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Archive for June, 2014

Woodworking Contest Fall 2014: Challenge Your Skills, Win $500 in Tools, Enter for Free

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Woodworking Contest : Sitting Stools
Here's one way to build a custom stool: like these Thomas Moser kitchen stools with sculpted seats and turned legs

Register for the Contest Now:

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There are 47 people registered so far!

Project Deadline: Saturday Nov 8, 2014
Prizes Awarded: Friday Nov 14, 2014
No fee to enter!

FREE Entry
Project Theme: Sitting Stool
Project Deadline: November 8, 2014
You’ll Get $50:
Every completed project receives a $50 store credit
Prizes: Win up to $500 worth of woodworking tools 

The sitting stool is one of the earliest forms of furniture – so if you want to explore the rudiments (and fun) of woodworking, build a wood stool. So that’s what we’re going to do with this contest. Sitting stools serve numerous applications and therefore they take on numerous shapes, styles, and geometries. There are bar stools, musician stools, artist stools, breakfast stools, shop stools, and more. For this contest build a stool of any style or size you want – except we’re talking about a seat, not a footstool or step stool.

Want some great examples for inspiration? Scroll down, there’s a gallery of ideas at the bottom.

As a woodworking project, a sitting stool doesn’t require much wood – but don’t be fooled into thinking they’re simplistic. Crafting a wood stool will challenge your skills in a fun way. For example, unless your design is an unusual one (which is okay!),  you’ll most likely get intimate with the mortise and tenon joint plus a couple of variations (like adding wedges for strength or chopping at an angle to accomodate rake and splay).  You’ll also probably get good use out of your hand tools like planes, rasps, scrapers, spokeshaves, handsaws, and layout tools like the t-bevel. You’ll definitey face the joinery and assembly challenges that follow the geometry requirements of splayed and raked legs.

But who knows? There are endless ways you can build a sitting stool. For the seat, you can sculpt it, cane it, upholster it, make it round or square or triangular or something else. Same limitless choices on your legs. It can have any number of legs you want, they can be sculpted or turned or tapered or steam bent or bent-laminated, or anything else that appeals to you.

There is no doubt that’ll you’ll have a good time with this project. See the examples below for some ideas.

Complete Your Project, Get $50 Store Credit:

All entries receive $50 store credit on November 8 upon project delivery. Yes, you keep your project and we give you $50. However, we keep the projects for one week while the panel of judges inspect each project to determine the winners.

 Plus you get a chance to win prizes from great woodworking vendors.

Enter the Contest in 2 Easy Steps:

  1. Register (it’s free)
  2. Deliver your project on Saturday November 8, 2014 (You’ll get $50 store credit)


On Friday November 14, 2014, we’ll host an awards ceremony at Practical Art, a gallery in downtown Phoenix. Prizes will be awarded for the top 3 entries, plus various honorable mention awards.

  • First Place: $500 package of woodworking tools
  • Second Place: $300 package of woodworking tools
  • Third Place: $100 package of woodworking tools
  • Honorable mentions: Various woodworking tools/supplies valued approximately $50 each

Sources for Inspiration and Techniques?

I’ve created a gallery on Pinterest of all kinds of stools collected from around the web, which you can see here. Below is a sampling: Follow Mark’s board Woodworking – Custom Seats and Stools on Pinterest.

Rules and Guidelines

How to Submit Your Project

  • Register for the contest using the form at the top of the page. Free entry.
  • Deliver your project on November 8, 2014.
  • Pick up your project on November 14th or after.  If you’re in the Tucson area, you can simply deliver and pick up your project at our Tucson store. We’ll arrange transport to and from Scottsdale for the judging and public display. 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 projects that are shipped in from other parts of the country for this contest. Your stool is yours to keep after the contest. Judges will be using the week between November 8 and November 14 to make their selections.

Materials to Use

You do not need to buy your wood from Woodworkers Source in order to enter the contest. Wood is the focus of this project and you may use any wood you’d like. The seat can be upholstered or not. You can incorporate metal or other materials into the legs or support but we want to see wood as the focus.

Design Considerations

There is no constraint on the design or style, let your own tastes be your guide. You can replicate a design or come up with your own. Use any woodworking process you want for creating your stool – such as turning, carving, sculpting, laminating, bending, tapering, etc, etc, etc.

Does the Project Have to Be New? How Many Can You Enter?

We prefer that you enter a project you build specifically for this contest, but that’s not a hard and fast rule. So, if you want to enter a stool you have already built, take a close look at it and determine if it needs to be refinished, waxed or polished. If it’s scratched or faded from time and use, do what it takes to refresh it so that it makes the best impression – this is, after all, a contest. You can enter more than one stool as long as they are different. There is no need to enter more than one if they are from a matched set.


