Fire in the Hole

After a message board suggestion to raise dents by igniting flammable liquid in the dent, a volunteer firefighter wrote in saying that could be particularly dangerous if sanding dust were in the air, and could result in an explosion. This reader clearly took umbrage with that. – Editor

“Have you ever considered that using a small ROS raises quite a large amount of dust? Most ROS and palm sanders use a universal motor. The brushes used in the universal motors spark continually. I am unaware of any workshop explosions caused by wood dust and a sparking universal motor. Unlike the normal fire triangle, a dust explosion has four requirements to combust and explode: an ignition source, oxygen, combustible material, and a concentration of combustible material sufficient to sustain combustion. Several published scientific papers have indicated that if there is a sufficient concentration of combustible material in the air, breathing would be extremely difficult, if not impossible. Can we please stop perpetuating this wood shop explosion myth?” – Rich Flynn

We ran that letter in part because, although we were not very worried about a dust explosion, we are aware that excess dust lying about can ignite more easily and quickly than wood. Perhaps the type of danger was misstated, but the amount of fire danger was not. The bottom line is that we want you to be very careful with open flames in the workshop. – Editor


A long message board thread on the dangers of kickback, and ways to avoid it, inspired this letter. – Editor

“After years of watching Norm Abram, I was very confident of my skills and eager to prove them on my brand-new table saw. Featherboards and push sticks? Yeah, I’ll get around to making them as soon as I finish this project. My first rip cut was smooth as silk, then came the next. In about two seconds, I was looking for the cut piece and found it impaled in the backrest of my chair. Now, with every new project, with the blade safely below the table, I do my setup and then stand back and ask myself ‘What is the worst thing that could possibly happen?’ Featherboards and push sticks? I have a bunch of them now.” – Carl Vella

That particular web site thread mentioned dimensions while explaining fence setup, and this alert reader caught the missing element. – Editor

“.002 to .005 farther away from the miter slot? What units: inches, feet, millimeters, centimeters? Makes a heck of a lot of difference! Clarification please.” – Ray Small, London, U.K.

You are quite right, Ray. The thread was copied exactly from the web site, and the original writer did not include units, probably because here in the U.S., most people would assume it meant thousandths of an inch. Granted, that betrays some severe ethnocentricity, and considering our international audience, we should have changed it to read .002″, but it slipped by us. Thanks for catching it, and for keeping us honest. – Editor

Not Important?

“Nothing important; I just wanted to say thanks. I’ve been reading the eZine since the beginning and thought the least I could do is thank you. Your bi-monthly email is one of a few I receive that I even bother to click on the links and read.” – Brad

Au contraire, Brad, it is very important. What could be more important than making sure our readers enjoy what we send them? On another note, before we get a spate of letters telling us that bi-monthly means once every two months and not twice a month, the Oxford Dictionary maintains that it means both. Admittedly, we in the publishing industry usually use the former meaning, so to lay this to rest before it becomes a tempest in a teapot, let’s just say favor the British style and say our eZine comes out once a fortnight. – Editor

Red Oat Floors

Our last typo corner highlighted someone who claimed to have red oat floors, which we assumed was supposed to say red oak. This comment followed. – Editor

“It is not as farfetched as it sounds. At IWF, I ran across a company that makes MDF from wheat straw. It has a very fine surface quality and can be machined as well.” – Rodney Piner

Acronym translator:

MDF stands for Medium Density Fiberboard

IWF stands for “The International Woodworking Machinery and Furniture Supply Fair” (Yes, we are aware that the acronym is a bit short on letters, but you will have to take that up with them since they created the acronym.) – Editor

Removing Dents

The thread that started the fire storm originally suggested removing dents by adding drops of water to the impression, then applying an iron to turn the water to steam, which would quickly raise the crushed fibers. This reader has another method. – Editor

“I have removed dents from wood many times without using an iron or anything flammable. I just use a dropper to flood the dent with water, raising a small meniscus, and leave it overnight. Usually, by the next day the water has raised the dent and evaporated, and the wood is ready for sanding. Of course, this only works on horizontal surfaces.” – Tom Morris

While water alone will indeed raise dents, albeit more slowly, the downside is that leaving a small puddle of water on wood overnight can cause a watermark in the shape of a ring that may show up again during staining, and can be quite difficult to remove short of very aggressive sanding. – Editor

Typo Corner

This enduringly popular segment celebrates our ongoing battle with our own language. – Editor

“The dinning room set is about 80 years old. I am told it is Jacob beam Style.”

To be honest, we like the term Jacob Beam even better than Jacobean because it sounds like one of our favorite libations, the one we assume is made by Jacob’s brother Jim. – Editor

Posted in: