Cork is the
suberin-rich bark of the
cork oak (Quercus suber,
The entire bark can be harvested with hand tools at regular intervals (7 to 15 years)
in the summertime once the tree is mature (about 25 years, or 70 cm in circumference).
The first such harvest is called virgin cork or male cork.
The subsequent ones produce female cork.
A tree can be so harvested about a dozen times over its lifetime.
Phenolic plywood is a sheet product whose outer layers are impregnated with
phenolic resin (the stuff used in modern billiard balls).
That makes the surface very smooth, hard and water-resistant.
At ½'' thickness, phenolic plywood
is dimensionally stable and it's excellent for building woodworking tables, fences and jigs.
(2018-11-15) Properties of glues used in woodworking.
Wood glue can make a joint stronger than the joined pieces.
The two main desirable properties of a glue are adhesion and cohesion.
Adhesion allows the glue to form a strong bond with something else.
Cohesion is what provides strength for a thick layer of glue.
Hide glue (Collagen) :
Traditional glue (not waterproof).
Reversible by heating (steaming).
Hot glue :
Common Wood Glue (PVA = Polyvinyl Acetate) :
(CH3COOCH2CH)n is a polyvinyl ester
invented in 1912 by the German chemist
Fritz Klatte (1880-1934) who patented
its preparation from acethylene
gas (C2H2 ).
With this wood glue, the pieces to be glued must match almost perfectly and be clamped
against each other until the glue dries.
Clamping ensures that glue forms only a thin layer (a thick layer of dried glue would be a weak point).
Polyurethane Glue :
This was introduced in the US as
Original Gorilla Glue
(the qualifier original is needed because the brand is now used for other glues also).
Polyurethane glue is
It will expand up to threefold into porous material, which may strengthen the bond
(especially for end-grain joints).
However, weak foam will form into any substantial gap which may be present if the joint
isn't precise enough and/or if the clamping isn't sufficient.
One great advantage of polyurethane glue it that will also bond to various non-porous materials.
It's also a good choice with oily woods (like teak or rosewood)
which cause problem with ordinary (PVA) wood glue.
Also, polyurethane glue is totally waterproof when cured.
The pieces to be glued must match perfectly and be clamped against each other
until the glue dries.
The clamping pressure forces the pieces against each other and ensures the glue
layer between them remains very thin (a thick layer of dried glue would
form a weak point).
(2018-11-24) Axe (French: hache) and Adze (French: herminette)
Two ancient tools, dating back to the Stone Age.
In an axe, the (curved) blade and the axis of the handle are in the
same plane. In an adze, they are in orthogonal planes.
An axe is primarily suited for cutting across the grain of the wood, or at a substantial angle,
as is required for felling trees (long-handle felling axes, for logging).
On the other hand,
An adze is intended to cut with the grain for finishing work.
Skilled worker can use it as a coarse substitute for a plane
when the smoothness of the finished surface is not critical.
As its French name implies (couteau à deux manches)
a draw knife is just a blade with two handles.
The French also call it une plane
(they use the name rabot for the more recent tool we call a
A spokeshave is the related tool where the two handle form
a single piece underneath which the blade is mounted.
It's a vastringue to the French.
A wooden spokeshave with a convex blade meant for pushing is called a travisher.
It's the ideal handtool for hollowing out a shallow bowl or the seat of a
(possibly to finish a job started with a rounded adze).
are now commonly made industrially with metal handles and detachable blades.
(2018-11-15) Hand planes
Various shapes and sizes.
The common denominator of all hand tools we call planes
is that they are intended to bing a face of a wooden surface closer to
a perfect planar surface by removing high-spots.
Various shapes and sizes of planes differ in how they determine high-spots
with respect to the soles from which their blades protrude.
Rabbet plane (rebate plane). Bullnose.
(2019-) Electric planers, jointers and thickness planers.
Absolute and relative planing.
Under certain loose geometric conditions,
a jointer will make the bottom surface of the workpiece perfectly planar
(up to the precision of its metallic table).
Such conditions may fail when the piece is too short.
They may also fail at the beginning or the end of a longer piece.
A phenomenon known as snipe.
Running the piece through a thickness planer (or thicknesser)
will then make its thickness uniform, thus ensuring
that the top surface is planar as well.
The two operations must be performed in that order,
without flipping the piece over.
The specific advantage of a jointer is that it uses only a single face as a reference
(at first it touches the infeed table at two points, then it's in contact with the outfeed table
which is slightly higher). At soon as it's practical, push the board down on the
outfeed sidel; in most cases that's all what's needed to prevent unwanted rotation of the piece.
There is not practical limit to how tall a piece can be. Thus,
a jointer is all you need if you just want to join several boards end-to-end along perfectly
straighr edges (hence the name).
A jointer doesn't ensure that the finish edges of a board are parallel,
which doesn't matter in jointing.
By contrast, a thickness planer only ensures that the top face is parallel to
the bottom face (and it won't be straight if the bottom face isn't).
The thickness a planer can produce is typically limited to just a few inches.
You can use a planner as a makeshift jointer (for narrow boards only)
by making a jig to clamps them vertically onto a good flat horizontal board
(for details, see video by Mark Hanson in the footnotes below).
Helical Cutter Heads :
Those are an upgrade to the cylindical cutters normally found on planers and joiners.
They consist of many small cutters mounted on pods a helical pattern so that the
entire length of the head is covered as the head rotates.
