Thursday, April 25, 2013

Pine Cones

Why is acorn one word, but pine cone isn't?  I mean, they're kinda the same.

If you've looked at my listings on Etsy, you'll notice these three pine cones in almost every single photograph.

They aren't some random pine cones I picked up one day.  They're actually near and dear to my heart.

A long, long time ago....  Okay, so not that long ago...  In my childhood tweenhood eh, two houses ago...there lived this gorgeous pine tree. 

My parents planted all the trees and plants on the property.  Some of the trees where in ill condition when transplanted, but my mother worked hard to bring them all back to a healthful life.

I don't think my parents knew how big this pine tree would get once it was set in the ground.  

We don't have too much snow in North Texas, but I have a picture of this tree, that I always look back on, and think is magnificent.

I think it's funny, and adorable, that the houses look like little smurf homes in the background.  The properties out here were all 1+ acres.

I've gone past our old house, and noticed the tree no longer there.  It was right about the time I was creating my shop, and going through the zillionth picture taking of all my items.  That's when I decided to add the pine cones to the listings.  

The pine cones give perspective to the size of the sign, and the tree gets to live on in my listings and memory. That's win, win, win.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Wood Grain Wednesday - Curly Maple

The thing about curly maple is it's a bit like a sandy shoreline, just waiting for the tide to come in.

Which I could really use today.  Because it's been one of those kinds of days.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Bird Feeder

I've been feeding birds since I was so little I can't remember ever not feeding birds.  Or rabbits.  Or raccoon.


I have a bird feeder I bought at the store, that came with a basin in it, to fill with water.  But, I never really used it, so I just filled it with more food and put it on top of our fenceline in the back yard.

They didn't seem to mind, but every time it got windy, over the fence it went.  Then, I had to go retrieve it.  It's not like there's a door in the brick wall, either.  So, around the block I went.

When I was sick for a month, I about had enough of that.

Plus, it's not attractive.  That plastic thing.  And, since it didn't have holes in the bottom, it always filled with water when it rained.

And, apparently, birds do not like water-soaked seed.

So, we constructed something new.

Since we're woodworkers, reclaimed cedar isn't really hard for us to find in our own garage.  And, my mom had just given us an old office metal filing system.  The metal part makes a great bottom, since it has holes in it to drain water when it rains.

There are little feet at the bottom, too, to keep it off the stone for water drainage.

Just add seed!

The first to check it out were the grackle.  They will walk up to anything.  When the morning dove sat in it, I knew we had scored.  And, the sparrow, he visits when the hanging feeders are empty.

The kid loves bird watching.  I swear he wasn't going to attack them.  He just loves his bubble sword, too.

Now, it's onto making a couple more.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Wood Grain Wednesday - I see you!

"I see you!" was the first thing I thought when I saw this piece of wood.

And, now, all I see are two little eyes staring at me, with those nostrils beneath.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Repairing Wood - Wood Glue and Wood Filler

I often find myself repairing wood.  Maybe it is broken.  Maybe someone else tried to fix it.  The first is always an easier fix than the latter.  

To remove old glue, a heat gun is a handy tool to have around.  It won't, necessarily, get all the glue off, but it helps.  You just have to be careful not to scorch the wood.

The two broken pieces here, were gorilla glued onto the main piece, but were crooked.  (Regular gorilla glue, although it works on wood, is not ideal.)  A little heat separated them nicely.

One of the hardest things about woodworking is patience.  When fixing an item like this, I'll have to work in sections.  I'll work on attaching the smaller carved piece to the larger carved piece first.

I did a rough sanding over everything, trying to get the old glue off first.  And, what I couldn't get off, I just roughed up.

If a piece of wood breaks like this, and it hasn't been "fixed" like in my situation, it's best not to sand.  Leave it be.  It should perfectly match up to the other side, so when you apply the glue, it'll clamp together nicely.

Get a good wood glue.  Any kind will do.  I like using little brushes as it helps me be more precise and not get glue on my jeans.  Thoroughly coat the area.

Clamps are a woodworkers best friend.  If you don't have any, ask a neighbor!  If they don't, you can use rubber bands and weights.  Just make sure everything is level and back together as it should be.

If someone tells you that you can stain wood glue, they are lying.  Once clamped, get a wet rag and wash that stuff off!

