Rob Gorrell - Folk Artist

Get your lanterns now. It will be dark soon.

tramp art

Tramp Art Church Cupboard with Round Top finished.

Folk Art, Painted Folk Art, Tramp Art, UncategorizedRob Gorrell1 Comment

Yesterday I finished making this tramp art cupboard.  I have been working on it for a while now and am glad that it is finally finished. I have a ton of other projects I am itching to get to.

I was inspired by the cathedrals and churches of Paris to make this table-top cupboard. I am fascinated by the interplay of eternity and decay in the old churches, the rusting of roofs and railings, the souring Gothic arches, the massive strength of the Romanesque vaulting, and the way things sparkle out of the shadows. I love the way builders kept updating styles and forms alongside the old, allowing the old and new to coexist.  There are some earlier posts that show some of the techniques used to build this piece.

This cupboard is made from salvage pine, and old crate, beer caps, rusted roof tin, tacks, salvaged furniture elements, and lots of paint. The cupboard is 21 inches wide, 35 inches tall and 7 inches deep.  It is currently listed in my Etsy store for sale.

Here are some other shots of the piece:

Tramp art and tin church cupboard nearly finished.

Painted Folk Art, Tinware, Tramp ArtRob GorrellComment

I finally got a couple of evenings back in the shop to work on this little cupboard again. I got side tracked getting my antique blacksmith forges ready to use now that the weather is good enough to work outside. Hopefully in a few months I will have more to say about using the forges. 

In the previous post on this project I added most of the tin except for the sides.  Now for the sides I have added punched tin panels with raised beading along the edges.  I used my bead roller for the first time on this project and it took a little tinkering to figure out how I wanted the corners to look.  I know there is a better way, which I hope to learn when I take a tinsmithing class at Campbell Folk School this fall. After adding the half round beading to the cupboard I decided it was a bit smooth. So I took a small cross peen hammer and added creases along the length of the tin.Tramp art church ready for patina It is interesting how something as simple as a series of hammer dings can change the look of a project.

The final part to be added was the drawer pulls. In this case I heated off the shelf eye screws in my forge and reshaped them a little with a small hammer.  They are mismatched and twisty and I think look pretty good against the crimped tin.

Between now and the next time I post on this project I will be working on adding a rusty patina to the tin.

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Tramp Art Sewing Box - continued.

Painted Folk Art, Tramp ArtRob GorrellComment

I got a chance to work on the new sewing box for another couple hours. I am almost ready to start putting a finish on the box.  If you missed the earlier post where I started the box, click here. I had been putting off working on the back of the sewing box because I was not sure what to do about the way the lid opened. I finally decided to go ahead and put the floral cutouts on without wrapping a full frame around them. tramp-art-sewing-box-back-parts This seemed like a decent way to keep the flowers the same all the way around. It's not a perfect solution, but I went with it.  Here you can see the parts cut out. The difficulty is that when the lid opens the back of the lid rotates into the box, so I can't put anything on the very back of the lid.

After edging the rectangles and easing the flowers I ended up here:Tramp-art-jewelry-box-back

The plan is to add dowels to the top to hold spools of thread. This was pretty straightforward with a walnut dowel rod and one more layer of pine.  I got to use my favorite little low angle block plane. A low angle block plane is great for planing end grain and for taking very fine shavings on small parts. This particular plane is made by Lie-Nielson, but there are several companies that make them.

I cut out and camfered the edges of the spool bases and added them to the box lid.  Ahhh, nearly ready for the tray and finish.  I made a small tray, nice and square, to fit inside of the tramp art sewing box, which turns out, is not all that square. After a little benchtop sander work it fit.tramp-art-sewing-box-inside

So here is what the project looked like at the end of the evening:

Do you ever get nearly finished with a project and have one of those "Oh crap" moments?  I do....

In this case I neglected to notice that the side of the lid are not the same width as the ends. So when I stuck the spools of thread on the top to see how it looked the dowels were to close to the middle on two sides. Crap. Luckily the glue had not dried and I could pry two sides off to be fixed next time.