As an added benefit, each square pod actually has four cutters
(one active cutter and three spares). They can be rotated as needed
when worn out or to fix an accidental nick.
(2018-11-14) Portable Workbench
Most do-it-yourselfers use a sturdy foldable workbench.
The most basic and most affordable widely available unit is the Workmate 125
from Black & Decker.
I use a Workmate 425$92
which comes with a removable middle plank and the ability to clamp vertically larger pieces
(up to 1.56'' or 39 mm thick) by tilting the front plank 90°.
The slightly less expensive Workmate 225
doesn't do that.
Neither does the more expensive Workmate 1000
Alternatives from the competitors of Black & Decker include:
(2019-01-31) Table saw and accessories.
Pushsticks, pushblocks, miter-gauge and sleds.
A table-saw consists of a powered circular saw permanently mounted under a table
(with a metallic or phenolic top, to reduce friction
with wood workpieces).
The saw blade is raised or lowered through a slot in the surface of the table
to control th depth of the cut.
It's often possible to tilt the blade to make oblique cuts.
A table saw is always endowed with a smooth metallic fence
mounted vertically on top of the table, parallel to the slot of the blade.
The distance from the fence to the blade can be adjusted from a fraction of an inch to many inches.
The simplest way to use the saw is to slide a straight edge of the workpiece
against the fence to make a cut parallel to that edge.
A cut made this way won't be straight unless your have a good edge
to slide against the fence.
To make one, you need either a dedicated jointer
or a jointer rig for your table-saw,
which can be as simple as a straight board with a pair of clamps permanently bolted on it
(see video on edge joining by Steve Ramsey in the footnotes).
The versatility of the tool is greatly enhanced by the presence of two grooves
called miter slots, miter tracks or miter channels
(the British spelling is mitre).
They're parallel to the blade on either side of it.
In the US, standard miter slots are 3/4'' wide and
3/8'' deep (the width is more critical than the exact depth).
This allows the use of a variety of jigs called sleds
which hold the workpiece and are guided by two miter bars
(also called runners) solidly attached to them and sliding
along the miter slots in the table.
The most common sled is the cross-cut sled,
which consists of a large board with the two runners on one side and
a tall fence fence on the other, permanently mounted perpedicularly to the runners.
(The board is typically split in two on the target table saw.
Both halves only connected by the main fence and usually a counterfence on the other side for solidity.)
In a pinch, the two runners can be made out of hardwood but that may entail unacceptable
seasonal warping. For permanent jigs,
it's much better make the runners from
or to buy miter blanks consisting of UHMW plastic
(ultra-high molecular weight polypropylene) in spite of the added cost.
For top-precision sleds,
commercial miter bars
are available for standard tracks (with micro-adjustments for snugness).
(2019-01-31) Other types of power saws using circular blades:
From trim saws to miter saws.
Trim Saw (buzzsaw) :
This type of saw is a hand-held power tool with a small circular saw blade mounted through a slot
on a guiding plate, with a retractable spring-loaded safety guard.
To make a straight cut with one of these, clamp a board with a good staight edge at
a fixed distance from the desired cut (if the plate is symmetrical,
that distance is half the width of the plate).
As you cut, maintain full contact of the plate with the workpiece
while maintaning the edge of the plate pressed against the clamped guiding board.
General-purpuse twist bits are usable on wood
(a center punch or preliminary small-diameter hole is advised).
However, brad point bits are especially designed for wood
and are superior for drilling medium-sized holes into wood. They're also called
lip and spur bits, or doweling bits.
(2018-11-09) Staining and distressing wood with mordants.
One popular ebonizing solution is made from vinegar and steel wool.
Boxwood was used for white chess pieces and ebony
for black pieces. Both kinds of wood are denser than water with very fine grain which makes
them exceptionally well suited for turning and fine carving.
Because of recent restrictions on the harvest of ebony,
boxwood is now very often used for black pieces as well using
a process ebonization, which
can be done several different ways, possibly combined with
each other (the deepest black are achieved when stained
wood also undergoes a coloring surface treatment).
Black color is obtained when ferric acetate
reacts with wood tannin. This reaction uses the same basic principle
as iron-gall ink
(upon which Western civilization was arguably founded).
To make a good ebonizing solution at home,
first clean some steel wool thoroughly with soap and water
(to remove any trace of oil which would hinder the rest of the process).
Rinse it well.
Let it soak for several days at room temperature in a mixture of cleaning vinegar
(6% or 8% acetic acid) and hydrogen peroxide
(heating can speed up the process, if needed).
Ferric acetate will form:
(2018-11-14) Buffing, Sealing, Priming.
Smoothing, sealing and protecting the final surface.
Achieving a flat, satin, semi-gloss or glossy finish.
Shellac is the traditional finish of choice for natural wood,
with of without prior staining. The first coat seals the wood very well already.
It dries very quickly (one hour between coat is enough).
Sanding between coats is optional (it serves only to
make the surface smoother but it's not needed to make the
new coat bite into the previous one,
since that's done chemically by the solvent).
Do not even think to use foam brushes
to apply shellac or any other lacquer! (They'd melt.)
Shellac is not a good undercoat for polyurethane.
(2018-11-27) Dry or Wet Cooperage (French: tonnellerie)
Wooden containers for dry goods and liquids (buckets & barrels).
(French: merrains made
by merrandier) and fitting the heads (the flat parts of barrels,
or the bottom of a bucket).
Measurements for specific gallonage were secretly transmitted from one cooper to the next.