Friday, March 14, 2008

The Decorative Edge

Painting chairs has always been challenging to me. Not because of the covering of the wood grain, I like the unified silhouette of a painted chair. I see painted chairs as belonging to two different concepts. One, normally a layered black on red, seeks to give the impression of a patina or stain, which gives the impression of age and a stately "wood" appearance. The other is a distinct color choice, such as green, red or blue that shouts, "I've been painted".

Coming from a fine arts painting background, the latter choice has always been more difficult for me. Perhaps I know all too well the potential for drawing attention to a poor choice!

Recently, I have been continuing to develop my line of rod back chairs, and this little side chair seemed a perfect candidate for some risk taking in the paint department.

First, I used a few undercoats of the Real Milk Paint company's goldenrod and then a mix of reddish brown. I then finished it with the peacock mixed with a little of the conifer green. If you haven't tried the paint from this company, I recommend that you do. It is a very different paint. At first I was turned off by the more matte finish, but the wonderful colors, bullet proof results and ease of use drew me back. I've been promising myself that one day I'd work to find a way to use this paint for it's strengths, and here I am.

After achieving the color and finish that I wanted, something seemed to be missing. I have toyed with the idea of using decorative detailing on a chair ever since Curtis Buchanan's birdcage chair inspired me to become a chairmaker.

My resistance has been twofold, not knowing what to paint, and not being adept at decorative painting. But fools rush in right?! So I did some practice painting on some scrap with the goldenrod and found my confidence growing. I am pleased with the results, it really pulls the chair together and my wife said that it is her new favorite. Talk about a review that counts!

Here are some more details. Much like the surface shaping in my chairs that reveal the handwork as you look closer, I wanted the details to break down into simple almost crude strokes up close. However, from a few feet away they fall right in line.

I will go into more detail about the Real Milk Paint company product soon, it's a worthy topic.

On the syrup front, below is a photo of three jars. The middle one is the syrup that I made today, a little under a gallon in about 8 hours, not bad for a homemade rig. The two used pans that I picked up sped the process but more importantly, increased the quality of the syrup beyond my wildest expectations.

Syrup is graded by color. The lighter the syrup the higher the quality. On the right in the photo is store bought grade A amber. This is the best stuff you can get in the grocery store and is about $16 a quart. You'll notice that the bottles are always thin and wide, which makes the syrup look lighter. On the left in the photo is the syrup that I made in my previous deep pans. I think that the depth of the pans caused the heat to dissipate too slowly and the syrup to degrade slightly to a darker tone. I'll use this as cooking syrup. The success of the new pans seems to be due to their shallow depth (I kept about an inch or two maximum boiling) which allows the bubbles to reach the surface quickly and give off their steam without scorching the syrup.

It is hard to describe the difference in taste. Some folks prefer the heavier taste of the darker syrups, but the lighter, more delicate flavor of the higher grades has almost a buttery flavor. I am excited for the next batch, although, the quality of the syrup tends to degrade as the trees get closer to budding, but then of course, it is truly spring and you won't find me complaining.


Unknown said...

Pete- Nice detail! You have put decoration in alot of places, but it doesnt detract from the overall aesthetic. I really like the line and decoration on the front of the seat - tres cool!

Are you using a special brush for the detail, perhaps a dog hair brush, aged in the leaves decaying in your forest? And of course the brush handle would be a scrap from the woodpile :}


rocking R rustics said...

I was walking past the syrup isle a couple days ago and seen a bottle of Pure Maple syrup. It was only 8 oz but it only cost 5 dollars. It said pure maple surup from Canada. It tasted ok. But at only $5 it makes me kinda suspicious.

Mike Billeci said...

I know what you mean about a buttery flavor. Homemade syrup is in a class of its own. We started making syrup a couple of years ago... also starting with Rink Mann's book. Our rigs look amazingly similar - go figure! It's funny, though... we prefer the more mapley flavor that you get near the end of the season, just before the sap goes 'buddy'. The early/light syrup, we use for cooking! I also added forced-air to my rig last year - it made a big difference. If you haven't found it yet, there are forums at that are very helpful. At the very least, you get to see when others in your area start tapping. The excitement in the forum is palpable come late winter. Everyone is raring to go! Mike

Peter Galbert said...

great tip on the maple trader, I've just about burned out my steel drum and am looking to go a little more permanent (I'm hooked). I think that the fall sap is probably running right now, but work work work..I've taken the time off in the spring to fully indulge my obsession!