Scroll Saws are what General International started the business all off with 30 years ago. In celebration of that mark in time, General International is offering this Anniversary Special Excalibur 21″ Scroll Saw. What is different about this saw compared to it’s predecessor is that a dust collection feature has been added. To aid in the dust collection besides the collection port are several holes around the cut area on the table’s surface around the blade opening. Additional guarding has been added for increased safety, and a blade tube storage system is built-in, in close proximity for easy use and quick blade change out.
Another addition to all the fine products at General International is a new 3HP Cabinet Saw. This industrial level consumer saw features a cast iron miter gauge, a quick change from blade guard to riving knife, a 50″ fence, a dual read 12″ left of blade and 50″ right of blade cutting capability, a cast iron base for solid floor stability, and a redesigned dust control system that allows for sawdust intake around the blade and in the cabinet, both through the 2-1/2″ diameter hose to the 4″ diameter single dust port.
Two new Air Systems have also been added to the General International lineup. One entry level machine and one industrial explosion proof system.
Check out all of the details with the guys from General International in this video at IWF 2012.
If my kitchen were to be radiocarbon dated, it would fall somewhere between the fall of Rome and the discovery of electricity. My house, built in 1920, originally didn’t have much in the way of kitchen cabinets. One tall cabinet, secured opposite where the original stove would have been, was all the home’s Roaring 20′s inhabitants required. Sometime between the birth of rock-n-roll and the summer of free love, the home’s occupants decided they were going to need some place to store their Correlle and Tupperware. A decision was made to renovate the kitchen.
I’m not entirely sure just when this renovation started or ended. Left behind scribbled notes on plaster seem to indicate that a “major” renovation (that word is in quotes for irony purposes) began sometime in the early 60′s. What came out of the renovations stood nearly unchanged until my wife and I decided that, if the kitchen were ever to be avenged, it would fall to us.
So what does a 60′s kitchen look like? Well, the original stove, which would have sported a stovepipe, was tossed in favor of a gas-fueled model. The original kitchen chimney still proudly butts out into the kitchen adding character and frustration to anyone who has ever tried to design a cabinet layout. A compromise must have been made with the chimney at some point, because a small dishware cabinet now hangs just below it. We decided to leave this cabinet, as it appears any new cabinets in that area might break the treaty that the kitchen has with the old chimney. In addition to the tiny “compromise cabinet”, a large L-shaped slab of cabinets were firmly anchored to the kitchen; along with a more modern sink.
“Why not just REPLACE all of the cabinets in your kitchen?” you might ask. “Put in some nice solid-surface counters.” It’s a valid argument, and one that we contemplated . . . right up until the estimate came back. Anyone got a spare $10,000?
The countertops born from this renovation are true 60′s kitsch. Made from some sort of man-made board, laminated with what looks like floor tile from a junior high school lunch room, and trimmed with a stainless steel band. Hard, durable and horrible. I can only imagine that the same people who developed this countertop were the same men who spearheaded the Apollo moon landings.
Sometime in the 70′s it appears that there wasn’t enough room for the home’s growing collection of fondue pots, so another cabinet was added. This cabinet, which upon installation of my D.I.Y. Countertops, was discovered to be held together with nothing but Elmers Glue and prayers. It also appeared to be entirely constructed of single-ply toilet paper. I ended up having to repair this cabinet during installation. It can be seen at the end of this blog in its new life as a coffee bar.
“Why not just REPLACE all of the cabinets in your kitchen?” you might ask. “Put in some nice solid-surface counters.” It’s a valid argument, and one that we contemplated . . . right up until the estimate came back. Anyone got a spare $10,000? Well, we didn’t. So the decision was made to sand all of the cabinets, swap out the ugly black hardware and only spend the “big money” on new countertops. We estimated the countertops would run somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,500 -$2,000 for a solid-surface material. Had we chosen a more expensive solid-surface or granite material the counters could have run as much a $4,000. Nuh uh. Not gonna happen.
Then came the idea: Laminated Maple Bench Tops. At Woodcraft, we sell these terrific maple bench tops. They’re inexpensive, and on sale many times throughout the year. They also have a beautifully finished top. At 1-3/4″ thick they’re heavy, durable, and we thought perfect for our ancient kitchen. The best part? It all cost less than $700 (now your kitchen might be smaller or larger than ours, so you’ll have to do the math for your kitchen or bar).
