Friday, July 31, 2015

Why to veneer.

Sawing veneer by hand. Roubo.
The use of veneer can be traced back to the Egyptians.  The image seen here was taken from the book; To Make as Perfectly as Possible: Roubo on Marquetry and can still be purchase from Lost Art Press. Today most people associate veneer as cheap, or a means to cover a substrate of low quality materials.  

I on the other hand believe that veneering once done well is by far the most effective way to use wood. The list of endangered species keeps growing! Access to exotic woods are becoming more expensive, harder to find, and the trees are not as big as they once were. Take a look at the forests, there is just no way we are going to have access to certain materials in the future.  

How I look at it is veneer gives me access to rare woods; rosewood, boxwood, satinwood, burls (burrs), crotches, and so on. Some of these woods available only function in veneer for most likely the boards would twist, warp, cup, or bow so badly that we can't take advantage of it is full potential.

When I visit museums and admire the amazing array of furniture, I can't help but notice all the beautiful pieces covered in veneer.  The craftsman of the period already knew then what we must start to understand more of. All this wood we love to play with isn't going to last, so lets make what we have go the distance.   

Today most veneers are being sliced, which involves the log to be boiled. The boiling process varies per species and can take several days. The boiling process changes the charter of the wood, and the minerals and chemicals in the wood are removed. Giving us more a muted dull veneer, still beautiful but imagine the potential if it wasn't boiled.  Once the log is ready to be cut it is placed on a lathe and a knife is engaged. As the log is turning a sheet of veneer is sliced. The sheets veneer are then run through a series of steamers to help dry the wood and are quickly stacked to prevent warping and wrinkling.  There is no waste using this method, which is great.  But here is the issue, veneer over its history went from 1/8" to 1/16" sawn veneer to 1/28" to 1/32" and now to 1/40" to 1/60".  What was once seen as a method to save veneer and produce more yield turned into lets see how much more money can be made from slicing the veneer as thin as possible. Today veneer is often paper back because it is so thin and hard to work.  

So where does that leave us? Well we are in luck, Certainly Wood offers a thick section of veneers for sale, and other manufactures do as well. But I also think its time to buy as much solid stock as you can and saw your own veneers. Or better yet if you can find old veneer stashed in an old shop buy it all. This is becoming more common than you may think. Veneer as I see it is an investment and will be in high demand in the future.  Now I am not saying go hoard everything your get your hands on, for this too is an issue too often seen. Yet if you are like me working with veneer on a weekly basis than there is a need for inventory. 

So stay tune and visit often for in future blog posts I will be sharing with you how to make a quartered sawn substrate/ground. I will also dive into my holy grail plane the toothing plane - its purpose, how to sharpen, and how to make the Don of Dons toothing plane in 5 mins. If that wasn't enough I will like to also show you how to flatten veneer and make/use a veneer flattening liquor. So stay tune and join me in the amazing world of veneer.    



Wednesday, July 29, 2015

There isn't any bad wood!

Can you see waste?

I often get asked what is my favorite wood?  My response to the question was easy, American Holly hands down. If I had a daughter I would name her Holly, simply because I love the wood so much.  But as of recent months my response to such a question has changed. My response now would be just wood, any wood what so ever. It doesn' matter if its cupped, warped, twisted, bowed, knotty, or whatever else. I now believe in what Master furniture maker Hank Gilpin shared with me the day I visited him, "There isn't such a thing as bad wood."

Today I am a big believer that every piece of wood has a purpose, and it may take some time to know when and where to use it, but one day the wood will speak to you. In years pass when an old master would say let the wood speak to you, I would say to myself what in the world is this person thinking. Q-tips aisle 6, for my ears must be clogged.  Let the wood speak to you!!!!

Well now I understand, beauty is the eye of the beholder. The life and journey of any species of wood is a special one, and its up to us to share its beauty. So for me saw mills is where I want to buy my lumber, forget the lumber yards I want something local and weird.  What ever they have I make due, for as craftsman I should have the skills to work it and make something grand.  For added fuel to the fire please listen to the words of Mr. Hank Gilpin himself and visit his website;

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Saving & Perserving Hide Glue

Patrick Edwards showing how to preserve hide glue.

A common question that often comes up when students are new to protein glue is how often do you need to replace the glue in the pot? The simple response is, if you cook the glue daily and maintain it than the glue will last a long length of time. It is safe to assume that at some point the user would use all the glue in the pot and will need make more. One thing to be aware of is mold. Mold is the enemy, and once you see mold than the glue isn't any good.  Some people will debate this last statement, but I have tested it and the bond isn't as strong in comparison to non moldy glue.

For the occasional user there are ways to help preserve the hot hide glue. If you are only going to need access to the glue every few days, simply putting the glue pot in the refrigerator. If by chance you are a weekend woodworker and are rarely in need of hot hide glue, than there is another option for you.  The best option is to learn how to make hide glue sheets. For more information please visit the attached video of the man the legend Patrick Edwards as he shares the process of making hide glue sheets.

