The Return To Innocence

Comment

The Return To Innocence

   The rain prevented me from carting my laptop home from work on Friday seeing that I walk most of the way. When I woke up this morning with my coffee I felt like writing. All of my note pads are full, and I was without my computer. Then I remembered my old laptop that I had stashed away in the top drawer of a military surgeons cabinet. I cleared aside the random batteries and busted headphone collection. I laughed to myself as I picked it up and felt the weight. The hinges creaked as opened it. I powered it on and went to grab more coffee. Thirteen minutes later it was finished booting up. Instead of tucking into my writing I was sidetracked looking through all of my old files. Pictures and projects of what seems like another life. It made for a really wonderful morning.

   Reminiscing on where I was just five years ago got me thinking about much more. Where I came from. Where I had been. All of the things that have driven my design style. I can trace it back to my early childhood. When I was six I would come home from Westwood Elementary to a ten by ten room in my father's shop. It was great! I had my Legos, Lincoln logs, plenty of art supplies and drawing paper, and later an Atari. My siblings and I would play for the remaining work day. So many great games were made up behind that pocket door. One of our favorite games was to collect doodle bugs from the garden outside and race them in mazes made from legos. I loved when my dad would make his own paste wax. It would always bring me out of that little room. On an old single burner he would place a large Folgers coffee can. In the can he would put chunks of carnauba, candela, and bee's wax. He would always let me smell each one before placing it in the can. They were all so distinctive and comforting. When the heat got to them they took on a completely different smell. He always smelled like this. A combination of sawdust, wax, and perspiration. It makes me want to cry just thinking about it. It was lessons like this that got me interested in furniture.

   As the years went on we moved several times within the same business complex. Getting bigger each time, But there was always a small room with a pocket door. My dad brought my grandfather from England to work with him. He was a product of the Queen's Navy. The weathered green tattoos on his arms proved it. After the Navy he moved the family to Zambia. Where he taught wood technology at the local college. He ran a furniture factory and taught the locals how to produce beautiful furniture on a factory scale for export. So this was the experience that he expounded upon. There were several great minds that worked along side my father. Knowledge of their craft ebbing and flowing into one another. My fathers business was always split between producing custom furniture and antique restoration. There was a venture called Buttonwood. Today we would call it a brand. Where my father and grandfather would produce beautiful hand crafted furniture almost always out of  solid cherry wood. It was a lot of fun to watch them on the machines. Even though it was dangerous and I wasn't supposed to.

   I have to say though it was the other side of the business that caught my attention the most. The chemistry involved in restoration and conservation made my dad seem like some sort of wizard or alchemist. It wasn't just about the amounts of each ingredient he would use to make his potions. It was how he mixed them and even more so, his technique in applying them. He would do certain things the same way they've been done for hundreds of years. But he was always experimenting with new processes. I remember when I was about ten he purchased a new piece of equipment for his shop. Not a new lathe or a sander. It was a baby pool. He filled this baby pool with a clear liquid which I believe was naphtha on which he suspended different colors of paint then swirled them together. He then dipped a piece of wood into the pool. As he pulled it back up he revealed that he had turned wood into marble. Like I said... Alchemist. I know what some of you are thinking. This is pretty standard stuff. But to a ten year old boy... it was magic.

   Even though my father referred to himself  as a jack of all trades, and a master of none. He was indeed a master. I have seen him will a table top to french polish itself. Okay maybe that didn't happen. But he could get it done in 30 minutes. That is including the time it took to prepare the tampon. I'm not sure what was better. To stand back and appreciate the finished work? Or when the piece first comes in the door. As I got into the business myself I think this became my favorite part. The business of fine furniture restoration is something special. A joint stool, a demilune, a chifferobe. Clients would drive up with something in the back of their vehicle. The back would open, and there it was. The next thing to discover. What was it, where was it from, what is it made of, how is it made, what is the finish? Then, how is it damaged? How can I repair it? Every time a sensory overload. Pick it up, put it down, crawl underneath it looking for answers to all of your questions. Eww a spider sack. Okay calm down. I can't work on this one yet. I have too many others before it. But I will. I will get to it, and work my magic. I was given this power by my Father to save the history of the human race. I was the keeper of time. I worked very hard long hours to return beauty to the utilitarian art of yore.

