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Is there a 'magic' formula to cutting tight miter joints?
I use a stop block (piece of wood approximately 1-1/2 inch square) clamped to the back stop or fence of either the table saw miter gauge or fence of a chop saw ( miter saw). The main thing is that the lengths must be equal. In other words if you are cutting miters for a rectangle, the two long sides must be exactly the same length and the two short sides must be exactly the same length in order for the 45 degree miters to line up. The same rule applies to a square frame, except being a square, all four sides need to be exactly the same length.
I think one of the best ways to cut accurate mitered corners is on a sliding miter sled on the tablesaw. The sled is generally 1/2 inch plywood (good quality, I would use apple ply or Baltic birch ply ) with a plywood fence attached to the top of it. The fence needs to form a precise ninety degree corner. If it is attached to the sled and your position is off just a little it still works and here is why. As long as you mark the pieces of wood and cut side A on the left side of the fence and side B on the right side of the fence, they will still form a perfect ninety degree corner even if one miter is 44 degrees and the other miter is 46 degrees. We do sell a plan to make this sled from our website. The price is $14.95.
One of the other biggest challenges with miters is getting a perfect glue up. Even if the joints fit perfectly without glue they can get out of alignment during the glue up. One of my favorite expressions is that ‘glue changes everything’. Once you put glue on the miters there is the viscosity of the glue holding the joints apart and making them slippery so that when force is applied they can slide a 1/16 inch this way or a 1/32 inch that way making for a frustrating experience. I always start with a ‘ dry clamp’ to rehearse and make sure it looks good and all of my clamps are available. The other technique I like, is to use a ‘band clamp’ (clamp with a canvas strap) to pull everything together. Once they are in place, then I use a bar clamp or pipe clamp for each side (four total). This way I can ‘dial in ‘ the pressure slowly. I start lightly, check the alignment, make adjustments if necessary, add a little more pressure and put on some magnifying lenses , scrape away some of the glue with a putty knife, check to see that it looks tight under magnification, and finish up with just a little more clamping pressure.
Where can I buy a small brass square like David's?
Look for David’s small brass 6 inch square under Hand Tools at Woodartistry.com.
Where can I get metalized acid dyes?
Metalized dyes had been available through Liberon/Star Wood Finish Supply in Fort Bragg, California. They are no longer in business. We suggest that you try Woodcraft stores, Woodcraft.com, or kingdomrestorations.com.
Where can I get Potassium Dichromate?
Potassium Dichromate can be obtained through Artchemicals.com.
I will advise it is toxic, and you must avoid contact with eyes, skin, or clothing. Avoid breathing the dust, use with adequate ventilation, and wash thoroughly after handling. Always wear protective gloves (either latex, nitrile, or neoprene), goggles, and apron while handling it. If you are going to spray it, also wear a charcoal respirator. Please consult with your supplier regarding necessary precautions when handling these chemicals.
Start by mixing ½ tablespoon of Potassium Dichromate to 1 cup of hot water. This will give you a mild solution of Potassium Dichromate. You can apply it with a brush, sponge, or rag. Begin by making a test sample. Apply the solution in the direction of the grain. Wipe off the excess with a rag. To avoid lap marks, I recommend multiple thin coats as opposed to one or two heavy coats. You will be building your color in a series of thin coats. Allow to dry for 12 hours, and then rub down lightly with grade 0000 steel wool before applying a finish. This chemical process is compatible with all finishes.
What is the mix ratio for the Linseed Oil, Tung Oil, and Urethane?
I have tried various methods of mixing linseed oil and tung oil in the past, but since the mid 80’s I’ve been using a product called Seal-A-Cell and Arm-R-Seal made by the General Finishes Company and available through mail order as well as from Woodcraft.
Since doing the first six seasons of Woodworks, this finish has been improved and no longer has the make-up stated in the show. I use two products starting with a sealer and finishing with a top coat. Company representatives state the sealer (which is clear but also available in different colored stains) is a blend of modified linseed oil, oil modified urethane, and alkyd resin, and dryers. The topcoat I use is called Arm-R-Seal and is now an oil modified urethane with dryers. The Arm-R-Seal is available in gloss, semi gloss, and satin.
A high quality finish starts with good surface preparation. This means thoroughly sanding the surface with 220 grit sandpaper or higher. I usually sand to 320 grit to bring out the clarity of the grain. Because of the time limitations of the show, we generally don’t demonstrate much sanding. After removing the dust (I use compressed air, if you don’t have compressed air, a vacuum cleaner and tack rags work well), I apply the first coat of sealer liberally to the surface allowing it to soak in for a few minutes and then use some soft rags and buff off all of the excess. This is important otherwise you will have resins that get sticky and leave an uneven surface. I let this coat dry overnight preferably at 70 degrees or warmer. A cold and damp environment can cause a finish to lack clarity and delay drying time.