My first thought upon having this idea was, “Will they even work as kitchen countertops?” So I sought out the help of George Snyder. George is Woodcraft’s Product Development Guru for all things wood. It turns out that George has already tackled this exact same project. So, great minds and the like, he offered to help out! What follows is a summary of the process it takes to go from the “off-the-shelf” Laminated Maple Bench tops we sell at Woodcraft, to beautiful “butcher block look” countertops. Let me also preface this by saying – when you install wood countertops of any kind, do not use them as a cutting board. It’s a really bad idea, really bad, stomach-wrenching bad. Luckily I had a bit of bench top left over, and I promptly sanded it, finished it with butcher block oil, and used it to create a matching cutting board.
1. In the Before Time
Getting the Kitchen Ready to Be Awesome
I’ll spare you most of the details here as much of the prep had little to do with the actual countertop project.
The original kitchen had some wear. Walls and trim needed touch-ups and the old hardware was ugly – so it had to go. This meant that the cabinets had to be sanded and repainted. In the photo above, the end result of sanding, filling, painting, and new hardware can already be seen. The kitchen already looks better. Now we’re ready for some countertops right? Well, no. First we’ve got to measure.
2. Measure & Choose Your Bench Tops
The most important thing I can stress at this point is measure, measure again, and then just when you think you’ve got it, measure again. You don’t want to make a mistake here because it will cost you money. Oh, and these bench tops are heavy – you don’t want to have to move them around anymore than is absolutely necessary. So get your measurements down pat, and the create a little drawing of exactly what you need. Being able to visualize where your cuts are going to be made can help you determine how many bench tops you need and whether or not you want to tackle this project with this product.
For my purposes I needed only two pieces to make this project work. I don’t have a lot of counter space so two of the 7′ x 24″ bench tops would serve my purposes. As it turns out I ended up getting one 7′ x 24″ and two of the 5′ x 30″ bencthops instead. Truth is, I lucked into a return at our local Woodcraft store in Parkersburg, WV.
3. Examine Your Material & Rip the Bench Tops
With your drawing and measurements in hand, survey your recently purchased Laminated Maple Bench Tops and start to build a list of how you plan to make your cuts. Inspect the bench tops. With this particular product, the manufacturer has worked hard to create a bench top that has a beautifully finished top and sides – the bottoms and interior pieces however may have voids. Make sure you examine and plan your cuts to showcase the best parts of the wood. This might seem straightforward at first, but really think about what you’re doing. The final look of your bar or kitchen countertop is on the line.
For my project, because my existing cabinets were made by early stone-age Americans, I needed to rip each of the bench tops down to 23″ wide. Standard countertops aren’t 23″, so make sure you double-check your cabinets. If possible, a 1″ overhang is preferred on the front of the cabinet. Using the 84″ bench top might not be an option for some cabinet bases because it is only available at 24″ wide. Many cabinet bases require a 25-1/2″ countertop.
Making a long rip cut on stock that weighs as much as these maple bench tops can be difficult – the length doesn’t help either. Make sure you have help. The 84″ x 24″ bench top weighs in excess of 90 pounds; it’s not easy to maneuver. Fortunately I had George to help make these cuts. We used a SawStop 10″ Professional Cabinet Saw loaded with a 40T Forrest Woodworker II blade to make the cuts. This gave us a fine cut with very little dust and almost zero burning – something that can happen easily when cutting large laminated materials. The added safety of the SawStop was comforting too because I had to keep my hand pretty close to the blade to help guide the oversized bench top as we made the cut.
Once we completed ripping the bench tops down to size we needed to cut them to length. Doing so on the cabinet saw wasn’t a practical option.
4. Cutting to Size
Since we are talking about countertops that are in some cases 7′ in length, doing the crosscuts on the SawStop didn’t make sense. So in comes the Festool Plunge Cut Saw to save the day.
After once again verifying that we were making the cut on the proper end of the bench top we measured out the length. Here’s a tip: Apply blue painter’s tape in the general area of your cut. Measure your cut and make your pencil markings on the blue tape. This actually does a few things for you. It means you don’t have to sand or erase your pencil marks – handy on these pre-finished bench tops, it also adds a little bit of slip protection for a cutting guide, and it can also help prevent tear out.
Once we clamped our cutting guide in place and had our work piece sufficiently secured, we made the crosscut. This was repeated for each piece. The Festool Plunge Cut Saw was terrific for these cuts. I have to say I was very impressed with the quality of the cut. No sanding was ever required.
