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Archive for the ‘Tips and Tricks’ Category

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.

***
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.
***

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.

 

How to Fill Knot Holes and Cracks with Black Epoxy

Monday, August 18th, 2014
This rustic knotty alder entry door is brought to life with black epoxy filling apply to the cracks and knots. Here's how to do it yourself.

This rustic knotty alder entry door is brought to life with black epoxy filling apply to the cracks and knots. Here’s how to do it yourself.

When you’re building a project out of a knotty or rustic wood like alder, pine, mesquite or hickory, you can give those boards a fantastic boost in stability and appearance by filling the cracks with wood filler, glue mixed with sawdust or epoxy. Probably other substances, too.

For this demonstration, we’re working with clear two-part liquid epoxy, which is easy enough to buy at your nearest hardware store. And the sample boards you see in these pictures are knotty alder. But, as stated above, the process works just fine in other woods with knots or splits.

We’re also tinting this epoxy with black pigment by Mixol. But that’s optional. You could leave the epoxy clear, mix it with saw dust, mix it with powdered stone like turquoise, and so on. The process is more or less the same.

Materials needed:

  • Two-part liquid expoxy
  • Black tint or pigment
  • Small disposable mixing cup
  • Stir sticks or disposable spoons
  • Needle or pin
  • Latex gloves
  • Blue masking tape
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Black felt tip marker

The Process:

First, some tips. It’s best to do this process before your project is assembled and before it’s sanded, stained or finished. You’ll do those things after filling. It’s perfectly fine to stain and apply finish on top of cured epoxy. Sometimes you’ll want to fill knots or cracks before you cut your boards to size if they’re severe and would pose a safety hazard otherwise.

Mix small batches rather than large ones, even if you have a lot of knots to fill. That’s because once epoxy is mixed, it only gives you about 5 minutes of working time before it starts to harden.

Step 1

If the knots or cracks go all the way through your board, flip it over and cover the backside of the void with masking tape. This helps prevent a nasty mess leaking through, or worse your board getting glued to your workbench.

If the knots or cracks go all the way through your board, flip it over and cover the backside of the void with masking tape. This helps prevent a nasty mess leaking through, or worse your board getting glued to your workbench.

Step 2

In a small disposable mixing cup, mix your epoxy. The mix is usually 1:1 hardener to resin, but check the instructions on your epoxy.

As soon as the two parts come in contact with one another, you’ve initiated the hardening reaction. You have about 5 minutes before the epoxy is too stiff to manipulate into the cracks.

In a small disposable mixing cup, mix your epoxy. The mix is usually 1:1 hardener to resin, but check the instructions on your epoxy

Step 3

Add a drop or two of tint to your epoxy.

This step is optional. You could leave the epoxy clear, or mix in other substances like saw dust or powdered stone.

Add a drop or two of tint to your epoxy.

Step 4

A little bit of Mixol pigment goes a long, long way so do not use too much. Here we’ve used just a drop. Stir the mixture, and get to work.

knotty-alder-epoxy-fill-009

Step 5

Using a spoon or stick, work the mixture into your knot or crack. Then allow it to dry.

Tip: If bubbles form, pierce them with a small pin or needle. 

Tip: work quickly, and don’t mix too much epoxy at once because you only have about 5 minutes of working time before the epoxy sets up.

Using a spoon or stick, work the mixture into your knot or crack. If bubbles form, pierce them with a small pin or needle. Allow the epoxy to dry.

Step 6

Once the epoxy dries, you’ll probably notice that large cracks and voids aren’t totally filled. No problem, though. Mix up another small batch and hit it again. This is common for these larger holes and voids.

 knotty-alder-epoxy-fill-006

Step 7

Once the epoxy is dry and well filled, leveling it out is swift work with a block plane. You could also use a chisel, but a plane is better. Sanding is risky because there’s a good chance you’ll create a noticeable divot to the outside of your filled knot. A plane is faster and gives you a good, level surface anyway – much better than sanding.

Use your black felt tip marker if your fill job still shows some white specs in the epoxy.

From here, you assemble, sand, stain and finish your project as you normally would.

 alder-epoxy-filled-005

Step 8

Clean up.

If epoxy has leaked onto your workbench, denatured alcohol is the best solution. Soak a shop towel or rag in denatured alcohol and rub the epoxy. It’ll come up quickly.

If you got epoxy on your skin, use vinegar to clean it off.

 knotty-alder-epoxy-fill-008

7 Techniques for Finishing Beech Woodworking Projects

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Since European beech is very close-grained and dense, you can get a wonderfully smooth and flawless finish on the wood with very little trouble. Prepping the wood goes quickly, too, as abrasive sandpaper cuts this wood fast – unlike hard maple, which shares a similar density and light color.

However, European beech is a tricky one to stain or dye to achieve a nice, even color. That is, unless you know some tehniques – a few of them are demonstrated in this video above. Otherwise, here are some visuals and recipes for finishing beech, and each of these are shown in the video. As usual, what you find here are just a few items off the big, broad menu of wood finishing. But this should help you get started.

Clear Finish Choices

european beech with 3 clear finishes compared

Gel Polyurethane. This is one of the easiest protective finishes to apply, and it’s one of the most durable finishes readily available to consumers. It’s a fine choice for protecting a project built with beech; you’ll probably like how painlessly you can get a good, flat topcoat. Because it’s a thick, creamy gel that you wipe on and wipe off, you can use a foam brush or a lint-free rag to apply a coat. Then as you wipe it off with a clean cloth, you’re leveling as you go, which helps you get a great looking coat with little effort. Allow the coat to dry (usually about 6 hours), then apply another in the same fashion. Sanding is not required between coats, unless you feel like your first coat could use it. Such as if you can feel small nibs in your first coat.

