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Woodworking

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Custom Furniture Woods

There are thousands of species of wood in the world, some more suited than others for furniture making. Here are a few of my favorites.


Walnut

Walnut is one of the most popular furniture making woods in the history of the craft, for several very good reasons - it works easily, and accepts a wide range of color and finish beautifully. It is relatively inexpensive, is grown in the US, and is not endangered. It my personal favorite. I often buy walnut just to have piles of it around, waiting to be turned into furniture

Walnut has a rich, dark brown color, with tan sap wood and a fairly fine grain structure. It has open pores, but they are not large, as is the case with oak. It can be spectacularly figured, or sedate and calm. 


White Oak

White oak has a fairly course, open grain structure, which can be manipulated to great result, such as in this chest, which has been wire brushed to bring out a soft texture. It can also be sanded fairly smooth, and given a refined finish. It is hard as an anvil, and as a result is often used in flooring. It accepts color reasonably well. It works easily, but can be a bit unstable, resulting in above average movement as humidity levels increase and decrease. I love white oak for certain types of projects, as it is very inexpensive in the rustic grade, and can be nicely figured. Furniture made from white oak is stout and heavy. 


Mahogany

Mahogany isn't what it used to be, to put it bluntly. The vast majority of mahogany sold today is African mahogany, which is not a true mahogany.

Honduran mahogany and Cuban mahogany are "the real deal" so to speak, but both are endangered, and in many places illegal to log. There is a great deal of information available for reading online if you wish to learn more.

That said, African mahogany can be quite beautiful. It is a rich red color, works easily, and accepts a variety of finishes well. However, the quality varies greatly, and ordering a pile can be a bit like rolling dice. I tend to steer clients to walnut or cherry when possible, where quality is much more consistent.

Much higher quality mahogany is available in veneer form.


Ash

Ash has a fairly coarse, open grain structure like white oak, but is a bit finer and more consistent, color wise. It is naturally a light tan color, with occasional medium brown areas, most of which can be selected out if consistency is required. It finishes naturally to a light gold tone. It is very durable - baseball bats and some tool handles are made from ash. Ash is reasonably inexpensive, domestically grown and can be beautifully figured, as in this example of book-matched ash veneer cabinetry. Ash accepts stain reasonably well. It is a great go-to wood for any project, and works well in traditional and contemporary applications.


Cherry

Cherry is another very fine and popular furniture wood. It is a rich orange / brown color, has a closed grain structure, and can be beautifully figured. Two things to think about when considering using cherry in your project are:

  • Cherry is photosensitive - it darkens with age. The more light it is exposed to, the faster it will darken. But this is a good thing. Old cherry is a thing of beauty, and much coveted (and often faked poorly).
  • Cherry does not accept color well, and consequently is fussy to finish if clients want a dark tone right out of the box. I usually recommend a natural finish, which will allow cherry to do it's thing, the result of which is better than color in any can. Some people help the aging process along by placing cherry furniture in the sun, and rotating it to accept tone evenly.

Maple

Maple is a light toned, very fine-grained wood. It is hard as an anvil, and as a result is a bit tough with which to work. It can have excellent figure. I love maple as a drawer wood, as I prefer darker toned woods for furniture, with light, contrasting drawers


Macassar Ebony

Macassar ebony is used heavily in Art Deco designs. It is profoundly expensive. TCF understands the techniques required to work with this tricky wood. It is most often seen in veneer form, as the decorative effects achieved with it in that form can be amazing if done properly. 

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TCF Wood Finishes

I've created a pretty flexible finishing system I can adapt to achieve a variety of finishes. Here are a few examples. 


