Wood Movement

Over the past few months, I’ve been making these Ohio signs and selling them in my wife’s booth. They’re a simple thing to make. Just cut the wood in the shape of Ohio, then glue and staple the pieces to a plywood back. Originally I used old pallet wood to make the signs, but the past few batches I made them with old fence boards.

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Last week, when I was helping my wife move things around in her booth, she told me that some of the signs had warped. Worried, I grabbed a few of the signs to look at them. Because we had such a hard cold spell, the antique store was kicking up heat to stay warm. Apparently, the dry heat sucked all the moisture from the signs making them bend up. Even the top of an old bench my wife was selling warped.

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When examining the sign, I realized I made two rookie mistakes. The first mistake I made was that I painted the wrong side of the fence board. I should have fastened the wood crown-down so that the board wouldn’t warp upward. The second mistake I made was that when I fastened the boards on the plywood, I spread glue all over the plywood back making the wood unable to expand and contract. Embarrassing to admit I know. When I first made these signs, I made them from old pallet wood that was a lot narrower than the wide fence board I used here. I thought my wood was dry enough to make them in the same process, but I was sorely mistaken.

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Wanting to fix the sign, I ripped apart the plywood back and removed all the staples from the wood.

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After cleaning the back of the pieces, I saw how the widest board on the sign was warping in conjunction with the others.

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I decided to shave off the high spot in the middle with my scrub plane so the warping wouldn’t be as noticeable when I remade the sign.

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Then, instead of spreading glue all over the plywood back, I laid a bead of glue down the center of each piece of wood so the wood could move. I then attached the plywood back to the pieces with 1/4″ crown 5/8″ long staples.

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With everything back together, I was happy how the sign laid flat again. I really don’t mind if the boards warp a little bit. After all, the sign is supposed to look old and rustic. I just don’t want the whole thing to curl.

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Resizing another Shelving Unit

I was in the process of building another shelving unit for my wife’s new booth in Milford, Ohio. She originally asked me to build it four feet long. However, once I started to attach the shelves to the unit, she wasn’t too thrilled with the overall dimensions. I asked if she wanted it cut down to 36″ long instead of 48″, but she was afraid that it would be too much work. I assured her that I could cut it down without much problem.

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I slapped the unit on top of my workbench and carefully measured where the rails were to be cut. I then grabbed my Festool plunge saw and rail system, clamped it to the lines and ran down the rail cutting as deep the blade would go.

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I then flipped the unit off the bench and cut the two attached shelves in half.

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After one side was free, I unscrewed the pocket holes and broke away the rails with a hammer. I then cleaned the side up with a random orbital sander.

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I then flipped the other side of the unit back onto the bench and re-drilled the pocket holes to the shortened rails. For the two shelves that already had plywood nailed in place, I had to bust out the plywood with a hammer.

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After about twenty minutes, the shelving unit came back together a foot shorter. I cut the remaining plywood to the new measurements and installed them using cleats on the inside of the rails.

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Now it was time for the antique shutters to be screwed onto the sides.

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After a coat of black paint, the shelving unit looks really nice in her new booth.

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Making Chalky Textured Paint

If you’re familiar with Shabby Chic furniture repurposing, then you probably know all about Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint®. However, if you’re a woodworker who subscribes to every woodworking magazine out there, then you probably have no idea what Chalk Paint® even is.

Chalk Paint®, not to be confused with chalkboard paint, is a very easy to use paint that requires no sanding or priming to the wood. It is often used to revitalized antique furniture and leaves pieces with a warm matte finish. Simply wipe off the dirt on a piece of furniture and start painting. Its ease of use is what makes the paint so popular. The paint get its name from the chalky texture it leaves on the wood. The paint gives a piece of furniture a nice warm tone as opposed to the harsh look lacquer will often give. However, at nearly $40 a quart, the stuff is not cheap.

Annie Sloan is the British lady who invented the paint several decades ago. In fact, just recently her company trademarked the name Chalk Paint® creating a stink around the industry as there are several other companies out there branding their paint as a chalk paint, but only Annie Sloan makes the official Chalk Paint®.

Making paint with a chalky texture is not all that difficult. Many people will add an additive to latex paint like sanding grout or baking soda. Annie Sloan claims that the majority of her additive, but not all of it, is calcium carbonate also known as limestone. You can buy bags of calcium carbonate on Amazon for about $15.00. Each bag will make a couple of gallons of paint. Even though you’re technically not making Chalk Paint®, I found the additive to be close enough that it works just fine for me.

I bought a quart of Flat Black latex enamel at Lowes for about $10.00. Then following the instructions on the bag, I poured half of my paint into a container and added a 1/4 cup of calcium carbonate (limestone) additive to  the paint. I then added just a little bit of warm water to the to container to thin it out since the limestone thickens the paint. After stirring for a few minutes the paint is ready to use.

As you can see in the picture, the paint has a thickness to it. I simply brushed on a couple of coats waiting about an hour between coats. I then lightly sanded the piece with 320 grit sand paper knocking the paint off the corners and edges to give the piece a worn look. After wiping off the dust from the sand paper, I applied a wax to the piece to give it some sheen and to protect the paint.

Up close you can see how the piece is worn away a little bit at the corners and edges. What I like most about making this paint is that its intent is to make the piece look old. If the piece of furniture ever gets banged around and gets dings or dents on it, it will just add more character to the piece.

People who make their own chalky textured paint claim the biggest advantage is that you can make any color you want, which is true. However, my wife has found that the additive slightly changes the color of the paint. So if you go to the paint store and fall in love with a certain color, once you add the additive you may be disappointed with the color you end up with.

