Tag Archives: woodworking

Woodworking: First-ever chairs project (Part 1) (originally published 1-5-21)

A throwback post this week.

——

Toward the end of last year but well before the indefinite stay-at-home orders, I drove across the city to pick up some chairs that were listed in the free stuff section of craigslist. I drive a coupe, and I didn’t realize how hard it would be to get the chairs into my car. I had thought I might be able to disassemble them before taking them home, but wasn’t happening.

The chairs looked to have a lot of potential, and that’s the main draw for me for a project.

Since this is the first time I’m taking on a chairs project, I knew when I set out that there was a real chance I would not be successful. As this is an ongoing project that is not yet complete, this series will have many updates, and there have been numerous challenges along the way. I’ve also learned a lot along the way so far, and there’s more to go.

My plan was to get all the paint off the chair and give them a natural finish. I’d have to figure out how to redo the cushions or just buy new ones that fit.

On first glance, the chairs looked fine structurally. But it’s hard to really get the old finish off and repair damage without taking the item apart. Doable, sure, but this is my first foray into chairs.

Since I had two chairs, I knew I had the flexibility to take different approaches.

When I looked closely at the chairs, I saw that they had been painted thick with the orange paint. It looked like it was a fun project to do. As is appropriate for a final project before discard, there was no mind paid to removing screws or making any adjustment.

Screws were barely visible under the paint. Screws I’d have to remove.

And the screws that kept the chair together are the flat-head screws.

So I had to make a decision: Do I sand the the areas with the screws first and then try to remove the screws, or do I clear out the channel of the flat-head and try to remove them before sanding?

That’s the first bifurcation.

I got to try both ways because I have two chairs.

More next week.

Woodworking: Finally finishing a small table from woodshop class (Part 3) (originally published 12-29-20)

NOTE: This is the final installment of this project. A new woodworking project series starts next week.

I left off last week with the plans in place to attempt to fix the split, install the new screws, cover gaps with wood filler, sand, and then use take oil.

I had the clamps from the old end table refinishing project, so I hoped that the split would be able to be fixed with glue and pressure. After a solid attempt, there wasn’t much movement, and I’d have to fill the crack with the wood filler.

The effort did leave some marks, but all part of the game. The first sanding step was next and then countersinking the new screws.

I knew I would have to sand after the wood filler, but sanding beforehand gave me a clean surface, a view of what I had to do, and a lot less to fix when the filler dried hard and could be sanded.

I drilled out enough to let the new screws grab hold and be deep enough for the filler to survive.

And the Robertson screws are great. I learned that I do not have a preference between Torx and Robertson. Both are easy to drive and stable. I felt no chance of slippage.

Filling the holes and then sanding was pretty fun. While I don’t seem to have pictures of the wood filler process, it was simple to apply and then smooth out with an old plastic card. A giftcard to a place Covid put out of business or a gym membership card work nicely.

There are many colors of wood filler available, and some people recommend using sanding dust from the piece of wood you want to fill to make a perfect color match. I have no problem even calling attention to it.

When I stripped the screw head decades ago, the driver bit slipped and dug into the wood. That gouge is now covered by the wood filler, as you can see in the lower of the two on the right side.

Next step: teak oil!

What a change from this:

I really like how this looks. I’m very proud of it, and I think that I would have been just as stoked with it if I’d finished it this way decades ago.

What I find even cooler is that the wood filler is darker on the left side and lighter on the right side.

Except it isn’t. It’s like the optical illusion we’ve all seen in some corporate training seminar:

Trippy, right? https://www.creativethinkinghub.com/optical-illusion-are-the-grey-blocks-really-the-same-colour/

While this project is now complete, I’ll have a new woodworking project next week. I’ve been working on a couple of chairs for a while, and they’re not done yet. I also don’t know if they will end up turning out. This may be my first complete failure project, but these are new territory for me, and I’m learning a lot. Join me in the new year, won’t you?