  • Sanding to 220
  • Color on the walnut, not on the ash
  • Shellac x 2 coats
  • 320 sanding
  • Wipe on poly
  • 320 sanding
  • Wipe on poly
  • 320 sanding
  • Steel wool and wax

  • Sanding to 220
  • Color 
  • Shellac x 2 coats
  • 320 sanding
  • Glaze (Adds depth and darkness to angles and corners)
  • Shellac
  • 320 sanding
  • Wipe on poly
  • 320 sanding
  • Wipe on poly
  • 320 sanding
  • Steel wool and wax

  • Sanding to 220
  • Gel Stain Color
  • Shellac x 2 coats
  • 320 sanding
  • Shellac (building depth)
  • 320 sanding
  • Wipe on poly
  • 320 sanding
  • Wipe on poly
  • 400, 600 sanding
  • Pumice and Rotten Stone applied with a felt block (rubbing out the finish).
  • Wax
  • Steel wool and wax

  • Sanding to 150
  • Light distressing
  • Wire brushing (brings out texture)
  • Sanding to 220
  • Color (Varathane Kona here)
  • Highlighting (sand edges here and there to remove color).
  • Shellac x 2
  • 320 sanding
  • Glaze (Adds depth and darkness to angles and corners).
  • Shellac
  • 320 sand
  • Wipe on poly
  • 320 sanding
  • Wipe on poly
  • 320 sanding
  • Steel wool and wax

  • Sanding to 150
  • Heavy distressing
  • Sanding to 220
  • Color 
  • Highlighting (sand edges here and there to remove color).
  • Shellac x 2
  • 320 sanding
  • Glaze (Adds depth and darkness to angles and corners).
  • Shellac
  • 320 sand
  • Wipe on poly
  • 320 sanding
  • Wipe on poly
  • 320 sanding
  • Steel wool and wax

Cherry is tough to finish. You can't apply color directly to the wood, or it will splotch. Cherry will darken with age, but here's how I add color to cherry if requested by my client.

  • Sanding to 220
  • Shellac x 2 (I'm sealing the wood thoroughly so that no color touches it).
  • 320 sanding
  • Shellac: Clear and Amber mixed in various ratios to achieve different tones.
  • 320 sand
  • If more color is desired, I often use universal tints in very small quantities in the shellac.  
  • Or I use wood stain on top of shellac (wipe on, wipe off). Seal with shellac if color step is used.
  • 320 sanding
  • Wipe on poly
  • 320 sanding
  • Steel wool and wax

This is a finish recipe I use on oak to achieve a very old, rugged appearance. It varies by the piece a bit. Sometimes I add glaze, or vary the amount of poly depending on the sheen.

  • Sanding to 150
  • Light distressing
  • Wire brushing (brings out texture)
  • I apply a solution of steel wool soaked in white vinegar over night, strained, then diluted in water to achieve various tones. Much experimentation and adding / subtracting of water is required to achieve a specif tone. The vinegar solution reacts to the tannins in the oak. The effect is almost instantaneous.
  • Allow piece to dry
  • Highlighting (sand edges here and there to remove color)
  • Wipe on poly
  • 320 sanding
  • Wipe on poly
  • 320 sanding
  • Steel wool and wax

  • Sanding to 150
  • Light distressing
  • Wire brushing (brings out texture)
  • Sanding to 220
  • Wipe on poly
  • 320 sanding
  • Wipe on poly
  • 320 sanding
  • Steel wool and wax

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Tree to Table

I'm making a table from a tree. 

A few months ago, we needed to have a red oak tree removed from our yard, as it had died suddenly. Rather than let all of that wood go to waste, I decided it was the perfect time to invest in an Alaskan Mill - a small, portable saw mill using a chain-saw. The mill is shown in the banner image. I've started a photo journal to track my progress. It's going to take a few years, as the wood will need to air dry one year for every inch of thickness. I'll probably give it three years. 

I'm using a 24" Echo chainsaw with a 24" Granberg Model G776 mill. All in, the mill and the saw together cost me about $700. Just a quick piece of advice for those interested in giving this a shot - if you can't afford a really powerful chain saw, don't get a low-power, inexpensive saw and expect it to work for this application. If you are interested in learning about how to do this, don't hesitate to contact me.

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How to Cut Curved Moulding

Curved parts can be tricky to cut precisely. The basic principle here can be applied to any size moulding, and can also be done on the table saw with a sled and larger discs. The curved pieces are turned on the lathe in full circles. You'll get two pieces of corner moulding per full circle. Allow for several extra pieces, as you'll need them for set up and errors.

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How to Make a Profiled Scraper

As a custom furniture maker, I often encounter situations which necessitate the creation of specialized tools, like this profiled scraper. This tool is useful when you need to make a small amount of really unique, and can't find a router bit or shaper cutter to do the job. Feel free to contact me with questions here.

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