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November 28, 2007

DMT 8" XX-Fine Dia-Sharp Diamond Stone

DMT XX-Fine Dia-Sharp Diamond StoneDiamond stone fans will now be able to hone a fine edge on their tools without switching abrasive types. The 3-micron grading makes this stone similar in performance to a hard Arkansas, a 6000-grit waterstone or an extra-fine ceramic stone, plus there's no break in period. It's ready to go right out of the box. The mono-crystalline diamond abrasive is bonded to a solid steel plate which measures 8" x 3" x 3/8" thick. Because it won't chip, crack or dish out, it may well be the ultimate jobsite toolbox stone. Diamond stones can be used wet or dry, but for best results lubricate with soapy water. Occasionally scrub the surface with a scouring powder to unclog the surface.

Visit Highland Woodworking for more information.

November 19, 2007

Q&A: Mahogany Door Finish

QuestionI had a mahogany front door installed on my house about 8 months ago, and the finish is already peeling off. The installer said they used an exterior finish purchased at a home center. Why didn't the finish last longer, and how should I go about fixing it?

answer.pngI can think of several possible reasons why the finish failed on your door. In general clear finishes don't hold up as well as opaque finishes. A properly prepared surface coated with an oil-based primer and several coats of high quality modified acrylic paint will usually last years longer than clear or stained finishes. The farther south you live and the type of sun exposure you get can also affect the longevity of a door's finish. Most contractors do a good job of hanging doors, but don't have as much knowledge about finishing materials or how to use them. This is especially true with exterior finishes. As a result they will purchase finishing products from home centers that are of poorer quality than those available at specialty shops.

If you choose to refinish your front door, the most durable option is painting. As for staining and clear coating, the process is more involved and time consuming. Here are some basic instructions.

  1. Remove the door from the hinges and remove all hardware. Lay it flat on some saw horses or a sturdy table. You'll need to cover the opening with plywood or hang a temporary door.
  2. Remove all the old finish with a good chemical stripper. Most strippers have wax in them, so you'll have to wash the door down with paint thinner once you're done stripping. If you don't remove the leftover wax, the new finish won't stick.
  3. Sand to 180-220 grit.
  4. If you choose to color the door, use a high quality pigment stain like Varathane or Bartley's. Most stains sold at home centers have dye colors added to them and they won't hold up in sunlight.
  5. Once the stain is dry, start applying a true longlasting oil spar varnish. Here's a hint. If you paid under $50 a gallon for it, then it won't hold up. The best go for $90 a gallon. Professional quality marine/spar varnishes like Waterlox Marine are made from tung oil to give them elasticity so they can expand and contract during seasonal movements. Cheaper varnishes cure hard and tend to peel once the weather changes. Also, good spars are loaded with ultraviolet light-refracting minerals, which keep the sun from breaking down the finish.
  6. You should thin the first two coats of varnish 1:1 with paint thinner, and apply it with a natural hair brush. Pay particular attention to the top and bottom edges of the door where the end grain of the door's stiles are. Moisture exchange happens more rapidly there, so you need to load these areas up with extra varnish.
  7. Lightly sand between coats of varnish with 220 grit sterated paper. Sterated paper (Norton 3X) won't clog and scratch your finish like conventional paper.
  8. Apply at least 3 more full strength coats of varnish.
  9. Since high quality spar varnish deteriorates from the outside, you'll need to inspect the outer coat each year. Typically you'll lightly sand the surface and wipe on a thinned coat of new varnish as needed.
  10. One last note. Always use high gloss spar varnish for all outdoor projects. Satin sheen finishes have flattening agents added to them, which weaken the cured film. If you want a lower sheen, you can use high gloss for all but the last coat and apply satin on the final pass. Another solution is to wait 5 days after the final coat is dry, and rub down the sheen with some 0000 steel wool lubricated with paint thinner.

Thanks for your question,
Chris Black
Highland Woodworking

Visit Highland Woodworking's WoodNews Online Archives for more tips and information.

November 15, 2007

How Do Customers Rate Our New BODGER Turning Tools?

bodgerset.jpgFor years, woodturning has been one of our fastest growing specialties here at Highland Woodworking. There's often a waiting list for customers getting into our woodturning classes, even though we're teaching more and more turning classes every year.