Woodworking: Finally finishing a small table from woodshop class (Part 2) (Originally published 12-22-2020)

I’m rerunning this post from 2020 this week. I will return to the cutting board project next week.


I left off last week with the thought that the stripped screw extractor bits I had purchased for the end table would work with this one. Well, I ran into some issues.

The end table had wood screws that were soft. Not a lot of convincing had to be done in order to remove those. It was fun to remove those screws. This had three main things working against my effort:

  1. The screw is made of hard steel. It’s amazing that the screwhead was stripped at all, but because it was, there it stayed for decades.
  2. The screw was there at all to keep pressure for glue that was drying. It was like using loctite.
  3. The screw was a slotted round head. This is massively different from a Phillips flat-head.
Phillips flat head.
Slotted round head.

The Phillips flat head is easier to extract. All you have to do is clear out the drive (i.e. where the screwdriver meets the screw) with a drill bit and use the extractor bit to grab the sides of the cone you’ve drilled out.

But a round head screw needs to be drilled out way more in order to turn the drive into a usable cone.

After significant time trying to drill out the screw with my old Craftsman bits, I started to wonder if it was a better idea just to drill away the head and leave the headless screw where it was. But I kept going because that wasn’t what I’d set out to do. I was going to remove this screw!

That upper screw on the right side was causing me so much pain.

And I kept on going.

Feeling defeated, I decided I’d give it one last go. Out it came. My initial thought of how happy I was to be rid of the screw right before giving up was replaced by the thought that it wasn’t the first last chance I had pledged. That gave way to a feeling of relief that had built up over 20 years.

There was so much work ahead of me. I had intended to countersink the screw heads and fill with wood putty. I also had the split at the top to try to glue back together without tearing apart the entire table. I didn’t see exactly how it was going to happen, but it certainly was worth a try.

I researched wood putty and wood filler. Based on reviews, I ended up buying Minwax Stainable Wood Filler. It comes in a squeeze tube, so application isn’t so cumbersome.

The screws that needed to be countersunk were already in my possession! I had researched screws for the other end table refinish project, and this was my chance to use the Robertson wood screws. It’d be the first time I’d use a square drive screw head.

https://www.fastenere.com/12-x-2-12-square-drive-bugle-head-deck-screws-stainless-steel-18-8-qty-50

After all that, I’d have to sand everything down to smooth it out and get rid of the stains that had accumulated over time. Then the teak oil.

More next week.

Woodworking: End Grain Cutting Board from Scratch Project (Part 2)

I left off last week ready to glue up my cut pieces of ash and walnut. It bears mentioning that I didn’t start out this project expecting to do an end grain cutting board. Rather, it was my cousin Neil who asked me if I’d make an end grain cutting board, and I said no because the additional steps were annoying. I’ll go into those later.

I used my DeWalt clamps as usual, but I added a set of Bora 50″ clamps. One of the pair that arrived was working freely and nicely. The other one needed more convincing. I set that aside in favor of just using three clamps (the two DeWalt and working Bora).

After the glue-up, it was on to what has fast become my favorite part of the process: hand planing.

I use a Stanley No. 5 plane to have the longest flat surface while still being reasonable to hold. That way I don’t ride dips but get rid of them.

The thing slowing down this process was using the skinny pieces. Since they weren’t as thick as the other pieces, the entire board had to be brought down to their level.

As fun as planing is, there are real benefits to cutting everything perfectly right the first time. I know I’ll get there. But I haven’t yet, so there’s more cleanup.

Once the planing was done, I took out my basic crosscut sled to cut up the board into pieces again.

And I had that decision to make about whether to go edge grain or end grain.

I lined up how edge grain would look:

and compared it to end grain.

Wow, did I ever go back and forth.

More next week!

Quick Answers to Questions from Google Search

G Site Kit has a section where it recommends blog posts to answer real Google searches. Here are some questions and some answers. The answers should be taken as my opinion rather than as anything reliable.

Question 1:

Is the word recesstution a correct spelling?

