Cleaning Saw Blades

What you will read below is a conversation that took place between me and a reader of mine via e-mail. I am publishing it here after doing some minor editing to make it more presentable for a website format.


When circular saw blades are used to cut green lumber or particularly resinous woods, these gums and resins can accumulate on the blade surfaces. This can cause rough cutting and dull the blade more quickly because of unnecessary overheating.

A quick remedy for this condition, which can be performed easily by any woodworker, is as follows:

Dissolve common household lye in water according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Soak gummed-up blades for about 20-30 minutes. Then rinse thoroughly in clear running water, using a stiff-bristled brush to help remove the gums and resins.

Guide To Circular Saw Blades

Choosing the right tool for the job at hand is one of the most important aspects of woodworking. You wouldn’t use a chisel to drive a woodscrew, nor would you put a drill bit into a router and try to bore holes. So whywould anyone want to rip lumber with a crosscut blade? In the next few articles, I’ll be discussing the choices to be made when considering circular saw blades.

Why Pay for Carbide?

The original blade that comes with most saws is usually a plain, ordinary steel combination blade. Chances are it’s not only plain and ordinary but, if it has been used for any length of time at all, is probably outright dull. Hardened steel blades require frequent sharpening-so much, in fact, that this can lead to frequent replacement. Instead of replacing the saw with a similar blade, however, the serious woodworker would do better to invest in a set of carbide-tipped blades.

Applying Lacquer – Part #2

This is part two of the article; please read part #1 before you continue. Thanks.

Under Coat Problems

If the oil base stain and the paste wood-fillers are not completely dry before the lacquer goes on, it may look at first as if you are getting away with it. All will be well, but then a day, or a week, or a month, or a year later, you may notice a distinct greying of the lacquer which gets worse and worse and worse as time passes. This is called blooming.

Blooming takes place through the whole thickness of the finish coat. It can only be corrected by complete stripping and refinishing. Earl Stebbens, a finisher I used to know, told me that it happens because the oils are able to slowly penetrate the molecular matrix of the lacquer, turning it grey. Leave plenty of drying time for your stains and fillers.


The worst thing that ever happened to a good finish was lemon pledge. This and other spray polishes containing silicone make the furniture shiny and not smudgy. They make it glow and radiate warmth. Unfortunately, they also turn the lacquer to jelly within ten to fifteen years of regular use. They cut the life of a good finish in half, or even to a third of normal. They are the scourge and torment of every good re-finisher, because they settle into the wood. Stripper won’t touch them, sanding won’t remove them, they cause fisheeye. This is a situation where the lacquer simply flows away from spots on the wood surface like water off a duck’s back and will not stick there no matter how many coats of finish are sprayed. The result is a miniature moonscape of craters – a ruined finish.

Finishing Techniques: Applying Lacquer – Part #1

I never wanted to be a finisher. I wanted to dovetail drawers, make miters and mortises; to carve, perchance a masterpiece, and then turn it over to another craftsman for that perfect glowing finish. What a dreamer! I quickly discovered that any finisher that good had a year’s worth of work backed up, and couldn’t possibly get to my project before next Christmas.

I resisted learning for years, but in one month, both of the good finishers I knew decided to sell out their shops. So there I was, forced to do something. I spent a couple of hours in each shop, begging for information, then I bought a good spray gun. I spent the most frustrating month of my career teaching myself how to use it. Then I spent the next couple of years learning how many things I could do wrong with it. I once sprayed one stroke with my gun and was able to count 15 things that went wrong:

A Veneer Press For The Small Woodshop

Veneer work or marquetry for the individual craftsman or small production shop can be a real challenge without some method of pressing the work uniformly during gluing. Makeshift methods range from pressing the work between two pieces of plywood and lining the perimeter with “C” clamps or weighting the plywood sandwich with lead, to jacking up your car and lowering a wheel onto the work. Though each of these methods shows a degree of success (and dedication), by far the most effective means of pressing is with a regular veneer press.