   It was furniture. It was utilitarian. It was made to serve a purpose. It was skillfully engineer in the way that it's maker thought was best. It was creative, honest, and beautiful in its own way. No piece ever the same. You know Jesus was a carpenter? But we won't get into that. Separation of church and... well my blog. My respect and appreciation for furniture grew more every day.

   So that was it. That is when my love and fascination of furniture shifted. It went from journeyman sorcerer to creator. I wanted to be the maker who I had come to respect so much. I took what I had learned from countless surgeries on fine antiques to develop my own brand. Everything I made was some combination of modern style using old techniques. It's this innocence and simplicity that I will return to some day. Perhaps when I retire. But hopefully before that. Don't get me wrong. I love what I'm doing now. Working in NYC along side designers like Anda Andre, Meyer/Davis, Jeffery Beers, and the crew at WeWorks to develop some amazing never been seen before furniture designs for high end residency and hotels. I have so many designs that I would love to bring to life just for me. I will keep you posted.

   For now I'm going to close this giant brick of a computer. Get some more coffee, and enjoy this beautiful Saturday in Brooklyn. I hope this inspires you to look back to what you are passionate about.     

Comment

Comment

Hospitality Repair

   Welcome to the newest addition to the services offered by WaxOnWood.com

   We have put together a one stop shop for your Hospitality Furniture needs.

   Option One: We have a crack team of experienced furniture restores that can work with your occupancy schedule to breath new life into your existing furniture. 

   Option Two: Let our design team updated your existing furniture by replacing tops, doors, drawer faces, hardware and sabots. This is a very popular option to give you a new look at a fraction of the cost of a full remodel. 

   Option Three: A full remodel. Our capable team of project managers and designers will work in tandem with our factories located here in the United States to produce a fresh new look to put your hotel at the top of everyone's list.  

   Give us a try. I promise you will not be disappointed. You will want to keep us in your powerful bag of tricks. We will always get things done for you. We will always exceed your standards while doing it.  

 

 

Comment

Choosing a finish

Comment

Choosing a finish

   So I'm back. Its been a while since I posted my last blog On Wax. About three years actually. Since then I have moved to New York via England. I will save you the details for now. Because I would like to pick up where I left off. I would like to talk about finishes. 

   This is not intended to be the end all guide to finishing. It is for those of you who may need to ask the question... "What type of finish should I use on my furniture?" 

   I am going to break it down chronologically. Finishes along this timeline also happen to progressively increase in resilience and durability. So we start with fire.

   Fire, wax, and oil were some of the first methods people used to protect their wood. More or less sealing the wood from the elements. Prolonging the natural breakdown of it's fibers. The British would scorch the bottoms of wooden posts they would use for framing structures. This would create a water barrier and transform the natural sugars that wood eating bacteria feed on. Therefor warding off rot. The Japanese shou sugi ban treatment was created to protect whole wooden structures in the same way. They would char cypress leaving a beautiful shimmering black exterior protected from bugs, UV light, water, and rot. You will find this process is still being used today all over the world.

   Wax was also adopted around the world as a protective wood coating. By using wax directly on wood furniture you create a beautiful satin sheen. Smooth and satisfying like a new bar of soap. It was a very common finish that people took pride in keeping up. Dirt dust and oils would be trapped in the wax creating what we refer to today as a patina. If you have the passion it takes to keep up a straight wax finish. The rewards will be an organic beauty like nothing else. Ask me questions any time or for basic information look back through my previous blog On Wax. First understand this. Once you wax raw wood there is a very good chance you will not be able to finish it in any other way. Most film finishes will peel right off of wood that has been waxed. To remove the wax from the wood you would need to wash it down many times with hot caustic soda water and or toluene. Both are not pleasant, and may dry out the wood to a point beyond salvaging.

   Oils like teak and tung oil have also been used for a very long time as a protectant. These finishes also require upkeep. But they hold a very special place in the world of wood finishes. Oils have been developed over the years to provide great resilience in wet environments. Mineral oil or salad bowl oil is safe to put on wooden surfaces you prepare food on or in. If I were putting in wooden kitchen counters I would look at the Waterlox line of oil finishes. Besides this I would have to say oil is one of the least common finishes. Besides some danish and teak furniture I can't say I have used it that often for furniture applications. 

