All posts by Rainford Restorations

Preservation Carpentry, Custom Furniture, Custom Mill work, Instruction, Preservation Masonry,

Historic Trades Sampler 2015

This summer I’ll be teaching a workshop as part of the Early American Industries Association (EAIA) ‘Historic Trades Sampler’ at Eastfield Village.

Hands on learning at Eastfield Village
Hands on learning at Eastfield Village

The events run from Thursday, July 30 through Sunday, August 2, 2015, at Historic Eastfield Village, East Nassau, New York. The program this year includes:

  • Hand planing picture molding with Bill Rainford:
  • Printing a broadside in the print shop with Toby Hall:
  • Knife making in the blacksmith shop with Olof Janssen:
  • Tinsmithing with master tinsmith Bill McMillen:
  • Floor cloth painting with John Verrill:
  • Flint knapping & arrow making with George Lott.
  • Black powder shooting with Bill McMillen

The name ‘Eastfield Historic Trades Sampler’ reflects what is being offered –a sampler of various trades- with an opportunity to learn about them while completing a small project related to the craft.

Students exploring the village details
Students exploring the village details

There are two different workshops each day from which to choose. The classes start at 9 a.m. and there is a lunch provided in Eastfield‘s historic tavern from noon until 1 p.m., at which time the afternoon session of the workshops resume. The workshops end around 5 p.m.

The official flyer can be found here.

Additional Detail of Bill’s Workshop:

I’ll be teaching a lesson on running traditional moldings using traditional hand planes. Each student will have the opportunity to setup and use some hollows and rounds, beading planes, rabbet planes and molders on a sticking board to make a short run of molding that will be mitered to form a small picture frame.

If you’d like to learn a bit more about this sort of work please check out this earlier post as well as this one.

The General Store at Eastfield Village
The General Store at Eastfield Village

About Eastfield Village:

Eastfield is a village of historic buildings that Don Carpentier brought to the east field of his farm in East Nassau, New York, over a period of forty years. The village is used as a hands on preservation lab and students can explore the village, handle period objects and learn a lot in a short period of time.
Examining a period oven
Examining a period oven
Students are welcome to stay in several of these buildings which have been restored to their 18th and 19th century appearance; however there are hotels and other accommodations nearby. Learn more about Eastfield Village here.

The Tavern at Eastfield Village
The Tavern at Eastfield Village
Accommodations at the Village:
Accommodations in Eastfield‘s taverns are available free of charge for those wishing to stay as  guests in early 19th century accommodations. The only requirement is that each person supply their own bedding, plus 10 ten-inch white candles.

Students who take classes at the Village are encouraged to stay here during the Historic Trades Sampler. Meals may be cooked  or served in the late 18th century kitchens. Accommodations are rope beds with straw and feather ticks. Facilities are located in period out houses (and there is a modern porta-john,  and a running hose should you need those slightly more modern comforts ). There are evening gatherings in the Briggs Tavern and lively conversations  and games of dominoes by candlelight. This immersive experience offers an unforgettable opportunity to be with others – students and teachers – of similar interests, to gain an appreciation for the work and daily life of early 19th century America.

Don’t forget to Register Today!

This is an great opportunity to learn and practice historics trade using traditional tools!

Dates: Thursday July 30-Sunday August 2, 2015
Location: Historic Eastfield Village, East Naussau, NY 12062 (Directions)
Cost: $485 for this 4 day event

I hope to see some of you at Eastfield this year. You can register for the event on the EAIA website here. If you have questions, feel free to ask me in the comments or via the contact page for my blog.

Take care,
-Bill

The One Tool I Hope I Never Have To Use

I love buying and using hand tools.  The tool in this post I hope I never have to use. In fact, I bought two of them and hope I never have to use either of them.

Channel Lock 89 Rescue Tool
Channel Lock 89 Rescue Tool

 

Why would someone buy a tool they never want to use? 

Is it a collector’s item? Nope.
Was it a bargain? Nope.  I paid about $43 each for them on Amazon.

I bought them because I am a parent now. (And I do love a good tool with a solid purpose).

Channel Lock 89 Rescue Tool
Channel Lock 89 Rescue Tool

Why would someone want this tool?