The large production shop can afford heated hydraulic presses capable of handling 4 x 8 sheets of plywood in great quantity, but small shops like my own need only a hand-operated press of 9 to 10 square-foot capacity. Beginning with 9- or 12-inch veneer screws (commercially available from a number of woodworking companies) it is possible to build a veneer press to match your specific needs. Described here is a press like my own. Your imagination and shop requirements will dictate how your own press will look.

Preparation of Curved Marquetry Panels – Part #2

This article is a continuation from Part #1 of this series.

Preparing The Panels

Each panel began with a piece of 5/8″ particle board cut to exact dimensions from top to bottom and overlapping dimensions from side to side. I rabbeted the top and bottom edges of the stationary panels with tongue joints toward the upper side of the panel. The door panels were cut square.

The back of the panel to be bent must be slotted with numerous parallel cuts from top to bottom on a radial arm saw. I made my cuts to two-thirds of the panel thickness and approximately 3/16″ to 1/4″ apart. The series of cuts should cover the entire expanse over which the panel will be bent. I left two inches on either side unslotted to be trimmed and rabbeted for tongue joints later. The panel will naturally lose some of its dimension from side to side when bent in the press and final sizing is best left until later.

Preparation of Curved Marquetry Panels – Part #1

Large commercial shops prepare curved marquetry panels by building up veneer lamination with the use of heated hydraulic or pneumatic presses to maintain the curvature as the glue cures. The small shop, unequipped with large machinery, may be hard-pressed for ways to create curved furniture panels. This problem presents an even greater challenge to the marquetarian desiring to overlay such work. I found that the use of specially built cauls and the standard homemade veneer press will produce satisfactory results.

I will illustrate this method with the example of a mahogany church tabernacle measuring 18″ x 18″ x 21-3/4″. Each of the three stationary sides and the door panel have a shallow bell curve with a 1″ deflection from level and measure approximately 13″ square. Quartered panels with the same curvature deflection as the sides form the roof of the tabernacle. All remaining structures are made from solid mahogany.

Bud Vases

Here is a project that will quickly use up all those small scrap pieces of wood that accumulate in the scrap bin.

The bud vases are made by cutting scrap pieces into squares, stacking the squares into blocks, and turning them on the lathe. An endless variety of shapes and interesting designs can be made by using several contrasting colored woods of different thicknesses. I stack 2-inch squares into blocks 5 or 6 inches high using a variety of veneers combined with 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 inch thick walnut, ash, oak, maple, birch, mahogany, koa, vermillion, and purpleheart.

The technique of lamination described here can also be use for creating lamps, bowls, and an assortment of containers. For laminating the squares together use a good-grade of glue and don’t apply excessive clamping pressure. Too much pressure creates dry joints and causes the pieces to break apart during turning.

Precision Mitering and Beveling Techniques

Why bother writing an article about tasks as simple as mitering and beveling? Because there are a number of refinements to the process that can make the difference between mediocrity and quality. Furthermore, the techniques described here are useful for any quality woodworking project that requires precise joints-from the simple picture frame to the most elaborate piece of furniture.

Precision mitering begins with selection of the raw stock. Obviously, it must be straight and true with no warpage or other defects evident. If the work is large enough to require more than one piece of stock, be sure that the pieces are identical in width and thickness. At times, pieces of millwork that are nominally the same differ noticeably, owing to wear on the cutters at the mill or the cutters being sharpened between runs.

Wood Finish

What do you look for in a wood finish? Many woodworkers look for a finish that is easy to apply, foolproof in operation and exceptionally durable. Recently I had a look at the old and proven Sealacell process; it’s all of the above and more.

The Sealacell process involves a three step operation. The first liquid is Sealacell #1, a penetrating wood sealer. After the sealer has dried for 24 hours, an application of Varnowax #2, a wax blend, helps bring out the color of the wood. A final finish coat of Royal Finish #3 leaves a satin-smooth surface which is resistant to water and alcohol.

I tried the Mini-1-2-3 Finishing Kit, which contains a pint of Sealacell, half pints of Varnowax, and Royal Finish, sandpaper, steel wool, wiping clothes and a drop cloth. The Sealacell products are also available separately, in quantities from half pints to gallons.

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