Wood finish recommendations for a wood clad FLW House

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Tom
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Post by Tom »

Looks like the people that preserved Pope-Leighey went to some trouble to develop their solution. Article says they hope it will be used for other Wright homes:

https://savingplaces.org/stories/pope-l ... P1cGFLMyEI

pharding
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Post by pharding »

SDR wrote:I like that; it would have the effect of sealing the wood with soaked-in shellac, a hard substance, followed by dressing with a more fluid substance which would fill remaining pores and, with buffing, become a dirt-resisting topcoat.

My Danish woodworking master, Tage Frid, brought us another recipe, again for interior woodwork (i.e., furniture). In this case, oil is made to penetrate the wood; then, with a thicker coat, a surface is built up and polished:


Linseed oil, which is made from the seed of
the flax plant, is one of the oldest finishing
materials, and for many years was the most
commonly used. But even after lengthy dry-
ing, linseed oil never hardens through com-
pletely and, when used by itself, is not a
durable finish. For many years I have used a
three-step linseed-oil finish that is much
more durable than plain linseed. Allow 24
hours of drying time between each coat.

For the first coat, mix half pure raw linseed
oil and half pure turpentine. Put on a heavy
coat with a rag and allow it to soak into the
wood. (In between uses, I keep the rag in a
closed container with the linseed oil.)

The next day apply the second coat, using
pure boiled linseed oil. Leave it on for two to
three hours, then sand the surface with
some worn, fine sandpaper and wipe it clean.

On the third day apply the last coat. Mix half
boiled linseed oil and half japan drier. When
applying the finish, don't cover too large an
area at one time. For example, if finishing a
cabinet, first put the oil on one side, wait
about ten minutes, and apply it to the other
side. After ten minutes more, do the top. The
reason for allowing the time between is that
after a while the finish gets tacky — some-
times after twenty minutes and sometimes
after five hours, depending on the drying
conditions. When the finish gets tacky, you
have to work fast, because it will dry sud-
denly. If you haven't allowed the ten minutes
between areas, the finish on the last area will
dry before you have a chance to wipe it off.

When the finish gets tacky, use a piece of
burlap to rub the oil into the pores, going
across the grain. Then wipe the extra oil off
with a clean rag.

To prevent spontaneous combustion, put
used burlap and rags in an airtight container
or burn them.

On the fourth day, steel wool the surface and
wipe it clean with a rag. For a shinier surface,
sprinkle on some rottenstone and polish
with a piece of leather, going with the grain.
Rottenstone is one of the finest natural abra-
sives for polishing surfaces.


© 1979 by the Taunton Press, Inc
Thank you for your input on the interior finishes. The above approach is too invasive in my opinion. What we are doing is to clean the shellac while retaining the original finish system. Then we add another coat of clear shellac. Our test results are beautiful.
Paul Harding FAIA Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, 1941 Lloyd Lewis House, 1952 Glore House | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

I have always like linseed oil. I bought some DIY finish wood furniture, applied linseed oil liberally, waited several days, painted with lacquer. That was 23 years ago. The desk and headboard look as though they were painted yesterday.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Paul, that sounds like a sensible solution. Assuming that, over time, the same darkening may occur, the process could be repeated -- indefinitely -- while still retaining the original base coat.

My question would be, what are you using to clean the shellac, assuming that at least some of the darkening has occurred within the top layer of old shellac ? Or are you finding only topical soiling ?

Alcohol is the solvent for conventional shellac, I believe. What other solvents could be used -- mineral spirits, presumably ? -- without disturbing the existing shellac coat(s) ? If any of the existing film is broken, a wet cleaning process might allow soils to migrate through the coat to the wood below ?

SDR

pharding
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Post by pharding »

I like Savogran products that we used on the Davenport House Cypress. So we used a mild solution of Dirtex. There are more aggressive cleaners but I prefer to error on the side of caution. Dirtex worked quite well.
Paul Harding FAIA Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, 1941 Lloyd Lewis House, 1952 Glore House | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

SDR
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Post by SDR »

So, we've migrated in the discussion from exterior to interior. It will be interesting to see how you are able to fare with the exterior boards, which look so badly stained and warped in the worst of the photos.



Image


Image

JChoate
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Post by JChoate »

Whew, those exterior photos are rough.
On the top photo I note three jack posts supporting the center of the upper balcony span. On the far left of the balcony at the lower left corner is that the outer end of some sort of a tension rod?

