Thursday, July 29, 2010

General Finishes Sample Packs

I'm doing a trivial stand for a friend's new 55" flatscreen.  He bought a nice low stand for the components, but need a smaller stand on the top to get the TV to a good viewing height and house the center speaker.  Thing is, they want an exact match on the finish.  This comes up too often.

Rockler Woodworking sells a fantastic sample pack for General Finishes' stains and dyes.  There are 5 packs available depending on the type of dye or stain (water or oil-based) along with one for milk paints.  The boards are a good size, have a clearcoat on them, and are dual sided: one side is oak the other birch.  Getting a match to my friend's entertainment center took all of a minute and best of all, I didn't have to carry the drawer to the store to match to the samples mounted way up high.

The packs aren't cheap at $20 each, but I got them on a sale and really only use the water-based dyes and water-based stains.  Definitely worth considering.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lee Valley

I've always been a fan of Lee Valley Tools from Canada.  They have the best customer service bar none.

I recently ordered a new product from a flyer called the Thread I.D. Nut and Bolt kit.  Certainly not a critical kit, but I've been burned a few times with using plastic ID cards to determine a nut or bolt and getting the metric vs imperial wrong for close sizes.  Anyway, it was an impulse buy, right?

The kit took forever to arrive as it was very backordered, but I did eventually receive it sometime in early June.  After I returned from my vacation, I had a letter from Lee Valley.  Essentially, Lee Valley determined that the kit mailed out didn't meet their quality standards because the thread size numbers can wear prematurely.  They included 2 cards you can use with the kit in case the numbers on the kit become unreadable.  They also refunded the full price of the kit.  This was all on their own; I never called them about the product.  Here's a scan of the letter:

I can't think of another company that, out of the blue, refunds a product you purchased because they later decided it wasn't as good as they hoped.  This isn't some safety issue... it's a box of labeled nuts and bolts.

In a related Lee Valley customer service story, I purchased an amazing Japanese file and some file handles.  The handles didn't work for me... basically the file's tang was so hard that the file handle's threads couldn't cut it to hold.  For the $5 each, I assumed I could reuse them somewhere since the hassle and cost of shipping them back would cost the same as the handles.  Months pass and I come home to a voice mail message from Lee Valley customer support saying they see I ordered these handles and want to know if they are working okay for me.  I called back to say they didn't with the Japanese files, but I kept them anyway due to the hassle/costs of returning them.  They refunded the cost of the handles and let me keep them; they have since removed those handles from their catalog as they only worked on cheap soft files (soft files?!)

Lee Valley continues to impress me (so I'll continue to store some money with them :)

Equalizing Walnut Sapwood and Heartwood

I'm making yet another applied frame for a mirror (thankfully this is the last for the foreseeable future!).  This one is made of walnut and needs to match an existing vanity. In this picture, you see the final result of dying, staining, and glazing the profiles.

Thing is, the piece of walnut I used was a scrap in the bin and was loaded with sapwood making even coloring tricky.  (wow! I used a piece of saved scrap!)  Here's how I got the final result.

Something (among many many things) I learned from following Charles Neil is that you can dye a blend of sapwood and heartwood to set the same tone before staining and you'll eliminate the variances.  Now, I've made a couple projects that specifically used the sapwood to artistic ends, but this isn't one.

In this photo, you see a mixed piece of walnut sapwood and heartwood dyed orange with General Finished Orange Dye. If you look carefully, you can make out a sapwood/heartwood boundary swooping down from the top right of the test scrap to the lower left corner.  The orange has equalized it with a warming color.  The two brown patches are tests of General Finished Black Walnut stain.  The boundary is basically gone under the stain.  Note that the black walnut stain seems to be discontinued as I cannot find my can on the site; I got the quart for $1 at a store clearance :)

You can see here how the orange equalized all the frame pieces.  I could stop here, but really, my house isn't decorated à la '70s.

After staining.  Note that I did a bit of 'glazing' while applying the stain.  Mostly I worked off the excess I didn't want with the foam brush and left some on the surface to dry where I wanted to accent the beads and cove.  This isn't true glazing, but similar in effect.  Maybe I'll call it "stazing"!

Now the color really comes out with a couple coats of General Finishes Seal-A-Cell.

Definitely liking the color ...and that this was all scrap walnut and clearance stain :)

 This technique for equalizing the color between the sapwood and heartwood comes up often in Charles Neil's videos.  He has, however, released a 6 DVD set that covers the use of General Finishes water-based dyes and stains on 6 hardwood varieties.  The set is called It's All About The Color and I highly recommend it; you see everything being applied in realtime.

Fixing Big Router Chipout

While making a simple applied frame for a mirror, I had to flush trim an edge to the main frame face. Duh, how easy?! Thing is, I didn't notice that one piece to flush had a crack in it. The second the router bit hit it, a pretty large chunk splintered off. This is how I fixed it, which didn't look as good in the end as I hoped, but I'll tell ya afterwords how it could have been done correctly.

I cleaned up the chipout with a chisel to make it a neat scoop with a straight edge on the left of the scoop.  I have some hide glue in the recess to better show it.

Next, I had several thin strips of walnut from the bandsaw in the garbage so I pulled them out (for the curious, no, I don't empty the cutoff garbage very often ;)

Basically, I made a kind of bent lamination of the strips into the recess.  You'll see that the frame and these strips have a lot of sapwood in them.  I really don't care about the sapwood as I'll equalize it with dye then stain and glaze it with General Finished Black Walnut to match an existing vanity... though it makes this repair look bad later :)

Voilà, walnut sandwich in the recess.

Clamp the sandwich like a Dagwood...

...and later marvel at how you turned an ugly recess into a hideous wood wart!

Flush the surfaces with a flush trim saw.  Note that this laminate will likely chip out more than the original cracked wood if you hit it with a router.  Even with a spiral bit.  The initial chip out was from a spiral bit.

Voilà the result with some mineral spirits to show the color.  As you can see, it is pretty painful from a color matching point of view, but I'm equalizing the sapwood and heartwood with dye later.  As I write this, I've already glazed them and honestly I have a difficult time finding this repair.

How to do it better if you are clear coating?  Well, for one, I would have picked thin slices that were all heartwood so they would have a consistent color.  Second, depending on whether or not all sides of the repair are visible, I might consider laying shorter slices deep in the recess then top with one that will form the entire visible portion of the repair.  This method, though, might show small voids on the side facing you in the picture and that may not be what your project can tolerate.  In my case, that side is the side mounted to a wall a could easily tolerate small voids to make a better show side.

Best repair? Notice the crack beforehand and hit it with cyanoacrylic...