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Archive for November, 2013

3 Ways to Finish Sapele That Makes Ribbon Stripe Figure Pop

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Sapele lumber with finish

Sapele is a versatile and beautiful wood that can take many kinds of finish. Here it’s shown, top to bottom: raw, dyed & stained, clear sealer/lacquer, and Danish oil with lacquer

It’s easy to love sapele lumber, especially for furniture and cabinetry. The wood is well-mannered when it comes to machining and working it with hand tools, making it a pleasure to use in woodworking projects. But it’s also downright beautiful with flowing ribbons of stripy figure trailing from end to end of the boards. Plus, the boards tend to be big, and utterly consistent.

Somewhat like mahogany in appearance – both the color and grain can make it tough to tell a difference – but it’s a bit harder and has more golden bronze color than mahogany. And sapele is best when it’s quarter sawn because of the ribbon grain that appears.

So how do you make the ribbon stripe figure look its best? There are a few ways, and in the video above we show you three pretty good methods.

  1. A simple clear finish of SealCoat and spray lacquer.
  2. A coloring method using light dye, some sealer, a quick stain, then also spray lacquer
  3. A natural Danish oil also topped off with spray lacquer

Each method gives a different look, but as far as making the ribbons jump out the most, I think it’s with the Danish oil and lacquer.

Check out the video, and decide what’s best for you. Read more about these finishing processes below.



Finishing Method #1: Clear Sealer and Lacquer

clear finish on sapele

One of our favorite sealers around here is Zinsser SealCoat. It’s a dewaxed shellac that’s crystal clear. The reasons for this sealer are varied, but the best of SealCoat is that it’s a universal sealer. Any protective topcoat can go on top of it, solvent based or water based. SealCoat in particular dries exceptionally fast, which means you can sand it as quick as 10 minutes after applying it, working up 3 or 4 coats between pulling in the driveway after work and sitting down for dinner. SealCoat also sands smooth with just a couple of easy strokes, and the combination of quick-drying and fast-sanding helps you get to a baby-bottom smooth surface rather quickly. In turn, your varnish or lacquer finish that you apply on top of SealCoat has a much easier time going on smoothly. Using sealer helps you achieve a glassy finish with the least amount of elbow grease as possible. To do a simple clear or natural finish on sapele, you’ll be well served to do 3 coats of SealCoat first, sand between each coat, then shoot the final 3 coats with lacquer. You’ll get a beautiful and natural finish.

Finishing Method #2: Dye, Sealer, Stain, Lacquer

sapele with dye and stain

To add color to sapele with a stain, you don’t want to apply an oil pigment stain straight to the raw wood. The stain will actually reduce the shimmer in the ribbon figure, making it dull because it mainly stays on top of the wood. Instead, if you want to color the wood, use this simple process. Using an amber colored dye, thin it to about 20% dye and apply a coat. Once that dries, apply a washcoat of dewaxed shellac. A washcoat is a very thin application of sealer, in this example we thinned the sealer by 25% (1:4 ratio of denatured alcohol to SealCoat). Once the sealer has dried, use an oil stain, the shade you choose depends on the result you’re after. This sample, above, has Zar Merlot #140. Simply wipe the stain on, then wipe it off. Once the stain dries in 12 hours or so, you can then apply a protective top coat. In this case, it’s spray lacquer. But polyurethane or another varnish will work too.

Finishing Method #3: Danish Oil, Lacquer

Danish oil on Sapele

Oil finishes like Danish oil or boiled linseed oil frequently intensify the beauty in certain woods yet offer very little protection from scratches, drink rings, and other hazards around the house. Fortunately, you can apply any good, hard finish on top of these oils once they’re dry—getting the best of both worlds, beauty and protection. That’s certainly the case with ribbon stripe sapele, too. You can see how intense the contrast gets with this recipe. It’s simple to pull it off. Prepare your wood surface as you normally would by sanding to 220 grit or so, then apply the Danish oil just as it says to do on the can. Wipe it onto the surface liberally, wait 30 minutes then wipe off the oil. Unfortunately sapele is a wood that will soak it up unevenly and send little dots and eyes of oil rising back to the wood’s surface. So you’ll need to keep your eye on the oiled wood for a couple of hours and wipe off the dots of oil. Once the oil dries, apply a couple of coats of sanding sealer to get to a glassy smooth surface, then spray 2 or 3 coats of lacquer. The results are stunning.