   All of the previous finishes each provide a unique look. But they are not resilient. For added protection of wood people developed the film finish. The original film finish was shellac. Shellac was used in India more than 3000 years ago for many purposes. It started as a basic resin. Farmers would infest trees with lac insects. These insects would coat the small branches of these trees with this scarlet amber resin. The branches would then be processed to remove the resin. Crushing it heating it and straining it until they had a raw unrefined version of shellac known as seed lac. It wasn't until this seed lac was further refined by heat and or solvent to remove further impurities that it could be called shellac. This could now be melted with denatured alcohol and applied to wood as a liquid. The alcohol would off gas quickly leaving a protective film. Processes were created to apply shellac such as French polishing. This was a way of burnishing the shellac with a soft rolled cloth referred to as a tampon along with boiled linseed oil. This would give furniture a glossy wet look and bring out the figure in the wood or showcase decorative marquetry. It was common to apply wax over a shellac finish as an extra layer of insurance. I feel that it also brings an added textural and visual appeal to the piece. Shellac has been used as the primary film finish for furniture in England since the 1700's. Shellac was easy to damage so people were much more careful with there furnishings. But when it did get damaged it was easily repairable. I would say in this day Shellac or French polished finishes should be reserved for fine antiques. A proper French polished finish is probably the most honorable way you can treat a piece of wood. 

   From here everything gets mixed up with the introduction of Varnishes. These were created by combining resins, oils, and saps. This was an alchemy all its own. Different recipes were evolved to serve different purposes. One of the most common still in use today is spar varnish you may know it as marine varnish. This was a film finish developed to protect the wood on ships. using the shellac resin and alcohol vehicle they would add pine sap and other organic compounds to keep the finish malleable.  In other words it never dried completely. This allowed the finish to move along with the bending mast as the sails caught wind. Shellac alone was too brittle and would crack under this stress. Marine varnish was also very good at repelling water. I would never use this finish on furniture you regularly come in contact with because like I said before it never completely cures. But if you are not coming in contact with it and you want the look of a film finish with good UV protective qualities it is certainly an option. If you are working on an outdoor project though I would recommend you take a look at Cabot's line of sealers. These sealers also have great UV protective qualities. Where the spar varnish has a life of 2 to 5 years before needing another treatment. The Cabot's have a 5 to 15 year life depending on the opacity and environment. It just doesn't have that film finish look.

   From this creative alchemy of mixing organic compounds to make varnish. The automotive industry developed nitrocellulose lacquer in the 1920's for our automobiles. Polymers and nitrocellulose fibers replaced the shellac resin and lacquer thinner(a mixture of butyl acetate and xylene or toluene) replaced the alcohol. This mixture could be sprayed on because the lacquer thinner would evaporate very quickly leaving nothing but the polymer resin to harden. This was the beginning of modern man made film finishes. In the 1940's the furniture industries started using nitrocellulose lacquer. When I started finishing furniture this is all we had. It was a very forgiving finish. You could apply it with ease. it was a high gloss finish that you could dull down with flattening paste(basically cotton fiber). If you were to add old yellow and brown aniline dye to a satin sheen lacquer you could achieve that same amber glow of a shellac finish though much more durable. I would use this finish again if I were to restore a classic piece from that era. But for reparable nitrocellulose lacquer finishes things have come a long way. 

   Pre-catalyzed lacquer aka Precat became the industry standard soon after I started finishing furniture. This is still the most commonly used finish today. In the beginning there were a lot of problems with inconsistency as the different producers bought each other out and changed their formulas. But several of the larger companies like Mohawk refined their products to be a very reliable finish. When it comes to putting a film finish on a modern day serviceable piece of furniture. This is the one I would choose. You can still mix with aniline dye to achieve that classic amber look. You can also get it in a non-yellowing "water white" which is super clear if you are not trying to draw attention to the finish.  This finish is far more water and scratch resistant than their predecessors. Probably the most important attribute to this finish is that it is easily repairable. This is the most important point you can take from this post. When it comes to choosing a finish. You want something durable. You want something you don't have to worry about getting damaged. But there is no such thing as an impervious finish. The finish you choose will get damaged. When it does, you will want it to be repairable. 