This tool was designed for fire and rescue professionals and is a versatile multi-tool. The hardened cutter is designed to cut through a car battery cable,  wiring harness or seat-belt with ease. The curved end can be used as a spanner wrench to open water fittings. The more rectilinear arm can be used to shut off a natural gas valve and the tapered end of that arm can be used to pry a door or window. The hardened arms also have some semi-pointed ends that can be used to break safety glass. If you get into a car accident or help someone on the side of the road this is the tool you want to have by your side.
The tool is made in the USA by ChannelLock and is called the #89 ‘Rescue Tool’. They also make a slightly smaller/lighter version (The #87) if you drive a miata or have this tool on your person as part of how you make a living. They also make the #88 version which has linesman pliers instead of the cutter.

Channel Lock 89 Rescue Tool
Channel Lock 89 Rescue Tool

A few years ago I saw this in my local Home Depot and wanted to buy it, but we put it off as it was kind of expensive for a seemingly simple tool.  As a new parent with a 10 month old baby and surrounded by terrible drivers and winter road conditions up here in New England I figured I’d bite the bullet and finally go buy one for each of our vehicles. They no longer seem to stock it in the store, but thankfully it’s still in production and readily available from Amazon and similar sources.

Fits nicely into car door storage pockets
Fits nicely into car door storage pockets

The tool fits nicely into the door pocket on both of our vehicles. If it rattles around too much for you liking you can wrap it in a towel or similar to keep it quiet. It also has a nice thick clear-coat on it which should keep it from rusting in the door which likely gets some rain on it on occasion.

It’s a great addition to any vehicle.  If you’d like to learn more about this tool ChannelLock has a dedicated website for it here.

Take care,
-Bill

P.S. I don’t have any relationship to ChannelLock, but have many of their Made in the USA tools that have served me well for years of hard work and I wholeheartedly endorse this tool.

P.P.S. Curiosity and necessity drove me to use it the other day and the tool did a great job cutting through some 3/4″ braided nylon rope with ease and made a nice clean cut.

The Shutters of Old Quebec

As a Joiner and a Preservation carpenter I always enjoy studying interesting architectural details. On a recent trip to Old Quebec I found a lot of interesting French influenced shutters that I wanted to share with you.

The Frontenac Hotel and Old Quebec
The Frontenac Hotel and Old Quebec

Living and working in New England and the mid-Atlantic the majority of what I come across are English, Dutch and some German inspired shutters.

In Old Quebec many of the buildings date to the 17th and 18th centuries. Shown below is a great example of a board and batten (or sometimes called a ‘ledge’) shutter with ‘Z’ bracing. I like how the ‘Z’ brace was properly let into the batten (horizontal member). What was unusual to my eye was how the the nails used to clinch the boards to the batten were relatively large nails and relatively few in number compared to English versions of this type of shutter.

Z-braced Batten Shutter
Z-braced Batten Shutter

Wandering around Place Royale Square you can visit many beautiful and historic buildings. The earlier 17th century French buildings had smaller panes in the windows and the 18th century English buildings had larger windows with larger panes as technology advanced and styles changed over time.

Smaller window panes are from earlier French buildings, the larger panes are from later English buildings (Place Royale Square -- Quebec)
Smaller window panes are from earlier French buildings, the larger panes are from later English buildings (Place Royale Square — Quebec)

The doors, windows and trim on many of these buildings are painted in vibrant colors.  The tour guide for our group said many of these colors were reminders of the villages they came from in France where towns often had many buildings painted in the same color to help aid ships navigating — by the color they could tell what town it was. (I have nothing to back that statement other than her word, but interesting if true)

Breadboard ends and decorative cutouts
Breadboard ends and decorative cutouts

These beautiful bright yellow shutters had nice breadboard ends and decorative cutouts to dress up the otherwise relatively plain look and let in a bit of light so occupants could tell if it was day or night from inside the building.

Breadboard ends
Breadboard ends

On this building the shutters also sport breadboard ends to help keep the vertical boards flat. These shutters were made from particularly thick stock and the outer edges are also fielded a bit which adds a nice detail and likely helps the shutter sit flush when closed.

Place Royale Square -- Quebec
Place Royale Square — Quebec

Wandering around Place Royale Square there were many great buildings to admire including some with traditional raised panels but we’ll skip those English style shutters since we’ve talked about them before in other posts.

Many of these buildings date back to the 17th century
Many of these buildings date back to the 17th century

Here is were things really started to get interesting for me. The building shown here has tapered sliding dovetail battens to help keep the boards flat. A shutter is exposed to extreme conditions of sunlight, heat, weather, cold etc which will cause the boards to move a lot with the seasonal changes. If you look carefully at the photo above you can see how the sliding dovetail allows for that seasonal movement without any metal hardware to secure the batten to the boards.

Tapered dovetailed battens
Tapered dovetailed battens

Also note how the middle batten is tapered the opposite way compared to the upper and lower battens. This helps keep the battens and boards flat and keeps the boards from sliding off the battens.

Flush tapered dovetailed battens
Flush tapered dovetailed battens

In another part of the city we saw the same style of tapered sliding dovetail battens that are flushed with the rest of the shutter. If you look carefully at the paint lines you can see how the battens were set into these nice thick boards.

Beautiful 'bead and butt' paneled door to go with those shutters
Beautiful ‘bead and butt’ style paneled door to go with those shutters. (Rather than a bead, looks like a simple V-joint)

On that same building was a very nice butted panel door with a large transom above it that I had to share with you. Again the lines are very neat and plan, only dressed with a simple V-joint to accentuate the defect of the narrow panels meeting the rails and stiles.

Great door detail to help keep snow from getting under the door
Great door detail to help keep snow from getting under the door

What really grabbed my eye was this detail on the bottom of the door that helps she snow away from the threshold during the harsh Quebec winters. This year in Boston we set local records for getting 10+ feet of snow this year. When talking to folks in Quebec they said they had over 20 feet of snow! So with larger snow piles reaching up to your door this detail presumably will help keep some of the snow from getting in.

It was great to see some architectural details that were uncommon to my area. If you live in an area with interesting shutter and door details, please share them in the comments.

Take care,
-Bill

P.S. If you want to learn more about traditional New England and Mid-Atlantic style shutters you may want to check out this earlier post here or an upcoming session of that workshop. During the course I talk about stylistic and regional variations we have here in New England, New York and Northern Virginia.

Hand Tool Shopping at Foreign Big Box Stores

While on vacation my wife and I have a few idiosyncrasies. Alyssa and I like to visit food stores we don’t have at home to see how the locals eat, try some new foods, bring home unusual condiments etc. It kind of gives us a feel for ‘could we live in this place’?

I also like to visit hardware stores and lumber yards to see what is available and popular in other parts of the world.  We were recently in Quebec Canada for the Early American Industries Association (eaiainfo.org) Annual Meeting. The meeting was enjoyable as they always are — if you are not familiar with that group but love old tools and methods of work I encourage you to check out their website — don’t worry, I’ll wait for you to check out the site — I built out  their webpage so you’ll see me over there as well. ;-)

Main Aisle inside RenoDepot
Main Aisle inside RenoDepot

While in Quebec we went to ‘RenoDepot‘. At first glance it reminded me a lot of Home Depot and Lowes — many of the same major manufacturers, same power tools etc.– but with a nicer blue-green color on everything.  It was a little smaller in scale and reminded me a bit of what Rickles/Pergament/Grossmans used to be like before they were all driven out of business — a big store but limited selection of brands and supplies. I made a bee-line for the hand tool section.

Hand Tools at RenoDepot
Hand Tools at RenoDepo

I was happy to see a larger hand tool section compared to the American big box renovation stores I was used to. A larger selection of chisels (still not fine chisels), files etc. Stanley seemed to have a larger presence on the shelves of stores we visited followed by Fuller and the usual generic/store branded imported brands. There seemed to be more items made in Canada and North America in general, but not drastically different from home.

Rona Exterior
Rona Exterior

I also searched online in the area and checked out a RONA home store. Apparently RONA owns Reno-Depot and it seems like a RONA is the larger Super-Center type store with a wider selection.

Hand Tools at Rona
Hand Tools at Rona

Again I went straight to the hand tools section. I was much happier with the selection at Rona. 5+ different makes of chisel including the BlueChip style Irwin/Marples/Record chisels which are the first tier of big box chisels I’d consider — I learned on them as a student and they were always a good value for a lower end chisel and work great out in the field. (The website showed the old Record ones at a great price which is why I went there, but on the rack was some of the early 2000s Irwin flavor chisel with round handle and the newer style with the stumpier handle). The price was right and I bought 2 of each style in odd sizes I didn’t have to round out my travel tool roll and will compare them to my old English made Marples Blue chip chisels in a future post. I heard the metal quality was not as good in these later Asian made lines so we’ll put that to the test.