5. Routing the Edges
These bench tops come with already rounded-over edges on their long sides. These edges are pre-finished and will work for many applications. For the purposes of my countertops, however, not so much. To give just the profile I want, a simple roundover, we turned to our trusty Porter-Cable Router and a Freud 1/2″ roundover bit. The pieces were secured to the workbench with a non-slip mat and we made our first cuts, not all of the cuts though. . .
Before we could make all of the cuts, a problem needed to be solved. Like just about every countertop in every kitchen, my countertops formed an L-shape. This meant that we couldn’t just rout around the countertops at will. There was going to be a butt-joint between two of the counters. That meant that we needed to figure out just how far we should put our profile on the joining pieces. The two countertops were going to have to be mocked-up so we could plan our cut. That meant putting the two heavy and long pieces together. Who has a workbench that large? No one. Not Woodcraft, not even Norm. Then the voice of reason hit. Why not use the floor?
Here’s another good tip: Keep your shop free of dust and debris. It’s not only safer and more efficient to have a clean shop, but you never know when you might need to use the floor as a work surface!
After manhandling the pieces to the floor with the help of Woodcraft blogger Frank Byers, we were able to determine where our routing needed to stop and hand sanding needed to take over. We routed the two front edges of the countertops almost to the point where they met. Here I turned to a small file, a Soft Sander sanding block and a little oldschool patience. After a few minutes or sanding and tweaking and second-guessing, the joint was finished.
Here’s our day in the Woodcraft Shop cutting the Maple Bench Tops to size,
6. Installing the Countertops
The actual installation of countertops is going to vary here. If you’ve got newer cabinets installing countertops is pretty easy. The corners of each cabinet typically have a brace where you can quickly drive a screw into the underside of your countertops. The toughest part is getting the counters in place and choosing a fastener that won’t go all the way through your counter.
My cabinets, though, were built by the founding fathers and thus had no such brace. But what my cabinets did have was an existing countertop that had been developed by the Space Administration – out of plywood. This meant, with properly pre-drilled pilot holes (not too deep – use a stop collar or at least a piece of tape on your drill bit), I could quickly attach my countertops right over top of the existing ones. Why do this? Well, the existing counter actually seemed kind of low. I guess people were shorter during the paleolithic period. By putting my new maple countertops on the old ones, I had raised my counters to the height of “modern” people.
Like most houses built in the 20′s, not everything in my house is totally square and level. So leveling the countertops was accomplished with regular old wooden shims. The real trick was getting both counters as close to level as possible, but still keeping the butt-joint as tight and consistent as possible. It took a little elbow grease and fretting, but this was actually pretty easy to accomplish.
I added a little bit of Titebond Waterproof Wood Glue to the joint for good measure, but once the counters were secured to the cabinets, no glue or joinery was required at the butt-joint. If you are making a longer counter and need to join multiple bench tops, using dowels is a good way to go.
7. Sinking the Bismark
Okay, so far it’s been pretty easy. Heavy, but easy. The cuts are all perfect, the butt- joint looks stellar and I’m starting to get pretty excited about these countertops. Now it’s time to install the sink. This shouldn’t be too difficult, right? Well, if it’s a project that I’m involved in, one can pretty much assume that something won’t go according to plan.
This is probably a good time to point out that these countertops probably aren’t well-suited for under-the-counter mounted sinks. I chose a drop in. I imagine that a curtain sink would probably work well and look really nice as well.
When installing a sink, which is generally pretty easy, you start by inverting the sink on your countertop. Trace the outline of your sink. Remove your sink and then, depending on the manufacturer, you’ll need to make another line 1/4″ or so in from your original traced line. For my sink from Kohler, it was 1/4″. Once your lines are in place, start by cutting pilot holes around the perimeter of your line. Don’t be stingy here. These things are heavy and having more pilot holes makes the process easier. I also secured a couple of large screws to the middle of my cutout area to make grabbing and removing the piece a little easier. You then use a quality jigsaw with a good strong woodcutting blade and follow your cutout line. That was the plan anyway. . .
In reality, because I left the existing countertop in, and my new sink cutout didn’t exactly match the old sink cutout already in the existing counter, I had to do a lot of pilot hole drilling and went through probably 8 jig saw blades before successfully cutting out my new sink hole. If I had to do it over, I would have removed more of the existing counter around the sink. Oh well, live and learn. The final result, however, was a hole perfect for my new sink. No harm, no foul.