Well, it’s a nonstandard spelling. Is any spelling really more correct than any other spelling? Yes. I believe so, anyway. But to address this word. What is it? It could be one of many things. It could be all of many things. It could be somewhere in between those two extremes.

It’s possible that what was desired was resuscitation (bringing people back from the dead).

Here’s the etymology to make it easier to remember the spelling:

resuscitate (v.)

1530s, “revive, restore, revivify (a thing), restore (a person) to life,” from Latin resuscitatus, past participle of resuscitare “rouse again, revive,” from re- “again” (see re-) + suscitare “to raise, revive,” from sub “(up from) under” (see sub-) + citare “to summon” (see cite). The intransitive sense of “recover from apparent death” is recorded from 1650s. Related: Resuscitatedresuscitating. Earlier were resuscen “restore (someone) to life, resurrect” (c. 1400); resusciten (mid-15c.), from Old French resusciter, Latin resuscitare.

It’s possible that what was desired was restitution (making up for a loss), as is often the case.

restitution (n.)

early 14c., restitucioun, “a making good or giving equivalent for crime, debt, injury, etc.;” late 14c., “restoration of goods, land, etc. to a former owner, repayment of money;” from Old French restitucion or directly from Latin restitutionem (nominative restitutio) “a restoring,” noun of action from past-participle stem of restituere “set up again, restore, rebuild, replace, revive, reinstate, re-establish,” from re- “again, to a former state” (see re-) + statuere “to set up” (from PIE root *sta- “to stand, make or be firm”).

Of course, it could be spelled correctly if recesstution means what’s needed after being kept in class well into the break.

Question 2:

Do bang good woodworking tools come in inches as well as millimeters?

Answer: Sure! Anything that’s good in metric is probably better in normal units. And if you can’t find it, just convert metric to normal. An inch is 2.54cm.

Question 3:

I don’t get vowels in spelling

It’s not really a question, but I understand the sentiment. And the gripe. No one just gets vowels. You have to buy them.

Keep asking questions!

Woodworking: Finally finishing a small table from woodshop class (Part 1) (Originally published 12-15-2020)

I’m rerunning this post from a year ago this week. I will return to the cutting board project in the new year.


I took woodshop in the summers after sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. I made a chessboard the first summer and a small table the second summer. I tried to turn chess pieces the third summer, but that went poorly.

This series is about the small table project from the summer after seventh grade.

The year was 2001. At age 12, I was woodshop veteran heading back to Horace Mann School in Beverly Hills as I had been awaiting eagerly to do. But unlike the prior summer, I was going to be able to figure out what I wanted to build rather than choose from a list.

After a conversation with my folks about it, I think I came up with a stepstool or footstool or the like. My mom came across a picture of a stepstool in like Architectural Digest and asked what I thought. I remember it as being painted green, but that was coming up on 20 years ago, and I’m doing the best I can here. Whatever I made was not going to be painted green.

Equipped with the picture of what was probably only 7″ tall and with a 8″ x 14″ top, I went to the first day of summer school.

A note here is that I looked forward to a repeat of Mr. Bartkoski’s first day explanations of safety measures and how you can know how good a shop teacher is by how many fingers he has. “But don’t worry–I’ve got all of mine!” he announced with a huge grin as he displayed his hands to the whole class. I remembered gasping in horror along with the rest of the newcomers the prior summer because Mr. Bartkoski had expertly shown us the backs of his hands but curled his fingers in so nothing past the first knuckle of each finger was exposed. I was eager to hear the setup and enjoy the reactions to the punchline. And when it happened, it was wonderful. There’s really nothing like scaring the shit out of a roomful of boys and girls who are 10-12 years old.

When I showed Mr. Bartkoski the picture of what I wanted to make, he said that something taller and bigger would be more versatile.

There was some wood available as part of the class, but anybody who wanted to make something out of better wood was required to provide it.

It was off to House of Hardwood to get some birch. Of course I didn’t go alone. My mom took me there. I was 12, remember?