What made me really happy with the hand tool aisle here was the quantity and variety given this was not a specialty woodworking store. There were a few low-end Stanley bench planes (Still better than the Buck Brothers or generic planes at similar stores near me), far greater variety of Nicholson and similar files and then lots of things I wish local big box stores still stocked — card files, sharpening stones and oil (not hyped up cheap diamond plates, but traditional oil stones etc), Stanley spoke shaves, card scrapers, record woodworking vises and that sort of thing.

Even safety gear and boots
Even safety gear and boots

The other neat thing was to see a selection of safety gear, working gear (jackets, overalls etc), work boots etc for the carpenter on the run.

It was clear that the Canadian renovation market still made use of human powered woodworking.  Sure these stores still had all the latest cordless power tools as well, but at least craftsmen and handymen and women in Quebec had the option of filling their tool-boxes with reasonably quality hand or power tools. At my local big box stores the brand name hand tools have been increasingly swapped out for cheaper and cheaper brands, smaller selection and replacement by cheap gimmicky power tools.

As energy becomes increasingly expensive, folks spend their limited funds on higher quality materials and results and green/conservation movements help put pressure on the disposable society mentality of the 20th century I hope the current hand tool renaissance can spill back over into mainstream carpentry/renovation. Only time and our efforts to spread the word will tell.

Take care,
-Bill

P.S. I also checked out a BMR Lumber (great name as those are also my initials) and a Canac store with similar findings. I was hoping to find a store that stocked a lot of Bahco tools — I still want to try some Bahco files but never see them offered in the US. I love my Bahco Superior saws, card scrapers and paint scrapers.  If you find other regional chains that value and sell quality hand tools, please share it in the comments below.

Stumped?

Woodworkers often pride themselves on their knowledge of trees and wood. Most folks simply go to the lumber yard or big box store to pick up wood that has been processed by others. Some have felled their own trees and dried their own wood. But for many once the body of the tree hits the ground they are left with a large unsightly stump.

What do you do with your larger stumps?

Small stumps can be dug out by hand. Larger stumps can be left to rot (or accelerated via chemicals or bacteria), burned out in a controlled burn, ground down below the surface with a large stump grinder, blown out with explosives or dug out by hand or machine.

Digging around the root ball
Digging around the root ball

I needed to clear some of my yard for an upcoming barn build and after trying to get out some larger stumps by hand last year I decided the best avenue for me would be to enlist the help of a tractor with a backhoe.  If you don’t have a tractor you may have a neighbor, local machine rental store or landscaping company that can help you out.  I prefer this method of removing a stump by digging it out as I know when it’s completely out I won’t have sink holes or obstacles during future digging at this location.

How do I remove a large stump?

Testing to see if the root ball is free
Testing to see if the root ball is free

I start by digging around the base of the stump to see where the major roots are. If they are too big for the back-hoe to directly rip through I will move further out away from the stump until I can rip them out with the bucket. I’ll work my way around the root ball until I can knock it over with the backhoe.

Root ball
Root ball

If the stump is still too big/heavy I’ll spray down the stump with water to remove dirt, grit and weight. (Thank you Dad for that idea as it saved the day on some of the real big stumps that maxed out what the tractor could lift and pull).  If the watering doesn’t work you can let it dry out a bit and cut the freed stump into more manageable pieces. (Make sure to take all necessary safety precautions when attempting that)

Water your stump...
Water your stump…

Next up, I got out my hefty 3/8″ thick logging chain and secured it to the stump. The trick for me was to get it around the roots in such a way that pulling up makes the stump tumble end over end and thus make its way out of the hole with minimal friction. If I tried to just drag it up on its own the friction makes it almost impossible to get out.

Pulling the stump with a logging chain
Pulling the stump with a logging chain

Each time a stump clears the pit it’s a mini celebration as even with a big machine stump removal can be a lot of work.

What do you do with the stump once you have it out of the ground?

Some town transfer stations will accept them and grind them up. Some folks will let them dry out and cut them up to burn as part of a bonfire. A last resort is hiring someone to come take them away — this option still a lot cheaper than paying for digging it out and grinding estimates were coming in at $100/stump so things can add up fast. I don’t recommend re-burying them elsewhere as they take a LONG time to rot on their own and buried stumps often lead to sink holes.

I know I flew through the above steps in this post, so if you’d like to see a video of some of these techniques in action in the removal of another stump, please check out my new YouTube video which you can watch by clicking the link here or by clicking on the image of the tractor below.

Tractor with back-hoe ready to go.
Tractor with back-hoe ready to go.

