Monday, April 20, 2009

The Sharpie marker as a finishing tool

If you've ever had a poster / painting / picture professionally framed, you know what that can cost. But then if you are doing it yourself, the molding choices available most places aren't as good as what is available at the frame shops and what IS available is often pretty expensive and sold by the foot. Another alternative is to buy a pre-made picture frame and use as is, or cut it down to size. Depending on where you buy it, this can be a lot cheaper then professional framing or buying picture frame molding (or any molding for that matter) by the foot. In this case my sister Stephanie had found some nice poster-sized stained black frames that she really liked that were too big for the prints she wanted framed. The frames were shaped, pressed and even a little hand-carved (if I had to guess on how they were produced) which made the profile more than a little irregular. There wasn't a repeat to the pattern which meant that the corners were going to have to be joined somewhat haphazardly. These frames had a black stain with a satin finish over a very light wood. I cut the pieces down to the desired size, but the corner joints were looking pretty ugly - the miters were perfect, but the raw edges exposed the light color wood when I did a dry fit of the pieces. What to do? If I sanded the corners down I would have even more work to do trying to match the stain and finish? Luckily I had the scrap corners of the original frame to look at. When I pulled one apart I was able to see what they did - they had simply painted the end grain black and didn't worry about the surface irregularities of the joint. So, with a large black Sharpie permanent marker, I colored the end-grain edges that might be exposed, while completely avoiding touching the face of the frame pieces, as the colors weren't exact matches. This worked perfectly!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Free Wood, part 3, WOOD is made of wood

Ok, this last one is only a free / cheap source of wood if you have the time / tools and resources to gather. Depending on the value you place on your time, this could be a more expensive method of gathering wood than paying retail. Wood turners are well familiar with finding a beautiful bowl hidden in a piece of firewood - but that same piece of wood can also yield some nice short boards! You don't have to have a sawmill to take advantage of firewood. Any process that gives you a piece of wood that is small enough to work with the tools you have is fine.
For non-woodturning woodworking you'll need (at a minimum) a thickness planer (and sled) and a shingle froe. Dang, too bad that Lee Valley no longer sells the one pictured. It is the one I have. Well, a right or left handed hatchet (one side of head is completely in one plane, and the helve is offset accordingly) will do the job as well or better for small pieces of straight grained wood. I think a bandsaw (and sled) set up for resawing is really the way to go - will maximize the amount of nice boards you'll get from each piece of wood anyway.
My point is that there are plenty of ways to get to a workable piece of wood from a piece of firewood. A lot is going to depend on how green / wet the wood is. If the wood has been stored inside for years, you may be able to use it immediately, but any cutting releases tension, so even with dry wood it might be better to wait until you see what the wood is going to do / how it is going to move before you use it.
When I cut the tops off of a couple of holly trees (Ilex aquifolium) I saved the trunks, even though they were fairly small. I used a sled and my thickness planer to get flat sides, my jointer to get a good 90 degree angle and my table saw to start the cuts for quartering it. Lots of wet dust and shavings! Many people wouldn't want wood that wet anywhere near their fine woodworking tools. After I got the wood quartered, I squared it up some and used latex paint to seal the end grain and a couple of inches of each end and stickered it to allow good airflow. In a year or two I'll have some nice white wood. I've done the same with other wood, generally only when I can see that it will have good figure that I don't want to go to waste.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Free Wood, part 2, ugly furniture is MADE of wood

Yep, it is true! Even the ugliest piece of wooden furniture is still, well, wood. I can't believe how long it took me to figure that one out. Really, what triggered these entries on free wood (other than the acquired habits of a scrounger) is this article about recycling an ugly table into a padded bench. Yep, the table in the picture. ModHomeEcTeacher saw a padded bench, I see a bunch of lumber! If those legs are 2x2s (well, the shrunk down dimensional lumber version of a 2x2) than that bench is 4' long and just the planks on top are 8 inches wide, and nearly an inch thick. The side planks look to be 6 inches wide and nearly as long. I figure there is more than 8 board feet of usable wood in this table. She paid $13.99 for it at Goodwill - huge rookie mistake.
I would pay a maximum of... ...nothing. Yep, nada, zip, zilch, zero, nunca, niente. Oh, I would take it rather than reject it (for the price of a zero without a rim) as nice wide boards can be used for something, eventually. But the wood doesn't look to be anything too special. So where do I do my free & sometimes cheap furniture shopping?
The first two places are pretty competitive: the free section & Lots of cheap people out there & being first is often the only criteria for scoring a deal. The Craigslist furniture and garage sale sections can also yield fruit. Oh, in the garage sale section look for estate sales that aren't being given by professionals. Best is when you turn up furniture that isn't currently in style, or is incomplete in some way. 1950's Early American roughcut thick Maple coffee tables, a solid wood footboard without matching headboard - that sort of thing. Sure, the Craigslist materials section is also great, but spotty - I did pay 50 cents a board ft for some roughsawn Walnut once though, so it is worth checking. To really mine online sources it is all about the keywords you use to search the ads. I like search keywords like: "wood", "broken", "table", "walnut", "oak", "maple", "hardwood" and so forth. Using online resources to pre-shop just makes sense. Look for local papers online too - often their classified sections are the same as the ones in the birdcage liner & searchable, too.
Goodwill or any of the other great service organizations that have storefronts can be possible sources, but you will pay more than you need to. The biggest problem you are going to have is when you get a piece of furniture that is too good to disassemble, and you end up repairing an antique. I hate it when that happens! (grin)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Free Wood, part 1, industrial and construction salvage