8. Trimming & Backsplash
Because I had to level and install on top of my existing countertops, I needed to trim out under the front of my new countertops to hide any gaps and the edge of the old counters. I chose some maple trim and applied a water-based gloss poly. Once they were dry I simply use a Porter-Cable Finish Nailer to attach the trim. The result is a smart, custom look. To complete the back of the countertops I used some more trim, finished with the same poly and installed some very cool stainless steel tiles.
Remember that roundover profile we put on the counters? Using the same water-based poly and a small sponge brush, I applied a thin coat to all unfinished cut our routed edges.
The Finished Product
Below are some photos of the finished project. The combination of the stainless and the maple has created a much warmer and timeless look than the old and stark-white outdated countertops. We added some under cabinet lighting that also adds some warmth and usable light. The final verdict was a happy wife and a happy bank account. Two things that make for a happy guy.
Very soon I’ll have a follow-up blog about how I used “scraps” from this project to create the drink rail and cutting board seen in the photos above and below.
Woodcraft’s new stainless steel ice cream scoop is sure to be a great addition to your kitchen utencils. Adding your design shape and material type to complement your kitchen is up to you! Woodcraft has a huge selection of exotic and domestic wood to choose from for this fun and easy project. We’ll walk you through how you can make your very own ice cream scoop handle with just a few hours of your time. Woodcraft has all of the components you will need to build this ice cream scoop. Let’s begin by purchasing the NEW Stainless Steel Ice Cream Scoop Kit, Woodcraft Item #153928. (Click on all photos for enlargement or additional information)
Next, I chose this NEW Curly Cherry Wood (2x2x6 block, Woodcraft Item #154466), which will arrive at your local Woodcraft stores and online in various sizes including pen blanks sometime in October 2012. I chose this wood because of the marbled grain and color details. Our Product Development Manager and wood guru, George Snyder brought this upcoming product to my attention, so I thought it would make a great choice coupled with the new scoop.
Now it’s time to start creating some sawdust starting with the drill press. Using a machine tool centering bit, I drilled into the pre-punched center mark for the threaded rod hole to be drilled next.
After center drilling, it’s over to the Powermatic Lathe for drilling out a 23/64″ diameter hole for the scoop’s 3/8″-16 diameter threaded rod. You’ll need the undersized diameter drill bit so that the scoop threads engage into the wood when gluing with a 2-part epoxy for later assembly. Another assembly choice is to use a threaded insert.
Pre-measure how much drill length you will need and give yourself another 1/4″-1/2″ depth so you do not bottom out during assembly later, by marking the drill bit (shown left above) with painters tape.
Center the wood block non-drilled hole end to the drive centerin the lathe head stock. Hold it firmly as you move the tailstock live cone center into the drilled hole end of the block until the wood is firmly held between the two centers. You are now ready for turning.
Rough Turning the Handle
I placed the tool rest at the correct height for using a spindle roughing gouge. Choose the one that you prefer as size is not critical. I started shaping the square form into the desired diameter.
Tenon Cutting & Ferrule Fit
Once I had the round completed, I began cutting the tenon for the ice cream scoop ferrule. Turning down to a press fit diameter is a slow and critical process with many stops and checks to be sure you get the right fit. Remember, once you take material off, you cannot add it back on! My turning tool of choice was the Mini Easy Wood Rougher, Woodcraft Item #845506.
As I got down to the correct diameter, I made sure to include extra material height to go beyond the live cone center, which will need to be cut off later.
A quick tip here. As you are getting down to the required diameter measured off of the inside diameter of the ferrule, create a slight taper on the tenon to use as a press fit as you slide the ferrule onto the tenon.
Finish Turning the Handle Design
The design shape is purely left to your ideas and imagination. I wanted something that would be a sculpted fit in my hand when using the scoop with a thumb press fit while scooping the ice cream. Once your conception is realized, you can draw it on paper and transfer it onto the wood or just wing it, as I did! I marked an approximate line as to a radius center for the thumb fit,as shown below.
After sanding was complete, I used General Finishes Wood Turners Finish, about 8 to 10 coats, leaving a great finish. This stuff dries quickly and allows for repeated coats to be applied. Shine, are you kidding me! Seeing is believing and this stuff really works well!
Bottom Design – Drilling & Turning
We’re not quite done yet! The handle end (left side) has left a center hole and surrounding marks in the wood where the drive center is positioned. I’ll need to face it off or come up with a finish design for that end.