Making Walnut Stain

I have a big walnut tree in my backyard that drops hundreds of walnuts on the ground every fall. For some reason the walnuts were excessive this year as I have never seen so many on the ground. It must have been a good year to be a walnut tree.

I usually just trip on them while I cut the grass but I decided it might be fun to try to make my own walnut stain from the nuts.

I looked around for the walnuts that had opened up while the squirrels were giving me dirty looks and took about a dozen of them to my shop. I then wrapped them in an onion bag and tightened them up so the walnuts wouldn’t fall out. Wrapping them in cheese cloth would work just as well.

I grabbed a big pot I bought a few months ago and a hot plate burner to cook the walnuts. There was no way I was going to use a pot from my wife’s kitchen as I didn’t want to get punched in the face. I filled the pot with water with a couple of gallons of water, placed the nuts in it and turned on the hot plate until the water was at a boil.

After the water came to a boil, I turned the hot plate off and let the walnuts sit in the pot overnight. In the morning, I dipped a stick in the water to see how dark the stain was. It wasn’t as dark as I would have liked so I turned the burner on again. After I got the water to a boil, I turned the hot plate to low and let the walnuts simmer in the water for a few more hours.

This was the most frustrating part of the process. I kept testing the stain on some scrap oak to see how dark it was. Every hour I checked, the stain was real light and looked like tea. I started to think it wouldn’t work. So I decided that I probably had too much water in the pot and poured some of it in the sink. After removing about half the water and cooking the walnuts for a few more hours, this is what I was left with.

Satisfied with the color, I poured the stain into a mason jar using a funnel and paint strainer to collect all the gunk that had accumulated in the water from the walnuts.

This is how the stain looks on white oak. It dries a little lighter than this and raises the grain a bit but considering I made it from nuts in backyard is pretty cool.

I marked the date on top of the can so I know how fresh it is. Ideally you would want to store the stain in the refrigerator so it doesn’t go bad, but I doubt I’ll do that. I’ll  keep it around and test it every week to see how long it lasts. Unfortunately, I have nothing to stain right now. Maybe I’ll make a bookcase out of oak in the next few weeks so I can at least use it before it goes bad.

Using a Vacuum Press

Every once in a while I pull out a tool that I haven’t used in long time. I bought this vacuum press about ten years ago figuring I would use it all the time making custom plywoods out of exotic veneer but that’s never been the case. I think originally I saw David Marks use one on Woodworks and thought to myself that I had to have one. Even though I’ve only used this vacuum press about four times since I bought it, I’m still glad I did because now I need it.

I make thick wooden letters for my wife Anita. She paints them different colors and sells them in her booth. I usually make EAT which women display on their kitchen tables. The letters are made from 1 1/4″ MDF however, I can’t find a local supplier for 1 1/4″ thick MDF so I buy 1/2″ and 3/4″ MDF and laminated them together. Next month Anita is going to have a booth at a local Shabby Chic design show called Over The Moon in Lawrenceburg, IN. I figured I’d help her out and make more EATs and a few NOELs for Christmas. She sells them for $5 – $6 a letter which isn’t much but they are super easy and quick to make. Plus everyone she sells will help pay for the cost of the booth.

In order to laminate the two boards of MDF, I need the ability to properly clamp the boards together so that they press against each other equally. That’s where my vacuum press comes in handy. In order to maximize the torque of my vacuum press I built a clamping box for it. The box is nothing more than two 3/4″ MDF boards with grids cut on one side and glossy laminate on the other with the bottom board wrapped in a frame. The grids on the top help with air flow as the vacuum is working, and the laminate helps any glue squeeze out from sticking to the inside of the box.

Using the press is quite simple. I spread glue all over ope of the pieces I want to laminate making sure I get a 100% coverage. I get better results only spreading glue over one of the pieces and not both. When both pieces have glue on them, they tend to slide around when I put them in the box.  Once both pieces are stuck together, I place the top half of the box on top of them to act as the press when the air is removed.

I slide the entire box into the an industrial plastic bag with a nozzle on top and use a couple of wooden cauls to close the end of the bag. I then use as many clamps as needed to seal the bag so that it’s air tight.

I then hook up my vacuum press and turn it on for a few minutes to suck out all the air like a gigantic Food Saver machine.

 

You can see how tight the bag becomes once the vacuum starts working. After I’m satisfied with the pressure, I leave the boards to cook for a couple of hours. It’s important to turn off the vacuum and listen carefully for any air leaks that may be present. Notice the orange Jorgensen clamp at the bottom where I had to fold the plastic on top of itself in order to stop a leak. 

After a couple of hours, the boards come out perfectly laminated together. If you’re interested in learning more about vacuum presses, go to www.joewoodworker.com. It’s where I bought my vacuum and all the necessary accessories.

Empire Dresser

The Empire dresser is officially done. My wife Anita found some nice oil rubbed bronze drawer pulls on the internet after looking locally for some with no luck. It originally had glass knobs on it, but a few of them were in rough shape and not all of them matched. I think the drawer pulls she picked out look really nice and add to the character of the piece. She applied four to five coats of hemp oil to the dresser. It gives it a warm aged look without making it look too glossy.

I put a few hours in this as well. I had to strip all the old stain off, patch a veneer job, re-band all the drawer fronts with sapele, replace a brass key escutcheon, and reinforce some of the drawer bottoms with pieces of poplar.

She plans on selling this in her booth with her painted furniture and antiques this Saturday at a local street fair in Milford, OH called the Longstone Festival. She was lucky enough to get a booth as there is usually a waiting list every year. Hopefully it will sell there. I will let you know if it does. http://www.longstonestreetfestival.com/