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Archive for the ‘Woodworking 101’ Category

One Trick to a Better Walnut Wood Finish

Thursday, January 15th, 2015
You can give your walnut woodworking project a little enhancement by filling the grain. Here are two ways to do it.

You can give your walnut woodworking project a little enhancement by filling the grain. Here are two ways to do it.

When we say walnut looks great with a finish, you’re probably asking, “Um… which finish?” Good question. However the answer isn’t exactly a simple one because you can apply dozens of techniques to walnut and the wood will . . . look great.

But here’s a really good way to give walnut a nice appearance in tables, desks, or perhaps keepsake boxes: fill the grain. The purpose for grain filling is often twofold.

  1. To add a bit of color to the wood pores, either to make them blend or stand out
  2. To achieve a smooth-as-glass film finish

Plus, if you want a glossy sheen on your walnut, be sure to fill the grain. A gloss finish looks incomplete if the pores are peering through the topcoat.

Filling the grain might sound mysterious or difficult, but it’s easier to do than you might think. Here are a couple of ways to do it:

1. Grain Filler: Adds Contrast and Helps Achieve a Glass-Smooth Top Coat

walnut-grain-filler-01walnut-old-masters-grain-fi

Supplies & Products

    • Sanding sealer (Zinsser SealCoat is used in this sample)
    • Old Masters Woodgrain Filler
    • A dark brown oil stain (Zar Moorish Teak used in this sample)
    • Cotton rags, shop towels, foam brushes
    • Putty knife or a 6″ squeegee
    • Denatured alcohol
    • Mineral Spirits or paint thinner
    • Abrasives and/or finishing pads
    • Latex gloves

How to apply it

  1. Prep your work as you normally would by hand planing, scraping and/or sanding. You shouldn’t need to go any finer than 180 or 220 grit for this process. Once it’s smooth and flat, seal the wood with a thin coat of sealer. If using SealCoat, apply it with a “shellac pad” – a small cotton rag balled up and soaked in SealCoat, then wrapped in a clean cotton rag.
  2. Lightly scuff sand once it’s dry.
  3. Prepare the grain filler. Oil based grain fillers are usually a dull gray or tan color and therefore need to be tinted with an oil stain. The darker the oil stain, the more contrast it’ll provide in the pores. 2 parts filler to 1 part stain. Mix it in a cup.
  4. Apply the grain filler. Use a brush or a rag to apply the woodfiller to your work going with the grain. Work it in for 2 to 3 minutes, then let it stand for 10 to 15 minutes. It’ll leave a thick coating all over your work piece.
  5. Remove the grain filler. Going diagonal to the grain with a putty knife, squeegee or old credit card, scrape the grain filler off the surface . This pulls it off of the surface, but leaves it in the pores. You can gently wipe left over residue with a shop towel
  6. Allow it to dry, usually 8 hours.
  7. Sand if necessary. Sometimes you’ll find a deposit of grain filler on the surface that you missed when wiping it off. If so, use 220-grit wet/dry sandpaper and a little bit of mineral spirits. Filler clogs sandpaper quickly, the mineral spirits helps keep the abrasive from loading up too fast.
  8. Apply a coat of sealer.
  9. You should discover that one application of the grain filler doesn’t fill the grain 100%. If you’re satisfied with the appearance, though, move on to your top coat. Otherwise, do another application of the grain filler. Usually three applications of grain filler alternated between coats of sealer is sufficient for 100% fill. Then apply your top coat of choice.

Another way to fill grain is to simply use the dust from walnut mixed with oil. To some degree, this method is easier than using grain filler.

2. Wet-Sanded Tung Oil Varnish: Augments Natural Contrast in Walnut + Fills Grain

walnut-tung-oil-varnishwalnut-grain-filler-02

Supplies & Products

    • Old Masters Tung Oil Varnish
    • 220, 400 and 600 grit wet/dry sand paper
    • Cotton rags, shop towels
    • Mineral Spirits or paint thinner
    • Latex gloves

How To Apply It

  1. Prep your work as you normally would by hand planing, scraping and/or sanding. You shouldn’t need to go any finer than 180 or 220 grit for this process.
  2. Using a rag or shop towel, coat your work piece with a liberal amount of the Tung Oil Varnish. Be sure to get the edges and end grain.
  3. While the oil is wet, sand it with 220-grit wet/dry sand paper. Go with the grain. Wrap the sand paper around a block if you want, or just use your fingers. The wood dust mixes with the oil and creates a paste, so as you sand back and forth, the paste will compact into the pores. You may need to add a little more oil as you sand. Sand until you’ve covered the entire work piece.
  4. Use a rag or shop towel to wipe off the excess, and work across the grain. Let it dry for 4 to 6 hours.
  5. Once it’s dry, sand the surface smooth with 220-grit or 320 grit sand paper.
  6. Repeat the oil application, and perhaps move up to 400-grit wet/dry sandpaper on this coat.
  7. After the second application dries, sand the work piece smooth (use the same grit you used to apply the oil) and decide if it needs a third application for filling the grain.
  8. Apply a topcoat of shellac, lacquer or varnish if you want, or buff and polish as is.

Safety tip: oily rags can spontaneously ignite, so do not ball up your used oily rags in a pile. Instead, dry them out by laying them out flat on the ground, or drape them side-by-side over the edge of a trash can, brick wall, clothesline, etc. When they’re dry, they’re safe to throw away.

Woodworking 101: What You Need to Know About Table Saws

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Yep, that’s Norm Abram. You’re going to want to watch this.

No doubt about it, with a table saw and a router, a modern day woodworker is an unstoppable force. But the table saw is the most ubiquitous woodworking tool of our age. Indeed, it’s what separates woodworkers from, well, their neighbors-who-need-a-favor. If you already have a shop in your garage or elsewhere, you know. It goes like this: “Hey Bob, could you cut this for me?  It’ll take just a minute, it’s really simple . . .”  Or worse, but let’s move on. The table saw is the tool with which most of us step up from a circular saw, jig saw, or a chop saw to start building bigger-and-better projects or, God willing, heirloom furniture.

Yet, there’s a lot to know about choosing, owning, and operating a table saw. It’ll sever a finger as fast as it’ll cut down a 4×8 sheet of plywood. Fortunately, Norm and The New Yankee Workshop dedicated episodes to the topic of table saws. And those episodes landed on the internet! I thought I’d post one here for you.

If you’re looking at buying a table saw, or even if you own a table saw already, watch this 25-minute video. You will be well armed to own and operate a table saw – considering it’s free, man, you can’t beat it. Norm will walk you through the essentials, such as:

  • The saw: know the differences between bench top, contractor, hybrid, and cabinet table saws.
  • Blades: when to choose an 80-tooth crosscut blade over a 40-tooth combo blade
  • Fences: why are some aluminum and other steel?
  • Throat plates: why your safety and your results depend on them
  • Safety: using push sticks
  • Sheet goods: techniques for how to cut them down by yourself
  • Outfeed tables: why they’re good, and how to make one

You’ll get a lot out of this 25-minute tutorial. After that, check out Part 2 for more advanced table saw usage and techniques:

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