Archive for the ‘Off on a tangent’ Category

My father’s portrait completed

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

My father's marquetry portrait

At long last, I finished my father’s marquetry portrait! I posted the pattern for this in August, 2010. It was mostly what I have been doing, hobbywise, instead of working on my hurdy-gurdy. This is made from thin wood veneers cut with an X-acto knife. To compare it with my mother’s and to see the original picture, go here.

Italian peasant girl – new shawl

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

Thanks to my hurdy-gurdy, the peasant girl now not only has both her shoulders, but a new shawl! She’s looking dramatically better, finally. A major roadblock has been overcome.

The shoulder on the right side has been attached. It was made separately due to the picture getting too big and unwieldy to allow for a lot of detailed work. The water behind it has been put in. The old shawl parts were cut away and the new pieces with the wavy grain added.


Things are looking up for the Italian peasant girl, with her new shawl

The wrinkles discovered on the edges of a piece of burl I was using for the hurdy-gurdy lid design seem to match the shape of the shawl well, and it is the right color – red. Now there are just a couple shadow pieces near the waist, where it crosses, and along the left edge of the top diagonal piece. I never would have guessed the solution would be so simple!


A partial reject shawl on the left and the good one on the right

Since my other scan had gotten left on a previous computer, I have rescanned the original picture in the book, enlarged it to match the marquetry. The top section has been printed out and I have started drawing the pattern. Her head, with the sky, tree and hillside will be made separately and added on later. I’ve also started pawing through the veneers for suitable pieces.

Lady in waiting

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

The wood used for the border of the lid inlay had some grain in it that I thought would be perfect for a tough wardrobe item of my lady in waiting. Years ago [the first post on a marquetry forum about it was Dec, 2003], I started a marquetry portrait of an Italian peasant girl, “A daughter of Abruzzi” as the old geography book refers to her.


LANDS AND PEOPLES, The Grolier Society, vol II page 307, 1929-1953

She is waiting eventually for her head, but in the short term, she is waiting patiently for her shawl. I spent months on the picture over the years, putting in hundreds of pieces, but got bogged down with the shawl. I’ve tried it several times, cutting in different woods to simulate the folds, but it just wasn’t coming out right. So, maybe this burl veneer with the two places of unique wavy grain will make it look like it is supposed to? So, I retrieved her out of storage to work on the picture some.


The Italian peasant girl picture is as wide as the keychest

This is the biggest, most complicated picture I have done so far, and that’s not including the top third of the image. Right now it is about 13″ x 13″.


Detail showing the variety of all the natural colored woods

The Angelus — completed

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

I left the statue alone while we were out of town for 10 days for the glue to cure, and now it is up on the bookshelf, hopefully out of the reach of the cat!


The homme will probably never get a new hat in my lifetime, or at least not until after I finish my hurdy-gurdy!

Before the trip, I got a new miter box to cut the key buttons to length. My old one’s slot is too worn to give a good vertical cut anymore. So, that’s what will be coming up next.

I’ve also got hundreds of old family slides and photos to scan!

The Angelus — glued together

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

While at Michaels looking for a miter box to cut the hurdy-gurdy key buttons to length, I ran across some Elmer’s China + Glass Cement. So, I got that for gluing the base together. It says it dries clear and gives one minute of set time. Dishwashable when done, not that I’m going to do that, but I thought that sounded like a strong, durable joint.


Sculpture glued together and drying — will it hold?

No telling how well it worked. It takes a couple days to achieve full strength. I think I’ll leave it alone, then. After holding it with pressure for several minutes, it didn’t seem to be bonded. I hope there was still enough wet glue to hold it once I decided to just set it down and let it dry. I didn’t want too much glue so that it oozed out everywhere. It didn’t, thankfully. Seemed like I had enough on there, but not sure how it will bond if the porcelain pieces aren’t in tight contact against each other.

I really would hate to have to clean the glue joints and glue it again – with something else. The Elmer’s packaging doesn’t even say how to remove it! Apparently not with warm water, if you can put it in the dishwasher. I hope I’m done with it.

[The last little flake of porcelain I finally figured out went on the bottom of the outer leg of the wheelbarrow, along the break. I put that on before gluing the halves together.]

The Angelus — update

Saturday, May 7th, 2011

The femme half is still draining a few drops of water from a pinhole under the potato sacks on the wheelbarrow. This is in an area that I needed to re-attach a broken chunk of the base. I left it lying down overnight, so that area would be dry. Then I glued on the piece today.


Base edge piece was removed, cleaned and reglued

I did a dry fit of the two halves of the sculpture for the first time since taking on the project. I don’t think it will be a seamless join, due to the complexity of the break. Also, two pieces have been glued in along that edge, which cannot be glued in exactly the way they were originally.

