When it comes to choosing a finish there are two main choices. The typical approach of stain and urethane creates a smooth, wipeable surface, but when that finish eventually wears through, there’s no way of repairing it attractively. Sanding back to bare wood and refinishing is the only way to make it respectable again. Oil and wax finishes, on the other hand, take more time to apply initially, but they’re easily repaired and rejuvenated with the tabletop in place. Regular reapplication works just fine.
You’ll need a long screwdriver with a square blade that is very heavy duty. This gives you a lot of torque. You’ll also need a small and medium slot screwdriver. For working on cabinets or tight places in woodworking, you’ll need a screwdriver with a thin shank so that you can reach screws that are inside of deep holes. This is accomplished with a cabinet screwdriver. Get a couple of medium Phillips head screwdrivers, and a stubby one too, for those tight places. You may also want a ratcheting screwdriver.
The next important hand tool for the woodworker is an accurate tape measure. Get a retractable one that is at least 25 feet long. Any longer than that, and you start having problems getting it to roll back up. Since measurements on large scale projects can be very susceptible to even the most minute measurement variations, you’ll want to make sure the “hook” or tab at the end of the is firmly attached, with no give. When they get loose, you’ll have as much as 1/8” variation in your measurements. This can add up to some severe accuracy problems in the long run.
When sourcing materials from a renovation or job site be sure to have clear permission and wear the appropriate safety gear. Be aware that lead paint and asbestos may be mixed in with clean wood. Watch out for and pull nails out of material before loading in a car or truck so reclaimed wood will stack better. Be careful when working with items painted prior to 1979 as they may contain lead-based paint. Be sure to consult the EPA's Renovate Right: Important Lead Hazard Information for Families, Child Care Providers, and Schools pamphlet before disturbing any paint that could contain lead. Building materials produced before 1983 should also generally be tested for asbestos. Contact your local building official for exact requirements.
Consider building your tabletop out of boards about 6" wide (1x6 or 2x6), or close in size (I use x4 and x8 boards on occasion). If you go smaller, you'll be adding more joints, which means more pocket holes and more sanding. If you go with a wider board, the board itself may cup over time, creating high and low points on your tabletop. I personally find x6 boards to be that happy medium.
Online plans can be easy, helpful, and can save you time and money if you put in the effort to usethem. But if you buy plans one by one, you might speed a lot of time organizing and searching for things to build as well as having to decipher different plan formats. You might learn a technique or two or improve your skills slightly, but you’ll forget everything by the time you go to find another plan. With organized lessons, however, you can always find the plans or instructions again easily, and come up with even more ideas of projects to build. Downloadable woodworking courses can save you money as well.
Cedar Mini Decorative Planters/Boxes Using Interlocking Dovetail Joints Having a cedar mill within an hour of my shop allows me to work with some very nice wood. While cedar can be brittle, it is wonderful to work with and makes putting these decorative boxes together a breeze. When working with cedar I am always looking for pieces that have what is known as “heartwood”. This is the red portion of the wood. When first planed or sanded, this heartwood is almost pink in color but takes polyurethane or spar finish well giving a vibrant dark red when applied. If left untreated, cedar will turn gray in direct sunlight and a dull red color from normal household light. These boxes have been treated with a wiping polyurethane mix that allows me to apply it with a cotton rag instead of a brush. It’s faster to apply, doesn’t run and dries fast enough to apply two coats in a day. So applying 5-6 coats only takes 2-3 days to accomplish. I assembled the boxes using a dovetail joint which provides both strength and decorative at the same time. A fan shaped tenon that forms a tight interlocking joint when fitted into a corresponding mortise. The dovetails on these boxes are shown on the length of the box and not the end where the handles are located. I use a dovetail jig and a router to make these joints which is more efficient. Depending on how the client will use the box I may or may not drill two holes in the bottom of the box. If they are built to be used as outside planters then I drill 2, half inch holes in the bottom for water to drain. If they are to be used inside as a table center piece or fireplace mantle decorative box, then I do not drill the hole. In the end they are strong, durable and beautiful no matter how they are used.
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