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Newsletter #124

Spring Cleaning Your Workshop

Warmer weather is here and for me that means it’s time to get into cleanup mode. Maybe it’s around the house or maybe it’s outside in the garden, but for sure, for woodworkers, the creative juices are flowing and it’s time to review the contents of the workshop. Whether you have a small home shop, a professional shop or a production shop, the tasks are similar.

I am a “collector” (some might say a pack rat) and each year the first thing I do is look through odd things I’ve collected and saved, try to remember why I saved it in the first place and actually get rid of some of the clutter. Then I sharpen chisels, inspect and sharpen or replace drill and router bits, clean up all my tools and make any necessary repairs. This year, two of my saw blades are being professionally sharpened. I make sure tools are in their right places, making new labels and outlines on my peg board if necessary. I have become more responsible about wearing safety equipment, even for small tasks, so I do make sure I have a good supply of filters and cartridges for my masks and extra safety goggles.

Here’s how I prepare my spray guns on a regular basis:

  • First, I test the spray guns for pattern accuracy to make sure the spray pattern is even from top to bottom.  
  • If it is heavier on one side or another, I rotate the air cap. If the problem moves to the opposite side, the first thing I do is thoroughly clean the air cap with spray gun cleaner and my cleaning kit brushes. Generally the problem is solved.
  • If the problem persists, I look at the nozzle and needle assembly. Again, I clean with my spray gun cleaner and brushes.  If that’s not the solution, it’s time to replace the nozzle and needle.
  • Next, I lubricate all the threads with Spray Gun Lubricant.
  • I check the gaskets and replace if necessary. Then my spray gun is good to go.
  • At this time I also make sure I have a supply of cup gaskets, and non return valves, because nothing is as frustrating as being shut down for such a simple problem.

If like me you use a turbine, it’s a good moment to clean or replace the filters. I always sort my sand paper and make sure I have ample supply of various grits including micro mesh. I must admit that sometimes I’ve had to search for a specific grit in my pile of paper. Finally I have a system. I use a portable file box and put each different grit in a marked file folder, in numerical order. No more searching and I can bring my supply anywhere in the shop. I also have a ruler and scissors in the file box.

I look at my inventory of coatings and make sure I have everything on hand for my upcoming projects.  I make sure I can read the labels.

charlesneil-end-of-bills-article.jpgEach Spring I buy a new tool. This year I am getting an additional spray gun. I want to use designated spray guns for clear and tinted coatings. I like to spray stains so this will be helpful.

This month we have another straightforward article from our friend, Charles Neil.

As you can see from this photo, Charles is a superb woodworker.

bill boxer signature

Sr. Vice President and COO

Apollo Sprayers International, Inc.


Finishing Feature Article by Charles Neil: Finishing Nightmares

Ironically I just finished making a DVD by the same title, but that is not what this is about.

I get a lot of emails from folks who have tried to get a good finish by following poor advice, but usually it is the result of poor products, they just don’t know it.

There is an old cliché, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” and nowhere does this prove truer than in finishing.

I got an email from a guy who was trying to get a fully filled, high gloss finish on a red oak dining table. READ MORE

Product of the Month: Micro-Mesh

Conventional sandpaper is designed to be aggressive so that it will dig deeply. In its manufacture the crystals are electrically charged so that they will stand up. They are locked into a hard resin and when you apply the paper to a surface it will literally tear in and remove the substrate of the material you are sanding. The crystals cut in a negative raking motion, leaving inconsistent scratch patterns.

Micro-Mesh® does the opposite. The backing is long lasting cloth to which an ultra-flexible cushioning layer is applied. This cushioning layer will determine how far forward you can push crystals before they will penetrate the cushioning layer. On top of this layer, they have a very resilient glue, not a hard resin, but a completely flexible glue that will hold the crystals while allowing it to move and rotate. The crystals can turn in any direction without coming loose.

When you start to apply pressure to sand with Micro-Mesh®, the crystals will go into the cushioning layer while beginning to cut a bit. If you push harder, they will go further into the cushioning layer, which serves as a safety valve. It determines how much pressure you can exert in a downward direction. Instead of a deep scratch that sandpaper makes, Micro-Mesh® produce a refined scratch that is close to a RMS of 1.0. The cushioning layer also allows the crystals to cut with a planing motion that leaves an extremely consistent scratch pattern and allows you to achieve extraordinary levels of gloss.

Finishing Tip by Bob Flexner: Understanding Gloss and Satin

It’s the last coat you apply that establishes the sheen of your finish. In other words, if the sheen you’re getting is not to your liking, just apply another coat of finish on top with the sheen you want, and that’s what you’ll get.

Sheens range from high gloss to dead flat. Gloss reflects an image almost like a mirror. Flat disrupts the image so much that you may not be able to see it at all.

gloss-and-satin.jpgAll finishes except gloss contain flatting agent that is responsible for the flatter look. This flatting agent (tiny particles of silica, which you can picture as sand though it isn’t) settles to the bottom of the can and has to be stirred into suspension before the finish is applied. The more flatting agent included in the finish, the flatter the effect.

The flatting agent works by reflecting light randomly from the surface. As the finish dries, it shrink-wraps the tiny particles at the surface creating a microscopic roughness that screws up the image. The flatting agent in the thickness of the film has no flatting effect because it doesn’t disturb light from passing through. (If you know a little chemistry, the technical explanation is that the flatting agent and the finish film have almost the same refractive index.)

On the example shown I applied two coats of gloss finish to the left half of the panel and two coats of satin to the right half. Then I applied a coat of satin finish to the right half of the gloss side and a coat of gloss finish to the left half of the satin side. The two glosses are indistinguishable and the two satins are indistinguishable even though they have the opposite sheens underneath. It works this way with all types of finish.


Finishing Tip by Bob Flexner: Removing Wine Stains from Unfinished Wood

Here are two methods for removing stains caused by spilled red wine on unfinished wood—for example, on a butcher-block countertop.

1.    Mix some Oxi-Clean with water to make a paste and put it on the affected area. Check after a few minutes to be sure it’s doing something. If so, leave it for a short time until the wine stain is removed.
2.    Scrub the wood with a scouring powder, such as Ajax, that contains a little chlorine bleach.

If either of these methods leaves a lighter spot on the wood, apply the cleaning solution to the entire surface so it will be an even color.


Finishing Tip by Bob Flexner: Benzene and Benzine

Benzene and benzine are not the same thing. Though they are often confused or used interchangeably in books and magazines, they are very different.

Benzene is carcinogenic and was removed from the consumer market 40 years ago. Before then it was often used as a paint and varnish remover.

Benzine is another name for naphtha in the US, though the term is rarely used in this manner anymore. It’s also a common name for gasoline in England.

Naphtha (benzine) is a faster evaporating, less oily (“drier”) form of mineral spirits. It’s not dangerous if used in moderation.

Here’s an easy way to remember which is which. Benzene is spelled with an “e” as in dead. Benzine is spelled with an “i” as in alive.