I’m worried about using super glue. I don’t think I could get it put all along the edge and then attach it before the glue I first applied had dried out. Might have to use epoxy? It is thicker, but gives me five minutes. I expect the epoxy would show more, if any squeezed out.

When it appears the dripping is done, I can proceed. The pieces will have to be glued upright, which is the position that causes drainage, and I can’t have that along the fresh glue joint.


The anxious couple awaiting the day that has been decades in coming

The Angelus — l’homme

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Last night I glued on the three surviving pieces of the homme’s hands and one sliver from along the base, using Loctite super glue. So, he’s all done now.


The homme checking out his clean, reattached hands

It would be nice to carve him a new hat someday and try to paint it the color of the porcelain, but that’s not going to be any time soon, if ever. At least he’s got arms — and clothes, which is more than I can say about the Venus de Milo.


Before and after views of the hands

The femme is still draining some water near where  a piece of the base needs attaching. After doing that, the final step will be gluing the couple back together.

The Angelus

Monday, April 25th, 2011

I always liked the 1857-59 painting by French artist Jean-François Millet called “The Angelus.” It shows a peasant couple stopping their potato harvesting to pray when the church bells ring at the appointed hour.


My antique postcard of The Angelus by Jean-François Millet

In addition to the simplicity of it, it shows the custom considered quaint today of the man praying with his head uncovered, and the woman praying with her head covered, as specified in the New Testament in 1 Corinthians 11. The man has removed his hat to pray.

My grandmother had a porcelain sculpture of this painting in her Dining Room when I was little. It turned up in a box of my Dad’s things from his attic, broken in half and badly stained by age and a couple poor glue attempts. The man’s hat has also been lost, despite having been glued in the past.


Sculpture in its found damaged condition

The sculpture is French, as it says “L’Angelus d’après Millet” on the base. It could have been my great-grandmother’s, who was from Europe. I don’t know.


Old glue along crack of the base on the femme side of the sculpture

I decided, instead of trashing it, to take it on as a restoration challenge, to see how much I could clean it up. Miraculously, the delicate basket and wheelbarrow were undamaged, despite the whole thing being broken in half under its handles. The whole femme side of the sculpture was unscathed, with the main problem there being the remnants of orange-brown glue along the base fracture.


The homme with broken hands, missing hat and orange and shiny glues

The homme was a different story. Because of his hat and hands having broken off, he suffered several distressing glue attempts, with both an old orange glue, and a clear super glue. The super glue ran in rivulets down both legs, and collected around his arms, coat hem, ankles, shoes and potato sack. Because the porcelain is unglazed with a flat finish, the shiny glue was very visible everywhere.

The first question was: Could the old orange glue be removed from the crack edges of the thick base by soaking in warm water? Yes, it actually came off very cleanly with careful scraping using an X-acto knife.


The femme's base cleaned of orange glue

Question number two: What about the clear glue, would fingernail polish remover with acetone take it off? I suppose it helped. This superglue was much harder to remove, not only because it was in crevices everywhere, but because it had adhered better. But scraping and chipping with an X-acto knife after applying acetone, it slowly was removed with no damage to the porcelain surface, even when sparks were sometimes created!

Now for the hands — some delicate pieces there, and really globbed up with both kinds of glue, including hollows inside the pieces. It was tedious, but the operation to remove the three glued pieces of the hands was successful.


The femme praying for her homme's successful operation

All the little pieces cleaned up well, too. That is good news, as they should fit much better now and the seams be much more invisible.


The homme finally free of his humiliating glue problems

Next issue was the light brownish age staining. What about denture cleaner? I got the cheapest the grocery store had, a 90-tablet pack of Efferdent. You put one in a glass with your teeth, but how many for a plastic kitchen washtub filled about 5 inches deep? I went with 36. Did that twice, leaving overnight each time. The femme liked to float, so she was weighted down with a wet wash-cloth.


The homme and femme enjoying one of their Efferdent baths

I used the remaining 18 tablets this evening with less water, focusing mostly on the bases, where most of the discoloration was. I’ll take them out in the morning, and let everything dry well for several days before trying to glue it all back together.



Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

This ermine, a symbol of Brittany —which is the Celtic part of France— has changed its coat to wish you a Happy St. Patrick’s Day.


2011 National Accordion Convention

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

Almost time for the National Accordion Convention here in Dallas! My wife and I went to the 3-hr Saturday concert last year for my birthday. It was a real treat. This closing concert is open to the general public for a $10 charge.

This year it is March 12 from 7:30 to 10:30 located at the Westin Hotel in Dallas.

When’s the last time you heard an accordion orchestra do “Handel’s Messiah”? Here it is from last year…

[You can also see them do the Tara Theme from "Gone With The Wind," and others.] Some of the individual performances were even more impressive. I look forward to going back!