month (boy does time fly!) with the lovely Stephanie Hubbard. She is a landscape architect with Site-Creative, a firm she started 10 years ago in Boston and our life together brings me great joy.
I won't prattle on, although I really want to, but suffice it to say, especially for all those who were so supportive in the transitions of years past, I am very happy, so thanks for helping me along. If you want to see Stephanie in action, visit the archive shows of "This Old House" as she was a regular contributor in the past.
Thanks for continuing to read Chair Notes, obviously I've been hunkered down with many other endeavors, but if you want to keep up, please follow me as I post more often on Instagram under  petergalbert. Yes it's the lazy man's blog, but I'm not too proud.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

About the Oil

I get asked a lot about the oil that I use, and over the years I've used many different types. One mix that I've often returned to is a spar varnish, raw tung (or linseed) and mineral spirit mix. The next question that I get asked is usually about the proportions, which is perfectly natural.
But the answer that I feel compelled to offer isn't as easy as a the question. I think that it's more important to understand that each of these three components play a role and depending on where I am in the finishing process or the environment that I'm working in, I might change it up a bit.
First, the spar varnish. This is the tough flexible finish that dries to form the shine and water resistance. But, left alone, it is way to sticky, thick and fast drying. So to slow it down to the point that I can lay on a thin layer, I add the raw oil, which goes on smoothly but if applied alone would take way to long for my patience to build and dry. But mixing these two together gives a mix that is akin to the thickness of honey, so I add mineral spirits to make it flow. If it's the first coat and my goal is to flood the oil on and have it soak in, then a generous amount of mineral spirits is a good idea, but for later coats that I pad on and wipe off the surface quickly, then a thicker mix works fine. Often, I'll burnish the chair before the final coat and use more raw oil in the last mix to get a "softer" look. I don't wax my chairs because I've seen trouble with body heat causing clouding, but maybe I just don't know how to use it or have used the wrong stuff.

So as far as I'm concerned, there is no magic mix. I suppose that the simple way to put it is that whatever you do, you are gonna end up with a basic finish made up of cured oil, and using the different elements is simply an opportunity to guide the process. I usually start with leaning towards too much spar and fill in the other elements to get the consistency and time that the project and weather call for. I always check my rag to see how long it takes to harden, if it isn't hard after a night of drying, add more spar.

And of course, dispose of rags in a safe way to prevent spontaneous combustion!!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A Fine Time

I just returned from the Lie-Nielsen open house in Maine and, as usual, I can't say enough about the host and all the other makers. It's the one show that I go to every year and it's a great chance to see my friends and get feedback on new work. I highly recommend going.
 Here is a rocker that I finished in preparation for the show. I fumed it in ammonia as you see in the tent below.
Here is the before and after. I went darker than usual, just to see what the results would be like, I think it suits the design nicely.
Here is one of my favorite details. I've been wanting to make a crest like this for some time, and I think it will be appearing in my chairs more often.

Here you can see the oil going on over the fumed wood, I don't think the video will play, but the image say it all.  I fumed it overnight to get this color with regular household ammonia.