I cut, glued, clamped, planed, sanded, and routed my way through assembly of the table over the course of that summer. Per the advice of Mr. Bartkoski, I used screws to keep the leg panels in place while the glue was drying. The idea was to remove the screws afterward and fill the holes with wood putty so I could finish it.

And that’s what happened. Except that I stripped the head of one of the eight screws. So it was seven screws out and one in.

That’s how it stayed for about two decades.

Over time I used it for things like holding speakers to listen to music while I was in bed.

Later I used it under the CRT TV/VCR combo my sister used in college so I could play PS2 in my bedroom.

After a long while of the PS4 blowing hot air on and surrounding where I’d glued the top together, a crack developed along that seam.

So I had an unfinished table with a stubborn screw and new split. Eventually I’d be able to take care of it, I’d hoped. Maybe I’d get to sand off he head of the screw and go from there. But I took no action.

It stayed as an unfinished bedside table for years. And it’s not very good for a bedside table. There are no drawers. There’s no lower shelf. But it does keep things off the ground and closer to bed level, so it qualified.

This year changed everything, as 2020 has tended to do.

I had to purchase stripped screw extractor bits for the redo of the end table. It worked well for that project, and I figured there was a good chance it would work on this one.

More next week.

Woodworking: End Grain Cutting Board from Scratch Project (Part 1)

I had two cutting boards under my belt to this point. The first, a simple edge grain that was maple and walnut. The second, a more complicated edge grain that was entirely cherry and had an offset. I had done some planning for each, but the planning factored in the cutting depth of the Proxxon table saw that only makes through cuts. I had gotten my DeWalt table saw in the middle of the cherry cutting board project, and this would be the first one without limits for cutting depth.

I had some desires for this cutting board project:
1. I wanted very little waste. The amount I had to cut off the edges for the offset bothered me. I would have to build that in to preserve as much wood as I could.
2. I wanted the contrast of the light and dark woods. The cherry was fine, and I’d do it again with cherry, but I like the contrast more.
3. I wanted to play around with thicknesses. The prior projects had uniform thicknesses of pieces of wood that I glued together, but the increased cutting depth would allow me to play around with a mix of thicknesses.

I was still at the mercy of whatever the guys at House of Hardwood decided to put in the scrap area.

When I went shopping for this project, I found a lot of poplar. But poplar is bad for cutting boards. I also found ash. Ash can be good for cutting boards.

I found no walnut.

But I had a little bit of walnut left over from my first cutting board project!

I had enough of an idea to start up.

I set up my table saw with my makeshift outfeed table of a board attached to a folding table and set up my fence to rip the walnut. I have since become aware that the fence flips down for closer cuts with the blade guard.

I liked the uniformity of these cuts and the variety of colors. I was off to a good start. I’d have more play with the ash.

Again, the fence flips down for closer cuts. I know that now.

With more uniform pieces, I’d cut some thinner ones.

I had it almost all lined up perfectly. It was those thin piece that threw off the height. But I was sure it’d be worth it.

The glue-up starts next week!

Woodworking: Cherry Cutting Board from Scratch Project (Part 5 of 5)

I left off last week with a planed cutting board ready to be sanded.

I went through grits 80 to 220 with the 3M cubitron sandpaper to get the board smooth.

I decided to leave the offset pieces on during the sanding and trim once done. If I accidentally rolled over the edges while sanding with the random orbit sander.

Like with all woodworking projects that haven’t yet been finished, the colors of the wood became more muted. When I was close to getting it all smooth, I’d raise the grain.

I think I wrote about raising the grain before, but it bears writing about again. When sanding, wood fibers are torn. That’s why it gets smooth. You know, you tear them all the to same height, and they’re even. But the torn fibers swell when they get wet just like how your hair swells when it’s wet.

When freshly sanded wood gets wet and then swells, it doesn’t return to its smoothness when it dries. Rather, there’s some roughness left over from fibers that are still sticking out. That’s not a step you want to do after the finish is applied because you end up with a rough finished product. Raising the grain with water works a lot better because when it dries, sanding lightly again will get rid of those unruly fibers and make things smooth again.

