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Archive for the ‘Tips and Tricks’ Category

3 Wonderful Sapele Wood Finishes for Better Woodworking Projects

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

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.

See all sapele lumber on sale >>>

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.

 

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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.

 

Here’s One Way to Make a Cutting Board with Ipe

Friday, September 12th, 2014

basic cutting board built out of ipe decking

Sometimes, an idea for a project just jumps out at you when you see a piece of wood. That’s what happened when we brought in a small load of dimensioned ipe (ee-pay) lumber that was cut into uniform sizes of 3/4″ x 5.5″ x 72″.  I made a small bet with myself that I could make a reasonably size cutting board out of one piece of ipe. So I grabbed a piece, gave it a shot, and succeeded.

Ipe is a handsomely dark wood, especially when it’s sanded and oiled. Because the wood is so dense, hard, and resistant to weathering, the primary use of ipe is in outdoor decking. That’s also what makes it such a fine furniture wood – and it’ll make a good looking chopping block, too. When it’s sanded and oiled, the color turns to a bold brown-saturated color with hints of red and green. And the color stays dark for a long, long time. If you like dark woods, you should explore ipe.

Using our 3/4″x 5.5″ x 6′ dimensioned ipe boards, here’s how you could make a cutting board:

Step 1

Starting with a piece of 3/4″ x 5.5″ x 6′ ipe, send the 6-foot length through a thickness planer or drum sander, just graze the surface to clean it up.

Cut the board into 3 equal lengths, approximately 18″. Working with these shorter lengths is a little easier to control in the next step.

ipe-decking-boards

Step 2

Rip each of the three pieces into strips 1-1/8″ wide. You’ll get four pieces from each length of ipe.

Table Saw Tip: Be aware that ipe is very hard, but with a decent carbide-tooth table saw blade that’s designed for ripping, ipe cuts smoothly and with very little resistance. A 10″ ripping blade most often has between 24 and 30 teeth, deep gullets, and the carbide teeth will have a flat top grind and be raked at 20 to 22 degrees. 

 

 ipe-decking-strips

Step 3

Prepare to glue up the strips into a panel. Rotate the strips onto their edge. This forces the rings of annual growth to run more or less perpendicular to the face and back of the cutting board, resulting in a more stable product.

If the strips were recently planed or sanded, ipe will accept wood glue. Use Titebond III to take advantage of the longer working time the glue offers.

 ipe-decking-strips2

Step 4

Clamp the strips.

Once the panel is dry, use a planer or a drum sander to flatten the face and the back. This will determine the final thickness, but a precise final thickness is not important. It may finish out to 7/8″ or thicker.

Glue-up Tip: When the glue sets up, but before it’s dry, use a glue scraper to clean off the squeeze-out. For the most part, the glue will peel off in long strips. It’s easier in the long run to clean up the squeezed-out glue before it’s hardened.

 ipe-cutting-board-glued

Step 5

Trim to length. On the table saw or with a track saw, crosscut the ends of the block so they’re square to the edges and so that the board is sized to a length you like. In this case, the cutting board ended up a little over 17″ long.

 ipe-cutting-boards-trim

Step 6

Optional. Soften the corners with a radius. The bottom of an aerosol can makes the perfect radius. Trace it onto the cutting board, then cut it on the bandsaw and sand it smooth on the disc sander.

 ipe-cutting-boards-radius

Step 7

Add a 3/8″ round over along the top edge.

Once again, despite ipe’s hardness, it actually routs quite easily.

 ipe-cutting-boards-routing

Step 8

Sand the cutting board. No need to sand any finer than 120 grit.

Coat it in a block oil, a simple wipe on and off procedure.

 ipe-cutting-boards-001

Other Ideas

You can also get more creative. As an example, a couple of thin strips of hard white maple added to the ipe makes the cutting board a little wider while giving it a new look.

ipe-cutting-boards

6 Rustic, Reclaimed, Weathered, Distressed Alder Wood Finishes You Can Do

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014
You can achieve numerous colors and rustic, charred, weathered, or distressed looks on your alder woodworking project. Here are 6 easy and dramatic methods.

You can achieve numerous colors and rustic, charred, weathered, or distressed looks on your alder woodworking projects. Here are 6 easy and dramatic methods.

If there’s one thing to understand about creating a rustic or distressed finish in alder woodworking projects, it’s this: there is no wrong answer. But still, maybe you want a handful of ideas to get your creative gears greased up. Indeed, of all wood finishes, rustic/aged techniques are probably the most fun to do – perhaps because they’re more art than skill. You’ll have a good time with these techniques, and you’ll have even more fun as you modify them to suit your taste. If you have questions or comments, just share down at the bottom.

Working from left to right in the picture above, I’ll walk you through how to do each one. Click on any picture to zoom in for a closer look.

1. Clear Lacquer, Epoxy-Filled Knots & Cracks

knotty alder with clear finish, black epoxy in knots cracks

The most straightforward way to finish knotty alder is to emphasize the knots. Using two-part epoxy and black pigment, you can fill in the cracks of the knots with high-contrast black.

See the how-to process for filling cracks with black epoxy here.

