Tim Hyatt
Wingshadow Studios
513 Myrtle St.
LaConner WA
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shop shot

All of our frames are made from scratch in the WingShadow shops, using locally grown and sustainably harvested hardwoods. We often buy air-dried birch and maple from other woodworkers in Whatcom County (guys with big old barns full of the stuff that will let us pick through and select the most suitable boards). We also cut our own slabs from fallen trees with a chainsaw attachment known as an “Alaska mill.” The boards and slabs are carefully stacked on our premises so that they’ll dry evenly without excess warping or cracking. Eventually the boards are brought into the shop to acclimate to indoor conditions. It takes about one year per inch of thickness to dry wood to a workable water content.

choosing wood

Often the most difficult part of milling frame stock is looking at a rough board and deciding how to take advantage of the grain, working around the knots and the bark and the unusable parts of the tree (not exactly unusable… those are the parts that go into the woodstove to heat the shop!). The first step is usually to cut a larger slab into shorter, 4313_resawingstraighter pieces so they’ll mill flat with a minimum of waste. Thicker boards are split lengthwise on a band saw in a process called “resawing.” Resawing is also used, as on the room screens, to create book-matched panels where the grain is symmetrical on either side of a central axis (click to see the room screen).

Once the rough lumber has been milled into frame stock it’s ready to be cut into frames. Two things determine a good fit at the corners: the joints have to be cut at dead-on 45 degee angles, and the opposite sides have to be exactly the same length. If either of these measurements are off it will show at the joint corners. When the corners fit perfectly they are glued, but a glue joint on the end grain of a board is very weak, so we insert wooden splines that not only strengthen the joint substantially, but provide a beautiful design element as well. This kind of exposed joinery, where the structural elements are the only decoration, is a hallmark of the Arts and Crafts style. The joint is also far stronger than the fasteners used in commercial frames. After the glue dries the4398_FrameStack walnut splines are cut, planed, and sanded flush with the frame, and then the frame is finished with several coats of Danish oil.

The clear Danish oil finish is rubbed into the wood by hand, and is absorbed by the wood in a way that not only provides a long-lasting protective finish, but shows off the grain to the greatest possible extent. The frames should last a lifetime without any maintenance, but if damaged the finish can be easily restored by rubbing on a thin coat of the widely available oil.