An Economic Truth About Cut Nails

An Economic Truth About Cut Nails

I prefer to use cut nails in reproduction work because they hold better and look right to my eye. But when it comes to cut headless brads, which are used to hold moulding in place while the glue dries, I don’t think these nails are the right choice for me. While cut nails are always more expensive than the equivalent wire nail, cut headless brads are crazy expensive. A 1 […]

The post An Economic Truth About Cut Nails appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.


Reverse Hide Glue’s Bond

Reverse Hide Glue’s Bond

Whenever I talk about glue to clubs and classes, I hand around a bottle of liquid hide glue and ask them to tell me what its disadvantages are. “It’s weak.” Actually no, it produces a bond stronger than the wood itself. “It stinks.” Hide glue smells only as bad as a wet rawhide chew toy. It’s not bad at all. “It is sensitive to heat and moisture.” Ah, but that […]

The post Reverse Hide Glue’s Bond appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.


When Weird Chests Look Less Weird

When Weird Chests Look Less Weird

For most of my life, I thought wood that was grain-painted looked like… an unprintable bad word that rhymes with “bass.” Many pieces of furniture were grain-painted to make a less-expensive wood look like a nicer wood. During the Arts & Crafts era, pine was painted to look like quartersawn oak. If you go back in time a little further you see plain woods that were painted to look curly […]

The post When Weird Chests Look Less Weird appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.


& Joinery">For Those Who Love Books, Travel & Joinery

For Those Who Love Books, Travel & Joinery

When I was a kid, I used books to escape from my (boring) Arkansas upbringing. Today, I use books to escape from the drudgery of air travel. Every room in our house is full of books, and there is never enough room for them all. So as a woodworker, I’m always building more bookcases that stack on top of other things – including other bookcases. This week I started building […]

The post For Those Who Love Books, Travel & Joinery appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.


Coved Doors on the Tablesaw

Coved Doors on the Tablesaw

Make beautiful raised panels without a router table and expensive bits.

By George Vondriska

The tool of choice for most small-shop woodworkers who want to make raised panels is the router: A large one, generally 3 hp,hung in a router table, plus a set of specialized bits. 

But what if you just want to make one or two raised-panel doors, say for a bathroom vanity, a small cabinet, or a jewelry box? With our technique you can make raised panels with the traditional scooped-out profile using just your tablesaw. This process is based on the traditional method for cutting coved moldings on the tablesaw, but we’ve adapted it for making raised panels.You clamp an auxiliary fence at an angle to your blade, and feed the panel over the blade repeatedly, taking off only a little at a time until you get the profile you want.Cutting coves on the tablesaw can require a fair amount of trial and error,but we’ve eliminated that by developing a simple recipe that steers you through the process and gives you perfect results, even the first time. 

For large doors, cutting coved panels on the tablesaw is actually a better technique than using a router.The tablesaw allows you to cut a very wide profile; wider than you could cut with a router bit. On large raised panels, like those found on entertainment centers and armoires, the narrow profile produced by router bits can look out of scale. The best way to cut these wider raised panels is with a shaper,but again, if you’re only making a couple panels, this tablesaw method will give you excellent results. 

For many doors, you may still need a router and a railand- stile router bit set to make the door frames. But these are smaller, less-expensive bits, and don’t require a 3-hp router.

The bad news

One downside of this tablesaw technique is that the panel requires a fair amount of sanding. We’ve developed a solution to simplify the sanding and make it go faster, but if you had to sand more than three or four doors at a time, it’ll get old. However, for one or two doors, the sanding is not a big deal. 

The other drawback to this technique, although it’s minor, is that the panel edge is not automatically cut to the right thickness. Because this is the part that fits into the groove in the frame, it has to fit precisely. It’s important to make accurate measurements as you go (Photo 7).


What you need

Any tablesaw, from benchtop to cabinet saw, can handle this work, as long as you have a sharp, carbide- tipped blade to make the cuts.A blade with a high tooth count (60 or more) will produce a smoother cut than a blade with fewer teeth.And a smoother cut means less time spent sanding.

You’ll need to build a simple auxiliary fence for your tablesaw and a fresh zero-clearance throat plate (see page 50 for how to make one). An inexpensive dial caliper is handy but not essential for measuring the thickness of your panel edges.


Planning your doors

With this method, the panels are cut to fit the frame, so it’s essential to make the frame parts first.You can use a spare rail or stile to test the thickness of the panel edge when it’s near completion.

Glue up your panels, if required,and plane them all to the same thickness. This is important for cutting the tongue of each panel to the correct thickness.

