Category Archives: Process

How Do I Protect My Stickwork Furniture?

There are certainly a wide array of products available on the market these days for giving your handcrafted stickwork furniture a protective coating.  Today I want to share with you the product we favor: Helmsman Spar Urethane by Minwax.  We love this product as it gives an excellent protection and it is readily available to most people.  It also comes in Gloss, Semi-Gloss and Satin finishes giving us a wide range of sheens for our artisan furniture.  Of course our focus for the product started with outdoor funiture, but I have to share that we have used it multiple times on furniture intended for indoor use, and I love the finish inside as well!

Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane
Minwax Helmsman
Spar Urethane

We often give the horizontal surfaces of our handcrafted furniture several coats of Helmsman before making them available for sale. These surfaces are the most vulnerable to standing water and UV damage which can lead to issues.  We then instruct our customers that the pieces will benefit from additional applications in the following years as a matter of maintenance.  Obviously, outdoor furniture will require more maintenance than indoor pieces.

Jeff applying Helmsman to a      Stick-a-rondack chair
Jeff applying Helmsman to a
Stick-a-rondack chair

Taking a look at the Helmsman website (, it is really easy to see why we favor this product so much:

Minwax® Helmsman® Spar Urethane is specially formulated as a protective clear finish for exterior or interior wood exposed to sunlight, water, or temperature changes.

  • Contains UV blockers to reduce the sun’s graying and fading effects.
  • Forms a protective barrier against rain and moisture.
  • Special oils allow the finish to expand and contract with the wood as seasons and temperatures change.
  • Ideal for use on doors, windows, trim, bathroom cabinets, bar tops, kitchen countertops, outdoor furniture.

Here’s a sample of our Stickwork furniture to which we have given several coats of Helmsman Spar Urethane…

rack3 LIChairs2.5

Favorite Tools – Hewing Hatchet

I have several favorite tools – all of which have very specific jobs to do in the making of my handcrafted Stickwork furniture.  Today I want to show off my hewing hatchet.

Hewing Hatchet
Hewing Hatchet

I use this tool for many jobs.  The job it has been doing most recently has been to “shave” the bark off branches that I am going to be using on some Stick-a-rondack chairs.  It does a fabulous job separating the bark from the branch wood.  So what makes this tool special?  What makes it different than a regular hatchet?

If you look closely, you will see that this hewing hatchet has one side (the left side) that has a flat

Flat side of hewing hatchet
Flat side of hewing hatchet

surface.  Sometimes this is called a flat hatchet, this flat side helps ensure that the natural materials retain their rustic look.

Here’s a little video of this tool in action:

Winter’s Work

Hand Made Boards Drying
Hand Made Boards Drying

One of the projects Jeff has through the winter months is to get as much material prepared as possible for the Spring and Summer months of creating our stickwork furniture.  One way this preparation happens is the cutting of lengths of tree trunks and branches into slabs, which resembles dimensional lumber, and rounds, which are slices across the tree parts that result in, well, rounds.

Blarney Table using rounds for tabletop
Blarney Table using rounds for tabletop

Slabs are often used in tables as horizontal surfaces and in chairs and benches for seats and backs.  They lend themselves well to showing off the grain of the wood from which they are made.

Adirondack Chair with leather accents, showing use of slabs and round
Adirondack Chair with leather accents, showing use of slabs and round

From time to time, Jeff will hand hew slabs from branches, but for the bulk of the slabs he makes, he cuts them with a ripping chain on his chainsaw.  Once the slabs are created, he then puts them into stacks, each slab layer separated from the others, called “stickering”, so that all the exposed surfaces of the slabs have optimum airflow to dry evenly.

Desk using slabs and rounds
Desk using slabs and rounds

When he prepares to use a specific slab, he will bring out the character of the slab using a draw knife or an adze – I guess that’s a topic for another post!