Now it’s time to be back out into the yard — there are still a LOT of sizable stumps left to clear out….

Take care,
-Bill

Nashua Tool Show, April 2015

This past week I made my biannual pilgrimage to the ‘Live Free Or Die Tool Auction’ and tool sale out in the parking lot behind the Holiday Inn in Nashua NH.  I’m glad my schedule worked out that I was able to go on Thursday morning — it was a beautiful day, I saw some friends who were only around on that day and didn’t spend too much money.  Friday morning it was pouring so I briefly stopped by to see some friends from the school but many of the vendors were all packed up.

Let’s take a quick tour of some of the more interesting items I checked out:

The cabinet below from the Union Twist Drill company of Athol Massachusetts (same town that is home to Starrett Tools) looked to be in great shape.

Union Twist Drill, Athol MA cabinet
Union Twist Drill, Athol MA cabinet

Inside the cabinet was a nest of drawers which once housed all kinds of drill bits and similar hardware. It was also interesting to see the notes scribbled on the inside of the doors.

Union Twist Drill, Athol MA cabinet
Inside of Union Twist Drill, Athol MA cabinet

On another table was a nice looking moxon style vise with threaded wood handles. Made from a fairly large bit of timber I like how the maker removed a bunch of wood to make room for an angled saw.

Moxon Vise
Moxon Vise

This year I finally got to meet Tony Murland in person. Over the years I’ve bought a lot of wood planes from his shop in the UK — including my matching pair set of hollows and rounds, snipes bills, sash planes and complex molders.  On hand he had a great assortment of French Plumb Squares — some of which had some great decoration on them. I would have loved to get one if I had room in the budget this season for it.

French Plumb Squares from Tony Murland
French Plumb Squares from Tony Murland

Casks of cut nails and a nice old tool tote with a dovetailed in handle and interior partitions.

Nail casks and tool tote
Nail casks and tool tote

Next to a box of saw sets was an old 1980s Ertl Metal ‘Case’ backhoe/loader which was one of my favorite toys as child — and something I had not seen in years. If it was in better shape I might have even picked it up.

1980s Ertl Metal Case Backhoe
1980s Ertl Metal Case Backhoe

As always some interesting benches found their way to the show.

Leather apron and bench
Leather apron and bench

And here is a nice old tool chest that I spent some time looking at. Constructed with finger joints, this chest had some handsome hardware I wanted to highlight.

Nicely appointed tool chest
Nicely appointed tool chest

Inside the paneled top there were some great old reference/conversion tables tacked into place.

Reference charts under the lid
Reference charts under the lid

The corners had some nice brass hardware and all of the screws were carefully clocked (oriented in a specific way) —  I know this makes my OCD happy as it likely will make my friend Chris Schwarz smile as well.

Clocked screws on the brass hardware
Clocked screws on the brass hardware

And last but not least was an ‘Elite Tool Chest for Boys’ that was used to haul some wares to the tool show.

'Elite' Tool Chest
‘Elite’ Tool Chest

What did I buy this year? Not too much which is probably a good thing. I’m trying to keep to the tools I regularly use and I have a very good working set. Also my tools/wood/toy budget has been saving towards a tractor and building a barn this summer — more on that in some upcoming posts. I bought nice Stanley Bailey transitional jack plane that I’ll be using to clean up some timbers — that wood sole will be a lot easier to use on green timbers. A nice  metal block and tackle with a line lock that will be useful on a gin pole and about a dozen old manual training guides, tool catalogs/reprints and old woodworking texts.

Take care,
-Bill

Alcohol In The Workshop

The use of personal safety gear is important in the workshop, in the classroom at on the job-site. The proper maintenance of this equipment equally important if it is going to do its job. An often overlooked bit of maintenance is cleaning your face mask/respirator.

Alcohol Swabs Are Great For Cleaning Your Respirator
Alcohol Swabs Are Great For Cleaning Your Respirator

After a few hours of using a respirator moisture, skin oils, dust, sweat etc all get into the mask housing and on the surface that is in contact with your face. If not properly cared for this can cause skin irritation, breed harmful bacteria or possibly even make you sick. To prevent this situation it is advisable to clean your mask before and after every use.

PRO-TIP

Several years ago I was in a bad subway accident that resulted in a hospital stay, surgery and a long recovery time. During the recovery I had to take some serious antibiotics that were administered via syringe. Part of the care package from the doctors was a pack of small isopropyl alcohol swabs that are individually packaged as ~1 inch squares used to clean the injection site before using a needle. After I was all better I had some swabs left over it dawned up me that these little swabs might be great for cleaning my dust mask. They worked great.