By varying the angle of the fence and the size of the blade you use, you can get an infinite variety of profiles.We suggest starting off with a profile that has a small cove on the back of the panel and a larger one on the front. For most door frames, this will make the outside surface of the panel slightly below or flush with the frame,which will make sanding the doors much easier.

For our doors,we planed the panels to 13/16-in. thick, and cut a profile that had a 1/4-in. tongue, a 1/8-in. cove on the back and a 7/16-in. cove on the front.Our maximum depth of cut was 7/16 in.


First, set up your saw

The actual cutting of the panels is fairly straightforward; you clamp a fence at an angle to the saw blade and pass the panels over the blade, taking shallow cuts. But to get perfect results, you need to set up the fence accurately. We’ve developed a guaranteed system:

1. First,build the auxiliary fence (Photo 3) and make the centering and height boards (opposite page) that you’ll use to set the location of the fence.

2. Find top-dead-center of the blade using the centering board and height board (Photo 1). It’s important that the fence be located over top dead-center so the tongue of the panel is properly shaped to fit the groove in your frames (see Oops!, below). This is difficult on many tablesaws because the blade actually swings forward as it is raised. You need to find top-dead-center at the maximum height to which you will be raising the blade, because that height will give you the profile you want.

3. Transfer the location of top-dead-center to your zero-clearance insert (Photo 2).Raise your blade through the zero-clearance insert if you haven’t already.

4. Position the fence on the tablesaw so it covers the front half of the blade,where the teeth point down toward the table (Photo 3). The blade must be down.Use your miter gauge to set the fence at 35 degrees. The edge of the fence must be directly over the intersection of the blade kerf and the top-dead-center line on the insert (below).Clamp the fence securely to the saw, and you’re ready to make a panel.


Cut the coved profile

Now that your fence is set, it’s time to actually cut the panels. Here’s the process:

1. Raise the blade 1/16-in. above the surface of the tablesaw and cut the end-grain of the panel (Photo 4). Note that the panel is being pushed “uphill” against the fence. Cut the long grain and repeat the process on the other side of the panel.

2. Increase the height of the blade 1/16 in. and make another pass on all four edges of both faces, end grain first. Now the back of the panel is complete (Photo 5).

3. Finish the front of the panel by continuing to raise the blade 1/16 in. per pass. Use test cuts on the scrap piece to monitor your progress. It will take about six passes to complete the profile on the front.

4. Measure the thickness of the panel tongue (Photo 7). Leave it 1/32-in. thicker than the groove in the frame to allow for sanding. Dial calipers are an accurate and convenient way to take this measurement.


Sand the profile

To sand the saw scratches out of the profile without spoiling its shape and crisp edges, you need a sanding block that’s made to fit the profile.An easy way to do this is with Bondotype auto-body filler (Photo 8).

When you sand the profile, start with 80-grit sandpaper and move up to 220 grit.When the panel is fully sanded, it should easily slip into the door frame without rattling around inside it.


Tips for great coved panels

Raise the blade in small increments; 1/16 in. at a time. Light passes make these cuts easier on your saw and provide the smoothest surface.

Have on hand an extra panel, of the same dimensions and thickness as your good ones. Use this for test cuts as you machine the panel.



We learned the hard way that setting up the fence carefully is essential. If the auxiliary fence is located behind the center of the blade, you’ll get a profile that gets thicker right at the edge. This won’t fit into the groove worth a darn. Use the setup procedure we show, and you’ll be sure you’ve set the fence at the top-dead-center of the blade.


(Note: Product availability and costs are subject to change since original publication date.)

Auto parts stores, Auto body filler.

Highland Hardware, 800-241-6748, Fractional dial caliper, Part #06.50.08.

Home centers, Self-adhesive sandpaper, 6" discs.

Woodworker’s Supply, 800-645-9292, Push Block.

Fig. A: The Centering Board

Fig. B: The Height Board

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker September 2002, issue #95.

September 2002, issue #95

Purchase this back issue.

Click any image to view a larger version.

1. Locate the center of your saw arbor. Mount the centering board on the arbor as if it was the saw blade, and clamp the height board to the rip fence, with the bottom edge at the level of the saw table. Raise the arbor of your saw until the top of the centering board is at the line on the height board. Mark where the arbor line meets the height line.

2. Transfer the centerline from the height board to the zero-clearance throat plate.Then raise the blade to the maximum height you will be using, while the zero-clearance throat plate is clamped down.

3. Clamp a shop-made fence to your saw using the miter gauge to set its angle to 35 degrees. The fence edge should be directly over the intersection of the centerline on the insert and the blade kerf.

