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Newsletter #117

Get Your Woodworking Head and Hands in Tune

Thirty five years ago I decided to totally change my life. I wanted to use my musical background to start a new business. I decided to become a piano technician. My first problem was how to learn to tune a piano! I was lucky. I sought out the man who had tuned my piano for years and I cajoled him into taking me on as a student. Arthur had never done this before.

Over the course of five months he taught me to tune using just a pitch fork and a tuning hammer. I gradually learned to use the tuning fork to set the A above middle C to 440 vibrations/second and then set the piano’s temperament, the 13 notes surrounding that A. I learned to understand the relationship between that A in the temperament and the other notes in the temperament. After that it’s just a question of tuning the rest of the piano to the notes in the temperament. Now there is an easy way to tune.  A little device set up on the piano tells you when you have pulled the string to the right pitch. The red light goes off and a green light comes on. I still tune the old fashioned way because that’s how Arthur taught me. That’s what is in my head and my hands.

How does this relate to woodworking? In the 21st century there are so many places to go to acquire our skills. There are hands on demos in stores and trade shows, videos to buy and on the internet, magazines, books and websites. Who are our experts?  Whose advice and methods can you trust? Why can’t everyone just have an “Arthur?”  It’s so much more complicated than learning to tune a piano. The woodworker has to make decisions, experiment, sometimes fail and eventually use his/her skills to create work that speaks to his/her sensibility and bring a sense of satisfaction. Soon the woodworker’s head and hands know just what to do.

My job as an editor is to find respected writers and woodworkers who can share their knowledge with our readers and help them achieve the levels they seek. This month Charles Neil is our writer. I met Charles through my old friend Sal Marino.  Sal worked at Constantine’s, the  world famous woodworking supplier in the Bronx, now in Florida. Sal is now part of, specializing in veneers.  Sal was surprised that I didn’t know Charles and after Googling Charles, (a 21st century tool) reading his website and watching his videos, I called him. Although Charles was familiar with our products, he was not using any of them. We connected and I asked him to be one of our writers. I’m glad to say, I can now call him my friend.

I hope Charles’ article gives you something to think about and perhaps try. We never stop learning.

bill boxer signature

Sr. Vice President and COO
Apollo Sprayers International, Inc.


Product of the Month: Erecta-Rack and FREE Carry Bag

We’re glad to say that Erecta-Rack is one of our more popular items. Most woodworkers lack the space to do everything they want, especially when it comes to drying recently finished projects. Erecta-Rack is an ingenious, not to say brilliant, solution to this problem.

Here’s what our expert Glen Huey has to say about Erecta-Rack, “If you cannot spread the parts around the shop, you must go vertical. Erecta-Rack has a system that allows you to build layers of shelving to space your parts in an upward fashion, and the price is more than reasonable.

Erecta-Rack is a combination of galvanized pipe and injection moulded plastic support blocks that fit in together – think tinker-toys for the finishing room. Build the first layer, fill it to the brim with your pieces by laying the materials across the galvanized pipe supports then add the next layer of blocks and pipe. The setup is easy and the racks are good to 500 pounds when at 10 levels. If you have extra-long materials to dry, you set out a third support tower and you’re good to go.”

Glen also said. “When finishing a piece of furniture with many parts, such as a chest of drawers, it’s especially important to make use of all the space that you can.” We think you’ll feel the same way!

Finishing Feature Article by Charles Neil: Love at First Wipe

After 40 some odd years of finishing, it takes a lot to impress me. Aqua-Coat Grain Filler managed to do just that.

I was amazed reading Bill Boxer’s article last month on the pianos and a gloss black finish. I had to chuckle and thought, “Yep, been there, done that” and black is very unforgiving unless its perfect, it shows everything. It seems no matter what one does, multi-layer finishes shrink back, never fails. Like Bill, I have rubbed the finish out to a mirror then two weeks later, the grain is back. Screaming and throwing things doesn’t help. Don’t ask me how I know, but it doesn’t.

Now, through the years I have used about every grain filler there is, with limited success. Solvent and oil based shrink back. Both tend to seal the wood but oil is the worst. READ MORE

Finishing Tip by Bob Flexner: What Is “Off the Gun” Finish?

“Off-the-gun” finish is a widely used phrase among finishers. It means the finish hasn’t been rubbed out. It’s the simplest kind of sprayed finish—spray it on and leave it as is.

I’ve seen the phrase used to mean a poor finish, but this is not a correct usage. An off-the-gun finish doesn’t have to be a poor finish. In fact, it can be quite a good finish, and professional finishers often brag about their off-the-gun finishes. It all comes down to keeping everything clean, and adjusting the spray gun and the finish to reduce the orange peel to nothing, or at least close to nothing.

The finish on almost every commercial object you come in contact with is “off the gun.” Very few finishers, or shops, or factories go to the trouble and expense of rubbing out finishes.

Look at some off-the-gun finishes in a reflected light and feel them with your hand. You will see, and feel, that the quality varies widely.


Finishing Tip by Bob Flexner: What Is Water-White Finish?

nitrocellulose-water-white-lacqueropt.jpgThe term “water white” when used in the context of a finish means a finish that is totally devoid of amber coloring in liquid form. The finish looks like water in the can.

In practice, the term is used to describe a type of lacquer, and sometimes a conversion varnish. But you should be aware that water-white doesn’t necessarily mean non-yellowing. It depends on the resins used in the finish. The only totally non-yellowing lacquer is CAB-acrylic. CAB is the acronym for cellulose acetate butyrate.

Water-white also doesn’t mean “white in the can.” Water-based finishes, which didn’t exist when the term was created, are white in the can (though clear on the wood), and these finishes don’t yellow as they age.