The sun is out and the air is dry with barely a breeze to be felt. Yep, it’s the perfect weather for spraying finish, both solvent-based and water-based.
Winter mounts all sorts of obstacles to spraying. It’s too cold and windy to do it outdoors, and to spray safely indoors, you’ll need lots of temperate moving air to evacuate the overspray and keep both you and your projects in a healthy flow of clean air. Do that and you’ll quickly deplete the very expensive heat your household furnace has generated. It’s a real dilemma since most spray finishes, and especially water-based ones, are pretty persnickety when it comes to temperature.
The arrival of hot, dry weather reminds me that, though it may be tedious to work in, it’s perfect for the annual drudgery of the deck. Dry heat is aces both at quickly evaporating water used to clean and prepare the deck, and at curing the finish.
In my case, annual is an exaggeration because I don’t get to the deck every year. In fact, I’ve let it go so long that the finish has now given way to a piebald mess of dirt, mildew and bleached gray planks. No matter; it’s easy enough to rejuvenate.
A couple of weeks back, I had the opportunity to join my boss, Rob Johnstone, and George Vondriska — one of our frequent contributors — in Chicago at Craftsman Experience. Both Rob and I have been there before to give various demonstrations, and you may have caught some of that coverage late last year. This time around, though, our triumvirate efforts were focused on a very worthy cause as well as some fun woodworking. We were building a kit guitar to donate to Guitars For Vets. These folks provide guitars and lessons free of charge to veterans who are trying to cope with the after-effects of overseas combat.
I have to admit that I like art. A beautiful photograph, a lovely piece of sculpture, or a well-done painting – I have all of those in various places in my house. Of course, one of my paintings is of pointing dogs, another of an old train engine – they strike my fancy. As the saying goes, art – like beauty – is where you find it.
The reason I bring this up is that, a while ago, I found a really interesting looking piece of wood – it was cut from the outer aspect of a huge bubinga log. The tree was a monster, almost 400 years old, and for that reason, this piece – which contained bark and exposed sapwood – was able to be sawn flat. The shape of the bark remnants and the graphic nature of the exposed wood kept bringing me back to the piece … but I could think of no really good way to make use of it. Then it struck me: it looked like an abstract painting. So I bought the piece of wood, took it to my workshop, and got busy.
Last month, my family and I had the unique opportunity to travel to Kenya, Africa, for two weeks. My wife had professional reasons for being there, but I’ll admit that I went with the typical intentions of a Westerner—to see a world of new wildlife and experience Kenyan culture. I was richly rewarded on both of those accounts. Exotic wildlife is plentiful in the country’s many national parks. And, the Kenyans we met, both in cities and small villages, were warm, welcoming and very willing to share their lives with us.
Still, the curiosities of a woodworker don’t take a back seat, just because a guy spends a couple weeks out of the shop.
Despite the snowy prospects here in Minnesota, it’s time to think spring. To that end, we’re happy to announce that the April print issue of Woodworker’s Journal is headed to your mailbox and should be arriving shortly. With any luck, it will bring us all warmer weather and longer days! Here’s a quick look at some of the great new content you’ll find inside:
In case you’re taking the week off between Christmas and New Year’s, you’re in luck! The February print issue of Woodworker’s Journal is on its way and should arrive while you’re enjoying the holiday respite. We’ll help fill that free time with some fresh woodworking goodness! Here’s the inside scoop on what we think is a great new issue.
Four Solid Projects: Ian Kirby presents a stylish Dinette Set that should fit neatly into a smaller kitchen or breakfast nook. He’s keeping the lumber budget affordable here, using longleaf pine instead of more costly hardwood alternatives. Butt joints, glue and screws will keep this project straightforward to build, as well. Or, you can work off some of those holiday calories building Frank Grant’s Sharpening Cart—a clever unit for sharpening all of your turning tools. It features a three-drawer cabinet, metal worksurface and two tip-out racks for keeping those gouges and chisels within easy reach. And, Kenneth Minnaert builds a handsome Weekend Tambour Gift Box from contrasting wood scraps. It presents itself as well as any gift you’ll hide inside it! All three projects include measured drawings and step-by-steps to help you along.
Call me crazy, but I just beat the beans out of a new tool, purchased with my own hard-earned allowance, just to prove a point: I think Rockler got the name of its new Bench Cookies™ totally wrong. They’re not cookies, guys. They’re hockey pucks in disguise.
Theres no cheaper brush for poly than an old tee shirt and a binder clip.
Leave it to Norm Abram to come up with a better way to apply polyurethane. Have you seen him use a big binder clip and a piece of old tee-shirt? If that doesn’t show Yankee frugality, I don’t know what does. But, you know what, it’s an amazingly good applicator. In fact, it’s become my favorite way to apply poly (wiping it on is my next).
If you haven’t seen him use the clip method, here’s how it works: Cut a strip of cotton tee shirt about 3″ wide and maybe 10” to 12” long. There’s no absolute here…just cut an ample-sized piece. Colored or white both work fine, as long as the shirt is well worn. Fold the long ragged edges in, then fold the whole thing up on itself lengthwise several times to create a pad that’s about 2” x 2”. Clamp the open side of the pad into a 2” office binder clip. That’s it. You’ve got a bristle-less brush in about a minute flat.