Archive for the ‘Woodworking’ Tag

From The Shop: That Glue Problem   1 comment

It’s my least favorite job in the shop. I hate glue ups. Lamination. Whatever.

It’s a sticky, wet mess. And, glue flies everywhere. It ruins shop clothes. It’s all over my hands. It builds up on clamps … and that’s a problem. Get enough glue residue on the clamps, and they don’t work properly.

What’s a woodworker to do?

My solution for the past several years was to apply masking tape to the metal bars of each clamp for the width of the boards being clamped. That does protect the bar, pretty much, but does nothing for the clamp ends that build up glue deposits. When those glue deposits get mixed in with some wood splinters that come off of the work pieces, then you’ve got a real problem.

Plus, the bottoms of the metal bars are left unprotected. Wet glue flows downhill, and eventually glue will accumulate that will have to be scraped off. Or something.

My normal approach now has me “picking & processing” 50+ pieces, or “blanks,” at a time. I’ll generally do gluing for 2 days to get everything laminated … then I take all of those pieces to the finish line. I’ve currently got 44 clamps that are 2′ long, so I can typically do somewhere between 14 and 22 glue-ups, depending on how wide the work pieces are. When all of the wood has been “picked and processed,” and is taped together ready to be glued up … I will fill the available clamps in about 2 hours.

And, no, I don’t have enough clamps. Nor do I have enough space to store the ones that I do have.

An alternative to taking the glue off … is not letting it get stuck on in the first place.

Bates Glue Release won’t let glue stick to a surface, once applied. You wipe the watery, glue-looking stuff onto the clamps. If feels a bit waxy, and the clamps are definitely more slippery once the Bates is applied.

And the glue can’t stick.

At all.

I’ve used Bates for a few months now. Some clamps have gotten 3 applications, some just one. What’s clear is that the new clamps still look new. The Bates application doesn’t affect the glue already on the clamps … but no new glue will gather if Bates is on the clamp.

Bates is highly recommended. You can buy it here.

Tools for doing the actual glue ups:

  • Clamps, of course. I prefer Jet parallel face clamps
  • 1-1/2″ masking tape (I buy factory 2nds by the case for $2.68/roll)
  • A false top for my workbench so most of the glue gets left on the replaceable, melamine top. Glue will wipe off of melamine … but the build up will inevitably start!
  • Titebond III (my glue of choice; I buy 2 gallons at a time from in a Fast Cap “Glu-Bot”
  • A rubber roller to spread the glue
  • A bowl of water
  • A kitchen scrub pad (I buy big packs from a kitchen supply store and cut them up for a usable size)
  • Paper towels

I follow the manufacturer’s recommendation on how to apply Titebond III:

  1. Apply it generously to one surface being laminated
  2. Spread a consistent thin layer over the entire joint
  3. Apply clamps
  4. Wipe off the squeeze out with a wet kitchen scouring pad
  5. Wipe off the watered down glue on the board with paper towels
  6. Leave the board in the clamps for at least 60 minutes
  7. Don’t machine the board until the glue has cured a minimum of 24 hours

Note that I have found that letting end grain cutting boards cure for 72 hours is actually better. Otherwise, water-swollen wood fibers will remain expanded while you sand. When they dry and shrink, your glue line will be left proud of the new, sunken wood surface. Better to go slower and let the wood shrink to it’s normal size.

And, one more pro tip: removal of dried glue from woodworking clamps can be done by soaking each clamp in vinegar for a few hours, then scraping the softened glue off. Just don’t leave the clamp in the vinegar too long, or you’ll take the chrome plating off of the clamp.

You can guess how I gathered that knowledge.

Simply Great Coffee   4 comments

I worked in the Mizzou theater to help pay my way though college. In my freshman year, I worked in the scene shop making sets and props: it’s where I first used power tools. I helped make step units, platforms on legs, wall units, and all sorts of oddball things like giant crown molding and a curved staircase handrail.

Everything in the scene shop was made for the shows, and the pieces were retired at the end of every show’s run. Temporary constructions.

Flash forward for a, uh, few years, and I was asked to make promotional furniture for a limited run at Circle K.

Some branding events were being developed for certain stores in North Carolina that served “Simply Great Coffee,” and I was asked to help change the look of the stores for the events. Instead of the plastic counters, they wanted real wood counters. They wanted engraved signage. And, they wanted the pieces to be mobile so they could move from store to store.

An architectural firm in North Carolina was hired to go measure the stores and take reference photos. My client developed renderings of what they wanted, and then left the woodworking to me.

OK, go.