A winning entry 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 project the best impression with a well-done finish. Start your project 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 polish your finish to your desired sheen, so give yourself time to do it well.

How Do You Build a Stool?

See these woodworkers who build custom wood stools:


How to Finish Mahogany: 3 Great Tips for Finishing Your Woodworking Projects

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

You have dozens, maybe hundreds, of ways to finish mahogany for your woodworking projects. That’s one of the best aspects of the wood; you can do just about anything to it and it’ll look wonderful. So there’s no way to make a definitive declaration about the best finish for mahogany. But I can pass you a few tips, ideas, and tried-and-true techniques that have served woodworkers for many years.

Absorb these three techniques, you might find them useful for your woodworking projects. The video above demonstrates how to fill grain, stain and dye to achieve the following looks and colors in mahogany.

1. How to Make a Deep Red Antique Mahogany Finish Using Dye, Stain, and Filler

deep red mahogany finish on genuine mahogany dye stain

Want a visual? This video demonstrates every step, click to watch:

Of the three process we’ll show you here, this one is the most sophisticated, but it also has the most interesting result of the three. While there are a few steps, it’s a straightforward process that’s not hard to pull off. Even though I’m going to list the exact brands and products I used to create this finish, they’re less important than understanding the process. Other brands will work just fine, too. In short: dye the wood to make it the overall color you want, seal it, fill the grain with something dark (aside from the filler I used, there are several other options too), apply a protective finish on top and polish it.

Products Used:

  1. Solar Lux aniline dye, medium brown walnut color (it dries with a maroon red color)
  2. Old Masters Woodgrain filler
  3. Zar oil stain, Early American color
  4. Denatured alcohol
  5. Zinsser SealCoat
  6. Spray lacquer


  1. Prepare the wood surface as you normally would by sanding to 180 or 220 grit
  2. Prepare the dye by diluting it by 50% with denatured alcohol in a mixing container. Apply the dye, either with a pad or by spraying
  3. Let it dry, then apply another coat of dye. Repeat until you’re happy with the color
  4. Apply a coat of Zinsser Sealcoat after the dye is dry. Work quickly and do not let it drip or pool.
  5. After it has dried, you may lightly and carefully sand the sealer if it developed nibs or bumps. Be cautious not to sand through the dye.
  6. Mix Old Masters Woodgrain Filler with a dark brown oil stain. In this example that’s Zar Early American. Use a 2:1 ratio, 2 parts filler to one part stain.
  7. Apply this tinted Woodgrain Filler with a rag, brush, or scraper to work it into the pores of the wood. Follow directions on the can. Let it dry for about 5 minutes, the wipe it off moving across the grain.
  8. Allow the filler to dry about 4 hours. Do another application if the grain is not filled to your satisfaction.
  9. Apply the topcoat of choice. The sample above is finished off with another 3 coats of Zinsser SealCoat, sanded between each one with 220 grit. And then it’s sprayed with 3 coats of lacquer, also sanded between each coat.
  10. Buff and polish when the top coat is ready.

2. Staining Mahogany The Easy Way

staining mahogany is easy to do

Left to right: Zar oil stain “Merlot” color; Old Masters Penetrating Oil Stain ‘Dark Mahogany” color; Old Masters Gel Stain “Cherry” color.

Coloring mahogany doesn’t need to be as involved as that first process. You’re allowed to just open a can of wood stain and put it on the wood. The results, of course, are far less dramatic and less nuanced, but they’ll still look nice. There are a lot of kinds of oil stains to choose from, but basic penetrating oil stains seem to bring the nicest results from the bunch. Opinion, of course. But the pigment builds up in the pores, darkening them more than the surface wood which highlights the character in the wood.

Not all oil stains are engineered the same way. Gel stain, for example, is most often suited for creating a wood grain appearance on fiberglass doors. That’s why if you were to get up close to the stained piece of mahogany on the right you’d notice that the color appears to be almost like a translucent layer of color riding on top of the wood rather than getting into it. The gel stain has muddied the grain of that piece of mahogany. Gel stain has its place — on a piece of raw mahogany is, arguably, not it.

Genuine mahogany also accepts water based stains just fine. As usual, raise the grain and sand it back before applying the water based stain. If you do want to use a water based stain, I suggest filling the grain with a darker water based filler first. Perhaps Timbermate’s walnut colored filler.

After staining mahogany (and after it dries!), protect it with your preferred top coat like varnish, shellac, lacquer or polyurethane.