   This is where we cross the line into non-repairable finishes. Starting with post-catalyzed lacquer and conversion varnish. These finishes are very resilient to water, heat, and chemical interaction. They are activated just before application with an acid catalyst. They dry very hard and they can not be chemically removed. In other words you can not strip and refinish a piece without mechanically sanding off the finish. This is very laborious, and in most cases not worth the trouble. These finishes are also not very flexible. If the substrate they are applied to were to flex. The finish would crack or shatter. Also a blunt trauma from something like silverware or a paper weight will easily chip it. Since you can't reamalgamate the finish any repair will be very noticeable. Despite all of the possible pitfalls. You will find this finish applied on kitchen cabinets, restaurants, and hospital surfaces. 

   Another finish commonly used in the restaurant and hospitality industry is polyurethane. This is the modern day varnish. Polyurethane and more flexible Acrylic polyurethane are as resilient as you can get. When people think of polyurethane its the yellowing plastic finish found on factory made furniture of the 60's and 70's. New polyurethanes have been formulated to provide the same look and feel of the lacquers we have grown to prefer. I have used Ilva TP11 polyurethane and precat on the same piece of furniture and you would not be able to tell the difference. I grew up hating polyurethane. Only using it on teak, and other applications where normal lacquer would not work. Having tested these new coatings I would definitely say they have their uses. For a top surface of a table or buffet. Anything that gets a lot of regular use. The only finishes more durable than these will not give you that same classic film finish look. Poly finishes are expensive, very hard if not impossible to repair, but they are chemically strippable. 

   I will round things out with a few ultra hard finishes. Two part finishes or epoxy finish has been commonly used on bar tops. It is a permanent finish. It is poured on and dries very thick and clear. Epoxy will crack, chip, and shatter due to its lack of flexibility. It too is not strippable or repairable.

   Finally I would like to highlight a new type of furniture finish just breaking into the market. powder coating. This process used to be used for metal. In the way that a metal substrate was electrically charged allowing the polymer particle powder to adhere to the surface. The piece would then be baked in an oven. Melting the the powder into an ultra durable coating. This coating is not effected by water, heat, or chemicals. I have even seen it hit with a framing hammer hard enough to drive a nail. There was little or no damage. The BTD wood powdercoating company is developing this finish, and making it better every day. It comes in clear and a myriad of colors and sheens from flat to high gloss. Sounds great and it is. But as of now the finish can only be achieved on a special type of MDF. This MDF has a moisture content that allows the material to be electrically charged the same as metal. They have all of the tools and CNC machines to fabricate almost any shape you can think of up to 1-1/2" thick. Think about it. Get creative and give these guys some business. 

   So that's about it for now. Until the next big thing comes along. I'm sure with developments in nanotechnology we are not far off from another coating breakthrough. I know this was a very broad explanation of this subject. But I hope it helps with understanding the choices you have. If you liked this post please share it or leave a comment. I am happy to answer any questions you may have or elaborate further on any particular finish. Thanks for stopping by the site. Come back soon for more project pictures and posts.          

                       

       

Comment

1 Hotel Central Park open for business

Comment

1 Hotel Central Park open for business

Blackened steel and reclaimed timbers are the foundation of these beautiful spaces. The headboards are leather wrapped white oak floor joists from an old dairy farm in Pennsylvania. The walls behind are water tank wood from Brooklyn. There are panels of hemlock mushroom wood, and white oak beam steps from Pennsylvania as well. All reclaimed and local. We worked hard to create the white oak endgrain desks. Christopher Simpson, Eric Freedman, Christopher Kochuba along with Avroko's design team were able to create a very sexy green space.  

Comment

Baccarat Hotel NYC

Comment

Baccarat Hotel NYC

The Baccarat was given the Hospitality Design Award: Luxury/Upscale Hotel. We are proud to have had a part in this ultra luxurious space. 

Comment

1 Hotel South Beach

Comment

1 Hotel South Beach

   Congratulations to everyone involved in the 1 Hotel South Beach project. Christopher Simpson worked along side Meyer Davis Studios to design the FF&E. We have just been told it made the June 2015 cover of interior design magazine along with great spread and several accolades. It is a beautiful beach front property. Everything green, local, natural, reclaimed. Exactly the type of project we like to work on here at Wax on Wood. 

