Issue #1: Birth – The Frame

After the launch of Secret Cave’s online store, where slavering millennials and web-based creatives can, at last, feel the material presence of their favourite online “zine”, I, Lee‘s dad, thought it would be fitting to add to this existential element of the website.

It’s one thing to clatter around on a keyboard and instruct someone to switch on their machines and program them to churn out consumer goods, like magazines and cassette tapes. It is entirely another thing to take materials from your surrounding environment, produce objects to arbitrary dimensions, pre-determined physical requirement limitations and personal aesthetics using one’s own imagination, understanding, logic, practical skills and enough calorific intake to produce the energy required to shape and reform. It also helps to not be just a brain in a jar.

When Lee presented me with my copy of Issue #1:Birth, two things happened. Firstly, I was very impressed with its tactile quality and the content. Then, I immediately decided it needed a special place which does it justice and will help preserve it, so generations to come can be reminded of a time, a time gone by, an ancient time, when people made sense of the world around them by physically testing it, as opposed to living in a cocoon-like state where all experience is fed through to implanted sensors, which synthetically recreate all the things we once experienced and held dear (in no more than 140 characters). So, I set about building the frame.

Full Frame Pic

I considered making a video of the build, but didn’t have the time as Christmas is/was fast approaching. I was too committed to building various gift boxes, so I decided to write a description of the process instead. It is my intention to create a woodworking video in the new year, in the hope that someone might find it interesting. I am battling with an addiction to alcohol at this time, so it might take a while. Please be patient. Any supportive comments could help.

Let’s get to it then.

Those of you who have heard me on some of the podcasts may remember talk of recycling pallet wood, and this frame furthers that ethic. The pallet in question was given to me by a roofing contractor, who had some slates delivered on it. The strong structural stretchers (sometimes known as skids or 2x4s) on this pallet were very heavy, which suggested they were hardwood. I do not have the requisite skills and experience to identify the exact kind of wood it is; suffice to say it looks beautiful. After carefully measuring the zine, I was able to determine the dimensions for the rebate (a recess or lip) that the zine, glass and backing board needs to sit in. It was then down to my own personal taste regarding the remaining footprint.

Pallet wood nail holes

I decided that a plain, industrial look would be impressive, so I went for a chunky and deep framework and made no effort to hide the scars of the wood’s previous incarnation. Having said that, the piece still needed to exude the quality Issue #1: Birth deserves, and that was addressed with the finish. The wood was cut into four pieces of initial, workable length, planed to thickness and width, cut to final length with a 45 degree mitre and marked up for the aforementioned rebate. Before cutting the rebate, it was necessary to decide which would be the front face for each piece. I am very glad I took the time to do that, as the grain had a gorgeous curve in it which, when brought together, gave the impression of a (secret) cave entrance (a lucky accident).

After the above preparation, it was time for assembly. The four pieces were brought together with wood glue and held in place using a strap clamp.ย I checked the frame was square, and left it to dry. In a few hours, the joints were strong enough to remove the clamp. To reinforce the joints, splines were installed as they add extra surface area for glue and have their grain structure running perpendicular to the main frame pieces. The splines were made from a leftover piece of oak from another pallet. The contrast is not as stark as I had hoped, but it certainly has the strength to fulfil its structural requirements.

Spline Corner

With the assembly complete, all that was left to do was apply the finish. The frame underwent a rigorous sanding process, using 80, 120 and 180 grit sandpapers (the higher the number, the finer sandpaper). I wanted to keep the edges fairly sharp to the eye but comfortable to the touch, so I conservatively sanded the edges and corners at the 180 grit stage. All traces of dust were removed using a slightly damp cloth and left to dry. Clear beeswax was applied with a lint free cloth and rubbed into the grain of the wood. After a couple of hours, I burnished the frame to a wonderfully smooth finish using a very fine gauge steel wool, giving it a tantillising satin glow which invites the onlooker to touch.

Beeswax satin finish

With the frame finished, it was time to mount Issue #1:Birth in its new home. I used 3mm perspex as the window, and two pieces of cardboard from a Stella Artois (18 pack) box as a backing board as I always have loads laying about (it’s good to find a use for them). I’m looking forward to showing it to Lee, so he can give me another aloof response to my woodworking projects and then bollock me for “not knowing what it is we’re trying to do here, pisshead!”.

Stella Backing Board

Note from Lee Tyrrell:
My dad may still be ignorant to some of our founding drives at Secret Cave (the twat), but I was, in fact, deeply impressed and touched by his work on this frame. However, I’m troubled that his latent alcoholism is beginning to further flourish, to the point of inspiring this frame’s (practical) backboard. I’ll keep my eye on him.

We’re considering sending out a one-off framed edition ofย Issue #1: Birth, with its frame being entirely hand-made by my dad, Andy Tyrrell. We’ll try to figure out the best way to do this, through some kind of prize-draw, promotion or, even, Christmas present. Until then, read more aboutย Issue #1: Birthย itself here! Here’s Dad’s best picture of the full frame again, which I’ll replace with a higher resolution version as soon as I can…

Full Frame Pic

Lee's Dad and occasional detractor/podcast guest.