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Wood for Federal Furniture


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Jonathan David

I would like to make some furniture in the American Federal style.  I often work in cherry wood, but I would prefer to use a wood that doesn't require any stain, and only a finish.  This eliminates glue spots.  I'm looking for recommendations for a type of wood to use, which when finished (probably with shellac), will give a darker color than cherry, and be  more like mahogany or walnut.  I can get both of these, but find that they have grains that are a bit too open for miniature furniture.

Jonathan

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WeekendMiniaturist

It is just my opinion, but if you have glue that is outside of the joint, it will still be seen under a shellac finish, too.  My easy finish when I have time is oil; you wipe on, and wipe off, and the oil fills those pores of the wood.  If for some reason after 5-6 coats of wipe on as necessary, with plenty of time to dry in between, and I want it to be even smoother, I use Johnson's paste wax after the oil is long dry.

There is no overspray with oil finish on a rag.  The fastest way for me to ruin a miniature is for me to spray it with a spray can of Watco, or Deft, etc, etc... I rarely spray a finish; I'm a little better with an airbrush, but I would rather paint with an air brush then finish with one.    (I have two air brushes - 1 for paint and 1 for finish).

I don't use a lot of stain, you can get oils with color mixed already, if you find a brand that you like  of the available oil finish in your area.

It is my understanding that Cherry darkens naturally if left in a window with bright sunlight, and I've had some chairs in my kitchen window for more then a year, and I don't see any difference, but I've had several people tell me that cherry darkens in sunlight.  All of our windows were replaced with Low E glass, so perhaps this is the reason I'm not seeing the change I was expecting.

I haven't worked much with Walnut or Mahogany, but do have some boards to play with.

Good Luck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bill Hudson

If you are using Elmer's glue, carpenter glue, tight bond etc. These glues are all milk based.  Using a cloth ,dampened, with diluted white vinegar will  remove any excess glue.

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WeekendMiniaturist

Thank you Bill for this tip about using white vinegar.

 

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Jonathan David

Thanks Bill, for the tip.  You retired from teaching at Guild School before I first attended, which is definitely my loss.  I will try this on scrap cherry, but while it may remove excess glue, I'm not sure that it will remove the glue from the pores, so that stain will be absorbed.

Tamra,  I assume that you are "WeekendMiniaturist"?  I  rarely spray with Deft lacquer.  I have much more control with shellac and a brush, and find that it gives an excellent finish, that is thin enugh- even with multiple coats - to be in scale, and not too shiny.

I know that Elga uses mopane, a South African hardwood, and it requires no stain.  But I don't have access to this wood.  I've taken three classes with Geoff Wonnacott over the years, and he uses hardwoods that don't require staining.  Assembly was often with lots of superglue, which didn't impede a nice finish coat of shellac or lacquer (I don't remember which).  I have written to Geoff, asking which woods he uses, but haven't heard back from him.  

I am really hoping that some of the experts here will have some recommendations, so that I can place a large order with SH Goode & Sons, and have it sent to me at Guild School.  These days, international postage is exorbitant, and I have to pay customs on anything that costs more than $75.

Jonathan

 

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  • 2 weeks later...
WeekendMiniaturist

I rarely stain cherry.  Walnut is usually so dark, that it rarely requires stain.  Mahogany may require a stain depending on the color of the wood and your desired outcome of your project.  All woods can be finished with no stain; this is a subjective process, in the eye of the beholder.  

You can use stain to enhance the color of the wood for your project; or use stain to lesson the appearance of the grain of the wood - it is purely a matter of personal taste and lots of trial and error.  I have a master's degree in miniature errors.

Cherry is my most used wood, and I like to use Poplar as my secondary wood for miniature furniture.  My choices are broader as I can resaw my wood and use our benchtop planer... 

The other day, I came across a French chair that I found in a really old miniature magazine that was authored by Jim Dorsett, and remembered that I did not finish the carving on this piece.   If you ever want to carve something; do purchase some steamed pear... although it might be less expensive if you purchase it from Denmark ? vs. purchasing it in the States.  I still haven't purchased any; as I prefer to see my board - as I think $50 = $75 for a board is expensive.  At the present time, I quite happy practicing on basswood for hand carving.  Hand Carving cherry, in my opinion requires a mallet.

There is a great thread on Steamed pear somewhere in the FMF posts.

 

 

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Jonathan David

Does anyone have sources for Federal hardware?  I've seen some Sheraton and Hepplewhite etched handle/pulls from Cat's Paw, and am curious about the quality.  And if there are other sources, I'd love to know about them.

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MeezerMama

Try Dr G's Brasshole.  IDK if they have any Federal ready-made, but they also do custom and their work is gorgeous. 

You can also try Tom Walden.   He bought out Susanne Russo's stock several years ago when she stopped making it.   There's no telling what he still has available but it's worth a try.

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WeekendMiniaturist

Harry Smith details making his own brass hardware in his book, "The Art of Making Furniture Miniature".

Think Leather tooling stamps, but the ability to stamp out or press brass...

Ron Stetkewicz is the only person that I know that could cast brass for us... This would be a wonderful skill to learn though.

https://rontoven.sytes.net/site/cast.html

 

 

 

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Jonathan David

Thank you Meezer Mama, whoever you may be.  I do wish that user names in this forum were the names of the users...  I had forgotten about Tom, and when I read your post, I remembered that I had purchased some of Suzanne's hardware from him many years ago.  I looked through my stash and found some nice hardware from Suzanne Russo's "Brasses", with Tom's sticker on the back.  But nothing in my stash is what I'm looking for now.  I sent Tom a message through his website, but because the pages of Suzanne Russo hardware have not been updated since 2012, I'm not optimistic that there is any left.

 Cat's Paw bought the business from Suzanne, and manufactured her products under their name for many years.  Now the same products are sold by Black Diamond, and are available through Handley House.  It seems that most of Suzanne's products are still available.  I have placed an order with Earth & Tree, using the Black Diamond product numbers that I found on another website.

Dr. G's Brasses are indeed beautiful.  Unfortunately, they don't have anything that suits me at this time.  I know from past conversations with Bev that they were working on some other products, such as electrical outlet covers and switch plates, but these aren't available yet, and their Etsy shop hasn't been updated in a while.

Tamra, someday I'll get one of Ron's fireplace tool sets.  I would do so now, but am not sure which would fit my circa 1810 period.  He offers a lot of nice things.  I wonder if he will be at Guild School?  I know that he has been in the past.  I still have some hinges that I bought from his father, about 18 years ago.

Jonathan

 

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