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Newsletter #120

Choosing the Tools to Meet Great Expectations

‘It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom. It was the age of foolishness.’  Charles Dickens, in A Tale of Two Cities, wrote this 151 years ago and it still resonates today for me. At times, when my family and my job are going particularly well, or I am feeling optimistic about the world, I think it’s the best of times. Then something happens, or I think about some of the distressing world events and it is the worst of times. I don’t think these feelings are unique to me. I am sure that everyone has these periods, hopefully brief and not long term.

We woodworkers have a special way to get through “the worst of times.” Whether professionally or as a vocation, woodworkers have a passion that can lift us out of the worries, and fully occupy our time and thoughts.  We get a break from the hard times and we can produce a product that is beautiful and useful.

In order to travel into my worriless zone I need to make my workspace work for me in the least troublesome way. If you are like me, you want to have the best equipment and products you can afford to support the craft that benefits us all in so many ways. And, if you are like me, money matters. After much thought, I decided that the key word for me is “expectations”. What do I expect of my tools and equipment and the products that I use in my craft?  Is a bargain really a bargain if it cannot reach my expectations?

So often we are faced with both an array of options and performance promises from the products we are considering. When we see a range of price for similar products from inexpensive to expensive, do you ask the same question that I do? Why is there such a wide range of cost when the options appear to be similar? If you start to explore and review, you begin to see the differences. Then you can evaluate your expectations and make a wise choice of product.

I was asked recently why one spray gun is less than $100.00 and another is $400.00. They look similar and when seen in demos and on videos they both appear to spray nicely and evenly and with minimal overspray. My reply was simple. Ask these questions, not just for spray guns, but for all your equipment.

•    Exactly what do I want this equipment to do?
•    Does it have all the features I need?
•    Will the bargain product really do the job?
•    How long will the bargain product last?
•    What kind of support is there for the high end and the less expensive product?
•    How do I maintain the product?
•    Are replacement parts available?
•    How do I get the parts? Are they readily available from a reputable source?
•    Will the “bargain” stay consistent?

If the bargain product truly meets your expectations and you are confident in the product, then go ahead.  You are fortunate. If not, you might have decisions to make.

Your work is most often judged on how it looks. The best tools, equipment and supporting products make your work easier, more enjoyable, rewarding and most of all help you achieve a priceless sense of pride and accomplishment, so important in the best and worst of times.

bill boxer signature
Sr. Vice President and COO
Apollo Sprayers International, Inc.


Product of the Month:

Bob Flexner Reviews: Soy-Gel Paint Stripper

Editor’s Note. We didn’t ask Bob to write this article, he submitted it is as one of this month’s tips. The fact is, we couldn’t have said it better!

The Soy-Gel paint stripper sold by is an excellent product. It uses n-methyl pyrrolidone (NMP) as the active stripping ingredient. Many of the most effective alternative strippers (alternative to methylene-chloride and flammable-solvent strippers) are based on NMP.

You need to be aware, however, that NMP works slowly, much more slowly than methylene chloride or flammable solvents. In the early 1990s, a number of manufacturers introduced stripping products based on NMP and claimed working times similar to methylene-chloride and flammable-solvent strippers. This resulted in NMP strippers getting the reputation of “not working,” and the market dried up.

Slow working is related to slow evaporating, and slow evaporation is the real advantage of Soy-Gel paint remover. If you give it time, it will remove five or ten coats of paint with only one application. You can’t do this with the faster-evaporating, traditional paint strippers. They evaporate so fast that you don’t have time to remove more than a coat or two at a time. You’re always fighting the fast evaporation rate.

Soy-Gel won’t evaporate from the surface for days, so the trick using this stripper is to test now and then with a putty knife to see if all the coats have been loosened from the wood. For many coats of paint, it may take a day or two for this to happen. But once it has, the coats of paint are easy to remove.

Finishing Feature Article by Glen Huey

Go for the Glaze – The Results Are Worth the Effort

I’m no different from most woodworkers. I don’t really enjoy finishing projects any more than the next guy. (For me, the fun is building the piece, especially as the project begins.) My early finishing involved oil-based stains that were slathered on, then adjusted to the final color by how much or how little you wiped the surface. With nearly zero penetration, the finish laid on the surface and was easily nicked or scratched to show raw wood underneath. Later, as I contemplated building furniture to sell to customers, I was advised about aniline dye and gave that a try. The results were READ MORE

Finishing Tip by Bob Flexner: Avoiding Blotching in Cherry

Cherry is a beautiful wood that is easy to work. But it is a problematic wood to finish because it has a tendency to blotch, even with just a finish applied—no stain.

non-blotchy-and-blotchy-cherryopttfs.jpgEveryone working with cherry wants to know the “secret” for avoiding blotching in cherry, as if there is one that they just don’t know. The real secret about cherry blotching seems to be that there isn’t any way to avoid the blotching. If the cherry boards or veneer you are using include blotchy parts, you are going to get blotching.

The only way to avoid blotching is to use boards or veneer that don’t blotch, or cut out the blotchy areas from boards or veneer that do blotch. You can see the difference in the accompanying photograph of two veneered cabinet doors next to each other. There is virtually no blotching in the door on the left while the blotching on the right door is very pronounced.

Blotching is not necessarily bad. It can be very beautiful. The curls in curly maple, for example, are blotching.

Finishing Tip by Bob Flexner: Wetting to Predict Blotching

You can usually get a pretty good idea whether or not the wood you are using will blotch when a stain or finish is applied by wetting the wood.

wetting-cherry-to-predict-blotchingopttfs.jpgYou can use any liquid, but water will raise the grain causing you to have to sand more. Mineral spirits (paint thinner) works well except if you intend to apply a water-based finish. Some residue oiliness may remain and cause the finish to fish eye—that is, bunch up into ridges rather than level out.

Denatured alcohol would be better for this situation because it will totally evaporate. But it evaporates quickly, so you don’t have much time to judge the potential for blotching.

One possible solution would be to wipe with mineral spirits to provide more time, then remove the oily residue by wiping with denatured alcohol.