Sunday, May 7, 2017

douglas fir base for finial of a lost artist

my long time comrade in arms and bikes, sean of 10-digital had a neighbor who passed recently. i met the man once during an open house. he was an artist, and had completely transformed his west oakland loft into a studio. These lofts are arranged in a way such that the east facing walls are covered with glass. He had a very large curtain in silk (i believe) and a long stout rod to hold it up. Whoever acquired the place, removed this assembly, and abandoned it on the sidewalk, to my dear friend's horror.

sean recovered the fabric, and one of the large finials that had been threaded into the ends of the curtain rods, and asked me to somehow provide a base for this to display in his home. They were about 6" in dia x 12" tall. So here we are with a 9" dia base roughly 1,3/4" thick with a 3/4" round nose bit applied to the edge. haven't figured out the finish yet. maybe nothing, maybe wax, maybe a bit of oil. maybe paint?

some time spent mocking up the base in cardboard to get a sense of the proportions. The finial was a moulded piece and has some 1/4x? threaded shaft on its base that would skrew into a 3/16" hole just fine with some wax coercion. We originally thought to make the base ovoid, but i quickly realized the base needed to be someting that provided stability, no distraction. stay out of the way of the finial.
I used a few tricks to make the circular cut on my band saw with a plywood sled that I ran along the fence at the 4.5" radius, before clamping to the deck. there is a wooden dowel pin in the plywood sled that feeds about 3/8" into a hole bored into the base to hold it in place and spin freely. after moving the fence out of the way, i was able to cut a circular base from the fir. It is riddled with some sort of wood boaring insect's holes, so i will have to run this wood through the oven to be absolutely sure nothing infects sean's house!
I used the same plywood sled to rout the edge corner detail here. note the use of a fast clamp "cleat" at the aft end of the fence that i could butt the sled up to for support while i pivoted the assembly into the spinning bit. This way felt like i was in good control of the cutting, and was able to take a clean cut in 3 passes. After this, it was just finish sanding.
Just in case he wants to hang this off the wall, i fabbed up a small aluminum cleat that is inset from the base (so that it doesn't scratch the table). Just in case he wants to hang this on the wall somewhere. It works fine with a washerhead skrew


  1. A nice black stain finish, not too shiny might work best. I did a lot of museum mountings years ago and you always want to focus on the work not the base. Unless you have a cheap ugly antique you need to jazz up to sell. LOL

    1. Thank you ed I think you're spot on. It'll be seats decision but I'll make this recommendation

  2. What can I say?! A perfect match for a piece "left to me" by an artist who appreciated all things created with skill and passion... thank you!

  3. Any chance your friend also saved the silk? If so, how about covering the base with silk?

  4. An excellent idea. I will run this by my mate. I'm thinking I could use thinned out white glue and maybe cut a few reliefs into the fabric so that it lays down smoothly? Or vacuum bag...