I realized today that I’ve failed to mention the multitude of things that we have been discussing during the day beside dovetails and box making. Frank is a wealth of information. Actually that is really an understatement. Frank has more to teach than he possibly has time to share. I whole heartily recommend taking a class with Frank if you ever get half the chance.
Some of the things we have discussed are sharpening, finishing, sanding, scraping, planing, different types of dovetails, tools, companies, hardware, gluing, customer service, attention to detail, and more. Frank is more than willing to answer any questions everyone has.
One thing that I’ve noticed about Frank is although he is a very well respected woodworker and he knows his stuff and has a strong opinion about his craft – he is very flexible. If you have a better idea or tool – he’s willing to try it. He basically says that this is how he makes his living – if he can cut a miter on a chop saw faster than by hand – then he uses the chop saw. Time is money. The hand tools are very important – but if you can do the job as well or better with one type of tool or another – use that tool. He says if his grandfather had a powered router he would have used it. Gotta feed the family basically.
Before I get into today, thought I’d share a picture of the shims we used to hold the box together while we cut the lid off. Notice the arrows pointing to the chamfered ends and the tiny, tiny saw blade we used to do the cutting.
You’ll notice that the saw blade is protruding through a “zero clearance” insert. For those who are not familiar with these, a zero clearance insert helps avoid tear out when the blade exists the work piece. It also helps to keep small pieces from falling into the saw. The less space between your blade and the work piece the better most of the time.
We spent a lot of time today just getting everyone close to having the boxes done. I think we are pretty much there as when I left everyone was at least gluing on their feet.
Clamping the feet on can be tricky with the sloped lid. But easy enough to solve – we simply clamped the box to a caul and clamped the whole thing in the vise.
Once this part is set up – the feet were easy. Notice the paper towel which is located between the top of my box and the caul and also notice the little scrap piece on the top. Both the towel and the scrap piece are to protect the finished box. No sense working this long on a project and ruin it by not protecting it as you continue to work on it.
Every morning I tell myself I’ll take more pictures and every night I say to myself – “you didn’t take enough pictures!” Sorry folks – you just get caught up in listening and doing that you forget the pictures.
We are getting into the home stretch so naturally you have to think finishing. Before you can finish you have to prepare the surface. Most of the articles say you have to prepare the work by planing, scraping or sanding. Frank say——not so – you can’t do just one – you need to do all three and in that order – plane, scrap and sand. If you sand first then plane or scrap you will just dull your tool because the sanding abrasive is left in the wood – which dulls the edge tools. You can plane then sand – but better to plane, scrap and then sand – lightly – with the grain.
Of course planing and scraping is a major subject that I can’t hope to even come close to adding anything to – but sanding – there are some tidbits I’d like to pass along. First while Frank is not totally against using a wood block to do sanding – he prefers using a cork block – such as this http://www.highlandwoodworking.com/corksandingblock.aspx from Highland. (Sorry I could not get a picture to work – just the link). The cork is softer and is less likely to mar your work piece – the cork is firm enough to do the job without hurting in the long run. Now the cork block is for rough finishing – for the sanding to be done between finish coats – he recommends a felt block. I could not find a picture of a felt block – but suffice it to say that it is a firm felt material that works well. The reason for the felt is that it is soft enough not to sand through the finish but firm enough to get off the knubs.
One of the guys in the class had both a cork and felt block that were different from what Frank was using in that they were tapered on the sides – which makes it very easy to use up against a cabinet side, etc. I’ve not found any while surfing the net – but have not looked to hard. Long and short though cork and felt are the recommended blocks to use.
Another tidbit on the blocks. They come to you rough – They need to be run across a piece of 320 or 400 grit paper to smooth out the surfaces. The cork especially needs this – the cork used is basically the same stuff you use for a bulletin board – pretty rough stuff.
OK so here are the steps to finishing as I understand it from Frank.
First plane, scrap and sand to 220 grit.
Rinse the work with water to raise the grain.
Allow to dry completely – a sunny window sill helps to speed things along.
Sand lightly with 220 grit to knock off the knubs.
Then apply a coat of sanding sealer. We used Zinzer Seal Coat – but you could also use a coat of Water Lox as your first coat. But we used the Zinzer for this project.
Allow this to dry completely and sand lightly with the 320 grit – this is where you start using the felt block.
Apply a coat of Water Lox and allow to dry 24 hours.
Sand lightly with the 320 with the felt block. You want to sand until you get a dull even sheen. Sand lightly to get the sheen – but be careful not to sand so much that you sand through the finish all together.
Apply the Water Lox, dry and sand two or three more times. The number of coats really depends on the look you are going for.
Next is the steel wool step. Frank likes to use Liberon steel wool which is a 0000 steel wool that you can also get from Highlands – http://www.highlandwoodworking.com/liberon40steelwool250g.aspx. The Liberon is so much softer than the general 0000 steel wool you’d get at one of the big box stores – it’s almost silky smooth.
Next is to use a tack cloth to clean off the piece as cleanly as you can get it.
Then apply one last coat of Water Lox – be sure to use a circular motion to apply it and then even it out by using an airplane landing and taking off motion.
Allow the piece to dry completely. Frank said today that you would be wise to let the box sit for several weeks before moving on to the next step. Of course, you could also stop right here. But Frank believes in “finishing the finish.” He does this by waxing and buffing the piece. He uses a good butcher’s wax – amber color and then uses a lot of good elbow grease to shine it up. I’ve seen some of his stuff – and this finish is worth the effort – looks great.
After all this you work on the interior which for this box is the velvet lining and some leather. The leather will go on the bottom of each foot and on the bottom of the tray insert. Adds a lot of class to the project.
The bottom liner is made up of thin poster board, some thin quilt fiber fill and then the velvet.
You can see in this picture (almost anyway) the sandwich used. Notice the corners are cut at an angle to make folding the corners easier. Use 3M 77 spray adhesive to adhere the velvet to the board. The board should be fit so that it sits nicely in the bottom without wrinkling. In other words – it should not have to be pushed into place – it should be placed into place. Most of us are not putting in the velvet until we get home because you want to have the finish done so that you don’t get any finish on the velvet. Also you need to have your mirror installed before you put in the velvet in the top. The bottom is the only piece that gets the fiber fill. All the other pieces are just poster board and velvet. The side pieces are glued into place.
A tid bit about the mirror. You should get a mirror that is less than 1/8” thick and you should spend the money on mirror mastic. The mirror mastic will not telegraph through the mirror and show. (That would be quite ugly.) You also only need to use a small spot of mastic in each corner. Don’t use silicone adhesive or heaven forbid—liquid nails.
Well that is all I can think of for today. I’m quite sure I’ve left out so many good things – so I’ll try to catch those up later on.
Thanks for reading and for your comments.
-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine