Dying With Water

By , 24 August, 2011, No Comment

In my new shop, I am far from being ready to do any serious work, so I have been experimenting some with the combination of water-based wood dyes and oil stains.  The combination of the two stains can give your wood grain an appearance boost from what I read.  I thought I would take advantage of this downtime in my shop to do some experimenting.

So far, frustrations reign.  My normal process is to sand the wood to a very nice state and then stain.  Water-based dyes raise the grain on what was a nice smooth piece of wood.  So sanding is required again.  This is bad.

I consulted some of the woodworkers on a Greene and Greene forum for advice and got some good responses.  I am close to being ready to try another sample, so I will try some of the tips that I got from the group.

I want this to work.  I have seen some of the value already from my first experiments, and I like some of what I am seeing.

Right now, I am using products from General Finishes if you want to check out their product line.  Also a link to their how-to page.

I am going to include a couple of the links passed along to me for others to read as well.

Dorset Custom Furniture

Jeff Jewitt

Fine Woodworking

Charles Niel

 The Wood Whisperer






By , 19 July, 2011, No Comment
New Shop Area

New Shop Area

My wife and I moved a couple of weeks ago into the city of Omaha.  After living 25 miles north in the country for 7 years, adjustments and unpacking are taking place everywhere.

The long pull for me will be the workshop.  Although small, my former shop matured to the point where I knew where things were and the items were accessible.  In the old shop, I concentrated on working the wood.  In my new shop I am stepping over things and barely able to get to the wood.

The unfinished basement needs to be walled off and separated from the piles of items that still don’t have a place, or may never have a place.  There is one pathetic light fixture, and two outlets.  Few projects will be made until I get to work building the shop.  That is unfortunate since the house has need of many woodworking projects.

I am planning on a workshop that I can enjoy for years, so lots of work ahead.

Writing Desks Completed

By , 14 June, 2011, 2 Comments
Desk 4 - Walnut

Desk 4 - Walnut

I completed desk #4 last Sunday.  This desk marks the end of the Stickley writing desk project.  The first desk went to my wife and served to let me work out all the kinks on the others.  This desk goes to my youngest and her husband.

I used walnut for the desk, at the behest of my daughter and her husband.  The lid contains some of the most interesting figure, with an ‘eye’ right in the middle of the lid.  I selected a number of photos to showcase some of the interesting grain in the desk.  By themselves, each of the parts provides quite a bit of interest.

During the eight months that this project spanned, I did a lot of reading that gradually convinced me that my penchant for lots of figure confuses the eye and makes a piece too busy.

Lid Open on Desk #4

Lid Open on Desk #4

I can see that on this piece too.  Even though I personally love all the grain and figure, it does look busy.  That has the effect of not allowing the eye rest of the focal point of the desk.

I enjoyed working with walnut again.  I made the last two desks from walnut, and I found it pleasure to use.  I love quartersawn white oak, but it takes more effort to work and to finish.

Lessons learned:

When I started, my goals were to create something that my family might enjoy having around for years to come, and to evaluate methods of expediting the process of creating multiple versions of the same product.

Knot on the Top

Knot on the Top

Using three different types of wood created a couple of issues.  First, the woods chosen, quartersawn sycamore, quartersawn white oak and walnut all work differently. This caused me a few problems when I anticipated certain reactions from a wood, and it did not work the same as the previous wood.  Some were softer than others, or were blotchy or tore under the plane more than others.

Right Side Wood Grain

Right Side Wood Grain

Also, because I used different woods, I did not have as many options for selecting pieces from a large stack.  In the case of the sycamore, I actually dug carefully back through all the scraps to find enough pieces so that I could finish.  Fortunately for me, the last piece that I needed was long and narrow and I had a piece that was barely big enough.  Had I made everything from one type of wood, I probably would have had more to choose from for various parts, and been happier with the overall pieces that I used.

If a person truly wants to create multiples of the same piece and do it efficiently, I think using the same wood for each piece is more efficient and gives the worker much better selection.

Left Side Wood Grain

Left Side Wood Grain

I used templates with a router to attempt to expedite the cutouts of the pieces and to get consistency for each desk that would allow me to ceate pieces that would come together perfectly.  That did not turn out that way.

The sides of the desks contain several odd angles.  I found this to be the one place where the template proved to extremely useful and productive.  By clamping the one template to each side and routing around it, I quickly produced 8 sides that needed only minor touch up from a hand plane to be called good.

The feet also proved to be good candidates for a template.  But, my attempt to cut all the mortises and tenons with templates was a flop.  Because I used different stock, not all of my pieces were exactly the same size.  This meant that I had a couple of mortises that were too big.  Drat!

Also, I used a router to cut all of those, so I had to trim out a lot of rounded edges and corners.  Frankly, I think I would have been better off time wise if I had cut them with a saw and with chisels.

So, for me the template worked well in some places and caused me significant issues in others.  I learned a lesson.  Templates work well for outside dimensions and shapes, and not so well for inside shapes.  I doubt that I will ever again use a template/router combination for mortise or tenon cutting.

I think the family members like their desks, and I enjoyed the building them.  This desk presented a number of challenges to it due to the design.  I probably would have been more successful with something more square and simple.  But they have great charisma and I am happy that I chose them.

I learned a lot on this project, had fun and I accomplished my goals.  What more can you ask?





By , 9 June, 2011, No Comment
Final Finish Coat

Final Finish Coat on Last Desk

This morning, I put the final coat of finish on the last of the 4 desks.  I laughed to myself to think that I thought I might have these all done shortly after Christmas.  And here it is approaching the middle of June!

Remaining on this desk is to attach hardware, the top piece and the back slats.  It can all be finished on a Saturday, but I don’t know if it will get done this weekend.  Our house is on the market and we are hoping for some future homeowner to interrupt our normal schedule.

But, it will be done soon.

Desk Update

By , 24 May, 2011, No Comment

I have not stopped blogging or working in wood.  I am trying to get my house ready for sale.  We are buying another house, and I have a fair amount of work to get done before I can drop back to woodworking.

Desk #4 is mostly glued together, stained and finished.  I will post additional information when I get back into my shop in the middle of June.