I used my crosscut sled to trim off the crenulations.

I added a chamfer to the edges of the board. I learned from my first cutting board that I needed to raise the grain on the chamfers because they became rough when I finished that board with mineral oil.

After raising the grain that second time, letting it dry, and then sanding it, it was on to the mineral oil finish.

I had completed a striped edge grain cutting board and an offset patterned edge grain cutting board. I read that the only people who have end grain cutting boards are woodworkers. Next week starts my third cutting board project.

Woodworking: Cherry Cutting Board from Scratch Project (Part 4)

I left off last week prepared to cut up the board on my table saw with my simple sled to make repeatable cuts. I had read over and over that a good table saw sled must be squared up to the table. I agree, but for my first sled, I figured it would actually be kinda cool to make strips that had a taper that would offset when glued back together. And that allowed me to make the sled faster.

When I had the board cut up, I prepared to glue up in my new clamps that turned out to be incredibly finnicky. I’m going to reach out to amazon because they’ve just gotten worse.

While it looks like an end grain orientation, this was just the setup for gluing. You can see the alternating tapers where the ends are alternating higher and lower.

I’ve long known to avoid making cutting boards with pieces that meet exactly at four corners because the all-glue middle points are much weaker than where wood is glued to wood. So I offset the pieces in the second glue-up.

The slight taper isn’t completely visible from this angle.

With the glue dry, it was time for the second round of planing.

The board was mostly even, but there were some low spots I had to get out.

I should have been a little more careful in that corner in the gluing phase.

I flipped to the other side and found another low point.

But the planing depth was very low, so I didn’t actually remove that much material to get this thing flat.

And then it was on to sanding to get the thing smooth and ready for the finishing steps of my second cutting board.

More next week.

Woodworking: Cherry Cutting Board from Scratch Project (Part 3)

I left off last week having planed the cutting board after the first glue-up. I wanted to cut the board further, and that’s where I ran into a cutting issue with the tools I had. The riving knife on the table saw did not allow for cuts that do not go all the way through the material because the plastic blade guard is required to be on. And there’s no chance I’m going to cut anything without a riving knife–even if it’s a lower horsepower table saw with a small blade. I’m going to going to risk kickback.

See, the riving knife is a piece that sits behind the blade of a table saw. The table saw blade spins in the direction toward the operator of the table saw, so if a piece gets caught in the teeth, the blade acts like a batting cage pitching arm to hurl a caught piece of wood at the operator.

Terrifying video.

I tried to get a riving knife that sat lower with my table saw that would allow me to make slots in boards rather than cut all the way through. That way I could cut on one side and then again on the other so I could get a deeper cut all the way through. I had no luck in that area. Is it worth modifying a riving knife to do that?

But then something happened.

The DeWalt jobsite table saw went on sale on Amazon and Calah and I were about to use our 20% off all sold by, shipped by Amazon items because enough had been purchased from our wedding registry.

The DeWalt table saw has enough cutting depth to go through thicker pieces of wood. But it has a much thicker blade than the Proxxon table saw does. I’m now lucky enough to have both and use them in tandem, which I think is pretty cool.

For an understanding of scale.

I have mentioned in the past about how crosscut sleds are important with table saws. Miter gauges can work, but the cuts are harder to keep straight.

I was able to trim off the edges, but they were not as uniform as I would have liked. But the table saw worked!

So then it was on to making a sled.

I took a 1/2″ plywood board that was left over from the cushions project, some plywood pieces I glued up, and then some additional plywood pieces I cut into strips on the Proxxon table saw.

I also needed an outfeed table because I couldn’t have things fall off the end.

I had the vacmaster connected to the lower part of the table saw (you can see the hose in the bottom left corner of the picture) and the outfeed table made up of a plywood board I have used as a tabletop for my sukkah that I had finished with polyurethane so the termites don’t get it.

I put all the pieces of the sled together and put a block in place for repeated cuts of the same size.

I was about ready to cut it up for the next stage of gluing. More next week.