Monday, June 27, 2011

A New Process

I went to the doctor this morning for a basic physical, but additionally to have my shoulder looked at. I was recently playing Frisbee with Duncan, when he tugged it from my hand. Not expecting the tug, my arm was limp, this caused a great jolt to my shoulder. Something hasn’t been right with it since.

To shorten things up, I have a pulled tendon. That was actually good news, as I was worried it may be something far more serious. If it were a spine issue, or a dislocation, or a torn ligament, I may have to drastically change the way I do things.

I would have to carry things only with my left hand for a while, throwing a ball would be out of the question, which is a problem since I play 3rd base for my softball team. Any number of things would have to have their processes completely changed, but that wasn’t the case.

As I thought about it, I realized that changing an existing process may not always be a bad thing. After all think of all the bad habits that we develop that are nothing more than the outcome of the process with which we do things.

And so naturally my thoughts turned to my frames. I have a very specific process for distressing them. It is intentional and works very well. The goal is to make the distressing look as natural as possible, without it looking like it is falling apart. Honestly I like the process I use, and I enjoy doing it.

There is one portion of the creation however that I HATE!! It is applying the polyurethane once the finish is completed. I use low gloss and a paint brush. I have tried wearing gloves, but I really didn’t like it. I get poly all over my hands (it is a handmade process, but I still don’t like it) and have a brush that needs mineral spirits and attention, I splatter poly in the garage as I close the can with a hammer, you get the picture.

I even thought about just not polying them. This however brought up 2 issues. The first was that the finish would not stay the same, all that work I put into it wouldn’t be protected at all. The second was that I love the way the bare wood parts look after the poly. It darkens their shades and reveals the grain lines, you just don’t get that without putting some sort of finish on.

I needed to buy poly, and while in the store, I noticed that they sold it in spray cans. I thought that would be a great way to work around the brush, and so I got one.
I hung my frames on a wall in the garage, and sprayed them each with a light coat. It looked great, and there was no clean up. And then I started to get light headed. I realized, that even with the garage door open, there was no circulation at all in there, and it was filling with fumes.

Well this was definitely not good, I wasn’t going to get high, and cover all my stuff in polyurethane residue just to save a brush. I walked out into the driveway and once feeling a little better returned to the garage, the odor of the poly (which smells a lot like new plastic) was everywhere.

And so I again had to make a decision. Adjust my process, or go back to the old one that generated no fumes. I decided on the former. I took a screw and put it into the end of a board that was easily longer than my largest frame. I then hung the frame by a corner off the screw. By doing this I was able to rotate the frame 360 degrees to get to every side.

After practicing this rotation a few times one handed, I was ready to go. I took the spray poly in one hand, and the new (yet to be named) contraption in the other, and got to work. IT worked. No poly on my hands, no poly in the garage, no fumes trapped, and a frame that has a nice clean finish !

So while I am very glad that I do not have to change any of the processes that I use my right shoulder for, I am equally excited, that I stuck with changing the process of finishing the frames, and now can even produce them faster and better looking than ever!


  1. What an awesome idea!!! I have never used to can kind as well... might have to look into it. :) Love your contraption. Very innovative.

  2. great idea, sounds like you will save a lot of sticky clean up time :)


  3. Glad your pleased with your new process for producing your frames. I do something similar for my sculpture bases.

    Just be careful of flying bugs. For some reason they love to huff the fumes then commit suicide by hurling themselves onto wet polyurethane :(

    I started to put an over turned cardboard box over my stuff till it dries.