Tuesday, April 13

Ropey Stuff

I start the day, as promised, by straining the shellac and applying some to the small side doors to see how it’s going to look. Normally I’d apply 4 or 5 coats but shellac is a naturally glossy finish and Harold prefers a satin finish, so I did not sand as fine as normal and will apply only two coats, sanding in between. This should leave us with a non-glossy finish. My primary task to accomplish today is to get the rope trim pieces cut. These are a pre-made molding strip four feet long. What I have used in the past was maple and a full ½” wide. I ordered the same stuff from the same supplier, but they have switched to an Italian made stock that is some sort of oak-like wood and about 7/16” wide – probably some metric measure. It will work, but the open grained wood will show more unevenness through the brass paint. I did check to be sure they sent me what I ordered. The rope trim will go in the channels on the front of the clock. The head scratcher here is determining in what order to do things. The trim needs to be sealed, sanded and painted brass, the walnut channeling needs to be shellacked, the rope needs to be cut into a bevy of strangely shaped pieces as it winds around the pendulum door frame, and the trim needs to be attached to the channeling. But, shellac will interfere with the glue. Painting the trim after it’s in place could be very messy, the garnet shellac is very dark and would darken the brass paint – and the alcohol in the shellac might mar the paint if I were to do the shellacking last. I could attach the trim with brads after all the finishing is done, but I would need to set the brads and fill over them, then touch up the brass paint. What to do, what to do? To facilitate cutting all the tiny little pieces and minimize tearing and chunking, which oak does more readily than maple, I built a simple little sled attachment for the miter saw and pre-cut places to cut each of the various angles I will need. This helps a lot to speed up cutting the trim pieces. I don’t cut all the way through the sled, just deep enough to cut through the trim strip. And I have to remember that when I measure angles on the door with a protractor, I’m measuring up from a base angle, when setting the cut on the miter saw, I’m measuring down from 90°. To properly cut a measured angle of 46° I have to set the saw at 44° or 29° instead of 31° because of the difference in perspective. Easy enough to do once you figure this out, but it will drive you bonkers until then! I decide to cut the parts first, do all the finishing then assemble last. I may need to use some special adhesive instead of wood glue, but I want to avoid brads if at all possible. As I cut the pieces of trim I sand them to remove as much roughness and grain as possible. Then I use a bright brass metallic paint to cover the sealed wood. This test trip was done by itself to see what it would come out looking like. I did all the other pieces in a batch to waste as little of the paint as possible – I may need to apply several coats. Cutting the 12 individual pieces went faster than I anticipated. I expected to have to re-cut several – and bought an extra rope strip to be sure I’d have enough – but it all went very well and each piece came out right the first time. So, I have time to begin the sanding of all these pieces. As I take them off the door, I number them on the back, and number the positions they came off of, so I’ll be sure to get them back in the right places. I also have to do some hand carving to shape the ropey bits to look more natural as it winds around the door. I was careful where I cut each piece, starting in one lower corner and walking around the door, but a little hand work is needed to finish the job. Then I’ll begin painting them.

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