When I need to use my dust mask I grab a sterile alcohol swab, clean out the inside of the mask and the surface that touches my face. If that wipe is still looking clean after cleaning the inside I use it to clean some of the hard surfaces on the outside of the mask. If the wipe is dirty I will grab a second.

At this point I buy a box of 100 wipes for about $2.49 in the local Walgreens and get several months out of the box. I keep the box out in the shop in a shelf next to my respirator so they are always ready to go. They generate little waste, are cheap, fast and reliable. I highly recommend giving it a try in your own shop.

Take care,
-Bill

Teaching Schedule for Spring and Summer 2015

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” — Albert Einstein

I love teaching as is allows me to share my passion for traditional woodworking.  This spring and summer I will be teaching several workshops I developed for the North Bennet Street School. If you have previously been a student in one of my courses and can share the information below with others who may be interested, I would very much appreciate the referral.

Introduction to Shutters @ The North Bennet Street School

Saturday, May 30

8:30 AM – 4:30 PM Register
Saturday & Sunday, May 30-31, 2015

Instructor: Bill Rainford $425 Learn about traditional wooden shutters in this two-day workshop. Using traditional joinery, students build a sample shutter and learn the skills to layout and build shutters for your house. Discussion includes interior and exterior uses, fielded panels and louvered styles Students should be able to plane and square up a board by hand and have some experience laying out and cutting traditional mortise and tenon joinery by hand. Some experience with tuned hand tools and power tools is required.

Group picture with some finished shutters
Group picture with some finished shutters

Bill Rainford is a graduate of the Preservation Carpentry program and many PC and CFM workshops. A long time woodworker, Bill currently works on commissioned pieces from his own workshop, site projects, and personalized instruction. More Shuttermaking Workshop Info From A Previous Running of the workshop can be found here.

Sawhorse Workshop @ The North Bennet Street School

Boston, Massachusetts

Saturday & Sunday, June 6 – 7, 2015

8:30 AM – 4:30 PM Register

Instructor: Bill Rainford $400 Build a pair of heavy duty work-site saw horses and a pair of neatly joined nesting horses (or ‘Hurdles’) for using in the workshop. Learn various mortise-and-tenon joinery, trestle structures, hollow chisel and plunge router mortising, table saw tenoning, and laying out of splayed legs. If time allows, we also discuss additional fixtures/accessories. You’ll wonder how you ever worked without them.

Heavy Duty Saw Horses
Heavy Duty Saw Horses

Prerequisites: Either Fundamentals of fine woodworking or Fundamentals of machine woodworking or equivalent experience.

Window Sash Workshop @ The North Bennet Street School

Boston, Massachusetts

Saturday – Sunday, August 1-2,2015

8:30 AM – 4:30 PM Register

Instructor: Bill Rainford $425

Using some scraps to make a framed mirror for my wife
Sample Window Sash

Learn the basics of building a traditional window sash. The sash you make can be used as a small window or a wall hanging. Skills learned include: milling muntin stock, layout from a story stick, mortise and tenon work, coping a profile, draw boring, making pins, cutting glass and the basics of glazing. If time allows, we discuss other styles and tips on fitting a sash to a frame. Prerequisites: Fundamentals of fine woodworking and Fundamentals of machine woodworking or equivalent experience.

Learn more about building a window sash here. As always my current teaching schedule can be found at the top of my blog on the page titled ‘Instruction‘. If there are other topics you want to see covered — either new workshops offered, or bring back a few I haven’t run in a while, please let me know. I look forward to seeing many of you in class. Take care,

-Bill

Building Bradley’s Crib Part 5 — Choosing the Right Finish

How do you choose the right finish? That is a question I’m often asked. In this final installment related to the 3 in 1 crib / toddler bed / adult bed building project I will walk through my own through process for how I picked the finish for this project.

Setting High Level Project Parameters:

Customer input — in this case, my wife Alyssa. We wanted something in that warm amber to medium brown color and tone range. She wanted something to potentially match a darker rocker and changing table we had and I wanted something more on the natural side given this wood was of higher quality and thought it would be a shame to hide all that figure.