Among friends, Leach folk are widely considered to be cheap, if not frugal. That hasn't always been the case for me & doesn't apply to all aspects of my life. But, given that I don't make my living as a woodworker, part of my fun is smart shopping / bargain hunting.
I've talked about bargain hunting used quality tools, but what about the wood to apply those tools to? Gather ye round, I'm going to give up all the secrets in my next few entries.

Brief side note: As with power tools and all other woodworking related activities, your safety is your concern. I do not accept liability for any reliance you place on any information on this blog, in this entry, or any other - or for that matter anything I link to. I do recommend heavy gloves, long sleeve shirts, blue jeans, eye and ear protection and whatever tools you need to safely do what I'm talking about below. Some sort of metal detector might be a good idea too.

First was a small company that would receive shipments of very large, very heavy irregularly shaped pieces of equipment - and did us all the favor of periodically leaving the staple and nail infested pine / fir 2x4s at the sidewalk in a well organized pile. This was discovered by brother Greg around 7 or 8 years ago. What a bonanza! Assuming that you were the early bird, you could fully load a small pickup & not make much of a dent in what was offered. As the crates were often 12 feet long or longer (no idea what they were receiving) there were a bunch of nice long straight 2x4s to be had, with a group of 4 nails every 4 feet or so. Plus the vertical and cross pieces were often 4 to 6 feet long as well. Sure, most of the wood was pretty low grade, but the reality was we ended up wasting very little except as sawdust. Nail pulling before storing was the biggest pain - actually the giant staples that were used to secure the cardboard / fiberboard sides of the crates were the worst. As it was all single-use clean wood, the nails were easy to spot, so we didn't bother to use a metal detector. But what does junk wood like this have to do with woodworking? Plenty. We made a lot of things out of it - frames, shelves, fencing, assembly tables, sawhorses - you name it. If you make custom furniture out of only the finest woods you still have a place for pine or fir, even if it is only to make jigs and mock-ups. For us, any project that didn't demand a hardwood was made from salvaged 2x4s. The biggest problem is locating sources like that.

The second source we came across was when a friend Theron's Mother sold her rather nice 6000 sq ft+ home to a developer who was more interested in the land. He was able to let us have access to the place for just less than a week before the bulldozers were going to come in. We salvaged a variety of material including molding, doors, plywood from the attic floor, raised panel walls - any number of things. We were so busy with the trim that we didn't dig into walls or floors for framing members, although one of our group did salvage treated and untreated deck

There is a recycling center here that makes furniture from old house framing wood and other scrap that would otherwise go to landfill. The Rebuilding Center and ReFind Furniture are worth checking out in website form, even if you don't live within driving distance of their Portland, Oregon location. But then, I just mention them as good examples of what I/We/You can do with debris. A digression, but worth the trip. The trestle table pictured is of tight grained old-growth Doug Fir salvaged from an old home's beams and other framing members. You can just make out the black stains left by rusty nails in the picture. I'm not one to "antique" a piece of furniture by abusing it or making questionable finishing choices to make it look old, but something about the filled nail holes in these beautiful pieces of furniture, reminding us that this wood was saved from landfill or burn pile... Well, I think it is a beautiful thing, anyway.

Anywho, consider industrial and (de)construction salvage as a source of woodworking wood. Gotta be careful about embedded nails and suchlike though. Would be a crying shame to ruin a tool or some vital part of your anatomy just to save a few bucks and keep beautiful tight-grained wood out of land fills...