4. Always machine the end grain first, using a push block to hold the panel.The blade should only protrude 1/16-in. above the table. Cut all four edges of both sides of the panel twice, taking off no more than 1/16 in. at a time.

5. This is how the edge should look after two passes front and back.At this point the coved profile on the back of the panel is complete, so mark which sides of the panels you want to be the front and back.

6. It will take approximately six passes in all on the front of the panel to achieve the final shape. Stop cutting when the edge of the panel (the tongue) is the correct thickness (Photo 7).

7. Measure the edge of the panel carefully. To allow for sanding, it should be 1/32-in. thicker than the groove in the frame.

8. Make a sanding block that’s the exact shape of your coved profile. Mix auto-body filler and pack it into the cove, with a layer of wax paper over the wood to prevent it from sticking. A piece of scrap creates a dam to hold the filler in place.

9. Add a handle to the sanding block while the filler is wet.This makes it a lot easier to hold the block when you’re sanding.When dry, the filler creates a sanding block perfectly formed to the cove.

10. Attach sandpaper to the sanding block. Self-adhesive sheets are the easiest, but you can also use self-adhesive discs, cut in half.

11. Sand the cove, starting with 80-grit sandpaper and moving up to 220 grit. Every so often, check the fit of the panel, to be sure you’re not making the tongue too thin.

Imagine the possibilities

Now that you understand the technique, the possibilities are limitless. The look of the cove changes with every change of blade diameter and fence angle.


Foolproof Scraper Sharpening

Foolproof Scraper Sharpening

Make shavings like a pro with our new sharpening method.

By Tom Caspar

Scraping is quiet and efficient. It’s perfect for removing milling marks and shallow tear-out. I couldn’t believe my eyes the first time I saw John Erickson, the woodworker I apprenticed with, scrape a piece of walnut. How could a mere piece of steel work so quickly? John didn’t have to go through five grits of sandpaper to get a smooth surface. He’d take a board right from the jointer, scrape a few strokes, lightly sand with the finest paper, and that was it!

I was only a young apprentice in his shop. When it came time for me to sharpen my own scraper, all I got was dust, not those long shavings John made. How did he do it?

Although the old man never shared his sharpening system with me, I’ve developed my own approach using some modern twists. The best thing about it is that anyone can get great results. Once you get the hang of it, you can put a fresh edge on a scraper in five minutes, tops. All you need is some basic sharpening equipment, the world’s simplest jig (a plain stick with one beveled side), a vise on the front of your bench and the patience to take the process one step at a time.

What you need

The Scraper

A card scraper is a rectangular piece of flat steel. Like a handsaw blade, the steel is soft enough to be filed, but hard enough to hold an edge. Scrapers have four cutting edges shaped like miniature hooks. The hooks are almost too small to see, but you can feel them with your fingers.

In the steps that start on page 4, we only tackle the top side of the scraper, making two cutting edges. To sharpen all four edges, flip over the scraper and repeat each step on the bottom side.

Click any image to view a larger version.

The Sharpening Kit

File. The handiest tool is a 10-in. combination mill file with a built-in handle. The double-cut side of the file has two crisscrossed rows of teeth for fast stock removal. The single-cut side has a single row of teeth. This side cuts slower but leaves a smoother surface. Actually, any 8- or 10-in. mill file will work, as long as it’s sharp.

Honing Paddle. A diamond paddle cuts fast and stays flat. You can substitute a slipstone or small oilstone, but they’re slower and score too easily. An extra-fine grit paddle is best, but a fine will work.

Burnisher. A burnisher is nothing more than a hardened and polished 3/8-in.-dia. steel rod. Most come with a handle, but you really don’t need one.

File Card. A file card cleans your file. If you don’t routinely clean your file, metal debris caught in the file’s teeth will put deep scratches on a scraper’s edge.

Oil. Honing oil lubricates the burnisher. Household oil (such as 3 IN 1) works, too, but leaves your hands smelly. See Sources, below, for information on where to buy these items.

The Jig

This beveled stick is all you need to hold the file, honing paddle and burnisher at the correct angles.

Flatten the Dull Hooks

Stroke the burnisher back and forth over each edge of a dull scraper. Smear a few drops of oil on the burnisher first, then press down lightly and rub until you no longer feel a hook. Two or three passes should do it. Hold the burnisher flat on the scraper, or lean it over the edge, as shown.