To protect alder with a clear finish, try this out:

  1. Sand your work to 180 or 220 grit.
  2. Apply dewaxed shellac for a sealer. Sand it smooth with a fine grit sand paper or finishing pad. Apply 2 or 3 coats to your satisfaction. The purpose of the shellac is to give you a good, smooth surface to apply the lacquer, ultimately making it much easier to get a glass-smooth sheen.
  3. Spray lacquer, sanding between coats. Apply 2 or 3 coats.
  4. After the final coat has dried, give it a light sanding with a finish pad or abrasive sponge. Polish the lacquer with a buffers polish or wax.

2. Dark Even Color, Epoxy-Filled Knots & Cracks

knotty-alder-even-stain-dye

Alder is a wood that doesn’t accept stains very well, resulting in blotchy color. Even though we’re going for a rustic or distressed appearance, a blotchy stain can still look downright ugly. Perhaps try this finishing method to get nice, even color. For greater effect, fill the cracks with black epoxy before applying this finish.

  1. Apply a light colored dye. In this sample, that’s Golden Fruitwood, and it makes a light reddish to pink color.
  2. Apply a sealer. Zinsser SealCoat is a fine choice because it’s universal. One coat is all you need, let it dry, then if it feels like it needs it, do a quick and light scuff sand to remove dust nibs in the sealer.
  3. Apply a gel stain to glaze the color. For this sample we used Old Masters Dark Walnut Gel Stain, which is a very dark brown. Wipe it on to the surface, then wipe it off. Be careful to be gentle enough that the gel leaves a good, even coat of color on the board.

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The next four samples employ a weathering technique that creates a textured wood surface. Using an angle grinder or a drill with a wire wheel, the process is quick and effective. The looks you can get by adding a little bit of gel stain to the textured wood are fantastically diverse. Tips for how to texture alder with an angle grinder are at the bottom.
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3. Dark Weathered Alder

To get a nice dark and weathered appearance in alder, try this:

  1. Using a wire wheel in an angle grinder, texture the alder (details at bottom).
  2. Lightly sand with a fine grit (150 or 220 grit perhaps) sanding sponge. Don’t try to level the ridges and produced during the texture process, just knock down fuzzy grain.
  3. Apply a sealer. Spraying is easiest due to the texturing – brushing or wiping is more laborious. Lacquer sanding sealer comes in aerosol cans if you do not have HVLP spray equipment.
  4. After the sealer dries, use a dark brown gel stain — Old Masters Dark Walnut Gel Stain is shown here. Wipe it on and wipe it off. The gel will collect in the valleys you created during the texturing process.
  5. Allow the stain to dry, then apply 2 or 3 coats of spray lacquer to seal and protect.

4. Country Pickled Alder

Perhaps you want a pleasant light country look? Same process, just a different gel stain color.

  1. Using a wire wheel in an angle grinder, texture the alder (details at bottom).
  2. Lightly sand with a fine grit (150 or 220 grit perhaps) sanding sponge. Don’t try to level the ridges and produced during the texture process, just knock down fuzzy grain.
  3. Apply a sealer. Spraying is easiest due to the texturing – brushing or wiping is more laborious. Lacquer sanding sealer comes in aerosol cans if you do not have HVLP spray equipment.
  4. After the sealer dries, use a white gel stain — Old Masters Pickling White Gel Stain is shown here. Wipe it on and wipe it off. The gel will collect in the valleys you created during the texturing process.
  5. Allow the stain to dry, then apply 2 or 3 coats of spray lacquer to seal and protect.

5. Charred Wood Finish

Here’s a unique look that resembles charred or burnt wood, and it’s easy to pull off.

  1. Using a wire wheel in an angle grinder, texture the alder (details at bottom).
  2. Lightly sand with a fine grit (150 or 220 grit perhaps) sanding sponge. Don’t try to level the ridges and produced during the texture process, just knock down fuzzy grain.
  3. Apply a black gel stain. Old Masters Spanish Oak is used in this sample. Wipe it on, then wipe it off. Allow the stain to dry. There’s a chance that the wipe-off procedure will reveal enough of the wood that you’re pleased with the look. If so, skip to step 5.
  4. Use a sanding block with 220-grit sandpaper and lightly sand the workpiece.
  5. Seal and protect your project with any topcoat finish you want. Most likely polyurethane or lacquer. Due to the texture of the wood, spraying is easiest. Brushing or wiping is more difficult.

6. Reclaimed Red Barn Wood

Similarly, you can use a reddish stain that just might spark memories of summers at the farm and the scent of Grampa’s tractor shed:

  1. Using a wire wheel in an angle grinder, texture the alder (details at bottom).
  2. Lightly sand with a fine grit (150 or 220 grit perhaps) sanding sponge. Don’t try to level the ridges and produced during the texture process, just knock down fuzzy grain.
  3. Apply a reddish brown gel stain. Old Masters Cherry is used in this sample. Wipe it on, then wipe it off. Allow the stain to dry.
  4. Use a sanding block with 220-grit sandpaper and lightly sand the workpiece.
  5. Seal and protect your project with any topcoat finish you want. Most likely polyurethane or lacquer. Due to the texture of the wood, spraying is easiest. Brushing or wiping is more difficult.

 

How To Create a Weathered Texture on Wood

 Click the images to enlarge, use your arrow keys to scroll through each one.