If making sheets of hide glue isn't of interest, than you are in luck for there is another option. Simply take ice cube trays and fill them with hot hide glue and put the trays in the refrigerator. What this will give you is a solid cube that can easily be tossed into the glue pot.  All these options mentioned only work with hot hide glue and not Old Brown glue.

My hopes are that I am slowly convincing you to try hide glue, for there isn't anything better in the market. If by chance you have any questions about hide glue please either contact the man the legend Patrick Edwards or post your question(s) and comments and I will respond to them in a timely manner.



Monday, July 20, 2015

Hot Hide & Old Brown Glue. Or is it Scotch Glue

 In this video Patrick Edwards will explain why hide glue is awesome.  

Old Brown Glue (OBG) by far the best glue on the market. What is OBG? Well its nothing more than liquid hide glue hydrolyzed collagen and urea, plus all the benefits that no other glue will give you.  Hide glue is reversible, easy to clean, has great strength, and is transparent to stains and finishes.  But the best part of OBG is the lack of stress when gluing. The special formula that Pat Edwards has developed gives the user an open time of 20-30 minutes depending on humidity and temperature. That last statement alone should convince you to go out and buy it. The only disadvantage of OBW if you want to call it one is the clamp time of 24 hours, but this normal for hot hide glue as well. 

Now I am a big a believer of protein glues, hot hide glue and OBG is the standard in my studio. As a maker & restorer of furniture I enjoy protein glues, its economical, and its the only adhesive which glues to itself mechanically and chemically.  I didn't realize hide glue could adhere to itself until Patrick Edwards was lecturing me at The American School of French Marquetry located in San Diego, CA. Today I can't picture restoring or making furniture with out OBG, and I am grateful to Pat for developing such an amazing product.  

Please be aware that there is a difference between hot hide glue and OBG.  When wanting to hammer veneer hot hide glue is the best option, as the glue loses moisture and cools the glue tacks to the substate. With OBG you will need to use a caul(s) and clamps while waiting 24 hours for the glue to dry. With that in mind please understand each type has its place and advantages. Another important thing to remember is hot hide glue requires constant attention, too much water and the glue doesn't tack, not enough water and the glue is too thick and sets quickly. This is why OBG is a great option for beginners or for individuals who rather not spend the time manipulating the glue.  

The gram strength I use for hot hide glue is 192 Gram Strength. There is no need to buy high clarity, but I will stay away from the pearl type glue. To heat up the glue I enjoy using the old cast iron pots with electric burner. The reason for this is simply I can carry the glue pot around and do my repairs for a good length of time away from the electric burner.  This isn't the case with when using other types of glue pots.  Another important tip I also learned from Pat is "cold glue get cold water, and hot glue gets hot water."  Following these instructions keeps the glue in good working order. 

If you are interested in learning more about hide glue, Old Brown Glue, the man the legend Patrick Edwards, and the amazing world of Marquetry please visit;,,

Cast iron glue pots on electric burner. 


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Where it all started.

The Furniture Institute of Massachusetts. Photo Credit Joshua Klein

The Furniture Institute of Massachusetts holds a special place in my heart.  This is where it all started for me. In the fall of 2002 I walked through the shop doors of the school as a punk kid and left years later a new person. As a student I wasn't anything special to say the least, and the journey since then has been ever challenging. The challenges in business can't really be explained for you need to live it to understand, but I never gave up and now I am living the dream. 

 Master & Director of the Furniture Institute of Massachusetts
Philip C. Lowe
Photo Credit Joshua Klein
Master Lowe as I like to call him is my hero! There isn't enough words to describe the man himself.  The knowledge and willingness to share his life with me is one I cherish daily. I studied under Phil for 2 years and was lucky enough to work for him another 2 years after completing the program. I still till this day work for him and the school as a subcontracted restorer, substitute teacher, and instructor.   

The Master & the apprentice. June 2015

Today the Furniture Institute of Massachusetts is one of the best schools the world has to offer.  The knowledge, methods, and techniques I learned as a student years ago still are what I depend on daily. If anyone is interested in learning more about the full time program or of the night, weekend, or summer workshops please visit   



The new journey of blogging.

A picture of me Freddy Roman behind the Chevalet. 

Many years ago I read one of the best blog posts Chris Schwarz ever wrote.  The blog post was on why to start a blog and why writing is important.  Over the years I have fought myself countless times regarding starting a blog. Some of the hesitations I endeared about writing are, why would anyone want to read my rambles, or the constant requirements of keeping a blog up and interesting for people to want to come back, and lastly of course the most important concern and lack there of is solid writing skills.

With all of this weighing on my shoulders I decided to leap into the deep end and start a blog.  The goal here is to share with you the 13 plus years of methods/techniques that I perform daily of which I take advantage of. Its my goal to help keep the craft alive, and rather than keep all that I learned to myself, I think it is time to share everything I know with others.  There is a lot of basic information out in the woodworking communities, but few go into the depths I am interested in. My hopes in this blog is to record my journey and have a reference for all.