Until this week a long tee was something I wore at the beach to cover my bum. Although these days it appears to be fashionable to have a disproportionately large derriere. Perhaps I should ditch the coverups and flaunt it now curves are fashionable in the western world? But I’m wandering off topic….
One of the things I love about being a designer is the continual learning, whether it’s new techniques for creating paint finishes or working with new materials. This week my eyes have been opened to a whole new world of long tees, base flanges and elbow clamps thanks to the lovely people at Racking Man! (cue superhero music) Great name isn’t it. Conjures up images of a beefy tradesman brandishing a wrench, wearing a cape and underpants over his Apache cargo pants. If only they really looked like that, but again I’m going off topic….
So I’m working on designs for a Retail customer and I’m going for an ‘old theatre’ look, think wood floors, ladders, industrial spotlighting, slightly faded velvet curtains etc. etc. I don’t want to give away too much in case my customer is reading this. (You know who you are so stop reading now if you want any surprises when I deliver the final designs!) I’m incorporating some industrial looking shelving into the design and want to use scaffolding pipes. Hence my trip yesterday to Racking Man. I’d already spoken with the very helpful owner Patrick earlier in the week but I wanted to physically see the products to make a decision on size. Turns out its a family business and his wife Gillian (hard G) is equally helpful. As a result I now know what fittings I want and what size, and it all fits together with an allen key – simple! If you’re feeling adventurous and want to have a go at making your own furniture out of scaffolding materials their website has some very useful info to help you figure out what your need, including this handy picture of the various clamps and joints.
I’ve also been experimenting with wood finishes for this commission and for the new bar thats going in my summer house. I was thinking of using reclaimed scaffolding planks which I’ve worked with before but you spend a lot of time sanding them and cutting them to size. Its easier and not much more expensive to order pre-sanded, cut to size planks and boards from your local timber merchant, or pick up standard sizes from your local DIY store. For my experiments I bought a 5-pack of 90cm long tongue and groove from B&Q for £3.
Giving wood an aged weathered look is really simple. A few days before you plan to start get a big glass jar, half fill it with white vinegar, stuff a chunk of fine grade steel wool in it and leave it. The wool will disintegrate over time creating a homemade oxidising solution.
When you’re ready to start, lay your wood out on some newspaper and brew a hot pot of really strong black tea. The tea adds tannins to the wood which then react with your oxidising solution to created the weathered look. Some woods, like oak, already have high tannin levels and may not need the tea, or very little. But woods like pine don’t so you’ll need two or three coats. Apply with a paintbrush and leave to dry.
Next paint the oxidising solution on to the wood with a paintbrush. Immediately you will see the wood start to turn grey. The older your solution, the stronger it is, and the darker your wood will turn. So always do a test piece and water it down with water or more vinegar if you want a lighter shade. Once the wood is dry, polish with some clear wax to give a light sheen and a smooth feel.
If you want to go a step further and give your wood a beachy tone you can add liming wax which will fill the cracks in the grain and leave a bluey-white sheen on top of the grey. You can buy liming wax online. I’m currently using one made by Liberon. To create the effect rub a little of the wax onto your wood using fine steel wool, leave it to try for 2-3 minutes and then wipe of the excess and buff. If the colour is too blue/white then use a damp cloth to wipe off more of the wax, if you like it light then add more wax.
Finished results: from left, plain tongue and groove, weathered look, beachy look.
Here’s a couple of examples of finished products.
Does seem a little ironic, we spend a fortune on products to slow down the personal ageing process, but our love for old and used goods has led us to develop creative ways to speed it up elsewhere. Anyway, better get back to work, I’m experimenting with paint finishes now…