Rosewood Button Plug
Use your imagination for the bottom end design like a coin, marble insert, or perhaps a contrasting wood piece to accent or offset the darker lines in the cherry will give this handle just the right look. I decided on a contrasting piece by creating a Rosewood accent button plug. But first I needed to make the plug hole in the bottom of the handle. Using a 3/4″ diameter Forstner Bit, Woodcraft Item #147069.
Second…adhere the scoop by threading into the finished handle until the scoop is tight to the ferrule.
I had previously commented about a sculpted fit for my hand. Here is the conception formed into reality.
The last step to perform, time for some ice cream!
Now that you know how to make this project, get to your local Woodcraft store or go online for your ice cream scoop and supplies. Have fun and be sure to share your ice cream scoop designs (and your favorite ice cream!) right here on the Woodcraft Adventures Blog & Gallery.
ColorCore® is a colorfast, environmentally stabilized polymer sheet that can stand up to thousands of uses, beautifully. This is the perfect product for routed and carved letter signs. ColorCore’s unique PolyFusion™ process is a proprietary technology that fuses contrasting layers of colors into a single homogeneous sheet.
Works with all common woodworking tools.
No need to ever paint or stain.
Will not delaminate or decay.
Color cap is .05″ for ease in routing or faster CNC production.
Start by placing the letters in the guide rail for your particular sign. Add a guide bushing to the router. A guide bushing comes with the SignCrafter Kit, but in this case George used a bushing from the 10 Piece Router Bushing Set with Case, Woodcraft Item #144625.The guide bushing will ride along the letter track for cutting each letter required.
Next, place the sign material on the workbench and clamp the SignCrafter Kit down. The guide rail can be clamped in a couple of different ways. Double stick tape, screws for actual clamps as George used in this situation. He was in the process of making several different size signs, so this was the fastest method. They all work equally well.
You may notice the blue painters’ tape which is used for protecting the material in clamping and layout marks. George also used the tape to cover the filler/spacing letters as a reminder for himself not to cut into that area. Before George begins his routing, he double checks his clamps, just to be safe.
This first photo shows the depth stop. The depth of cut is determined by the amount of contrast you want and the profile of the router bit. Test several cuts on scrap before moving on. When routing the letters, it is important to move slowly and keep the guide bushing touching the sides of the letter guide. A successful cut is when the bottom of the letter is clean as this picture shows. Depending on the depth of the router bit and the profile of the cutter you may need to make several passes through the center of the letter guides to have crisp letters.
The final step is to proportionally size and cut the sign material on the tablesaw,
followed by routing the corners of the material with your choice of Roundover Router Bitselections from Woodcraft.
This King ColorCore material and SignCrafter Kit is a great combination for signs that will last a lifetime in an inside or outside environment.
From FlairWoodworks.com comes two reviews by Chris Wong on Woodcraft’s #5 V3 Bench Plane. The first review covers the product in detail, and the second blog will show the use of the plane. We thought we would share Chris’s expertise and overview of our product here at Woodshop Demos.com. So a hearty thank you, full credits and kudos goes out to Chris for allowing us to share his blog here at Woodshop Demos.
A little bit about Chris…Hailing from Port Moody in British Columbia, Canada. Chris began his woodworking path at the early age of 6. Under the tutelage of his father Brian and 2 uncles Ron and Tim, Chris just liked making stuff. One of his first projects was a stool made with the use of a jigsaw with radiused feet.
Chris’s middle school years consisted of a mandatory shop program called Technology Education which covered not only woodworking, but plastics and hydraulics. In high school, Chris’s elective’s consisted of 6 woodworking classes. Now there’s a thought for today’s education system, less computer tech and more woodworking education!
Right after leaving high school Chris made a decision based on learning from Sam Maloof, Chris stated, “You can take $20,000 and go to school or you can take $20,000 and build a quality woodshop.
Chris chose the latter and built himself a woodshop with the premise of making a woodworking future by learning as he went and teaching himself. After 9 years as a hobbyist woodworker and now 4 years as a professional, Chris enjoys the design and creation of his own business, Flair Woodworks making sculptural wood works. Chris can also be found on his Twitter page, @Flairwoodworks. Chris’s latest endeavor is a partnership with Garth Schafer, a woodworker turned toolmaker. Together they have formed Time Warp Tool Works. At Time Warp Tool Works, Chris and Garth are dedicated to fusing the best of old and new technologies in wood and metal working to create quality woodworking tools for the modern craftsman. Each tool is individually made with care in British Columbia, Canada.
