Friday, August 23, 2013

Meditations From an Antiquarian

For you non-Blue Hillians, I scanned this week's newspaper clipping of an article I wrote reflecting on why I believe people value antique furniture.

You can read the whole thing here: Antique Furniture: A Portal to the Past

What are your thoughts on the topic? Anything you would change or add?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Catching up and then Off to the Show!

This week had me slaving away at the bench trying to dig myself out of the backlogged projects I’ve had calling me. I was able to make really good headway on a number of objects. I delivered the sideboard and worktable with busted stretchers. The client seemed delighted.

No matter how many times I do this, I always feel a tiny bit nervous right before the client sees their completed piece. I put considerable thought and effort into my work so delivering it to the owner is a little like standing naked before them... You can’t help but become personally invested in the work. 99% percent of the time the clients are ecstatic but there is someone once in while that had different expectations for the final result. I blame myself mostly in these cases as it is my responsibility to make sure conservator and client are on the same page for a realistic outcome. These projects did take a while so I was delighted that they were well received. (I also was happy with the success of the treatments.)

Here is another one I wrapped up this week. A 20th century walnut center table. It was given to me already stripped to raw wood. It now has shellac on the base and satin Enduro-Var for the top.

I recently finished Barbara Applebaum’s excellent book Conservation Treatment Methodology. I plan to write up a review here in the next short while but until then I will say that book coupled with Watson’s Artifacts in Use has been very eye opening to my practice. My thinking about the treatment of antique furniture has been forever changed.

In response to this recent reading I decided to take some time this week to sit down and work out the thought process for a “Values Based” treatment methodology. This is the way I have to work through new ideas: sketches and rough drafts on paper to organize the ideas into something digestible. This is the way I’ve solved many significant theological questions so I expect no different for these philosophical and methodological problems. I plan to share the results of these recent meditations soon.

In other news, the Jonathan Fisher Antique Show (in Blue Hill) on Saturday was excellent. Everything went smooth from the packing of the van to the disassembly of the booth. Every time I do another public demonstration it seems the process becomes a little more efficient. I now know every tool I want to grab. I know what demonstrations people seem to be interested in. I know some better ways to organize the displays. This is great. One more thing that becomes sort of an automatic, not requiring a lot of thinking and figuring. I sure could use that these days.

Many people stopped by, loads of cards were taken, the email list was signed up for, and many potential projects were discussed. All in all it was well worth it. I expect this event will significantly help my much needed winter backlog. Thanks to Karen and all the staff who put this thing together each year. I am looking forward to 2014.

In other news, I have some firewood to split. Good thing I bought a new splitting axe.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Saturday, August 17th 2013 9 AM -2 PM

Early Buying 8 AM, $15.00 General Admission 9 AM-2 PM, $7.00
Blue Hill Fairgrounds, Rte 172 1 mile east of Blue Hill Village, 13 miles west of Ellsworth

One of Maine’s most popular summer antiques shows. This outdoor show features 35 dealers from all over New England, carefully chosen for their variety and quality. Local catering available on the premises." from

I will be there this year just like I have been the last few. Like last year, I am actually participating with my own booth. I'll be doing demonstrations and fielding questions. Stop on by. It'll be a lot of fun!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Governed by Goldilocks

"Conservation is a profession governed by Goldilocks- not too much, and not too little, but just right."

-Barbara Applebaum, Conservation Treatment Methodology

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Baby Chicks, Anniversary, and Studio Work

We’ve had a great past week. Effie and B seem to be content with their new home. Julia’s got them trained pretty well to rose leaves and dandelions. They actually cry out for us if they see us pass without petting them. They’re pretty attached to us now. We also had some more new arrivals. I got a phone call on Wednesday morning from the Sedgwick Post Office. Our new layer chicks had arrived.

Eden exercising his right to open carry

Murray McMurray sent us a mix of Barred Rocks, Buff Orpingtons, Rhode Island Reds, Cuckoo Marans, and Araucaunas (the green egg-layers). We are down-sizing this time around. Our current flock is 30 or so. This time we ordered only 15. This should be just enough for our family year round.

This red seemed pretty flipped out about the little ones

We also had our first successful bake in the earthen oven. We baked three delicious loaves. We are still trying to nail down the best technique for firing. Anyone out there that has any experience/advice with this feel free to share it with us. We’ve been reading Denzer’s book and other sources but tips are welcome.

This weekend Julia and I celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary. Eden stayed with Julia’s parents while we drove down to Freeport to see one of our favorite bands, The Head and the Heart, at the LL Bean Summer Concert Series. Check out a video of them live at KEXP:

On the way down we stopped at Windsor Chairmakers in Lincolnville, went to the Thomas Moser gallery, and had dinner at the wonderful Azure Café. The Lord has been good to us every day of our marriage. For this we are ever grateful.

Back at the studio I’ve been working on a few different things at one time. (Which is not unusual at all.) I had a quick turnaround job: This painted side chair came in with garish scratches over the seat. A little ethanol, shellac and pigments and… voila!

I’ve been working on this 20th century sideboard as well. This thing is in pretty sad condition. I’ll be removing the coating, regluing veneer, refinishing, and replacing the hardware to something more to the client’s taste.

Also, this worktable is on this week’s list. It was damaged in transit and needs the stretchers repaired along with this delicate little leg with its endgrain break. It stinks when this happens. You can see the old glue in there from the last time someone tried to repair it. For a cross grain break like this glue alone is insufficient. I will have to install a supporting dowel to bridge the two pieces.

Friday, August 2, 2013

In the Artifacts They Left Behind...

“Artifacts are surviving remnants of long-passed human beings whose will and skill crystallized into three-dimensional forms that have survived to our own time. The instincts that draw us to each other also draw us to our cultural ancestors, who are manifest in the artifacts they left behind. The work of their hands is not only material inheritance, but an indicator of our identity as their creative spirit reverberates in ourselves.”

- John R. Watson, Artifacts in Use