The Creative Process: Expanding Yourself as a Designer

The Creative Process: Expanding Yourself as a Designer

Posted in Furniture Making, News, Woodworking | 3 comments

Posted by  David J. Marks July 31, 2014   I believe that design is the ultimate frontier in woodworking.  We live in a time that finds many people with the resources to set up a shop at home. It is amazing to see how many people are able to outfit their shops with a lot of the tools they need due to the fact that the majority of power tools are now made in China and have become affordable to the masses. So once we all have shops and we all have similar tools and wood, the question is: How do we differentiate our work from someone else’s? How do we create individual designs that makes the statement that this person’s work is unique and deserves to be recognized as an object of art? Most of us take life for granted, the daily routines leave us without a sense of magic. So Imagination is the first challenge for anyone attempting to design something outside the box.   I do recommend an excellent book titled “Sparks of Genius” the thirteen thinking tools of the world’s most creative people.  You will discover that most of them had a skill for distracting their minds and playing as a way of increasing their creative skills. I believe that there are many components to good design but they are also directly related to the craftsmanship and skill of the maker.  Just like a fine painting, the excellence of and the skill of the painter is just as important as the vision of the painter. I got started in woodworking in 9th grade shop class in New Jersey where I lived until I was 20.  For reference, I was born in 1951.   I’m left handed and seemed to have a talent for art so I took art classes learning to draw throughout high school. In 1971 I moved to northern California.  By 1981, I had opened my own workshop/studio.  The following year I took classes with Art Carpenter, Gary Knox Bennett and many others from the Baulines Craft Guild located in the Bay Area of Northern California. These classes changed my life.  I was introduced to numerous techniques like using router templates, making frame and panels, working with exotic woods, bending wood, creating mock ups to hone in on design and proportions, combining metal and wood, all of which had a huge influence on my designs. I was determined to dedicate myself to increasing my skill levels until I could be considered a Master Craftsman. As the years went by, I continued to take weekend workshops with as many Master Craftsman as I could as I journeyed further and deeper into the world of contemporary furniture.    Some of those workshops were given by James Krenov, Art Carpenter, Wendell Castle, Sam Maloof , Bob Stocksdale , Gary Knox Bennett, as well as a Japanese master...

Read More

Extending the Shelf Life of Your Finishing Products

Posted in Finishing, Woodworking | 1 comment

I often get inquiries from fellow woodworkers about finishing products, particularly about the best way to extend the shelf life of various products: Hello David,  Speaking of finishes, I was never a fan of poly but I tried the wipe on poly you recommended by General Finish.  The sealer is very good and lasts a long time in the can, but the other poly products (gloss and semi) coagulate in the can after just a few weeks.  Is this normal?  Danish Oil, on the other hand, keeps for many months without setting up.  One other thought, can the coagulated poly be reconstituted by thinning with mineral spirits?  I tried but am nervous about applying it.  Thanks for your help.  Regards, John Hello John, General Finishes makes great products and it’s good to hear that you have been working with them.  The coagulation’s or “skinning over” in the cans that you have been experiencing is quite normal.  This process occurs due to the fact that Arm-R-Seal is made up of a blend of oil and polyurethane as well as solvents and driers. Polyurethane is an “air oxidizing finish” which means it dries by reacting with the oxygen in the air. As you use some of the finish and air begins to replace the loss of liquid in the can, the oxygen in the air, begins to react with the polyurethane in the can and the result is “that gel” that thickens and hardens on the top of the liquid. My recommendation is to use a product called “Bloxygen” which is an inert gas containing Argon. Argon is heavier than air and when you lift the lid of the can and spray a 4 second shot in there, it will settle on top of the liquid and force the oxygen up to the top of the can.  In my experience this product really works well and is worth the cost. Here is a good YouTube video on Bloxygen:             I would also advise you to dispose of any any cans of finish that have skinned over. Using skinned over finishes is inviting trouble and they most likely will not dry or fully harden. I take my disposable finishes to the Sonoma County refuse area. Check out the attached photos and have fun at the recycle facility if you need to stop there. One last piece of advice: always use the gloss finish for building all of your coats. If you want to dull the finish to a semi-gloss or satin, than apply one or two coats of a semi-gloss or satin finish for the last couple of coats. Another method is to use 0000 steel wool and some renaissance wax to lower the sheen and smooth the last coat of...

Read More

The Benefits of Shellac for Restoring Wood Surfaces

Posted in Woodworking |

Question from a Client David, I bought this very old Chinese tray with half the lacquer worn off.  I want to preserve what is left and use it to work on. Can I paint or spray some kind of clear finish on it?  You are our guru for surfaces on wood.  All I know is textiles. Thanks for your help. Barbara David’s Response: Shellac is your best bet as shellac will stick to almost anything, and almost any finish will bond to shellac. Shellac by Bulls Eye You can purchase shellac flakes and mix your own 2 lb cut with denatured alcohol but this shellac by Bulls Eye works really well and is very convenient to use.  The most important part of application is temperature and humidity conditions.  Make sure you work with  a scrap piece of wood and do some test samples before applying it to your piece. The ideal conditions would be a sunny day with temperatures around 75 to 80 degrees.  If it is a rainy or overcast day, then do not spray shellac, wait for a dryer day.  Shellac can absorb moisture from the air on a day with high humidity levels and the result will be a “milky”color to the finish.  If you can spray it indoors in your studio, then make certain that the room/space has a thermometer in it and it reads 75 degrees or warmer for best results. When I work on a piece that I am restoring, I lightly clean the surface first and try to remove any wax that has been applied over the years.  I use to use Naphtha, but it has been removed from California’s hardware and paint stores for health reasons.  Old Asian lacquers are Urushi lacquers which are natural resin from the Sumac trees.  Shellac is a natural resin harvested from the Lac bugs in India and other Asian countries.  Even if you are not able to light clean the surface with a mild solvent, I believe the shellac will still bond to it.  Cleaning the surface first is still your best option. Since Naphtha is no longer available, I would try some mineral spirits instead.  Before using the mineral spirits, start by lightly brushing the surface with a soft, dry paint brush to see if the old finish flakes off or is still intact.  Once you have lightly brushed the surface and removed any dust or loose material from it, then take an old t-shirt or clean cotton cloth and moisten it with some paint thinner (you can purchase the odorless type which is more user friendly) and gently rub the surface.  Do not use any abrasive material like steel wool or scotchbrite, it can remove some of the finish. Let the surface dry.  It might look dull as a result, but it should be cleaner. Shellac flows best when it is warm.  When...

Read More