Handy tip: For getting glue in to small, hard to reach places, a syringe works great!  This one is re-purposed from my toddler's Tylenol bottle.  (Don't get me started on teething!)

Gloves are good, too.  I tend to use my fingers a lot to wipe glue here and there.  This way, my skin is protected.

Here is where patience comes in.  You have to wait for the glue to dry.

Ugh.  I know.

You can work on something else in the meantime.  And, once it's dry, then you can come back and do the next step.

When I reattached the carving, it ended up with 3 clamps, a rubber band, and a weight on it!  In the end, just do whatever you have to do to get them to stay together evenly.

The best part about wood glue is that once an area is broken, and fixed, it's unlikely it'll ever break again.  Okay, okay, it's unlikely the wood will ever break on that particular grain line again.  That's because the glue bond is stronger than the grain bond.  

Another BFF of the woodworker is wood filler.  This helps seal gaps in the wood, and give a nice smooth finish overall.

I'm not a huge fan of wood filler, because I've yet to find one I really like.  I tried a fourth this weekend, that was pretty expensive, but I have to admit it did a really great job.

Note: If you're going to be staining the wood afterward, you'll need to make sure the wood filler is stainable.  If it isn't, there is no way, in the world, the wood filler is ever going to tint.

This piece had some work done already.

The can will tell you to apply, and let the filler dry.  The above is what happens when you do that.  Gloppy.  Mess.  And, filler isn't easy to sand, either.  Especially on something that's carved.

I tend to apply, let sit for a couple seconds, and then immediately sand it off.  This does two things.  One, it gets all the excess filler off really quickly and easily.  Two, it adds dust from the wood, created by the sandpaper, in with the filler.  This, I've found, helps it stain better later.  (I've also used this "sanding right away" technique while glue is drying, when I won't need a filler, and it works pretty well!)

For the gloppy piece, a little piece of coarse sandpaper will do the trick.  I've found hand-sanding is always better in these situations.  Power tools can get out of control really quickly, sanding way too much away.

So, when it's all done, glued, wood filled, and sanded, the pieces are once again renewed and alive, and ready for staining!

There's rarely a need to throw perfectly good things away.  They just, sometimes, need a little TLC. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wood Grain Wednesday - Bat

This one, I didn't see, until I got through staining the back of a client's custom order.


Well, at least his eyes and nose.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


While I followed The Lorax through all the stages of the wood carving and finishing processes, I decided not to stain it.  So, I'm going to use another custom sign, and one reclaimed wood sign to show how staining is done.

First of all, always cover your hands with gloves.  I prefer Nitrile gloves, because they tend to hold up better, but I'm using latex throughout this post.

I'd also really like to use more eco-friendly stain, but I can't figure out how to keep the color consistent for custom listings.  And, all the research I've done on what is available in the market, has the same sort of problem.  So, I use Minwax for now.

I first brush on the stain, in the direction of the grain.  This helps get it into all the nooks and crannies of the carving.  

Trying to take pictures with my iphone, with glove covered stained hands, is crazy hard!

After I have the front of the board fully coated, I use a paper towel to take off any excess.  It's important to do this step.  Wood can only absorb so much stain at one time.  Pools of stain will not absorb, they just become sticky messes.  It's best to do a second coat if you're unhappy with the depth of color.  I find one coat, typically, is enough for my signs.

If you find a particular piece of wood isn't taking stain very well at all, you can dampen - and I mean dampen - a towel, and run it across the board.  It'll help open up the pores.  You just don't want to soak the board.  That's never good.

I then repeat the steps on all sides and on the back, too.  

The back won't be seen, so why finish it?   Ya, I know.  But, it only feels complete staining the back as well.

When it's done and drying, it looks something like this.

It's after this, and before finishing, that I'll use sandpaper to make the nifty rustic looking marks all over it.  Or highlight the wording with paint.

For engraved pieces, I simply dip a paper towel in the stain, and run it across the board, without getting it in the wording.

That's sort-of easier said than done, if you've ever tried this technique!  And, sometimes I fail.

But, if I do, then a little re-work with the dremel will save the lettering.  That's the best part about woodworking.  Sanding can clear up so many mistakes!

And, when it's done, it looks like this:

This is starting to become one of my favorite ways to stain.  It's harder, but I love seeing the words pop on the board.

Love it!

And, once the signs are all dry, they move on to the finishing stage!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013