A post on rec.crafts.woodturning last week asked if any subscribers had used Highland's new Bodger lathe chisels. Well, these highly affordable woodturning tools are just now making their way out into our customers' shops, and as of yesterday, no Bodger tool owner had yet posted an online reply. However we are starting to hear from our customers directly. John L. of Henry County, Kentucky, just emailed us telling us his experience with his new Bodger turning tools. John wrote:

"I can proudly say that these tools are the best turning tools I own. I've noticed they really keep an edge, and the steel is really hard! I also really like the handle design. If I had to rate them on a scale of 1 to 10, they would be a 12. Thanks again for making these wonderful tools!"

We're excited and also proud to bring these tools to market. Providing high quality tools at competitive prices has been a Highland trademark for the past 30 years, and these tools truly fit the bill.

If you're already into turning, or if you're just wondering what all the fuss is about woodturning being a great means of relaxation and satisfaction (not to mention a sure source of instant gratification), you'll delight in the pleasure of working with professional grade turning tools like our Bodger tools, especially since they are so unbelievably affordable for their high standard of quality.

We invite you to give them a try, and if you're less than 100% satisfied, you can return them within 60 days for a full refund. We guarantee you'll enjoy using our new Bodger turning tools as much as we enjoy making them available to you.


Georgia Association of Woodturner's Meeting November 2007

The Georgia Association of Woodturner's meets in our Seminar Room tonight at 6:30pm. They are open to visitors, so come by and check it out. Alan Leland will be demonstrating.


Alan grew up in New Canaan, Connecticut, then attended East Carolina University. After budget cuts prevented him from pursuing corrections as a career, he worked in carpentry. During his carpentry career, he developed and interest in fine woodworking and a passion for woodturning. He served as the Vice President of The Triangle Woodturners of North Carolina.(They have a new name now.) You can even see his profile on their website here.

In 1995, he started Sliding Dovetail Woodworks, now Leland Studios. These days, he focuses on teaching woodturning.

Our store is open until 8:00pm on Thursdays so you can do some shopping, too.


November 12, 2007

Leading You On: Feed Direction Is the Key to Resawing

The more skilled you become at resawing, the more you take it for granted that any stock thickness your heart desires is yours for the making. Resawing isn't difficult, but it is a skill, which has to be learned just like any other. As usual, practice is the direct route to expertise—and as usual, the better you understand the tool the more effectively practice will teach you what you need to know. Of the main factors that go into successful resawing (blade selection, tension, feed rate and accommodating lead angle), understanding the blade's lead angle is by far the most critical part of setup.

"Lead angle" describes the direction in which wood must move in order for a given bandsaw blade to cut a straight line. As fingerprints are to fingers, so lead angle is to bandsaw blades. There's so much variability in bandsaw blades, even blades made on the same machines from the same coil of band stock, that you can expect to see a perfectly good blade lead as much as 1/2" out of parallel to your saw's miter slot—and the next blade you install may lead that far out in the other direction. As long as the results are good, of course, it doesn't matter one bit whether you feed the wood northeast or northwest. Lead angles, even strange ones, cause trouble only when you attempt to enforce your own preconceptions instead.

Point Block

Resaw Feed DirectionWhen you make a freehand cut along a straight line marked on your wood, you have to figure out lead angle as you go, adjusting your feed direction back and forth as the blade wanders off the line, gradually zeroing in on a direction that lets the blade follow the line consistently. That's a fair description of a common resawing stock control method, where you use what's commonly called a point block fence. The radiused point block helps you keep your stock vertical but leaves feed direction entirely up to you. It's an efficient way to resaw one or two pieces of wood: mark the line you want to cut, leaving a generous margin for error. Set the point block to the width you've marked, and then watch the cut closely, adjusting your feed direction as needed to follow the line. The technique is usually a little more wasteful of wood than ideal, but its appeal lies in minimal setup. Very experienced point block users can make consistent cuts with little waste, but for many sawyers it may be more practical to use a straight fence.

Straight and Narrow

When you have more than a few pieces of wood to resaw, you can do the work quite accurately, repeatably and efficiently with a straight fence tuned precisely to the blade's lead angle. Begin as described above, making a freehand rip along a straight line. Once you're sawing straight down the line, stop the saw and pencil marks on your saw table along the edge of the stock. Set your fence to the marks. Now make a resaw cut, if not in the work at hand, then in a short scrap of roughly similar hardness and width. Begin the cut gently, so initial impact doesn't twist the blade and start the cut wrong. As the cut proceeds, notice if the stock wants to wander away from the rear of the fence—if so, stop and adjust the fence angle accordingly. If the wood stays tight against the fence and the saw begins to labor, stop and ease the rear of the fence away from the wood.

