That looks a bit better

As you may remember from yesterday, by back-stool stain came out a bit darker than I would have liked.  Well a bit of finishing magic and things are looking better.  I mixed up some red mahogany TransTint dye and some water and applied to the the test piece of poplar.  When I wiped up the excess I noticed that the a significant amount of the van dyk stain had come away and the wood looked significantly lighter.  I decided to throw caution to the wind and applied it to the entire chair and low and behold things look a lot better.

I had also been experimenting with some pigmented oil but mixing 1 part gum turpentine with 2 parts boiled linseed oil and adding some Warm Cyprus Umber pigment.  I decided to apply it to the chair as well.

A coat of boiled linseed oil a few hours later and things are starting to look up.

The right most board has opposite grain direction which explains why it looks different.




Raised planter – part 4

After a week at the Jersey Shore (south jersey so no Snookie – I hate the fact I know that reference) I tried to get caught up on the planter but between jet lag and what appears to be bug I’ve picked up progress in as slow.  Working with heavy timbers wears you out so test fitting joints is tough.  I have even more respect for timber framers.

Unfortunately, my circular saw blade is not large enough to cut all the way through so each cut requires followup hand work.  This is made even worse by the interlocking grain and curly figure in the wood so I can’t pop out large chucks with my large chisel.

Making matters even worse, my foot long 1/4″ drill bit snapped about half way through so the last screws had to be driven in without pilot holes.  Luckily I started adding paraffin wax so I only snapped one screw.

The goal was to get one tier installed so I could finish leveling the yard (this tier will be partially buried).  Since I have no idea when I will be installing the next two levels, I went ahead and applied deck stain to these to protect them from UV exposure.  I went with DEFY Extreme water based wood stain in color Cedar which is supposed to be the best deck stain that is legal in California.  Overall I like the color though it does muddy up the grain (something all semi transparent deck stains would do).  I will say the timber that spent the week outside getting wet and dirty looks the best so maybe the other boards will darken as they age.

I had trouble finding a sample online for how the DEFY Extreme Cedar would look on Eucalyptus (eucalyptus globulus aka Tanzanian Blue Gum) so hopefully if anyone else out there is curious this will help them out.

Raised Planter Part 2

The days are getting shorter so the after work progress has slowed dramatically (Monday night I was working by the light of my iPhone’s flashlight) but progress is being made.  They base tier of the raised planter has been installed and I have started to lay the second.

A base of gravel was laid down and then the timbers were pounded until level and at the same height.  Then 3 foot long re-bar was pounded into the sand to try and hold things in place.  Cutting the timber takes 8 cuts with my circular saw (one shallow cut on each side with the speed square and then 1 deep cut on each side free hand) followed by hand sawing to finish the cut.  That is my root saw in the picture so don’t worry about the rust as its getting recycled after this project.

I am using 8 inch timber screws to hold the tiers together.  Pre-drilling involved using a 1/2″ auger bit in a brace to create a countersink and I then used a corded power drill with a 12″ long 1/4″ bit to drill a hole for the screw shaft. Once the timber was in position I bounded the screws through the holes until they made contact with the lower timber and then cranked them home with a hex driver in my brace (I tried using an impact driver and it was slower and nosier).

Unfortunately, It appears I delved to deep when I created the base tier.  I had designed the base timbers to be in line with the base of the wall however, after using some lasers to measure the height differences is appears the top of the base for the upper wall is 3 or 4 inches lower than the top of lower wall.  Once you add in additional dirt height at the back of the yard for drainage slope my second tier will end up being mostly under ground so I either need to buy another tiers worth of timbers or come up with another solution.

The closest thing to woodworking I have done in quite a while – Raised Planter Part 1

I have moved my yard renovation project to its own dedicated blog since I doubt anyone interested in woodworking wants to see me move dirt around but my long dry spell for woodworking is getting a temporary reprieve with the construction of a timber raised planting bed.  During construction of the walls and leveling the yard I discovered that the difference in yard height between the two properties was higher than expected and I encountered a concrete footing that interfered with the wall’s foundation.  The solution to both of these problems was the addition of a raised planter bed made of timbers.


Last weekend I picked up 1,500lbs of eucalyptus landscaping timbers from my usual green waste saw mill.  They were a bit wetter than I was hoping but I hate the look of pressure treated lumber so this was the best option.  Those step pieces are 6″ x 12″ x 3′ and weigh ~100lbs each.


The surface saw marks were a bit rougher than I was hoping and the attempt to run them through my thickness planer was comedic at best.  Normally I would have just used by #6 plane to take down the rough bits but between my shot timeline and my physical limitations (I am doing heavy labor every weekend and every night after work) I decided to get an electric hand planer.  I picked up the Porter Cable one from Amazon and it arrived last night (the irony is I turned down a free Makita one that my dad offered me last year).

After moving dirt around until dark (around 8:30) I moved to the garage and fired up the new tool.  The planer made short work of the saw marks (green eucalyptus it soft stuff, not so much when dry) and I was able to “smooth” 4 of the three foot long timbers before stopping around 9.  All in all I think it was a good decision though I do wish I had time to let the timbers sit around for a few month before installing/staining them.

Trestle Table – finish for the top part 1

It was a surprisingly productive weekend; lots of stock prep for the next couple of projects and the table top received its first coat of finish.

