Woodshop How-To

We are often asked about our woodworking techniques and finishing routine. No mysteries here. We use standard woodworking tools but are working in a very small studio (under 400 sq ft!) so must often keep that in mind when getting new tools. See Amazon links at bottom of page...

  • Newest cool tool: Bessey Auto-Adjust Toggle Clamp – Brilliant!

  • Second newest tool: the Wixey Digital Angle Gauge Fantastic – why didn't someone make this years ago? Set it on your table saw (and other tools), press a button to zero it, attach it to the side of your blade and presto! whatever angle you choose will be right on – particularly good for setting 45 degree angle. Not 44.8 or 45.2 – precisely 45. Also useful for many other setups. Copies are widely available now.

  • 1956 Atlas-Clausing table saw. Weighs a ton, it's the workhorse of my shop. We use thin kerf blades mostly, except for miters – thin kerf blades flex too much for miters. I also use blade stabilizers at all times. If anyone knows of a source for parts please email me.

  • JDS Multi-Router Joint making machine. Highly recommended for many joints and routing. Easy to tap holes in table for all sorts of jigging uses. I use a vacuum (venturi) clamp for holding lids to route out the recess for inset, for example. My Multi-Router has been going strong for over fifteen years (it was about a third the price then!) Beautifully built machine.

  • Rikon 10-325 14" Bandsaw. Nice saw - sure beats the Delta 14" I used to have.

  • Ridgid portable 13" planer. Nice, it replaced an ancient Ryobi 10" planer that I ran miles and miles of wood through.

  • Grizzly G0586 8" jointer. New and it's a nice tool, replacing a first generation Grizzly 6" jointer that was not. Grizzly has come a long way…

  • Some routers: Newest is the Bosch 1617EVS 2½ HP – terrific router, it's now on my Multi-Router. A Dewalt 621 plunge router, a Hitachi M12Vs, and a Dewalt DW670 Laminate Trimmer. Several more have died.

  • Porter Cable 557 biscuit joiner – nice!

  • Half a dozen finishing, random orbit, pad, and belt sanders. Our most often used is probably the Makita 1/3 Sheet Sander and several little Ryobi 1/6 sheet sanders that are, unfortunately, no longer available. The little Ridgid R2740 3" x 18" belt sander comes in handy occasionally. Tracks well, light and dust collection works OK (but you should hook it up to a collector.)

  • Jet 6"x48" belt/12" disk stationary sander. Used constantly. Nice tool.

  • Jet 17" floor drill press. New – seems to work quite well, longest spindle travel for it's size.

  • Sawzall for rough cutting to length.

  • Ancient Grizzly two-bag dust collector that I’ve updated with new cyclone system and filters. We'd be dead by now without it but it's not even close to the efficiency of newer collectors.

  • JDS Air-Tech 2000 Air Filtration Systems (the box-on-the-ceiling type). Cleans out air-born dust quickly and efficiently.

  • Miller Respirator. Best light weight dust mask I've found so far now that the Dustfoe has disappeared.

  • Several Japanese saws. Wonderful to use.

  • Grobet detailing file is in use constantly. Not cheap!

  • Japanese and Western chisels.

  • Grab bag of other hand and power tools found in any shop.

  • Many, many shop made jigs, templates and forms. As any woodworker will tell you, making jigs is half the fun.

As for our finishing routine (standard boxes):

  • After assembly and band sawing sides, we disk sand with 50 grit.

  • Belt sand 150. Lids are sanded after band sawing with 60 grit against grain and then with grain using 150 grit belt.

  • Pad sand 220.

  • A LOT of hand (or fingers) sanding of all those areas you can't get with a machine.

  • Some woods like rosewood are sanded to 400 or 800.

  • Cleaned thoroughly (compressed air) before finishing. Final inspection before it's too late!

  • A coat of "Watco Danish Oil". Wipe down thoroughly and let dry overnight.

  • Two to four coats of standard nitrocellulose lacquer. Yes, lacquer does work over Watco.

  • Lightly sanded with 800 sandpaper.

  • Hand rubbed with Fibral Abrasive Wool equivalent to 0000 steel wool. Not as aggressive as steel wool and more expensive but, oh so much nicer – no more bits of steel wool floating around my head although we still use steel wool too.

  • Polished with cotton cloth by hand (yes, hand-rubbed!)

  • If you prefer an oil finish for your projects ("oil varnish"), I'd recommend WaterLox, a great oil varnish – tough, fast drying, builds up nicely. Or try Minwax Wipe-On Poly. Tough finish (we used it on our kitchen island that gets much use) closer to the resin end of the oil/resin scale.

  • During the process we use a lot of cyanoacrylate adhesive. Starbond makes the absolute best CA, much better than anything else I've tried. We use tons of it on punky wood like spalted maple. Just keep pouring it on (kind of) and eventually you have a hardened surface.

Here are some suppliers I use (that are online):