SDR
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Post by SDR »

I owned a Fiat 124 Spyder for a couple of years. It is still the best driver I ever owned -- exquisitely attuned to the needs and senses of the operator. But it wasn't robust, sad to say. I remember wishing that the design had been realized by a German (or, now, an Asian) firm.

Is my meaning clear ?

Those could easily be handscrews -- wooden clamps with deep throats -- visible at the lower corner of the right end of the balcony, second photo.

Are there actually two c. 12" long boards on the face of that parapet ? Really, the kindest thing -- to the architect, if to no one else -- would be to replace the whole face. You won't flatten boards like those . . .

SDR

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Four photos of the Sturges house exterior published in the '90s:


Image

As with the second Lewis photo, raking light here reveals siding planarity issues . . .

Image

Photos Simon Clay, pub. 1997


Image

Photo Tom Ploch, pub. 1993


Image

Photo Balthazar Krab, pub. 1993 -- post-restoration view ?


SDR

DRN
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Post by DRN »

Touching on the subject of wood darkening, I have noticed, particularly in the bedrooms at Sweeton, that there are places on the redwood veneer plywood, usually at outside corners, where a substance seems to have bled from the mitred plywood joint and was wiped away. At these locations of the wiped material, the wood appears much lighter than the surrounding wood. One of the following may be happening:

1. the smeared substance shielded the veneer wood either from UV, but more likely, from penetration of the shellac which can darken wood

2. it bleached the wood

3. it left a coating that itself has discolored

I can't imagine the finish carpenters would have knowingly left such obvious smears in such prominent places, which leads me to believe they were not visible in 1951. Unfortunately there are no 1950's pictures of the house's plywood and batten partitions...I'm led to wonder if they were significantly lighter.

outside in
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Post by outside in »

I think its difficult to advocate one finish over another when there is not a statement of a goal - what is the finish trying to accomplish? Wright stated "wood best deserves itself" which worked fine for the first 20 years, and then we see deterioration thereafter. So is the ultimately goal to restore the wood to its condition when first installed, or try to capture the weathered gray appearance that Wright was clearly looking for? If its the latter, does that mean that the wood should simply be periodically replaced, or search for a finish that somehow freezes the aging process?

We all appreciate the work that was done at Pope-Leighey, but I believe that their recommendation will drastically alter the appearance of the house. The bigger question is, what are you trying to preserve, and how will it appear when finished?

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

Keeping a house perfect is not always the best thing to do. A little aging enhances the look, though some of the wood, such as at Pew, have gone beyond the pale. The Japanese don't try to fix problems so that they disappear entirely. They allow a patch to look like a patch, age to show through. FLW undoubtedly understood this, and favored a similar approach. As long as wood is not at the point of failing entirely, perhaps it should be left to age as it will.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Yes -- but the aging doesn't stop at the point where it looks good; it continues to deteriorate, as John implies and the photos bear out. It would be fine if a substance or method could be found that would freeze the process at one point; I don't know what that could be.

Photos of Pew and of Pope, taken at various stages, are further illustration of the issue. Having been reassembled twice, the Pope exterior looks especially stressed, perhaps, with beat-up edges and multiple fastener marks; the current finish doesn't make it more attractive, I think, with signs of darkening not consistently or completely removed. It will be interesting to see what it looks like in another five years; the only constant, here, is change.

SDR

outside in
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Post by outside in »

I've noticed that the cypress on Wingspread is well-maintained, i.e., cleaned periodically. When the wood deteriorates to the point that its unsightly, its simply replaced. Certainly not consistent with current preservation standards, but in keeping with Wright's aesthetics.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

John, to me that simply points to some of the standards as being questionable, or inadequate to the task. Might they be more ideological than realistic -- or, rather, more appropriate to some conditions than to others ?

Dan, glues or sealants that are allowed to remain and dry on unfinished wood, even if invisible when new, will affect how subsequent coats penetrate the wood and change its color, immediately or over time. A cabinetmaker knows that all glue squeeze-out, for instance, must be completely removed if the finishers are to have a hope of obtaining a consistent appearance to the work.

Consistent methods (can) produce consistent results, has been my operative advice. Correcting (trying to correct) the mistakes of others, after the fact, can be a thankless assignment !

SDR

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