The following is Chris’s WoodRiver Review…
The purpose of this article is to show what the V3 plane looked like out of the box.
A couple of months ago, while visiting some friends in Arizona. I went to a Woodcraft store and bought a WoodRiver #5 V3 bench plane. While I don’t need any more bench planes, I was curious to see just how good the much-talked-about WoodRiver planes really were. From what I have read, Version 3 (V3) is drastically better than the previous two versions.
After taking the plane out of the package, the first thing I did was disassemble the plane and wipe off the grease applied to keep the plane rust free. I carefully inspected each part, made notes and took photos along the way. In general, everything seemed well-machined.
I noticed that the burr from tapping the hole in the cap iron had not been removed. I used a mill file to remove the burr.
The cap iron was ground to a fine edge.
Cap Iron Edge
The blade was also ground to a fine edge. The machining marks were finer on the blade than on the cap iron and the blade was sharp, though not as sharp as I keep my blades.
The parts of the lateral- and depth-adjusters that engage with the cap iron and blade appeared to be well-made.
Top of Frog
I spotted a cosmetic defect, a scratch on the right wing of the plane. It did not concern me in the least.
Scratch on Side Wing
The body was machined very uniformly. The text on the box clearly reflected in the plane’s sole.
The frog rested on this ramp. The small machined edges on either side of the bed were helpful in keeping the frog from twisting as it was adjusted and locked down.
Frog Bedding Surface
The bottom of the frog was finely ground.
Bottom of Frog
All the moving parts moved smoothly.
Back of Frog/Depth Adjuster
There were two of these “rivets” dropped through the slots in the frog and into the body of the plane. In the rear of the ramp (on which the frog rests) was a pair of slot-head screws with pointed tips. The points engaged with the conical recess in the rivets and as the screws were tightened, the rivets were pulled down to secure the frog. The dimple on the top indicated the location of the conical recess so that it could be properly aligned once it was dropped in place. (Side note: When removing the pointed, slot-head screws for the first time, they backed off freely then bound up snug. By applying a little extra torque – but by no means an excessive amount – I was able to remove the screws. When I ran them in and out afterwards, there was no resistance.)
My biggest complaint about the plane was that the front of the mouth opening was a little uneven, making it difficult to set the mouth evenly. A little work with a file solved that problem.
The left wing appeared to be perfectly square.
Left Wing and Sole
The right wing appeared to be a little out of square. I e-mailed Woodcraft Technical Support about this and they informed me that if I was able to fit a 0.002″ feeler gauge between the square and the plane’s sole, they would be happy to replace the plane. This gap was well within that tolerance.
I recently received an invitation from fellow blogger Tom Iovino to participate in “Get Woodworking Week” which is an attempt by the blogosphere to get people off their collective duffs, into the shop, and do some woodworking. In my opinion, most beginners suffer from “analysis paralysis” (a good friend’s phrase). What this means is a lot of beginners either over-analyze their projects or think they can’t even start one without the latest and greatest tool, gizmo, whatever – take your pick. Although they are well intentioned, the job never seems to get done. When you look at all the great furniture built hundreds of years ago with the bare minimum of tools, you truly have no excuse. As an example, I’ll relate two incidents that stick in my mind.
Most recently I was at a woodworking show chatting with a friend who was doing demos and selling DVDs. An older gentleman walked up and purchased a dovetailing DVD. He turned to me and proudly proclaimed that this was his fifth DVD on dovetailing. I asked if he did a lot of dovetailing and he told me didn’t have the skill or tools to even try it.
That encounter conjured up a memory from thirty years ago when I met a young fellow who was more of a motor head than a woodworker but he had the fire in his belly. He proudly displayed his first attempt at a dovetailed box and I was duly impressed. The dovetails were clean, tight, and well executed. When I asked him what kind of saw he used, he told me very matter-of-factly – a hacksaw. I was blown away but I made a fatal mistake. I told him that hacksaws were for metalworking, not woodworking. Once that seed was planted in his head, he never again achieved the level of precision that he did on his first project.
These anecdotes have two morals. First, don’t ever question how someone did something. Just appreciate a job well done and leave it at that. Second, don’t let the lack of a “special” tool hinder you from doing what you want to do. Resourceful people will always find a work-around. By the way, even though I have tried a few times over the years, I have never been successful using a hacksaw to cut dovetails.
