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Posts Tagged ‘custom woodworking’

A Finishing Trick for a Dark, Even Color in Walnut Woodworking Projects

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

Even colored walnut lumber

Look close. This piece of walnut is not only finished with a clear lacquer but the light colored sapwood has been evened out to nearly match the heartwood. Woodworking with walnut today means dealing with the sapwood. Here are 3 ways.

Few people approve of pale sapwood in their walnut lumber,  but in the words of  Jim, a salesman at one of our faithful walnut suppliers back east, “When people ask me for a 100% heartwood face in walnut, I just tell them they’re dreaming.” You may be tired of hearing that sapwood isn’t considered a defect when it comes to grading lumber, however it is an industry fact. Lumber grade is a mathematical computation of the amount of clear wood in a board – so says the National Hardwood Lumber Association, the organization responsible for defining the rules of the lumber trade.

“But it’s a defect to me,” says the woodworker.

So what’s a woodworker to do? Fortunately, lumber producers separate their walnut inventory not just by grade but also by color. The good news is 100% heartwood walnut can be had; the bad news is few can afford it. For the most part, about the best balance between color, cost, availability is called 90/70 heart: that means 90% heartwood on the face, 70% heartwood on the back. Remember, lumber has two broad sides, a face and a back, and when building furniture and cabinetry, only one side is displayed in the final product.

Sure, it’s possible to find some 100% heartwood boards from time to time, but on a consistent basis and in large quantities? Not really. And therefore, when you visit your nearest lumber supplier, you’ll never have a perfect pile of full brown walnut to select from. Full heartwood boards are the exception to the rule, so it’s time to look at how woodworkers are using walnut in today’s woodworking.

You’ll find a number of discussions and blogs about this topic, and a good one in particular is this found at Lumber Jocks,, which discusses three ways woodworkers overcome sapwood.

Walnut board dyed and stained

Two walnut boards compared. Bottom is raw, top is dyed, stained, and finished to hide the sapwood. Can you tell where the sapwood and heartwood meet? Look closely.

3 Ways to Deal with Sapwood in Walnut:

  1. Cut sapwood off, and/or hide the sapwood on parts that will not be seen frequently
  2. Live with sapwood in your finished project
  3. Use a dyeing and staining process to make the color even

Those first two are straightforward.

Dyeing and staining needs some explanation, though. Since you’re not going to be able to go the woodworking store and buy a bottle of Sapwood Hider right off the shelf – alas, no such miracle exists – there are a couple of steps involved, but they’re easy.

For this method, we’re specifically talking about dye and there are a number of dyes on the market, usually mixed with water or denatured alcohol. Dye is different from stain, as dye doesn’t obscure the grain, which is pretty important when using walnut.

The basics:

1. Apply a very diluted dye in a color of your choice to the entire piece, heartwood and sapwood. Two nice choices could be Behlen Solar-Lux™ Medium Brown Walnut color or American Walnut color. Solar-Lux™ is UV resistant and fade resistant, which is great because when walnut is left natural, it eventually turns very tan. There are several techniques to apply the dye (which we’ll cover in another post), but in general you’ll want to dilute it by maybe 50%, then apply it in 2 or 3 coats rather than one full-strength coat because it’s easier to get a better result that way.

2. Seal the wood with a light coat of sanding sealer or shellac. This needs to be thin to allow for the next step to have some effect. Spray it or pad it on.

3. Apply an oil-based gel stain on top of the sealer. Wipe it on, wipe it off. When you wipe it off, use a bit of an artist’s hand – that is, don’t wipe too hard or too soft. You want to leave a light coat of stain right on top of the sealer while also lodging pigment into the pores. In the end you get a gorgeous consistent color across the board.

4. Apply your clear finish of choice. Varnish, lacquer, etc.

It should go without saying that you should always test your dye process on a few test pieces before committing the dye to your final product. You’ll need to test different dilution ratios of your dye before you get the color you want.

Dyeing walnut is not very difficult, but it will take some time. However, you’ll greatly increase your yield of wood and you’ll make the beautiful walnut color last much, much longer than you would if if were to leave the wood natural.

Walnut wood dyed to blend sapwood and heartwood

In this dyed and stained walnut board, you get a nice, dark chocolate color that will last a long, long time. The processed used also blends the pale sapwood so it’s not too different from the heartwood.

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 145 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


How to Build a Folding Workshop Table with 3 Tops: Router Table, Down-Draft Sanding Table, General Work Table

Friday, April 12th, 2013

Every month we host a free woodworking demonstration at our stores, and each one is taught by our esteemed demo man, Joe. Due to the nature of his “traveling woodworking show,” he built this fold down table that does a few cool things:

  • Easy to store and set up
  • Sturdy enough for many woodworking operations like routing and assembly
  • Table top changes out for special applications: router table, down-draft sanding table, general purpose work table.

The quick video above shows how it works. Is it a robust workbench? Obviously not. However, it is a handy table that can serve a number of purposes for you in your own shop.

Joe pieced together sketches and a parts/materials list you can download and use for making your own table.

Click here for a link to plans in PDF form.

Three tops you can make:

  • Router table
  • Basic work table
  • Downdraft sanding table