Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Groopstock Day Three

The third and final day of presentations began with Don assembling Bill’s portable workbench as discussed on day one. The whole idea of the bench is a plywood torsion box top with light but rigidly braced legs. A skil saw, yellow glue, and air nailer made the assembly a breeze.

Assembling the torsion box

Bill showing us the dais

The second slot of the day was given to Bill Robillard and Tredway Childress, recently retired senior restorer for the House of Representatives who told the story of the refinishing of the House’s dais. It was a fascinating project that involved high stakes and complicated bureaucracy.  It was a captivating tale.

After lunch, I kind of crashed. I only heard a short bit of Brian Webster’s “Building a Website” presentation before I took a rest in my tent. A guy can only go so long without taking a break but I hear the talk was very informative and helpful to all.

Jon had all our attention

The latter part of the afternoon was spent watching the amazing Jon Szalay pouring bronze in his newly constructed foundry setup. He cast four sea shells from the beach near his house in New Jersey. They turned out excellent.

The foundry in action! 2,400 degrees of molten bronze!

Watch your toes, Jon!

Beautiful, no?

We had an informal group discussion lead by Bruce Hamilton and Jim Young on developing estimates and pricing. It was interesting to hear the differences and similarities of how the dollars side of our businesses are set up. That conversation alone was worth the trip!

Martin's Varnish Making

The final presentation of the conference was Martin O’Brien on “Making Historic Varnishes”. He and his protégé, Samuel, cooked an amber resin oil varnish and applied it to some sample boards. The varnish was a recipe from the notebook of Henry Macy of Guilford County, NC working in 1810-1820. The process was pretty simple and now I’ve gotta try some of this stuff. Colophony, Sandarac, and linseed oil here we come!

Some of the more relentless folks and I convinced Don to allow us a very late night special preview of his forthcoming Popular Woodworking DVD on historic finishes. Holy cow. All I have to say is, “Where do we pre-order?” 

Click for full size group shot

On Friday morning, Freddy and I made our rounds to say our goodbyes. The twenty hour drive brought me home around 6:30 Saturday morning. It was a sweet time to say the least. I got to see Mitch Kohanek (my instructor from The National Institute of Wood Finishing), a bunch of colleagues from the last Groopstock, and a few new faces as well. These trips are worth every penny spent and every minute not earning income. Groopstock’s value carries well beyond the trip’s duration. 

Here is a short video montage I shot with my harenezumi camera.

Thank you to Don and Carolyn for hosting the event, to Ben Myre for organizing, Fred Maclean for serving as MC, David Reeves and Carolyn for the excellent meals, and to all the presenters for the preparations made and the generosity to share their skills with colleagues. You have given a wonderful gift to all the attendees. Thank you.

The back of the conference shirt


  1. Colophony? Really is there any supplier for that stuff and does it merit application today on any piece new or historic?

  2. Potomacker,

    You can find colophony at conservation supply and art supply stores. I actually got mine from Stephen Shepherd of the Full Chisel Blog. I think reproductions are more authentic when you use historic coatings. Polyurinate just doesn't have the same sex appeal.

  3. Mr. Klein:
    I want to know whether there is a way for improvements over the hisoric formulations. My experience with colophony is that degrades over time to create a powdery, friable surface that offers no protection nor aesthetic enhancement to the object and one that cannot be repaired after it begins breaking down.
    I'm all for historic finishes but colophony was once described to me as a waste product of the turpentine industry. When is its use today warranted? And for that matter, what do you do when approaching a piece with a degraded colophony surface treatment.
    Polyurinate? I sincerely hope you meant to say that polyurethane lacks sex appeal.

    1. Potomacker,

      I am interested in colophony for historic research purposes. I think using this resin in a line of custom furniture offered to today's consumers would be asking for disappointment. Though colophony is much less stable than many synthetic resin available today, I think the experiment is still worth pursuing.
      (Compare this to building with period methods of fastening tops that almost guarantee splits. It's done for authenticity.)

      I cannot take credit for coining the term "polyurinate". Don Williams was the one that taught me the term and I quite like it.