For the most part, woodworking has been a solitary activity for me. Over the years, I’ve taught myself most of what I know. I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way — and either cursed or laughed about them without any witnesses or commiserators. At the same time, by going it “solo” so much of the time, I haven’t really shared the successes and breakthroughs that also happen as we gain experience. It’s been a pretty quiet life in the shop.
Then the other day a new friend of mine asked me to do a small commissioned piece for him. He’s a pipe smoker and wanted a pipe rack he’d seen online. These racks are made by hand in Europe, and while he was more than willing to pay several hundred dollars for it, his long-distance queries to order one of them had gone unanswered. That’s where I came in.
In a recent conversation with our field editor Chris Marshall about project I’m working on that involves walnut (which I’ll discuss in an upcoming post), he told me a story about a unique finishing situation that he ran into. I thought it would be a great thing to share…
Whether we like the process of finishing or not, no woodworking project is really complete without slathering on some protective finish. Years ago, I was a “poly” only kinda guy. Back in the 1980s, oil-based polyurethane is pretty what seemed to fill the hardware store shelf under the “Wood Finishes” sign. So, that’s what I used. It smelled bad and dried slowly, but once the finish finally hardened up, it was fairly tough. And I could count on its consistency and characteristics every time.
I’m glad to say that my finishing palate has expanded some since then. Continue reading
It’s T-minus ten days till Christmas Eve. How are your gift projects coming along? If you’re planning to finish them with oil-based poly, you’ve still got time for it to dry. But, a week from now? No way.
Nothing says “I waited too long” more than a present that smells like wet varnish.
Now, I’m not advocating “eleventh-hour” finishing…but it can happen. So, if you need a contingency plan, let me suggest three wood finishes to turn to when time is running out. You’ll still come out the hero on Christmas morning.
This past Christmas, I fell victim to an all-too-common seasonal disorder among woodworkers: gift-making procrastination.
Heard of it? If you haven’t—or haven’t caught it yet—you haven’t been woodworking long enough.
In my own defense, it wasn’t complete negligence … the gifts were assembled and the glue was dry; they just weren’t finished. So there I was, T-minus two days till gift opening and not an ounce of finish applied to my projects. To make matters worse, these were two little jewelry boxes intended for my school-age daughters. “Nearly done” wasn’t going to cut it. Once the packages were opened, I’d never get those boxes out of their clutches for a topcoat. And, my wife was counting on me getting these buggers under the tree in time. I promised. But, aside from a certain spousal pressure, I also just couldn’t live with them dry. That’s just not how a respectable woodworker does things, right?
Murphy could be my next-door neighbor, because his Law was in full effect. My shop was busy with other things, magazine related. Wet, slow-drying finish wasn’t going to work this time. It would have to be easy to apply, fast-drying and cured by St. Nick’s arrival. What could I do?