When did SHINY become COOL

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Many of our preferences are subconscious, often buried there by Madison Avenue to get us to buy Brand X instead of Brank Y. But some of our preferences are buried deeper than that, in the guts of our brain’s wiring, tribal memories that were important enough to hardwire into our brains. Anything red gets our attention, because blood is red when exposed to air, and you need to know when you or someone you care about is bleeding. We can recognize when something isn’t vertical - or horizontal. At some point in our development that ability gave us a valuable advantage - things roll off of surfaces that aren’t “level”, a vertical pole will hold up something better than a pole at some angle other than 90 degrees. Smoke meant something was hot. These types of valuable things to know were drummed into the group’s children in order to improve the survivability of the group into another generation. As time went on some of this Need To Know stuff was built into religions [THOU SHALT NOT EAT PORK (because it could give you trichonosis (sp?))] and educational systems.
With this idea in mind, consider the following.
Before catalyzed lacquer, before poly, before shellac and maybe even before bees wax and oils, somewhere way back when, shiny wood wasn’t possible, or at least hard to achieve. OK, so if you rub a really smooth stone fairly hard on a piece of wood, it’ll get shiny. However, at some point in history, “just the wood” stopped being good enough. Somewhere back there the wood that had been handled a lot got literaly hand polished enough from the “oil” and abrasion of fingers and hands to get shiny. Maybe Shiny From Use would mean that the wooden object was valued enough to use often, be cared for, and passed down from generation to generation. But Wear Shiny was only on the areas of the wooden object that got handled a lot. At some point maybe shiny became a maintenance plus - it’s easier to get dust, dirt and grime off of a shiny object.
But over the eons humans found ways to make wood shiny without handling it a lot and caring for it over generations. Having the entire object shiny became a sign of quality, of the specialness of the object. It still took a lot of time and effort to create a shiny surface, but not generations worth of time. And it seems that the Quest For Shiny continues to this day. Finishes with “diamond hard”, “crystal clear” and “hi-luster” (don’t you just love how the marketing crowd try and change the spelling of words?) get touted as New and Improved, Superior, Crystal Clear - AND Easy To Apply for a “faultless, fool proof, beautiful, durable, scratch resistant, low maintenance, high luster, superior quality finish”. There are finish spray “systems”, airless, HVLP! I’m waiting for Powder Coated Wood Finish.
Why SHINY!? More specifially, why make the whole piece shiny? OK, so having the visible wear parts easy to keep clean and looking nice might make sense. But why make ALL the visible surfaces shiny? Why not, on surfaces that don’t require “shiny”, use a finish that “just” pops the grain to show off the beauty of the wood without changing its colors and feel much? Why try and make wood look like it’s under glass? Why not just use “wood grained” formica type stuff if that’s what you want?
The irony of these finishes, shellac being the exception, is that repairing a scratch or worn areas can mean refinishing much larger areas of the piece, or even having to sand and refinish almost the entire piece. The original furniture maker saves time applying the finish - but what about the user?
Why not just sand to 180 or 220, or better yet just a finely scraped surface (they were getting wood reallysmooth long before sandpaper was invented) and wipe on (and off) a couple of coats of oil -boiled linseed oil, “teak” oil or “danish” oil if you want to accentuate the grain? On the visible wearing surfaces add a coat of wax or two or maybe a coat or two of shellac . Places that get handled a lot will get even shinier, while surfaces that don’t get much wear will keep the finish you originally applied. If the latter doesn’t keep its original finish it can quickly and easily be restored.
If “wood” is an important thing in your woodworking, why not, on your next project, go with a finish that enhances it rather than “protects” it?
Just something to think about.
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charlie b wrote:

Well spoken, as usual. Though I would think that SHINY isn't necessarily the only reason for using such finishes, and perhaps not the biggest. Sealing the wood in order to minimize moisture exchange, and thus movement is a valid goal IMHO. Today's furniture needs and wants are different from those of pre-poly days. Sure, lots of those wants include changing aesthetics, but quite a bit of today's furniture is larger. Computer desks immediately spring to mind, but I'm sure there are others. Larger furniture implies larger panels, and thus more potential for wood movement.
I'm always curious as to exactly what those who are offended by poly see differently than I do. Perhaps they assume poly == a 1/2" thick bar-top pour. I put 5 coats of Minwax (min-whacks for the more clever in the group) poly on the crib I built for my son, and sure I'm biased, but it doesn't look at all plasticy to me. Perhaps I applied it wrong, or the coats were thinned too much. I can still feel the grain of the ash just fine through the finish.
Self plug:
http://john.girouard.com/Ethan/crib.jpg
As far as choosing a finish that enhances rather than protects the wood, I see nothing wrong with wanting to protect one's hard work. Now, I wouldn't lock my furniture up in a climate-controlled glass case, but then again, I'm relatively new at this :)
-John in NH
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You do excellent work, John...the crib is nice too..*G*
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John Girouard wrote:

It's going to take on or lose moisture regardless of what you do short of encapsulating it in plastic or keeping it in a hermetically sealed, atmospherically controlled space. Wood will "move".

Actually, they got around the "large" problem" with frame and panel methods. You need something taller - do more panels. You need something longer - do more panels. For table tops - breadboard ends and slots rather than holes where they attach to their supports.
If wood movement is a big issue there's always furniture grade ply in whatever hardwood you want to see on the visbile face or faces. Granted you have to hide the edges but that's not hard to do - on straight, square edges at least.

Most of the "new" finishes - like poly - add a subtle hue to the wood, commonly blue, a color not normally found in wood (ok so Persian Walnut has purple in it sometimes but that's the exception to the rule). Most of the "traditional" finishes are in the yellow to yellow red part of the spectrum and can add warmth wood, in addition to popping the grain - something poly doesn't do. I guess it's that many of the newer finishes don't add the the "woodness" look and feel of the piece.
There's still the repair problem with the New AND Improved finishes. Takes a bit of work and some skill to hide "witness rings" on a dining table top when repairing a problem in poly or lacquer.
Bottom line is - if you like the finish you're using that's what matters - to you. But at least try one of the "old" finishes, at least once.
RE: Powdered coated wood - IS NOTHING SACRED?!
RE: Shiney shows less than perfect work and therefore indicates quality and craftsmanship Or it can try to make up for lousy wood and bad joinery hidden under stains, maybe some putty and lots of shiny surfaces
charlie b
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charlie b wrote:

I've done a couple of foot stools and a semi-fancy inlaid shelf with coat pegs in some amber shellac since my one (and only) poly experience. I like it a lot, and am anxious to try some blonde stuff. Shellac, that is ;)
Thanks for the kind comments, Robatoy, and that's all the encouragement I needed to go ahead and post a couple more images. Comments always welcome :)
http://john.girouard.com/ShelfFront.jpg
http://john.girouard.com/ShelfSide.jpg
-John in NH
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wrote: ...snip musings on the origin of our fascination with shiny things...

your wait is over: http://www.powdercoating.org/wood/content.htm
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snipped-for-privacy@all.costs wrote:

All that's needed to powder coat any item is a method of making the surface of the item hold an electrical charge for a few minutes. Oh, yeah. Add to that a material that will resist at least a 400 deg. F. oven temp.
I've got one of Craftsman's upcoming DIY powder coat guns that I'll be experimenting with next week. I don't really plan on doing MDF with it, and certainly I wouldn't upset Larry Jaques by powder coating cherry, but there are some obvous benefits to using it on wood, particularly if you're an antique car restorer and cannot find particular moldings for your vehicle. Shape the pieces out of wood. Powder coat. Heat. Install. Cost? I think the gun is supposed to retail for under $160.
Because there is no problem with dry edges and other vagaries of spray painting, the primary limit to the size of the powder coating seems to be the size of the oven available. Obviously, commercial ovens are really hot rooms of some size. I'm using a toaster oven. I figure my wife does NOT want the residue in the kitchen oven the next time she makes a cake.
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I didn't actually read your WHOLE post...
Shiny shows up defects better. So it is a way of proving your work is perfect. I think that is the main thing.
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"charlie b" wrote in message

The wood I can understand, but the current emphasis on shiny teeth ....
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Unfortunately, I have yet to find a book that has documented the beginnings of wood finishing on furniture from ancient times until now. (I'd pay big money for it if someone ever gets the research together.)
A very simple way I can see that wood finishing got started is...people who used leather found that rubbing it with the fat of the animal kept the leather from drying out and cracking. Someone later applied this concept to wood using the oils from plants. I understand that many ancient Japanese and Chinese people had techniques for oiling wood (and later techniques for lacquering it.)
I think the first thought was how to protect the wood for what ever reason (elements, warping, etc...) The techniques that people found works become standard looks for wood that some people find attractive. Different finishes and looks for wooden furniture have gone through fads throughout 'modern' history. For example, milk paint finishes in early America. Perhaps shiny wood equals modern looking to many people in this era. (And I'd prefer shiny real wood to that paper- laminated pressboard crud that can be found even in pieces of 'high end' furniture.)
Personally, I'm most interested in making what people would call 'rustic' furniture. Beat up and dull equals cool to me. However, as a lot of the things I make are going to be used outdoors, I try to find a way to protect it without making it look shiny and new. I certainly agree that some indoor pieces can look stunning without any altering sealant on it. For me, it's just a matter of what use it's going to get. However, to each their own. :)
My $1.50 ~ keep the change :) ~Jen

formica type stuff if that's what you want?

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Hello charlie b,
You alluded to one reason, something shiny was harder to come by so it indicated the owners wealth. One other reason for the preference of shiny surfaces occurred before electirc lighting. A shiny surface reflected more candle and fire light than a more dull surface. Shiny tables, chairs, etc. made a room look brighter, although probably not too much, when the room was lit by just a few candles or a fireplace.
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shiny is associated with clean. dull is dirty.
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On Fri, 4 Nov 2005 09:19:18 -0700, "Charles Spitzer"

shiny is also associated with greasy. dull is clean.
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snipped-for-privacy@all.costs wrote:

Grease has a sheen, I think, not a shine. A bright, scrubbed, shiny look is often associated with a clean person. What is that character in Peanuts...Pigpen. He must be dull, a matte finish, as it were, with the cloud of dust that follows him around.
Piano finishes are shiny, so that even the black pianos seem to glow. Put grease--fingermarks--on a piano and it looks dirty, even if the fingermarks themselves are shiny.
I'm not sure what the allure of shiny is, but cleanliness in matte finish is a only a tiny part of the whole context...think of the chrome (stainless steel) on your car. When that's shiny, it's clean. When it's dull, it's dirty--or badly worn. Of course, today we have a lot of nickel satin finishes and titaniumgray finishes that are dull and clean and look pretty good.
Ah hell, I've just foncused myself.
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"Charlie Self" wrote in message

Other animals seem to feel the allure also ... from fish to raccoons.
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Swingman wrote:

Ravens and crows (just what IS the difference?) also like the bright and shiny. Every nest I've ever heard of has had at least one shiny item.
Not much woodshop on my site, and Google doesn't seem to have a way to latch a signature line on this, but I just revised (after one whole day up) my web site. www.charlieselfonline.com
You might get a kick out of some of the car shots.
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scribbled:

Ravens (Corvus corax) are much bigger than other crows, usually more than 2 feet long and with wingspans most often over 4 feet. Probably the smartest bird, smarter than sled dogs whose food they tend to steal. They also signal wolves where potential prey is, so the wolves can kill them and the ravens get to feast. Pretty amazing birds to watch. Extremely common around here in the winter where they like to perch on street lights, especially the ones with photoelectric cells. They have learned to warm themselves up by sitting on the cell and turning on the light during the day. Also, we can't leave garbage out in the open, it has to be in a garbage can or else they will get to it and make a mess by strewing all the inedibles over the street.
Luigi Replace "nonet" with "yukonomics" for real email address www.yukonomics.ca/wooddorking/humour.html www.yukonomics.ca/wooddorking/antifaq.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Woodworking
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"Charlie Self" wrote in message

I've visited twice now ... absolutely gorgeous. There's a certain subtlety in those photographs that bespeaks genius. My compliments to you.
Excellent design job on the website also.
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Swingman wrote:

The decent design job comes from friends who kept telling me what was wrong. Works for me. I grump, but then take the advice and make the changes.
I'm glad you like the photos. I'm having a lot of fun shooting the old cars, which, I think, adds to the fun of shooting the tool sequences and other woodworking photos.
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Charlie Self wrote:

They are different species. Ravens are larger, have a wedge-shaped tail and a thicker, sturdier beak. Their call is a hoarse croak, occasionally "Nevermore". Crows are smaller, have a square tail and their call is the familiar "caw, caw". There are other differences but those are the easily discernable ones in the field.
--
Cheers,
Rob

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