I made 9 pieces:

  • A 2′ x 10′ counter, made to slide on top of the existing counter. The trickiest part of the design was the in-counter trash chute that had to mate up with the existing trash chute.
  • Three 1′-9″ x 5′ pieces, called “parallel toppers” that were to slide on top of existing desk-like counters, each covering one of the plastic counters and its associated back splash.
  • Two 24″ diameter round engraved signs to hang in the windows.
  • One 30″ coffee table, also engraved.
  • Two highboy cocktail tables, which needed to come apart for travel.

My engraver, Lavene & Co, added some engraved napkin holders and coasters to complete the look. She also engraved the signage and the coffee table, as you will see.

The pieces needed to be completed in 30 days, and then picked up from my house wrapped in packing blankets for transport to North Carolina.

I made the deadline, the pieces journeyed safely across the country … and the results were exactly what the client wanted!

Quality Of Life   1 comment

A very long time ago, I said that the purchase of a portable dish washer saved our marriage. It was a different time, and our first apartment didn’t have a dishwasher. Washing dishes was a point of, uh, discussion from time to time.

Our apartment didn’t have major appliances, but it did have live music every school morning; we got to listen to the Hart High marching band from across the street. Given that we were both working late nights at the time, it wasn’t a benefit, believe me.

The Sears Craftsman Dust Collector on a happier day.

The Sears Craftsman Dust Collector on a happier day.

But I digress.

Life has changed, of course, and we no longer need a portable dishwasher to add to our domestic bliss. The problem now is that I can be a dirty boy. Dirty, dirty boy.

I got cleaner, though, when I began to use a dust collector. The machine makes a huge difference in the amount of sawdust in the garage workshop air. And, if it’s not in the air, then I do not carry the sawdust into the house, much to Velda’s relief. I have an upgraded Sears Craftsman 1-1/2 HP, model 152.213370 that eliminates dust particles down to 1 micron in size. It is great.

Was great.

The dust collector gave up the ghost this week. The motor will no longer go: the on-board circuit breaker blows every time I hit start. I replaced the circuit breaker, hoping that was the issue … no joy.

This isn’t just a dirt problem, as I can’t use my drum sander or planer without a dust collector (those tools, you see, generate clouds of sawdust). I can’t easily build cutting boards without those tools. Using the other tools might be possible … but it would be dirty. Very dirty.

Luckily, I found a used, comparable replacement on Craigslist … and the motivated seller is delivering it to me today at 8am. And that, my friends, is a very good thing.

13 Lies People Tell Me   Leave a comment

HandcraftedI admit I’m a bit obsessed with cutting boards these days. In my defense, I have actually done research into what makes a good cutting board. I know what the government requires for cutting boards in restaurants. And, I’ve made more than a few of these kitchen tools, as well.

So when people lie to me, it gets me riled up. And when I talk to a lot of people at holiday boutiques … people lie to me. I need to get people to stop lying to me, and lying to themselves.

Please, help me stop the lies.

1. It doesn’t matter what cutting board I use.

Yes, yes it does. Different kinds of boards do have different advantages (or, in the case of glass or marble … not). If you’re looking for information about which board might work best for you, check out the link below for Cutting Boards: What Kind Do You Want?

2. Bamboo makes great cutting boards.

Hard Maple, Cherry & Black Walnut. 16" x 12-1/2" x 1-1/4". End Grain.

Hard Maple, Cherry & Black Walnut. 16″ x 12-1/2″ x 1-1/4″. End Grain.

Bamboo does indeed make cutting boards that are inexpensive. However, those boards are made overseas. They’re made with a great deal of glue by workers in third world countries. Bamboo grows quickly, and is a renewable resource … but doesn’t reach maximum hardness until the Bamboo is 5 or 6 years old. If the wood is harvested earlier (and how would you know?), the wood is softer. In addition, the bulbous nature of the wood means that it will dull your knives more quickly than boards made from traditional wood like hard maple or walnut.

3. Bamboo boards are harder than “rock maple” boards.

(This was stated by a seller of bamboo boards). This is simply untrue. “Rock Maple” is a nickname sometimes used for Hard Maple or Sugar Maple. That wood is harder than bamboo.