Take a closer look at stained mahogany examples:

3. Fill the grain to get a perfectly smooth finish

Harder to see in pictures, but the piece on the left has the grain filled with a mahogany colored filler, the piece on the right does not. Both have a lacquer topcoat.

Harder to see in pictures, but the piece on the left has the grain filled with a mahogany colored filler, the piece on the right does not. Both have a lacquer topcoat.

Your mahogany woodworking project will benefit greatly if you fill the grain first, and you’ll notice the difference between a finish with the grain filled and one without the grain filled. So how do you do it? There is more than one way to skin this cat, so here are two.

1. Woodgrain Filler or another paste filler

We already brought up Old Masters Woodgrain Filler in the first process above. So that’s one product you can use, and it’s easy to work with. The trick with it is that you’re supposed to tint it with an oil based stain because out of the can it’s an off white or cream color. So you tint it, apply it, wipe it off, and once it dries sand it smooth. The sanding could be optional if you wipe it down well enough and you approve of the color that it leaves. Naturally, the stain you tinted the filler with will color your wood — the sanding will clear it up though. If you still want to stain your mahogany a darker color, you can do so. So you get the benefit of darkened pores, filled pores, and the choice of keeping your mahogany its natural color or staining it.

Another way to keep the stain in the filler from darkening your mahogany is to put down a washcoat (a coat of sealer) before the filler.

2. Timbermate, or another water based wood filler

The benefits of a water based wood filler is that it dries much faster and clean up is much simpler than the oil based filler above. You also don’t have to tint it, as it frequently is available in numerous colors. The brand Timbermate offers a mahogany color filler, which is what I’ve used in the sample in the picture above. A darker filler might prove to be a little more interesting, darkening the pores more, but the point is that the filler helps you achieve a glassy smooth finish quickly.



In this post, we share several tips for finishing mahogany in a way that gets you to the color you want and with a glass-smooth protective top coat.

In this post, we share several tips for finishing mahogany in a way that gets you to the color you want and with a glass-smooth protective top coat.

6 Wood Finishes for African Padauk: Which One Is Best?

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

The vivid orange color of African padauk wood is, yes, 100% natural. And therefore it has a mind of its own. As a project made with African padauk ages, the orange color of the wood usually turns dark – sort of a maroonish brown – and depending on your taste you’ll either find that objectionable or not. Because this change is largely spurred by ultraviolet light, different wood finishes will preserve padauk’s color to different degrees.

So which wood finish works the best? Which one preserves the color the best? Hard to say – but we’ll hand over the evidence and let you be the judge. We tested 6 different wood finishes on African padauk and set the board outside in direct sun light for 21 days. It’s not a long time, but in direct sun light, the change happens quickly. Here’s what happened:

african padauk board with finishes

The Test

Here's how we conducted the finishing test. The board is divided into sections with a shallow groove, then half of each section is finished. The we placed a 2" wide masking strip across the grain to protect a small control area from light, allowing to compare apples to apples. How does the wood change with exposure to light? Do different finishes protect the color better?

Here’s how we conducted the finishing test. The board is divided into sections with a shallow groove, then half of each section is finished. The we placed a 2″ wide masking strip across the grain to protect a small control area from light, allowing us to compare apples to apples. How does the wood change with exposure to light? Do different finishes protect the color better?

To make a good comparison I needed four parts for each of the six finishes, which you can clearly see in the picture on the right, above: a raw section, a finished section, and then a smaller section of both the raw and finished that would be protected from the light for control samples.


See the photo at right.

For these control sections I simply placed a 2″ wide strip of masking tape across each of the six sections. In the end, this allows us to compare each of the six exposed finishes to see how it changes and see how each one may protect the color.

Here’s the process:

  1. Divided the board into six sections by cutting five equally-spaced grooves across the grain
  2. Sanded the entire board to 220 grit to prepare it for finishing
  3. Taped off about half of the width of the entire board (the right side of the board as seen above)
  4. Applied 2 coats of each finish, allowed them to dry
  5. Placed a 2″ wide masking tape strip across each section to create the controls
  6. Placed board outside in bright, direct sunlight


  1. Clear dewaxed shellac preserved the orange color the most in a comparison among these six samples. Basically, the section that’s finished with shellac and exposed to light is brightest of these six.
  2. Tung oil, interestingly, makes the wood pretty dark immediately upon application but it also showed the least amount of change during the 21-day light exposure test.

Is this definitive? No. This is just one test of six finishes – there’s certainly more to be done! But the one lesson to learn here is your project will retain the orange color much longer if you can keep it out of direct light.

See For Yourself

Here’s a better look at how each finish behaved in this test. Click the photos to zoom in.