One of these days I will learn to draw out a project before I start.  More later.

Click here to see post about finished project.

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Building a Tramp Art Street Sign

Painted Folk Art, Tramp ArtRob GorrellComment

A while back Shelley came home with an antique street sign that said "E Rose Street" and wanted me to build a tramp art style frame around it to hang in our rose garden.  For once, a simple project. The metal sign was a little heavy so I made a fairly wide pine frame and glued the sign inside of the frame as you can see here:Tramp art rose sign roughed in.

The next step was to add the tramp art layer. Since this hangs outside in the weather I kept the design very simple.  I only added one layer of the edge carved pine. This was when I was still using the grinder jig to cut notches. I don't use that setup anymore, but you can see in this photo what the notches looked like.Tramp art rose sign closeup

To finish up the project I painted the wood with a couple coats of white exterior latex paint. I added eye hooks on top and hung the sign from a cast iron bracket. 

This was a quick project that worked out pretty good. It has been hanging outside for a year or so now and is beginning to get a little "patina".


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Building a tramp art cupboard.

Painted Folk Art, Rustic Furniture, Tramp ArtRob GorrellComment

Tramp art hidden drawer cupboard. I made this painted tramp art cupboard a while back but have been wanting to show the process of how it was made.  Like many things I make, this one changed several times before I came up with something that I was really happy with.

This whole thing started when I bought about 1000 reject drawers for router cabinets from my local Woodcraft store. I figured they would be a good starting point for lots of different projects that required small drawers. One idea was to make a small cupboard that would hold several small drawers. I wanted this cupboard to be plain on the outside, and a bold surprise on the inside. Dan Mack once said that you should not explain your piece to the viewer, but instead, let the piece open up and allow the viewer to discover the story for themselves. I wanted the story to be inside of this cupboard, waiting to be discovered.

My brother was remodeling and old country post office building that needed a new roof. The old roof had really cool pressed tin panels that were rusted nearly to the point of falling apart. I also had a stash of reject walnut lumber to use for the case.

Tramp art cupboard roughed in.

Here you can see the cupboard being roughed in. I decided to use some birch plywood for the doors to keep them from warping. You can see that I am going to have to piece together the tin panels to cover the doors completely. Getting the old rusty tin to form neatly around the door panels was a bit challenging. The old paint kept flaking off where I did not want it to.

I added chip carved fronts to the drawers and matching chip carved panels on the insides of the drawers. I added only simple edge-carved side panels on the outside.

Here is what the primitive cupboard looked like with the doors attached and the tramp art carving completed.

Tramp art cupboard ready to paint.
Tramp art cupboard ready to paint.

Ok, here is where I ran into trouble.  My plan was to have the inside be very bright and decided to go with an americana set of colors. I should add that I usually need to consult Shelley about colors to get something that looks good. I did not do this.... So here is where the paint job ended up for a while.

Red white and blue tramp art cupboard.

Now this is with my old camera, and the red did not look quite this bad, but it was close.  It did not take long to realize that this cupboard was not finished. I let it stew for a few weeks to see what would happen.

This was about the point where I started adding metalworking tools to my little shop. I also found some patina solution in our supplies that put a copper patina over a base metal, in this case, tin.  So I fiddled around with crinkled tin panels that followed the lines in the tin on the doors, and added the patina in several layers.

For the inside I went with a sort of new age-y green with metallic blue, gold and green speckles.  It sort of ended up with a green night sky sort of feel that I was very happy with.  By adding the door panels and repainting the inside I came up with a neat little cupboard that I am pretty happy with...for now. Here is the finished cupboard. It is about 14 inches tall and about 5" deep.

Hidden drawer tramp art cupboard

Hidden drawer tramp art cupboard, open


In retrospect, 1000 drawers was about 950 more than I really needed. I ended up giving them away by the case. The last 450 or so went to the local school art department.  At least they did not end up in the landfill.

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