The hardness of wood is measured by something called the Janka scale. Higher numbers represent harder woods, and here are the scores of the woods that I use for cutting boards … and some that I don’t:

  • Purpleheart: 2,520
  • Jatoba, AKA Brazilian Cherry: 2,350
  • Osage Orange: 2,040
  • Bubinga: 1,980
  • Goncalo Alves, AKA Tigerwood: 1,850
  • Hickory, Pecan: 1,820
  • Yellowheart: 1,790
  • Padauk: 1,725
  • Hard Maple: 1,450
  • Bamboo: 1,380 (one species of Bamboo)
  • Ash: 1,320
  • Bamboo (carbonized): 1,180
  • Teak: 1,155
  • Black Walnut: 1,010
  • Cherry: 995
  • Mahogany: 800

Commissioned piece. 16-1/4" x 12-3/4" x 1-1/2". Hard Maple, Black Walnut, Cherry and Yellowheart. Edge Grain.

Commissioned piece. 16-1/4″ x 12-3/4″ x 1-1/2″. Hard Maple, Black Walnut, Cherry and Yellowheart. Edge Grain.

The hardness of Bamboo is further complicated by the hardness of boards varying between the knuckle or node of the bamboo shoot (which is hardest), and the rest of the plant.¬† In addition, if the wood fibers of the bamboo shoot are scored (which is something that happens on cutting boards!), then the wood loses more rigidity … so it’s softer.

Bamboo is cheap, which does give it one real advantage over other types of cutting boards.

4. Plastic boards can be sanded smooth to extend their life.

(This was stated by a seller of plastic boards.) Simply, not true. Plastic boards will develop cuts and grooves in their surface over time, and a used board is a better habitat for bacteria. Unfortunately, sanding a plastic board just makes MORE cuts and grooves in the plastic surface. When the plastic board shows wear, replace it.

5. Glass boards are more sanitary than wooden boards.

Absolutely not true. You can read the research studies that are linked in the cutting board article at the bottom, previously referenced.

6. Your boards are at the perfect price point.

End Grain. Hard Maple, Walnut, Yellowheart, Padauk, Cherry. Cutting Board # 13.

End Grain. Hard Maple, Walnut, Yellowheart, Padauk, Cherry. Cutting Board # 13.

A lady actually said this to me … and then she bought 5 boards. So, what am I saying??? If she likes the price point, then good for her. Me, I think prices should go up.

7. These boards are too expensive.

One guy said this to me … and then his wife asked if I made the boards. When I said yes, she then told her husband that the reason the boards are more expensive is that “the artist is on site.” I had nothing to say to that. And the couple didn’t buy anything, for the record.

8. These boards are too pretty to use.

People that say this to me are just inviting an argument. I wonder if their stoves are too pretty to use, too? Or how about their dishwashers?

9. Wooden boards are not sanitary.

Not true. This is not backed up by the science. Wooden boards – with all wood types being shown to be roughly equal – actually have natural anti-bacterial properties.

10. You dye these woods different colors, right?

Never. I only use natural woods with their natural colors.

11. It’s best to treat cutting boards with salad bowl finish.

A fully restored board. The padauk is once again a vibrant orange.

Edge grain. Purpleheart, Canary wood, Padauk, Cherry and Hard Maple.

Nope. Salad bowl finish is fine for, uh, salad bowls. However, this finish is a varnish, and that’s not something that should be applied to a cutting board … and then cut up and served with the food prepared on the board.

12. It’s best to treat cutting boards with olive oil (or walnut oil).

Organic oils are not recommended, as they will eventually turn rancid. Food-safe mineral oil is recommended.

13. I made a board just like this in high school when I was in shop class.

Respectfully, no you didn’t. You may have glued boards together and called it a cutting board … and I’m sure your mother loves it! … but I humbly submit that the work done in a high school shop may not be up to the standards found in Mr M’s Woodshop.

Humbly submitted. And since I’ve now referred to myself in the third person … I’m done.


Cutting Boards: What Kind Do You Want?

 Wikipedia: Janka Hardness Test

Staycation: Day 4   5 comments

Every significant accomplishment has one: that point at which you question what you’re doing. Is it worth it? Can you do it? Should you do it?

When I ran my first marathon, I hit the wall in the 20th mile.

On my staycation, I hit the wall on day 4.

1:41a: I decide I’m not thinking big enough. I must make more boards.

4:22a: The new display units are vexing me. I need to get those done and out of my head.

7:12a: I go to Home Depot to pick up epoxy, masking tape and boxes to put my finished boards in.

8:35a: in the shop.

9:32a: first glue-up done. I’m relaxing to JT. Life is good.

Staycation 44

10:16a: I’m done playing Jenga. I picked up the cutoffs that were “stored” in 7 places and placed them in this newfangled thing I bought: a container. Wow. Organization. What a concept. Now, it’s time to plane and cut to shape the new boards.