Since I’m an old dog, I can be a bit lax in the new tricks department but I figure with all the environmental regulations coming down the pike, I’ll be forced to use water-based finishes sooner rather than later. So for the past year and a half, I’ve been experimenting with several of them. I also did some rigorous testing on five popular water-based topcoats for an article I wrote for Woodcraft Magazine, Issue 40, April/May 2011. At the time, General Finishes’ Enduro-Var water-based urethane was a fairly new entry in the waterborne marketplace and it performed quite well in most of my tests. I was impressed, so I’ve been trying to work it into my finishing routine as projects allow. It has a mellow amber color, so it really enriches the look of darker woods – an attribute that I like. On the other hand, the amber cast makes it unsuitable for use on lighter woods if no color change is desired.
Although I’ve used Enduro-Var (Semi-Gloss) with success on several small projects, I finally got a chance to use it on a large surface – roughly 60 inches by 20 inches. The project was a curly maple counter top for a kitchen addition that we started last spring. The counter top sits on a pass-through that we cut out between our kitchen and dining room. It will act as a serving area for food when we’re using the dining room and an informal spot for drinks or snacks once we get a couple stools. Regardless, it’s bound to get some abuse and I thought it would be the perfect trial for this tough finish.
My finishing room is piled high with lumber and it’s cold outside, so spraying was out of the question. Since most amateurs don’t have access to spray equipment, I wanted to see what challenges would be presented by hand application of the product. After flattening the counter top, I sanded to 220 grit, raised the grain with a damp cloth, let it dry, and sanded off the whiskers with 220 grit. Next I stained the counter top with Lockwood’s Medium Amber Maple #143 water-soluble aniline dye. When that was dry I slathered on a heavy coat of Enduro-Var with a polyester brush because General Finishes claims Enduro-Var is self-sealing. After four hours of drying, I scuff sanded with 320 grit paper, cleaned off the sanding dust, and applied a second coat. I used one of my favorite brushes for water-borne finishes – the Wooster “Alpha” which has nicely tapered bristles and has worked like a charm when hand-applying General Finishes’ High Performance water-based topcoat (another one of my favorite water-based finishes). I was surprised at how quickly the second coat set up. It was so fast that I barely had time to work from the wet edge into the next stroke. I also picked up a lot of color from the aniline dye, which indicated this coat was softening the previous coat. I had expected to pick up some dye on the first coat of finish, but not on the second. By the time I finished the last brush stroke on the second coat, the rest of the surface was dry and there were lots of ridges to deal with. After a conversation with the folks at General Finishes, I did confirm that each subsequent coat will “burn” into the previous coat if the recommended window of four hours between coats is followed.
I waited for another four hours and leveled the ridges with 400 grit wet-or-dry paper, and cleaned off the surface. I decided to try a different applicator, so using a fully saturated 4-inch foam brush, I laid on the third coat as quickly as I could. Within a few minutes, the coat was dry to the touch and reasonably smooth. Up until this point, the shop temperature was 68 degrees and the relative humidity was 40 percent. After another four hours of drying, I scuff sanded with 400 grit paper, cleaned off the surface, and dialed back the temperature to 62 degrees. While laying down the fourth coat, I could feel that it was drying slower due to the lower temperature. Keeping the temperature at 62 degrees, I waited four hours; scuff sanded, removed the sanding dust, and applied another coat. Then I repeated the entire procedure for the sixth coat. At that point I decided I had a good film build and let the counter top cure for two days. Finally, I leveled the surface with 400 grit wet-or dry paper lubricated with a drop of dish detergent in a cup of water. After cleaning off the surface, I rubbed it out with Behlen’s Deluxing Compound. The final result is a surface with a medium-high sheen that’s indistinguishable from the typical alkyd varnish finishes I’ve applied over the past forty years. Although the procedure may sound like a lot of work, the same results using an alkyd finish would have taken three times as long. Add in the benefits of water cleanup, plus no odors and I think we may have a winner. Only time will tell. For now, I’m happy with it, my wife is happy with it, and I’ve had several compliments from fellow woodworkers. With that said, I will clean out my spray booth for the next big project because this product is best suited for spraying on large surfaces. On a closing note, this is a “self-cross linking” finish and I’ve tried several common finish removers on samples that have cured for over a year with minimal effect, so I don’t recommend using this as a finish for antiques. In plain English, that means it’s almost impossible to get off.