Maple Slab Build, Session 3

Friday night, I went down to the shop because I wanted to build something.  I started with a small slab of Western maple and designed the piece on the fly.  I documented the build live on Twitter and what you see below are the updates from the third session (see what I did in the first session and second session).  This was useful because each update had a time stamp so followers could see the rate at which I progressed.

(If you are not familiar with the format used on Twitter, every update, or “tweet” below starts with a username, being the author of that tweet.  Sometimes, you see two or more usernames in a tweet.  The second (and third, etc) usernames are preceded by a @ symbol and are people to whom the author is talking.  The other symbol you see is #, which serves as a category.  I try to remember to categorize all my tweets pertaining to this project under #flairww.)

FlairWoodworks This is how I left the shop. The table doesn’t look as tall from this angle. #flairww -12:30 PM Apr 8th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’d forgotten how hard softwood is to cut cleanly! #flairww-12:42 PM Apr 8th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Here is one end radiused. Now I need to round over the corners. I’ll start with a rasp. #flairww -12:52 PM Apr 8th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Actually, a block plane is a better tool to start with because it works faster. I’ll switch to a rasp to refine the shape later. #flairww -12:54 PM Apr 8th, 2012

FlairWoodworks The wide chamfers look nice but I don’t think they suit this piece. Not here. #flairww -12:59 PM Apr 8th, 2012

BCcraftmaster @FlairWoodworks nice! -1:02 PM Apr 8th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I used my plane to transform the chamfers into roundovers. My sense of touch tells me how fair the curve is. #flairww -1:06 PM Apr 8th, 2012

FlairWoodworks It’s getting closer. A bit more shaping. #flairww -1:11 PM Apr 8th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I used a rasp to refine the shape. I am constantly using my left hand to feel for any ridges. #flairww -1:20 PM Apr 8th, 2012

FlairWoodworks After some sanding, this is what I have. I love 80-grit!#flairww -1:54 PM Apr 8th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I removed the handle from my countersink and used it in my drill. It leaves a neat pattern. #flairww -2:29 PM Apr 8th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Time for finishing! #flairww -2:52 PM Apr 8th, 2012

BCcraftmaster @FlairWoodworks not to shabby for 2 days of work! -2:58 PM Apr 8th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @BCcraftmaster See what happens when I’m inspired?#flairww -3:00 PM Apr 8th, 2012

FlairWoodworks When I set the table on the ground, I realized that it isn’t as sturdy as I’d like. I’m going to use larger fasteners. #flairww -3:02 PM Apr 8th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m replacing #10 screw with 1/4″-20 bold and threaded inserts. This is how I drive the inserts. #flairww -3:06 PM Apr 8th, 2012

TT_TPR @FlairWoodworks Great! #flairww -3:11 PM Apr 8th, 2012

BCcraftmaster @FlairWoodworks how many hours in the shop on this one? -3:15 PM Apr 8th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @BCcraftmaster I’m not sure. I’ll check when it’s done.#flairww -3:15 PM Apr 8th, 2012

FlairWoodworks It’s not often that I work with softwoods and this is showing me how much better real joinery is than metal fasteners. #flairww -3:24 PM Apr 8th, 2012

FlairWoodworks With the 1/4″-20 bolts installed, there is a slight improvement. It’s passable but not rock-solid. #flairww -3:33 PM Apr 8th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I guess I should change out of my nice clothes before finishing… #flairww -3:35 PM Apr 8th, 2012

FlairWoodworks One coat of finish applied. Now I’ll clean up the shop while I wait for it to dry. #flairww -4:26 PM Apr 8th, 2012

DyamiPlotke  @FlairWoodworks very nice, Chris. -4:30 PM Apr 8th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @DyamiPlotke Thanks, Dyami! This is fun! #flairww -4:31 PM Apr 8th, 2012

See the finished table HERE.

Overflow, Part VI

This time, I am giving away one Makita BO3700 Finishing Sander which has seen a minimal amount of use.  It uses 1/3 of a standard 9×11″ sandpaper sheet which is held in place by a spring-loaded clamp at each end of the pad.

The soft pad has eight holes for dust extraction.  The steel plate is used to punch matching holes in the paper.

Dust collection with the bag is not great, but some dust does make it into the bag.  The dust port is round, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to adapt a vacuum to it.

The sander runs on 120 volts, draws 1.3 amps, orbits 10,000 times per minute and is turned on and off with the trigger under the handle (there is a lock-on button as well).  The tool weighs 3.1 pounds and the cord is listed at 6.6 feet.

If you would like this sander, please leave a comment below indicating your interest before February 21, 2012.  I will then draw a winner at random.  Even if you don’t get this sander, remember that this is only some of the MANY things I want to give away.

And if you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to my blog using the widget in the right-hand column so you can be notified as soon as I post something new!  And please tell your friends about my Overflow program.

Review the details of the Overflow program.

Bubinga Dining Room Table, Part II

Currently, I’m down in Phoenix, Arizona, working for Morgan Holt of EarthArt Landscape & Designs, Inc. on a massive dining table being made from one large slab of bubinga.

Yesterday was an edgy day, so to speak.  The previous day, I had carved the edges with the angle grinder equipped with an Arbortech wood-carving wheel.  My next job was to smooth the edges.  I started with a rasp, as I had done on the sample board.  However, the sample board was only about 3’x1’x2″, therefore I was able to position it in the best possible way, which was vertically, with the surface being worked on at elbow-height.

