Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Space Between

The final size of the opening is 8’4” wide by 8’9” tall. This is going to be one big cabinet. I’m really nervous about making them, but I’ve got to do it.





I removed the last of the framing and opened the final space up today. They did some odd things. The header that I removed going across at the top is made up of 2, full dimensional 2X4s. All of the 2X4 in the house are larger than modern lumber, but they aren’t really true 2X4s. These are.

Then on top of them were a few scraps of the cabinets nailed in to place. I’m not sure what this was for exactly. Most of the pieces were scraps of casing and were instantly recognizable. There was another piece of trim I had never seen before. At first I thought it was undersized picture rail (1X2). Once I got it out, though, I could see that one end had a compound miter on it. It must have been a part of a multi-part cornice. It doesn’t look like any thing I’ve seen in the house.





The other interesting thing about this piece of trim is the way it is finished. It looks like any other piece of milled wood from the period. It has an ornate, but still somewhat understated profile. What’s different about it is that it is covered with a very thin, smooth layer of plaster, and then it is painted (?) gold.

The application of the plaster gives it a very smooth surface. Much smother than sanding. For all I know that may be real gold leaf on there. It seems to have tarnished a bit, and I’m not sure that gold tarnishes. It doesn’t show in the picture all that well, but the parts that are still gold are still very shiny. I don’t think that is paint. I’ve heard that lead paint back in the day had a look that is equivalent to high-gloss today, but that it didn’t hold that shine for too may years.

14 comments:

HPH said...

Go into the kitchen and look at the cabinets around and above the sink. Turn around and look at the island. Check out the cabinets in the bathroom. The butler's pantry cabinets will be great too.

Joe said...

I bet that is gold leaf, and the plaster is probaly "size" that goes on under gold leaf.

Kathy from NJ said...

Greg, you are such a perfectionist (in a good way), so I know the cabinet will be magnificent. I agree with Joe that it is gold leaf.

Greg said...

I will admit that my cabinet making skills have improved over the past 6 years. These make me very nervous mainly because I won't be able to hide my mistakes behind paint and putty.

Greg said...

Joe,

When I Google "Size", in reference to gold leaf, all I see are clear adhesives. This looks like plaster underneath the gold leaf. I would say it is about a 1/16th of an inch thick. It could be that they used plaster as "size" back in the day. Maybe gold leaf does not adhere to wood and so they applied the plaster first.

Jennifer said...

Interesting bit of wood! I wonder what it was for originally?

The cabinet will be so neat when you get it done...

Sandy said...

If only walls could talk...

Jenni said...

That is an interesting find.
Hum.......Do you think that it was on the "back of a work truck"...um....wagon...... left over from another project and they just needed a little something to nail in right there and it was handy. Odd that it is gold leaf...

Greg said...

Jenni,

I think that's possible. I also think it is possible that it was a part of the original cabinets. Also, the 2X4s that created the header showed signs that they had been nailed to something else before they were put up.

John said...

Greg,

They probably used plaster as a backing for the leaf to give it a smooth finish. If you applied gold leaf (which is extremely thin) directly to the wood, it would probable show some woodgrain or texture from the wood no matter how well you sanded it. The plaster would provide a very smooth finish if sanded.

A type of clay is traditionally used for the backing of gold leaf in decorative or artistic applications. Then the size (gelatin and water) is applied to the clay, plaster, etc and the leaf is laid over that. Or, they may use an oil based size. Once the size is dried, the leaf is burnished (usually with an agate stone tool) to give it a high shine - this works best with a very smooth substrate.

Greg said...

John,

That seems to be pretty much what I have.

moggiesten said...

Is it picture rail, Greg? Gesso with gold on top reeks of picture frame, but most likely picture rail for a formal room.
Marilyn

kingstreetfarm said...

John is so the MAN for this kind of thing. Great explanation--which saved me a bunch of typing ;)

I have a theory--is it possible that it's a fragment of an old picture frame that some very frugal previous owner reused when they needed a "shim" or just filler for the space? It sounds (and looks) like a gessoed gold leaf treatment to me, as John described, and that's what was used on those pricy antique picture frames.

Greg said...

I find it interesting that this scrap of wood has generated so many comments. I think that says a lot about all of us.

I think that most every idea is a possibility. This could very well be picture rail, and that was my first thought. It was the compound miter that lead me to believe that it was not use in that manner. It looks more like it was used as part of a built up cornice. This cut could also indicate a picture frame. I hadn't thought of that.

I have some of that gessoed picture rail in an upstairs bedroom. It is not original to the house. The gessoed rail has an intircate pattern on it, where this stuff is as smooth as glass. Also, the gesso is not as white as what is under this gold leaf. This stuff is white as snow and chalky.