11:18a: the planer blades are done. I’ve got new blades waiting for this moment. Unplug the tool. Read the instructions conveniently on the back of the new blades. Unscrew 31 screws, replace the 3 blades, and then put it all back together.

11:50a: had to be done … but I don’t have time for this! But … the planer is now working, and the blades are so sharp, the boards are coming out like I have already sanded them smooth.

1:05p: I’m progressing, but not nearly fast enough. I was supposed to make serious progress on the two new display units today … but I’m just not feeling it. At all. To make the display units, I need to do another deep dive into the lumber pile. No motivation. So, lunch.

2:01p: back to the planer.

4:09p: 40 boards, now ready to finish. That’s great … but I’m not getting the display units done. I am not feeling it. At least I’m getting the boards ready for finishing tomorrow.Staycation 46

4:58p: second glue session almost done.

5:05p: gotta take a break. And a nap. I’m on staycation.

7:40p: back to the shop. Third glue session.

8:41p: lights out.

Staycation: day 4 results:

  • 9 more boards picked and processed
  • 59 boards now glued up
  • 67 total boards now in production

Staycation 45


Staycation: Day 1

Staycation: Day 2

Staycation: Day 3

Posted October 30, 2014 by henrymowry in Woodworking

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Cheese Boards: Round 2   1 comment

Each of these boards is approximately 8-1/2″ x 11″ x 7/8″. They have non-slip rubber feet, and a slot hollowed out on each end for your fingers to slip into as you pick up the board.

All boards finished with mineral oil, and then a top coat of mineral oil & locally harvested beeswax.

I think I’ve run through my course of Cheese Boards for a while. I do think there are more cutting boards in my future, however!

(After I do the easel picture frames & mission candle holders that I’ve promised, of course!)


Who Doesn’t Love Cheese & Crackers?

Cutting Boards: The Third Round   4 comments



Cutting Boards: The Next Step

I Had To Mention Cutting Boards

The Cutting Board

From The Shop: A Beginning   Leave a comment

A day of beginnings. A day when you start fresh with uncut wood, clean floors and an empty workbench.

So, what should I make?

Posted April 5, 2014 by henrymowry in Woodworking

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From The Shop: Buying Lumber & Doing The Jig   2 comments

Buying hardwood isn’t as simple as buying a 2×4 at your favorite lumber yard. Here’s the lingo:

First, a 2×4 probably will not be 2″ x 4″ when you buy it. The board did start out that size, actually, but it was cut and sanded to make the finished board 1-1/2″ x 3-1/2″. That same principle applies to all lumber: a smooth 1″ x 6″ is actual 3/4″ x 5-1/2″.

You can buy lumber rough, with no sanded smooth faces or cut smooth edges. It will be rough & splintery. In most lumberyards, though, softwood is sold after it is sanded smooth on all 4 sides. Hardwood is generally sanded smooth on the top and bottom faces of the board.

You can also buy hardwood “SL1E,” meaning that one edge of the board is a straight line, ready for immediate, further processing directly on your table saw. Most hardwood is sold “S2S SL1E,” meaning that the top and bottom of the board is sanded smooth, and one edge is straight. The other edge will be rough, which is OK, because that’s the edge that you will cut off when you cut the board on the table saw.

If you buy the wood cheap, though, you’ll get it rough on all 4 edges. That means you need a way to straighten and smooth the wood. You’ll need a handplane (if you’re dedicated) or either a jointer or electric planer (my choice) to smooth the top and bottom faces of the board. To straighten an edge of the board, you’ll need a shop-made jig. A jig is a tool that you make to help you repeat a process in the shop. In this case, the jig will allow me to straighten rough lumber into usable stock with one straight edge.

Posted April 3, 2014 by henrymowry in Woodworking

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Cutting Boards: Restoration   9 comments

It’s important to understand the essence of what an object is. Why does an object exist? What is it for?

What’s a cutting board?

Literally, a place to cut. A thing to protect that which you don’t want to cut. You cut on the cutting board so you don’t cut on the counter. So your knife does not become dull.

The board exists to be cut upon.

That’s not a bad thing … it’s the essence of the cutting board. Be happy for the board when you cut on it: it is serving its purpose. It’s keeping your knives sharp. It’s protecting your counter.

In this particular case, 2 cutting boards were given as presents 3 months ago, and both came to me for restoration. What can be done?
I can fix some of the damage that had been done to the boards … but I will not forget why the boards exist. After I restore them, they will be cut upon again. And that’s a good thing.


Posted April 1, 2014 by henrymowry in Woodworking

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