A Simple Gift

Last year just weeks prior to Christmas, I decided to make my mother a Pennsylvania spice box with an inlaid door.

That was stupid.

I got it done (thanks to Glen Huey’s inlay-by-router tutelage as well as the use of his shop, because ours was still in boxes for last year’s move), but it was down to the wire. I added the hardware early in the morning on Dec. 25, and the quickly cut, sloppy drawer dovetails will be a source of everlasting shame (I was raised Catholic; guilt is a way of life).

So this year, I got her a Rookwood tile (for those of you unfamiliar with this venerable Cincinnati company, it’s worth checking out – both for its storied history and recent rebirth), and instead of buying a frame for it, decided to make one.

I started out with a rough idea of an exposed through-tenon, pagoda-shaped, pegged-joint frame. But I got two-thirds of the way done, slipped the tile in place for fitting, and realized the simple design of the pottery was overshadowed by the too-complicated frame.

So I stored that frame along with my eleventy-billion other partially done projects, raced (back) to the lumber store and picked up some quartersawn white oak. After eight 45° cuts at the miter saw (I need to sharpen my miter box saw) then shooting them to fit with my No. 5, I rabbeted the back to form a lip to hold the tile in place from the front, cleaned up the workpieces with my No. 4, then glued the thing together and walked away for a day.

The finish is one coat of walnut stain, one coat of Watco Danish oil in walnut, and three (or was it four?) coats of thinned amber shellac.

The tile is secured in place with one small flat ring hanger centered on each side of the frame, and I added a large self-leveling picture hanger at the top, so all she has to do it put a nail in the wall.

Easy. Done.

Next year, if I decide to make her that art nouveau Gustav Stickley poppy table she wants, I will start in August. At the latest.

— Megan Fitzpatrick

p.s. For those who expressed interest in the whiskers on my kittens, here ya go: Possum is the grey at the top (he’s the three-legged one), Viola is the tortie, and Just Joseph (JJ) is the long-haired grey.

10 thoughts on “A Simple Gift

  1. esincox

    Lovely finished piece, Megan. Thanks for sharing it with us!

    What is a “self-leveling picture hanger”, though? And should you avoid using them if your house is crooked?

    (Ahhh, I get it re: 2.75 cats)

    1. Megan Fitzpatrick Post author

      Thanks.
      That’s just the fancy marketing name that I copied off the packaging – those hangers that have what look like little saw teeth, and are about 1-1/4″ long. I think the idea is that you move to over a tooth or two if you, the house or the hanger is off center. ;-)

      1. esincox

        Ahhh! That is much less glorious than it originally sounded. The biggest problem with them is that they are not self-CENTERING, as well!

        As long as you’re not trying to match up multiple frames on the same plane, I prefer a method with two eye screws and the wire. That allows for a much greater leveling “range” and you don’t have to worry about eye screw location or wire length (generally speaking).

        If you’re trying to hang two frames at the same exact height, though, it is NOT the method to use. You suddenly have to worry about eye screw location (four times) and wire length (two times), which is a lot more than centering the hanger (two times).

  2. metalworkingdude

    Nice looking present, I remember you writing about the last minute rush last year. I really like the Rookwood tiles – thanks for pointing those out. I want to re-do my house in more of a craftsman style and those will fit perfectly (aesthetically, if not financially)

  3. ColonelEd

    Fantastic joy on the frame. There’s nothing like quartersawn oak. I saw the Stickley poppy table and the neat tea accessories. Maybe you should start working on it in January. Ha! Actually, you should be able to whip it out in a month if you don’t get too busy with your new job. Have fun.

  4. mysticcarver

    Awesome look to the frame Megan. Especially accentuates that beautiful tile! I am going to try that finish on my next project. Oh and too cute on the cats! I like their names :)

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