I chose Cherry wood for this project as I like cherry’s grain, workability and warm tones once it has time to age. Given that the project is for my newborn son I wanted a child safe finish that would be durable. (So that has me think of shellacs, low or preferably no VOC finishes that cure to hard film that will protect the wood and be easy to clean)

Freshly milled cherry has a light, almost pink finish so I likely will dye or stain the project to get a jump on the aging process and even out the tones of the wood.

Cherry also has a tendency to blotch, so I always want to seal it with shellac as a sanding sealer to try and protect against blotching.

Color Sample Chips:

With some high level parameters in hand, I first take a look at the color chips and samples I have on hand.

I have a real nice collection of General Finishes samples that I use in my teaching and they are one of my go-to finish providers as I’ve found their products to be high quality and reliable.

Finish and color samples
Finish and color samples

PRO TIP: Whenever you test a sample on a cut-off or similar piece of wood, label it with the finish — maker, type, color, date, #coats and wood species. I keep a box of these sorts of samples in my shop and they can often help in this process as my samples are larger than the standard chips that are usually on paper or small bits of veneer plywood. As the samples age they provide that much more information on how the pieces you make will age with a given finish.

From looking at the chips in a few different lights and in the baby’s room we decided on the following three samples:

Cherry stains we liked
Cherry stains we liked

Test your top 2 or 3 choices:

In the photo below the wood is set up in pairs. The left piece of wood is raw cherry. The right piece of wood had a wash coat of blonde shellac applied to see how it would reduce the amount of blotching in the cherry.

Trying out the dye and gel stains I liked. Left samples are raw wood, right samples have a coat of shellac under the stain.
Trying out the dye and gel stains I liked. Left samples are raw wood, right samples have a coat of shellac under the stain.

 

PRO TIP:
You can help jump-start the cherry aging process by exposing it UV light. With the above samples I kept them on a sunny window sill in the shop for a few weeks to get a feel for how the finishes might look as the project ages.

 

I didn’t love the results from the above experiments, I wanted a warmer tone, so I decided to mix up a batch of garnet shellac (described here) and continue my experimentation. On my next round of sample boards I experimented with a few coats of garnet shellac to see what I liked best. The garnet shellac alone did a fairly good job of warming up the cherry.

Trying my favorite stain from the last round, but trying it out with garnet shellac
Trying my favorite stain from the last round, but trying it out with garnet shellac

The experiments continued with several pieces of wood scrap from the project to see how the recipe of garnet shellac and dye stain looked on knots, different grain orientations etc.

Testing the recipe with a range of woods on the project
Testing the recipe with a range of woods on the project

In the end my wife and I both liked the same samples, so in the end I wound up going with two coats of garnet shellac with the second coat having a small amount of dye stain in the second coat. All of the above experimentation was well worth the time as I would not want ruin a project like this with a poorly executed finish.

Top coat:

I decided to go with General Finishes High Performance Water-based Polyurethane Top Coat in a Semi-gloss.  I like this finish as it’s easy to apply by hand or via sprayer, low VOC,  it’s UV stabilized and once cured is a durable child safe finish. For fine furniture when it comes to a top coat I adhere to the mantra of ‘if I wanted it to look like it was made out of plastic, I would have made it out of plastic’, but for this crib it’s very nice but not super fine furniture and from what I know about babies the ability to quickly and easily clean off any accidents makes this higher gloss sheen all the more worthwhile.

Crib outfitted with mattress, sheets, skirt and of course stuff animals
Crib outfitted with mattress, sheets, skirt and of course stuff animals

For this project I applied the poly by hand using a folded up lint-free white cotton rag. I worried the sprayer would cause too many drips around the many slats and after all the work I put into the project I didn’t want to foul it up in the finishing room.

I’m very happy with how this project turned out and look forward to seeing how the cherry ages in Bradley’s very sunny bedroom.

If you’d like to read some other posts related to this project please check out this link here.

Take care,
-Bill

P.S. How do you choose your finishes? Feel free to share your thoughts and tips in the comments section below.

Building Bradley’s Crib Part 4 – Final Assembly

Molding plays with light and shadow, it blends transitions and it can be pleasing to touch. I’m glad molding has so many positive features as I had to make a LOT of it to finish off this project. Below is a quick walk through of what it took to complete the woodworking on this project.

Making Molding:

Sampling of the MANY moldings
Sampling of the MANY moldings

As you can see from the photo above a had to mill a lot of stock and produce a lot of profiles to produce all the moldings necessary for this project. I won’t go into the minutia of each profile, or how to create molding using a handheld or table mounted router as that has been covered to death elsewhere. I will talk about a few of the things I do to help get consistent results when using a router.