Comment

On Wax

Comment

On Wax

by Christopher Simpson on 02/15/2012

Since we started importing and selling the Goddard's Cabinet Makers Wax I have been receiving more questions than usual about wax in general. So I am going to take a second to explain some of the details of wax.

In my restoration business I use four different waxes on a regular basis. They are all very unique in how they are applied and what they offer.

First the wax that I call my work horse Goddard's Paste Wax. This wax was discontinued in the United States several years ago. I tryed many other waxes to take its place, but there were no substitutions. This wax spreads so easily with 0000 steel wool. It contains a perfect blend of beeswax (the soft spreadable wax), and Carnuba wax (which hardens giving you a shine, higher level of moisture protection, and a slick surface which helps prevent superficial scratches). All waxes have a vehicle or in other words a liquid that stops the wax from becoming solid. Goddard's uses a white spirit that is not harsh on delicate finishes and evaporates slowly so that you have plenty of time to spread it out evenly. All of this, plus its great lemon verbena scent, are why I love it so much. Apply with 0000 steel wool lightly and evenly in a circular pattern then finish off with the grain; let stand for 15-20 min. then buff out with a horse hair or shoe brush, let sit another 15-20 min. and buff out with nylons. Tip: Be sure you are buffing with a smooth part of the nylons, no waist band or seams to avoid streaks.

Two of my other waxes fall under the catagory of restorative wax.

First Renaissance Wax. This wax was developed by the British Museum Society and is very expensive, but for good reason; it draws out oils and contaminants from other polishes and leaves an unmatched protective layer. Being a micro-crystalline structure it breaks down when buffed lending an extremely smooth clear surface to show off fine wood grain and inlaid detail. Another attribute is that it is chemically neutral meaning it is safe for the most delicate surfaces making it the number one choice of museums the world round. If you plan on using this wax on you dining room table...don't. If you plan on using it on something like a fine inlaid writing slope call me, I'll let you know the best way.

The Second wax in my restorative arsenol is Lakeone buffing wax. This wax cures hard and shines up really well due to the addition of candelilla wax to its bees wax base. My favorite thing about this wax is that it comes in a multitude of different colors that can give life back to a bleached out wood surface, or it can give another dimension to any finish for that extra wow factor...especially on carving, by wiping it off the highs and leaving it in the lows it will make the details pop. The natural colorants in this wax are u.v. resistant and penetrate deep. You may be thinking why not use this wax on everything it sounds great! Well, it is great but there are a few cons. The vehicle used is a little more harsh than others allowing deeper penetration, but if not careful it can damage more delicate finishes. The other thing is that if left on a surface too long before spreading even it can leave color streaks, and you would never want to use it on a chair or any other furniture that people come in regular contact with because it will transfer onto clothing and permanantly stain in some cases. Again call or e-mail me if you have any questions about application.

The final wax in my bag of goodies is Briwax, a wax that everyone knows but few really know how to use. I will start by explaining the compound, which is a carnuba and beeswax base with an extremely astringent vehicle called toluene. Toluene is well known as a gasoline additive and an active chemical in the explosive tnt compound. It will also strip weaker finishes like French polishes. I am telling you this to inform you not to scare you away from using it. I use this wax on raw wood like pine or oak. This will create a beautiful glowing patina. This straight forward wax finish is easy to scar but just as easy to touch up... just add more wax. Back in the day beeswax was mixed with water and lye then caustic soda. The reason for the lye or caustic soda was to break surface tension, open pours and fight past natural oils in the wood allowing the wax to penetrate deep into the wood creating the optimal protection. This compound was called wax milk and was used primarily on raw wood floors, stair cases, etc. I bring this up because to me Briwax is the modern day wax milk.

Thats the quick version, the wax 101. I hope to find more time in the future to elaborate on the finer points. I think film finishes could use a bit of explanation along with about a hundred other topics. I hope this was concise and informative. Again feel free to call or e-mail any time if you need added clarity.

Thanks for stopping by the site,

Christopher Simpson

Comment