Take a Bow

With the cut completed, stand a straightedge against the resawn face of the board. Unless you're just plain lucky, you'll see that the blade bowed left or right within the stock. You know that the solid body of a blade can't simply move sideways through solid wood.Resaw Feed Direction To create a bowed cut, the teeth must lead right or left within the wood (where they're free of the lateral guides' constraint), twisting the blade and making it saw its way out of vertical. To keep the cut vertical, adjust your fence to match the way the blade twisted. If the blade bowed to the right, adjust the rear of your fence slightly to the left; if the blade bowed left, reset fence angle slightly right at the rear. Make another test cut and check the face of the wood again. It may take as many as three or four tests to get the fence set for flawless sawing, but once that's done you can resaw piece after identical piece, with cuts so straight that one pass through the planer is all it takes to produce clean, flat wood at your target thickness.

Visit Highland Woodworking's Library for more tool tips and information.

November 8, 2007

Work Sharp 3000 Sharpening Center

Work Sharp 3000 Sharpening CenterThis sandpaper-based sharpener is a good value for the budget conscious woodworker or the enthusiast who wants to forego the learning curve of other methods. The Work Sharp is designed to sharpen carving tools, chisels and plane irons up to 2" wide. The 1/5 HP motor spins at a comfortable 580 rpm, so you can easily sharpen other tools freehand.

When sharpening chisels and plane irons, an air-cooled heat sink prevents burning and eliminates the need for messy lubricants. You flatten and polish tool backs on top of a 6" diameter x 3/8" thick piece of tempered glass coated with adhesive backed sandpaper. You then hone the bevel from underneath the glass on the angle port. The angle port adjusts to 20°, 25°, 30° and 35° for predictable and repeatable sharpening.

Carving tools are ground underneath a slotted backer disc, so you can see the tool's bevel as you sharpen. Just color the edge with a black marker, and grind sharpen until the mark disappears. The slots in the backer disc keep cool air flowing over the tool to prevent burning.

Strip paper and clean glass and plastic backers with acetone. 2-year manufacturer's warranty.

NOTE: The Work Sharp comes with some 400 grit paper that attaches to the angle port to remove any burr left by the sharpening process. We recommend not using this paper, as it will scratch the back of your polished tool. To remove any leftover burr, just lightly rub the back of the tool over the 3600 or 6000 micro-mesh paper with the machine off.

The Work Sharp 3000 Sharpening Center includes:

  • Work Sharp 3000 Sharpener
  • 2 tempered glass wheels (you can mount abrasive on both sides) for flat tools
  • 1 slotted see-through wheel for carving tools
  • Top tool rest for free hand sharpening
  • Crepe stick for cleaning the sandpaper
  • An abrasive kit, which includes one each of the following: 120, 400, 1000 & 3600 grit sharpening discs; 80, 400, & 1200 grit slotted sharpening discs.

Visit Highland Woodworking for more information on this and all of our fine woodworking products.

November 6, 2007

Preventing Bubbles from Forming in your Finish Coats

by Alan Noel

Whether you're a hobbyist or a pro, brushing on an even coat of bubble-free oil- or water-based varnish is often a very frustrating task. Sometimes bubbles even appear mysteriously while the finish is drying, even though they weren't visible during the application process.

Here are six tips I've found to help eliminate those pesky tiny bubbles:

  1. Never shake the finish. Shaking the container will cause bubbles. Always stir the finish in the can.
  2. Be sure to apply the finish in the direction of the grain whenever possible.
  3. Always use a good quality brush. This is the most important part of the process. A high quality natural bristle brush should be used for oil based varnishes and the best for water based finishes are brushes having synthetic bristles.
  4. After brushing on a coat of finish, use a different dry brush of the same type and gently brush the finish holding the brush at a 45 degree angle to remove any bubbles that are in the finish.
  5. Remember that two light coats are better than one thick one. Laying it on too thick will promote skimming of the finish. Trapped thinners will then force their way towards the surface creating bubbles.
  6. Never attempt to finish any surface unless you are sure the wood is completely dry and ready for finishing. Trapped moisture can cause bubbles to appear long after the lights have been turned off.

Visit Highland Woodworking's WoodNews Online Archives for more tips and information.