Framing My Life

Blueberries Picture FrameSo, what does a man of a certain age (let’s just say that getting to double my current age is now at best unlikely, and is likely undesirable) do once the kids are gone, the career is relatively stable, and the house projects are getting complex? Seems like there are two routes for such a man: grow a white beard and become a Civil War fanatic, or finally get more serious about some woodworking. Given a recent explosion of creativity from the spousal unit, which creativity requires not only frames for displays in art galleries but very special frames (oil pastels don’t like to be pressed against glass), I decided to get serious about some finer skills and frame-building. That means getting serious about mitered corners and rabbet joints. It meant finally getting a good router table (you cannot imagine the lengths I have gone to and what I have done without one, and I cannot imagine why that was the case). It means getting some quality router bits and angle guides, and really making sure the saw is dialed in perfectly. It means measure 5 or 6 times, cut once. There is a lot of arithmetic.

The first framing effort, suspending glass away from an oil pastel painting, looked pretty good. Until I saw it in the gallery, and saw everything that was wrong with it. The angles were a little skewed, the miters less than perfect, the staining a bit uneven – all things that would have been hidden by paint, but we went natural and in the end I didn’t love it. The second was a big piece that required plexi instead of glass, and it went better but I still didn’t have my miters quite perfect. The third was better still, and didn’t look embarrassing hung in a gallery. Getting there.

Then we had this painting sitting above the mantel, purchased from a local artist. Just love it, but it came in the most rudimentary of frames and I was sick of looking at it that way. I saw another large piece at a gallery and stole the idea for how it was framed. Knowing I was going to paint the perimeter, and given the size, I went with rabbetted joints, rather than miters, and rabbetted the inlay piece too, made out of some birch that for some reason I’ve had and never used for more than 20 years. This piece came up pretty damned close to perfect. Not quite, but it’s just about at the point that woodworking should be, where only the builder can find the flaws. And it really makes the scene look complete. (Thanks again to the spousal unit, the house actually looks like we decorated it on purpose.)

We have other things I want to be able to build, and that means I’ve spent about three weeks rearranging our tiny, highly-longitudinal basement. Someone recently asked me if I had a woodshop, and I just had to laugh. I have a lot of tools that I have to move into place every time I want to use them. I don’t really even have room for the table saw to sit in place where I would need to use it. It’s on wheels so I can spin it around and fit longer pieces of wood. A new working table, only for assembly, is drying and ready for the legs to be mounted, and a million other things have been rearranged around the basement so that I can have something like a workflow.

Maybe I should just let the whiskers grow and take a drive to Gettysburg.

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