Saturday, July 24, 2010

Time to prepare for Halloween

Halloween is my favorite decorating holiday of the year. Ever since the time I was a child trick-or-treating and came across a neighbor's yard decorated like a cemetery I was smitten. In my growing up years (and beyond) it was one of my dreams to have a house with a front yard in a neighborhood where I could decorate and people would come by the house on Halloween. Now I have that yard, and I decorate it. Every year I work to make it a little better.

It takes months of preparation, working intermittently when I am not at work or doing other things, to make more decorations. In 2008 I made some tall skinny crosses for a graveyard. They look great, come apart for easy storage, and are useful for a variety of Halloween themes.

How I made them:

I used inexpensive 1 x 2 inch lumber, cut the pieces to desired lengths for the cross shapes, then used a dado blade in a table saw to quickly cut lap joints. I allowed some slop in the joints to account for the space taken by the paint.

To get the aged look I first painted all the wood black. Then I painted it with a crackle glaze I purchased at the hardware store in the paint department. Finally I painted the wood with a very light gray paint. White paint would have been too bright for the aged look I was attempting but the grey appears to be white but is not too bright.

In the picture below I have three pieces of wood. One is black with the clear crackle glaze, the middle piece is wood that had just been painted with the light gray but has not started to crackle, and the third piece is a piece that has been painted and partially dried and crackled.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Anatomy of an antique church pew

As mentioned in a previous post, I bought some 100 year old church pews from a Church in San Francisco that is remodeling. All they had left were the longest pews at over 20 feet. That is too long to be useful, or even to transport, so I cut them in order to load them on a trailer and now they are at my house.

I always like to see how things are made, and my cutting of the pews allowed me to see how they were constructed; it wasn't what I might have guessed. Because the pews were centered around an altar in a corner of a room instead of the front (do Methodists call their center of attention an altar? I don't know), the pews were built curved to fit the room. I imagine there was some industrial steam powered wood bending machinery involved. What I thought interesting is that they appeared to have made a "lumber sandwich" and instead of using 3 pieces of wood they split one piece in two and sandwiched a different wood inbetween. That way the grain is the same on the front and back of the finished bench. What a thoughtful method of construction. Not like the frankenlumber you see today in furniture. Also note that the thicker top of the bench back is different pieces fitted together. The seat of the bench is small pieces fitted together and shaped for comfortable sitting.

My plan is to leave one end of each pew intact, saw to desired length, then attach another end to the other side, resulting in something that looks like the original, only shorter. The person selling the benches told me there were a bunch of shorter ones that fit in corners, but all the shortest ones were the first to go. Only the long ones remained as they were only useful to someone with access to a woodworker. So here I am, the "junior woodworker" as my BF calls me; ready, willing, and hopefully able to take this project. I've set myself a deadline for end of summer to get this done. Luckily the finish has a lovely patina that I don't want to mess with. I'll have to repair some scratches and scrape the gum off the underside and not much else.