It was impractical to orient the workpiece in a similar fashion, so that was out of the question.  I tried various positions and grips on the rasp, but got fatigued quickly.  Reluctantly, I plugged in the belt sander and went to work.  As much as I detest sanding, I really was glad to have the belt and random orbit sander available for this table.  So I worked my way up from 36-grit to 120-grit.  Belt sanders are not light, and I found the best way to use it without straining myself was to sit down in a chair and hold the belt sander in front of me at about shoulder height.  I took frequent breaks to rest my arms.  When I finished with the belt sander a few hours later, I put the tool away and began hand sanding the edge with 120-grit sand paper, then up to 220-grit.

This morning, I started off by inspecting the work I had done yesterday and spent some time sanding any areas requiring additional work.  Around 11:00am, I applied a sealer coat of blonde shellac which we had mixed up yesterday and had been giving a swirl every now and again to dissolve the shellac flakes.  I wiped on a thin coat with a rag and let it dry for about 15 minutes before applying a second.  I applied an additional coat to the end grain, which has a tendency to absorb more finish than other parts of the board, resulting in a darker colour.

I monitored the drying process, checking every once in a while by sanding it.  If the shellac gums up the sandpaper, it hasn’t sufficiently dried; if the sandpaper stays clean and produces dust, the finish is dry.  I waited, tested, waited, tested, then decided to go for lunch.  An hour-and-a-half later, the shellac was dry in some areas.  Despite the thin cut and thin coat applied, the age of the shellac inhibited the curing process.  This is a problem with pre-mixed shellac and blonde- and super-blonde (bleached) shellac.  Orange, untreated shellac in flake form does not have this problem.  Anyhow, I proceded to sand away the finish.  The idea was to fill the pores with the shellac which would prevent them from absorbing the oil/varnish finish which we would apply later.  This took a lot longer that I had expected, but I trudged on.  I had spent three days sanding, so another two hours wouldn’t kill me.

Once complete, I could see an even sheen across the table. The next step was to apply the oil/varnish finish, which would be the top coat.  I read the label, which advised me that it needed to be stirred well.  Even though I could see no sediment that would need to be stirred in, I stirred, and I stirred well.

Just then, at the perfect time, Morgan came into the shop.  Together we decided that we’d wet-sand the finish.  We found a fine synthetic steel wool (Scotchbrite) pad that would work.  Morgan poured the finish over the table and I spread it around and sanded it into the wood with the pad.  Doing so creates a slurry of wood dust and finish which help to fill any pores or scratches or small knot holes.

Once the wood was coated, we stood back and admired how beautiful the table looked, all glossy with the finish still wet.  Then we grabbed some cotton rags and began to wipe off the excess finish.  As time elapsed, the finish began to thicken.  It took the two of us about five minutes to remove the bulk of the excess, then ten minutes to go back with clean rags and get the rest.  The result is well worth all the prep time I had spent the days prior.

The picture shows the table after one coat, about 15 minutes after wiping it clean.  We’ll allow the finish to dry overnight.  The directions on the can recommend 24-36 hours between coats, but given the lack of humidity and presence of heat in Phoenix, we feel comfortable giving the finish a little less time to dry.  We’ll need to apply 2-3 coats on each side.  Flipping the table will be a challenge for the two of us, but with some jigging and rigging, we’ll get it done.

The Evolution of Sharpening

When I started woodworking six or seven years ago, all my tools were usually dull.  I sharpened them will a mill file.  Yes a mill file.  I clamped the tool in my metal working vise and went at it.  Maybe that was a blessing because I learned to sharpen with a steady hand.  Anyhow, the file produced a sharp edge good enough to cut adequately.

Then I acquired a 4″ bench grinder.  It removed metal faster than the file, and with due care, didn’t ruin the temper and created a good edge.

At school, the shop teacher used to touch up chisels on the belt sander.  That produced a workable edge in a couple seconds.  Just mind the heat build up.  While he used the 6×48″ stationary horizontal belt sander, a 1×42″ belt vertical belt sander is a better choice, in my opinion.  They have nice adjustable tool rests as well as an unsupported area to sharpen gouges.

Digging though my dad’s stuff, I found a sharpening stone (oil, I think).  I bought an Eclipse-style honing guide and spent an hour going back and forth on the stone.  My chisels were sharper, but also cambered because the stone was dished.  To flatten it, I stuck a piece of 60-grit sandpaper on a scrap of laminate flooring and rubbed the stone on it, which lead to…

The scary sharp sandpaper on glass system.  Wet-dry automotive sandpaper on plate glass or other flat surface becomes the sharpening medium.  The beauty of the system is that it never needs sharpening and starting-up costs are comparatively little.  However, the ongoing purchasing of sandpaper got tiresome.

So I got a diamond stone.  Fast cutting, long-lasting, but expensive.  It put a nice keen edge on my tools.  I was happy.

But then I had a desire (maybe more external than internal) to put a finer edge on my tools.  My diamond stone was the finest grit available at 600x/1200x.  So I bought a Norton 4000x/8000x water stone.  And it cuts quickly and leaves a nice finish and a super sharp edge.  Water stones wear quickly too, but I stay on top of that and keep it flat with the diamond stone.

Then I got into carving.  Most carving tools are not flat, rendering my wonderful stones suddenly lacking.  It was then that I was introduced to the strop and honing compound.  Wow, a simple piece of leather and a green “crayon” sure put a keen edge on a tool.  This is the sharpening method I use for all my carving tools.  They cut so the end grain of pine so cleanly.