The contractors finally finished their work so we were able to get the house put back together which meant I was able to dig out the table top and test how well it sits on the base in its final resting place.  The fit was good but there were a few minor gaps so I carried it down the stairs to the garage and spent some time with my number 8 and flattened the bottom.  I then squared up the ends with my low angle block plane and the edges received a chamfer to help minimize child damage.

To speed things up, we decided to drop the breadboard ends and I decided to do something I hate and pulled out the random orbit sander.  120 grit removed most of the tool marks and then I wiped it down with a damp cloth to ensure there were no glue spots.  220 followed and the top was smooth enough for oil. It lost the character but we need a new table.

The top received a nice soaking of BLO and then the residual was wiped away; this will sit for the rest of the week curing and next weekend it will receive a film finish (I’m off to New York City for work so it worked out well).

Friday and Saterday ended up being about stock prep.  All of the stock for my back stool is now S4S and I have the legs cut for my dining table bench.

The back piece (which will be steam bent) was fenangled out of one of the eucalyptus boards that self destructed.  One of the splits carried into the usable part of the board but luckily the planer took it out.  The plus side was that my hand plane revealed curly figure that should add some interest to the finished peice.

The other item was I finally broke down the last piece of the rotten tool box and found a few salvageable boards which will find their way into a project at some point.

This is the right hand board that was the bottom of the tool tote.  I’m assuming it’s redwood.

Finish testing – black on red part 1

No progress recently however the forecasted torential rains caused me to move the eucalyptus into the garage.  One of the thin boards was twisting itself apart so I decided to cut it apart in an effort to save some of the wood.  I decided to dry out one of the ruined pieces in the oven to use for finish testing.  1 hour in the oven at 200 and an overnight rest took it down to 13% which will work for a test piece.

Since I was not sold on the green milk paint for the table base I decided to try the black over red finish listed in the Chairmaker’s notebook so a cut off from the table base (Douglas fir) and some Euclyptus were prepared for sample boards.  Both boards were planed smooth and were lightly sanded with 220 and then they were sprayed with water to raise the grain.

 Once they were dry, the raised grain was smoothed with some 400 and half of each board was taped off and a solution of Van Dyke crystals was applied to each board and then wiped off. 

After letting them dry I have a few thoughts.  My boards look much darker than those shown in the Chairmaker’s Notebook.  This could be because I only sanded to 220 or my Van Dyke mix is a bit strong.  Also, I really like the look of the stained Euclyptus.

Live and learn

Well it’s always a good idea to get another opinion so after I block stacked my eucalyptus on sat I made a post on the Woodnet forum.  Luckily, someone pointed out that the block-stacking and the plastic wrap in the study were probably related to the Boron treatment and sure enough, some more google searching found that is indeed the case.  A summary of other studies suggested applying a plastic sheet over the racked lumber in the first few weeks would be a good idea.

I also discovered that I should have painted the end grain immediately after cross cutting to reduce checking.  So apparently tonight I am going to be painting end grain and re-stacking the boards with air gaps.  Hopefully I have not done too much damage.  I will still have the plastic sheeting over it for a few weeks to slow things down.

Update: luckily the hardware store in the financial district had some 1 by 2 pine and we drove to work today so when I got home I cut them down to size and used the band saw to rip them in half.  The. My shop assistant helped me to restack the lumber and  painted the end grain with some leftover latex paint.  The wratchet straps will keep the stack from getting knocked over and the plastic sheeting will slow the drying process and keep off the rain. 

Planning ahead for a major project

I still have a lot of work left on the dining table but with the recent release of theAnarchist’s  Design Book I decided to get a head start on the dinning room chairs to go with it.  The long term plan is a set of windsors but in the mean time Chris Schwartz’s stick chairs look like a great option.  When describing wood choices for seats Chris mentioned Eucalyptus makes a good seat matrial because of its interlocking grain and since I live in Northern California, Eucalyptus is readily available.

After a Saturday trip to the green waste saw mill I am now the owner of 425 lbs of green Tasmanian Blue Gum (eucalyptus globulus) which is by the most common species in the USA.  I picked up 22 linear feet of 10 inch wide 10/4 for the seats and 11 linear feet of 5/4 for the backs; enough for 6 seats and 12 backs.


the guys at the mill are always amazed when I show up in the Outback

This stuff is wet (it was milled last week) so after a post on the Lost Art Press forum, some internet research, and the board lengths I decided to cut the wood into 22 inch blanks before drying.  While Blue Gum is super hard when dry, right now my circular saw cut through it like butter.

Unfortunately, while cutting up the boards I discovered an end crack in one of the thick boards that I had not noticed at the mill.  The grain I that board had a twist at the end that I missed so one end was quartersawn and the other transitioned from flat to quartersawn over the width of the board, introducing tension that resulted in a crack.

Blue Gum is notorious for warping, splitting, and collapsing during the drying process so I did some research before deciding to buy green.  The mill said only about 1 out of every 10 trees that come in are suitable for furniture (the rest becomes mulch and landscaping timbers) and I tried to only pick quarter and rift sawn boards.  Some researchers found that periodic wetting of the wood surface helps to minimize checking/collapse and then I found this research that explained the standard drying process used by industry.


Who wants to play dominos?

First the boards were washed to remove the mud and saw dust then set in the shade for an hour before being block stacked and wrapped in plastic.  

The boards will sit wrapped in plastic for the next few weeks before they are racked out on stickers in the traditional manner.  I will likely rip the boards down to remove defects at that stage and I will update posts as the air drying progresses.