The next day I thoroughly buff the entire surface (including the backs and bottoms of furniture which I finish to balance the piece and maintain equilibrium with 4 OT (0000) steel wool. This is the finest grade and I find that it really smoothes the surface. After removing the steel wool dust, I apply the first coat of Arm-R-Seal gloss. As a rule I always build the finish with coats of gloss whether it is oil, lacquer, urethane, etc. Then, if I want a semi gloss or satin sheen, I’ll use that for the last 1 or 2 coats. Keep in mind that the Arm-R-Seal dries faster so I usually just work smaller areas up to 12 square inches and overlap the finish. Again, I brush it on, let it soak in for a minute and rub the surface dry with a clear cloth. Let it dry and repeat the process.
I find that a total (including the sealer coat) of 4 or 5 coats usually creates a nice smooth finish that protects the wood while bringing out the beauty and depth of the grain patterns.
Where can I get the Slow-Setting Plastic Resin Glue you often use?
In response to your questions concerning the slow setting plastic resin glue, there are several types that I would recommend. Specifically, I am referring to urea formaldehyde glue such as Weldwood or Cascamite. Weldwood is manufactured by the DAP company, which can be reached at (888) DAP-TIPS. You should be able to find this glue available at most hardware stores. Other urea formaldehyde glues on the market are Unibond and Resorcinol.
Resorcinol glue is generally used on boats because it’s completely water proof when cured. It does however leave a dark glue line which would be objectionable on light colored woods. Resorcinol can be found at your local hardware store.
Where can I get exotic woods?
If you live in northern California, there are three wood suppliers that I would recommend. The first two are Mount Storm in Windsor, Ca and Evan Shively in Marshall, Ca. To contact these suppliers, please see the next question. In addition, there is Exotic Hardwoods and Veneers located in Oakland, Ca. Their address is:
Exotic Hardwoods and Veneers
4800 Coliseum Way
Oakland, Ca 94601-5010
(510) 436-5702 fax (510) 436-8610.
For those of you who can’t access these wood suppliers, I would recommend Woodcraft or Wood Finder. WoodFinder is an excellent resource for locating virtually any type of wood and wood supplier near you. Many of the wood suppliers found on the WoodFinder website ship to anywhere in the country.
How can I contact the wood suppliers Evan Shively and Mount Storm?
In response to your questions about the Wood Tour Show, I have the information you requested.
(415) 663-9126 or
5700 Earhart Court
Windsor, CA 95492
Should I stack my wood vertically or horizontally?
I stack my wood according to how dry it is. If the wood is green, stack it horizontally. Place stickers in between each piece of wood so that air can circulate and the wood dries properly. Once the wood is dry, it is okay to stack it vertically. The benefit of stacking vertically is that it is easier to access the wood.
Can you provide some information on your table saw / router setup?
First I bought a used Delta Uni-Saw and a Biesmeyer table saw fence. I then made a torsion box 3 inches thick to be used as the top of the router table. I laminated this with Formica to allow objects to slide easily across the surface. I built a cabinet under the torsion box to house the router and blades. This was lined with a sound proofing material to deaden the noise. The router is a Porter Cable Speedmatic. It is a soft-start router with 5 speeds.
Where can I get the Carbide Ball Mill you use?
In response to your question regarding the ball mill, I use a 1 inch diameter carbide ball mill with a 1/4 inch shank available through:
Sev-Cal Tool Inc.
3231 South Halladay
Santa Ana, CA 92705
Do you teach classes?
Yes, I teach both group and individual private classes in my workshop / studio located in Santa Rosa, California. You can check the site under the Classes section for the current group classes being offered. For private classes, please use the Contact Us email form. The prices of the group classes vary depending upon the subject. The advantage of the private class is that the class is completely custom designed to suit the student’s individual skill level, interestes, and needs and can be scheduled both during the week and weekend.
In addition, I travel throughout the United States teaching classes. Please check the Classes Page under Classes at other Locations for dates and location.
Where can I get glue rollers like the ones you use?
I bought my glue rollers at a local art supply store. The company is called Speedball and the rollers are made for applying ink.
Where can I get Anti Kick-Back Rollers for the Table Saw?
Woodworker’s Supply sells the system online and probably at Woodworking shows they particpate in.
Where can I get Figure-8 Metal Fasteners like you use?
Mount Storm and Woodcraft have them available. See wood suppliers question above for Mount Storm contact info.
Where can I get a Pattern Maker's Rasp?
You can get a rasp through Woodcraft Supply. Go to www.woodcraft.com and type ‘rasp’ in the search bar. This will take you to a page that shows various rasps available for sale.
How did you set up the Vacuum Press you use?
I made my vacuum press using a 3/4 HP pump that I purchased from Graingers. There is an article in Fine Woodworking Magazine on building a vacuum press. There are several websites that sell and have information on vacuum presses.
Where can I get Flush Trim Router Bits?
Flush Trim router bits are sold at Woodcraft stores and at www.woodcraft.com. In the search bar type in ‘flush trim router bits’.