Spray lacquer is another choice that has advantages over polyurethane — and some disadvantages. Because it dries faster than polyurethane, you can apply several good coats in one day and move on to rubbing it out and polishing sooner than you can with a polyurethane. Lacquer is, arguably, easier to fix months or years down the road as the finish gets dinged and scratched. Some lacquers are also available as a “water white” formula that doesn’t yellow with age as polyurethane does. If you want to keep that pale, tan color of beech, this might be the finish choice for you. However, spray lacquer is kind of picky about the weather – if humidity is 50% or higher the finish can come out milky, if the temperature is below 50ºF the finish takes longer to dry and won’t flatten as well.

Tung oil and other oils are popular for embellishing all kinds of wood. Tung oil in particular provides some extra contrast to beech. Oil, though, is not a durable topcoat. If you like the look of tung oil but need good surface protection, you can have both. Simply allow the oil to cure, then apply a your topcoat of choice – such as the gel polyurethane or spray lacquer, above.

 

Tips for Staining & Dyeing

The same cherry colored oil stain is applied to each board - yet there are three drastic results. At left, you can see how blotchy the wood is. A basic penetrating oil stain was applied to the bare wood, sanded to 220 grit. To fix it, try a gel stain (middle). Gel stains give you more predictable coverage. If the color of the gel is too strong, try applying a washcoat of dewaxed shellac or a sealer first (right)

The same cherry colored oil stain is applied to each board – yet there are three drastic results. At left, you can see how blotchy the wood is. A basic penetrating oil stain was applied to the bare wood, sanded to 220 grit. To fix it, try a gel stain (middle). Gel stains give you more predictable coverage. If the color of the gel is too strong, try applying a washcoat of dewaxed shellac or a sealer first (right)

Regular oil stains are problematic when applied right to the bare wood, even if sanded properly. Beech simply will not accept stain very evenly, also known as blotching. Fortunately, there are a few ways to color beech without living with a blotchy and unsightly color. Some choices are:

1. Use a gel stain on the bare wood, especially if you want a significant color change. Gel stains are different from other oil or water based stains: they’re thick, creamy and formulated to be used on fiberglass. Yet they happen to do brilliant work on woods that usually blotch with other stains. Application is simple. Use a brush or rag to coat the surface of the wood, then wipe it off. You’ll need to pay attention as you wipe it off, though, being sure not to rub off too much in one or more areas. But don’t worry, it’s not hard – if you happen to wipe off too much stain in one area, simply add a touch of stain to that section and blend it in while the stain is wet.

2. Use a washcoat, then a gel stain to do a more mild color change. A washcoat is just a thin coat of sealer applied to the wood before the stain. When applied to bare wood, gel stain will lay a coat of pigment over the surface of the wood. But on a washcoat you can use the same gel stain and get a mellow color change that doesn’t obscure the wood grain as much.

 

 

What about aniline dye? In most woods, dyes usually are a good alternative when an oil stain causes the wood to blotch. But in beech, even dyes have trouble coloring the wood evenly. However, they are good for creating some graceful and nuanced colors, and for ebonizing or making the wood black.

Beech takes a solid jet black dye, making it an inexpensive way to achieve a perfectly black color.

Beech takes a solid jet black dye, making it an inexpensive way to achieve a perfectly black color.

To ebonize beech, or make it black, here’s one way to do it:

  1. Prep the wood as normal by sanding to about 220 grit
  2. Use a premixed jet black aniline dye. Solar-Lux makes one that is alcohol based, also called non grain raising
  3. On large areas, it’s best to spray. If you don’t have spray equipment, use a cloth pad or lint-free rag folded into a pad.
  4. Apply the dye. After one coat, you will probably still see streaks and lap marks. If so, apply another coat. In short order, your workpiece will be black
  5. Apply a sealer, let it dry. Avoid dewaxed shellac because the denatured alcohol in the shellac can lift the black dye. Your sealer needs to be compatible with your top coat of choice in the next step
  6. Apply your protective top coat finish, then rub out and wax your finish to give it the sheen and flatness you want

 

 

 

beech with brown glaze

Doing a three-step coloring process, you can achieve some nice colors. This sample has a reddish orange aniline dye, then a sealer, then it’s been glazed with a dark brown gel stain. The result is largely a dark brown, but hints of red and orange come through as well.

Dyes can also be used with a glazing technique to make more interesting colors. The board at right isn’t just a dark brown – there are hints of reddish orange in the lighter area.

  1. Prep the wood as normal by sanding to about 220 grit
  2. Apply a light reddish orange aniline dye. Golden Fruitwood is used on the sample at right
  3. Seal the dye with a sealer. Be sure the sealer is compatible with your preferred topcoat in the last step. For example, lacquer sanding sealer goes with lacquer. Let it dry.
  4. Apply a glazing stain or a gel stain. The sample at right used Old Masters Dark Walnut gel stain. Wipe it on, then wipe it off. Pay attention to your workpiece as you wipe off the stain. If you wipe off too much stain in one area, apply a little more stain and blend it in. Let the stain dry
  5. You should be satisfied with your color at this stage.
  6. Apply your protective top coat finish, then rub out and wax your finish to give it the sheen and flatness you want