1.) Make sure your router bits are clean and sharp. Make sure to use a bit cleaner to remove any pitch left on the bits. A diamond card or file can also be used to tune up a bit that is not cutting as well as it used to.

2.) Feather-boards. Whether they are store bought or shop made a feather-board is a great way to help keep stock where you want it. This project required many thin moldings with several different profiles on the same piece of stock. To ensure that the stock stayed exactly where I wanted it I used feather-boards to keep the stock pressed firmly against the table top and against the fence, both before and after the cutter. Without this seemingly heavy handed setup the stock could flex and you’d have to run it a few times. A push stick is also nice to have nearby. For this project the blanks were 2 to 6′ long so I was able to safely move the stock through the cutter with my hands kept at a safe distance from the cutter by virtue of the feather boards.

Extensive use of feather-boards on the router station
Extensive use of feather-boards on the router station

3.) When possible, try to be aware of the grain orientation when passing it through the bit to minimize tear-out

Profiled sanding blocks
Profiled sanding blocks

4.) After coming out of the router I hand sand the profiles to remove any scallops left by the bit. For tight or very complex profiles I will also use a profiled sander (a bit of formed rubber (shown above), piece of dowel or block of wood) that will help me get the sandpaper into the portion(s) of the profile I want to sand.

Molding profile details
Molding profile details

5.) Use the right tool for the job. For the cap moldings above I used a dado set on the table saw (with feather-boards there as well) to create the dadoes, and round-over bits in the router table for the round-overs. (You certainly could use a straight bit to cut the dadoes on the router table, but it would involve taking a few passes which takes more time and could introduce error).

Assembly:

Gluing up the bed rails
Gluing up the bed rails

With the moldings all milled, sanded and cut to size it was time to glue up the various assemblies. Shown above I am gluing up the top and bottom molding onto the adult bed rails.

Shop made jig for drilling centered holes
Shop made jig for drilling centered holes

After the glue dried overnight on the rails it was time to drill holes for the through bolts using a shop made jig constructed out of plywood. This made it very easy to line up and drill consistently centered holes on the ends of the rails. I also made use of some of the stopped drilling techniques outlined here.

Clamping each section using extended bar clamps
Clamping each section using extended bar clamps

Next up was gluing up all of the large sections of the bed — head-board, foot-boards, side panels etc. Given the width of this project I had to break out the Bessey K-Body rail extenders which allow me to bolt two K-Body clamps together to effectively make an even longer clamp. The connector section also works as an extra set of feet to keep the clamps level. I used hot hide glue again for its long open time and compatibility with finishes. Once in the clamps I checked everything for square, adjusted as needed and let the section dry overnight.

Attaching the cap.
Attaching the cap.

Once the panel was dry it was time to glue on the top cap/hand rail. Next I cut the cove molding to size and glued it in place with the help of some dowel cut-offs.

 Installing the slats:

Cutting spacers on the cross-cut sled
Cutting spacers on the cross-cut sled

I milled and test fit the slat spacers when I produced the molding above. I gently eased the corners with some sandpaper and cut them to length using my crosscut sled on the table saw and a stop block that was clamped in place against the rear fence of the sled. My OCD side also kept them in order so the grain matched across each panel.

Installing the slats is a bit of challenge so I did a full dry fit/test run before doing it for real with glue. You start from the center slat which you mark with center lines on blue tape (that way you can remove the lines easily as they are only on the tape) on the slat and the panel and install at an angle to insert the slat and then straighten out when it is firmly in the top and bottom slot. I then install spacers to the left and right of the slat and repeat the process. When I get near the end of the assembly I install the last 3 slats at once (otherwise there would not enough room to angle them into place), move them to where they need to be and finish gluing in the spacer blocks.

Installing the slats
Installing the slats

When laying out the slats in the dry run I also examined the individual pieces and laid them out so that the completed piece had even grain patterns and tones. I also made a few extra slats so I could swap in grain I liked etc. Some of those extra pieces were recycled into a baby blanket display rod here.

Slats installed
Slats installed

Once I completed all the assemblies, I test fit the bed in all three configurations. (You can see several photos of that process over on my public Facebook page here.)

Test fit
Test fit

Now it was time to pick a finish and head out to the finishing booth. To cap off this series, I’ll be talking about choosing and using a finish.

If you’d like to read some other posts related to this project as they get posted please check out this link here.

Take care,
-Bill