Learning things about woodworking is like a lot of other things. You can get a lot of book knowledge and over intellectualize it, but in reality, there is no substitute for actually getting your hands dirty and doing it. I have been combing YouTube videos on everything from making guitars and violins looking for ways to do fancy inlays to how to do beautiful French polish. I read up on how to make non-splotchy stain finishes and how to smooth the wood with a scraper so that milling marks would be erased. That kind of head knowledge is great, and the web is a miracle place for things like that. But it is the practice of it and making mistakes that will learn you.
Because of all that, and because I have a lot of big ideas and very little experience, my steampunk telescope is taking forever to do. But after finishing the short box project I did as a present to Susan, I have finally managed to start back to where I was at the end of November on this thing.
I decided that although the plywood edges are exposed in a lot of places, some places its too much – even though Baltic birch ply is fine to look at even on edges. I decided, that I would try my hand at edge banding. Aside from the beauty of it on my telescope, I wanted to learn how to do it, because I secretly want to make a guitar someday, and thought it would be useful to have some experience at it.
Here, then is the mirror box for the telescope so far. The opening at the top is a little over a foot across. it is a removable octagon edged with 1/16” thick Honduran rosewood. The stain is “Chestnut” from Ace hardware. Before I put any finish on anything I sanded it all down to #220 sandpaper, and scraped everything level with a scraper. One final go with #400 paper and it was ready.
I sealed it with a 1 lb cut of shellac rubbed in, and then stained it. It worked beautifully. Two coats of the same shellac, and it is ready for the final finish. While this thing is supposed to look nice – like a piece of furnature, so that Susan doesn’t object to it being in the house – it must also satisfy a few optical requirements. In a telescope, the only thing that should reflect light are the mirrors. Everything else, not so much. Flat finishes are the best, but they can look awful. Satin is probably just right. And then there is the problem with moisture. Georgia in the summer at night is just plain wet. Dew is everywhere, and its thick. While I will have dew heaters on the optics, the wood is on its own. I didn’t know what kind of finish to use, so I asked around. Marc “The Woodwhisperer” Spagnuolo suggested that given my requirements, and that the telescope is meant to be disassembled a lot and transported, and that meant it could get knocked around, that I use polyurethane. I have seen a thousand posts saying “never use poly on fine woodworking” but in this instance, I think he is right. Marc suggested a thinned formula, and I think it is going to work out just fine, and it might offer some UV protection too.
Next time I’ll have some photos of some of the other parts I’m finishing, and perhaps the whole assembly. Things are beginning to move much more quickly now.
-- Telescope Maker, Woodworker, Brewer, Gizmologist, Gardner, Lawn Mower