Fine Woodworking Contest: Build a Small Table for a Chance to Win Woodworking Tools & Supplies

Friday, November 8th, 2013

Register for the Contest Now:

Bookings no longer allowed on this date.

There are 147 people registered so far!

Project Deadline: Saturday Mar 1, 2014
Prizes Awarded: Friday Mar 7, 2014
No fee to enter!
Fill out the submission Entry Form and bring it with you when you deliver your table

It’s time for a woodworking contest, folks. In the past, we’ve hosted woodworking competitions in which you made decorative boxes. Usually we assembled a package of materials that you had to use and then we established a maximum size all for sake of “creative tension” — and then set you free to make amazing boxes. And that you did.

This contest is a little bit different. We want to highlight fine furniture making, and then use the entries in a curated art exhibit to show the world at large the joy of hand crafted furniture, and that there are many, many talented woodworkers who build amazing projects.

So, are you sitting down? Here’s the task: make a table. Make one of any style or shape. The only constraint is that it can’t be any larger than 32″ in height, width or length.

We’ll have numerous prizes, the 1st Prize being a $500 package of woodworking tools/supplies. See more below.

Enter the contest in 2 easy steps:

  1. Register (it’s free)
  2. Deliver a table on March 1 (You’ll get $50 store credit)

All the details are below, which should answer your questions. If not, post your questions in the comments at the end. Key dates to know:

  • Saturday March 1, 2014: Project due, receive a $50 store credit, judging begins
  • Friday March 7, 2014: Awards announced
  • March-Arpil 2014: Public art exhibit of selected tables

Project Definition

This woodworking competition will focus on small occasional tables only. Build a table of any design or style you prefer. The table can be a night stand, end table, hall table, coffee table, plant stand, candle stand, tilt top, nested, rectangular, square, oval, round, or any other shape or style. The only constraint is that it must be small, which we define as no dimension (overall length, width or height) larger than 32” or smaller than 10”.

Your table is yours to keep. However, for one week in March all the tables will be at our corporate office for judging. See more below.

See sample tables and Rules and Guidelines at the bottom.

Prizes and Contest Winners

A panel of judges will examine the entries, score them, and determine winners based on a number of criteria. The top winning entries will demonstrate attention to detail as well as good execution. Additionally, there will be public voting for a “People’s Choice Award.” Winners will receive prizes in the form of woodworking tools and supplies, you can see the specific prizes here.

  • First Prize: tool package worth $800
  • Second Prize: tool package worth $575
  • Third Prize: tool package worth $400
  • “People’s Choice” award: tool package worth $275
  • Several Honorable Mention prizes for various aspects of woodworking (such as Best Joinery, Best Use of Stain or Dye, etc) that will be determined at the time of judging.  Prizes valued between $20 and $50

The winners will be announced on March 7, and the prizes will be awarded. Results with a full gallery will be posted on our website.

Current Sponsors Providing Awards and Prizes:


bora tooltenryujohnson-level BESSEY_small Trend_Logotaunton_logoBlock WM Logotajima


Register for the Contest

This is a free contest, there’s no cost to enter. You don’t need to be a professional or an expert to enter a table into the contest. But we do ask that you register, so please fill out the form at the top of the page to register. You may enter as many as 3 tables.

Enter Your Table(s), Get a $50 Credit

Deliver your table(s) to the Woodworkers Source corporate office in Scottsdale (map) on March 1 between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm. Your table will remain with us until March 7 when the awards are announced. 10 selected tables will be placed in a public (and protected) art exhibit for a period of time (details to be determined) and we will have all tables photographed for the purposes of sharing in an online gallery, submission to woodworking magazines, and other forms of woodworking promotion.

If you need to deliver it sooner, please notify us to make proper arrangements. No late entries.
You will pick up your table on March 7 or after.

You will receive a $50 credit to use in our store just like cash. You can enter up to 3 tables, but the store credit is per person who enters a table, not per table.

There will be an entry form to fill out once your table is completed in which you’ll describe your table, your inspiration, your process, the woods you used and take credit for any details you’re particularly proud of; these should be things that will be helpful for the judges to know about when considering your table. For example, your choice of joinery, jigging you needed to figure out, your finishing process, etc. Anything that demonstrates how much effort and thought you put into your project. Be sure to keep record of these things as you plan and build your project.

Public Art Exhibit

You will keep your table. However, selected tables will be in a special public art exhibit (final location to be determined), so we do ask that you be willing to let your table be on display for an extended period of time, from 30 to 60 days. The display will celebrate your work in a public venue to give you credit for a job well done and to draw attention to the joy of fine woodworking that Arizona woodworkers take pride in.


Rules and Guidelines

How to Submit Your Table

  1. Register for the contest using the form at the top of the page
  2. Deliver your table to the Woodworkers Source Corporate office on March 1, 2014 between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm. 5111 N. Scottsdale Road, Suite 206, Scottsdale, AZ 85250 (map). You can deliver your table earlier.
  3. Pick up your table on March 7th or after

If you’re in the Tucson area, you can simply deliver and pick up your table at our Tucson store. We’ll arrange transport to and from Scottsdale for the judging and public display.

Table entries must be made in person either to our Scottsdale office or Tucson store. We won’t be able to accommodate crating and shipping individual tables that are shipped in from other parts of the country for this contest.

Your table is yours to keep after the contest. Judges will be using the week between March 1 and March 7 to make their selections. You may pick up your table after March 7.

Definition of a Table

A table has a flat, horizontal upper surface and because tables typically have a practical purpose for displaying or supporting other items, the upper horizontal surface must also have some method to support it at its intended height; usually legs or a pedestal. Build a table of any design or style you prefer. The table can be a night stand, end table, hall table, coffee table, plant stand, candle stand, tilt top, nested, rectangular, square, oval, round, or any other shape or style. The only constraint is that it must be small, which we define as no dimension (overall length, width or height) larger than 32” or smaller than 10”.

Materials to Use

This is a contest in which we want to see the beauty of wood. So you may use any wood materials you’d like. Your choice of wood can be domestic or exotic; it can be one wood or several types of wood. You can use solid lumber or veneer.

You do not need to buy your wood from Woodworkers Source in order to enter the contest.

Glass, tile, metal, stone, etc. are acceptable if they’re used in small amounts or for accent, but we want to see wood as the focus. Keep in mind that the tables will be judged on the various aspects of woodworking; while a rusty steel base or a polished granite slab top might be interesting, they don’t necessarily showcase woodworking skills. A winning table will largely be a woodworking project.

Design Considerations

There is no constraint on the design or style unless it is outside of the minimum or maximum sizes. A table should be no larger than 32” and no smaller than 10” in length, width or height. A table can have any number of legs you see fit. It can have a drawer(s), a shelf, or cabinet if you like. For judging, the design complexity and appearance is secondary to how well you execute it; so spend your time and effort on a crafting well-made table rather than an elaborate one. For ideas, see the photos of sample tables on the next page.


A winning table will have a fabulous finish. You can use any finishing process; you can use stains, dyes, glazes or any clear wood finish you want. We encourage you give your table the best impression with a well-done finish. Start your table sooner rather than later to allow yourself plenty of time to get a good finish. It takes time for finishing and staining products to dry between coats, and it takes time to work your finish to a classy sheen. Give yourself time to do it well.

Need Ideas? Here Are Sample Small Tables from our Customer Gallery