Finishing Is A Journey.

"Once this year, I want you to take one of your pieces and work it over so much you think you'll ruin it. Just keep adding to it and taking away from it past the point where you're afraid. You have to learn where the limits are."

Not much stuck in my head back in school, I've forgotten most of it. But I distinctly remember the first day of this honors Art class with a new, fresh out of school art teacher, and those words come out of her mouth. "She's freaking CRAZY!" I told a classmate later, "It's my art I should be able to decide when it's done. I don't want to ruin anything."

It took me years to gather the maturity to really understand the concept she was trying to help us realize. Pushing something beyond where you're concience is telling you to stop is a scary thing, especially when you're pushing the boundries on something you've put a lot of sweat equity into already. I felt like I was ready to push my boundries into uncharted waters when it came to finishing and once I finished construction on the tool rack I had the right piece to push the boundries on.

It's been a while since I wrote about the tool rack. It's something I decided to build for the new shop. If you need to refresh your memory on the journey you can find all the posts (including this one) collected together HERE. Blogger organizes them in reverse chronological order so the newest post (this one) will be at the top of the page, just keep scrolling down to find older.
I decided to use the tool rack to play with multiple layers of finishing techniques. I started by applying a basic oil stain. 

I wanted something darkish, that was all I cared about. I took several old cans of oil stain and poured them together through a strainer. I let the stain sit for a while and wiped off the excess.

After the stain set and dried for a day, I attacked it with a can of shellac I needed to use up. A mixture of amber and blond shellac I had dumped together and had cut fairly thin. I just applied layers until the jar was empty. I think I got eight coats out of it.

Now came the problem. I really liked how the stain and shellac looked. But I'd promised to push this past the limits of my normal taste. I took a deep breath and cracked open a can of oil based white primer.

I couldn't bring myself to take a picture of how it looked. I had thinned the paint 1:1 with mineral spirits and tried to paint a surface and then wipe most of the paint away with a rag. It was a warm day and I was painting in the sun and the paint was drying far to fast for me to keep up with. In the end I resorted to eltting it dry and then comming back with a random orbit sander and some 100 grit paper to take it down to where it wasn't so bad.

But the white was just too white and clean. I wanted to add some yellowing and age. I had a can of amber dye and reducer. I mixed those 1:1 and applied them over the paint.

I liked how the white paint, yellowed from the dye, looked around the carvings. I thought I may have finally pushed things far enough. I had a can of aresol spray, semi gloss polyurethane wasting away on the shelf. I have the rack a couple coats of that until the can was gone.

I let it sit out of sight for a couple days and came back to it. I still really liked the carvings but the glow from the dye was simply overpowering to look at. A little help and input from some friends on Google+ and I knew what I had to do.

I taped off the carvings and hit the rest of the piece with some matte black spray paint. It was the prefect thing. The carvings and the rail popped and the rest of the piece fell subtly to the background. Now I was happy. And I knew with the spray paint over the polyurethane, that time and use would wear away the black paint and expose the other layers of finish beneath. 

Here's the finished rack hanging in the new shop. I am really happy with it and I was able to use it to replace a boring basic storage shelf I'd had floating around for a few years before. Even better. 

In the end I'm glad I remembered the words that "crazy" teacher had spoken to me years ago. As time progresses I'll have less fear and more experience layering finishes for the future. I'm not sure I'll paint over carvings again . . . but you never know.

Ratione et Passionis


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