Remove the Dull Edge

Push the coarse, double-cut side of the file down the full length of the scraper. Removing lots of metal is the key to success. Hold the scraper in a vise. Ride the knuckles of your hand along the benchtop to steady the file at about 90 degrees. You don’t have to be precise, just aggressive. Don’t drag the file back over the scraper on the return stroke, though, or you’ll prematurely dull the file.

Test for Sharpness I

Feel for a very small ridge of excess metal on both sides of the scraper. This ridge is called a wire edge. Pay special attention to the center section of the scraper, where it’s the dullest. If you feel a wire edge here, move on to Step 4. If you don’t, go back to Step 2.

Remove the Wire Edge

Hone both sides of the scraper with the diamond paddle. Hold the paddle so most of its face is riding on the scraper’s side. Hone back and forth until you no longer feel a wire edge. It should only take a few strokes. Wipe the paddle on a damp rag to keep it clean and cutting efficiently.

Caution: Hold the paddle carefully so you don’t cut your fingers on the scraper’s sharp edge.

Level the Scraper with the Jig

Adjust the scraper in the vise so the full length of its top edge feels even with the jig stick. Make sure the beveled side of the stick faces away from the scraper.

File the Edge Square

File the edge again, this time using the finer, single-cut side. Support the end of the file with the jig stick. This guarantees that you’ll make a 90-degree edge. Keep filing until you feel a faint wire edge on both sides, just like in Step 2.

Pushing the file at about 120 degrees is called draw-filing. This produces a smoother edge than pushing the file in line with the edge, as shown in Step 2.

Hone the Edge Square

Support the honing paddle with the jig stick to maintain a perfect 90-degree edge. Then hone both sides of the scraper, as shown in Step 4. Alternate honing the sides and the top four or five times. This is the only way to completely remove the wire edge.

Test for Sharpness II

Check the edge to make sure it’s sharp. Pull your thumbnail across the center and both ends of the scraper. If you see small shavings, and the center feels as sharp as the ends, you’re ready to go on to the next step. If not, repeat Step 7.

Caution: The edge and corners are very sharp!

Bend the Hook In

Burnish the edge into a concave shape. Remove the scraper from the vise and lubricate the burnisher with a few drops of oil. Then lean the burnisher about 5 degrees and stroke it back and forth over the scraper’s edge three or four times. Press hard with your thumb directly over the edge. Flip the scraper over and burnish the other side.

Bend the Hook Out

Bend the cutting hook using the jig stick as a guide. Clamp the scraper back in the vise so it’s level with the lower edge of the stick’s bevel. Push the burnisher back and forth four or five times, applying hard pressure.

When you’re done with one hook, place the jig stick on the other side of the scraper and repeat to form the second hook. As you gain experience in burnishing, you’ll find that you won’t need a guide to get the angle right.

Try it out

Bend the scraper to stiffen the cutting edge. Place your thumbs near the bottom edge and pull back the ends with your fingers. Lean the scraper forward and push with your thumbs. It may take a bit of experimentation to figure out how much lean you’ll need to make full-fledged shavings.


Re-sharpening a Dull Scraper

When you’ve worn out all four edges of your scraper and all you get is dust, not shavings, it’s time to reburnish the edges. Chances are the hooks aren’t dull, but simply bent back. To re-form the hooks with your burnisher, repeat Steps 9 and 10. This usually works two or three times, but eventually the hooks get worn away and can’t be re-formed. Then it’s time to get out the file and start from the beginning.


(Note: Product availability and costs are subject to change since original publication date.)

Woodcraft,, 800-225-1153, Sandvik card scraper, #02Z08; Honing oil, #07D10.

Hock Tools,, 888-282-5233, Burnisher, #BR375., 866-835-5643, 8" Nicholson Handy File #06601; File card #22284;

EZE-LAP,, extra-fine honing paddle, #LSF.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker September 2003, issue #102.

September 2003, issue #102

Purchase this back issue.



5 Must-build FREE Project Plans!

5 Must-build FREE Project Plans!

When I started work at Popular Woodworking in 1996, the goal was to cram as many projects into each issue as possible. No techniques. No tool reviews. Just 17 to 20 projects. Oh, and we couldn’t use outside authors to help. As a result, we were building all day, everyday. And we were always trying to goose the numbers so we could increase the total count of projects in the […]

The post 5 Must-build FREE Project Plans! appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.


Workbenches, Mexi-Roman Style

Workbenches, Mexi-Roman Style

Discussions about the proper height for a workbench always crack me up because they are usually myopic in the extreme. When you look at workbenches across long periods of time and across cultures, there is a lot more diversity. Roman workbenches, for example, were about knee high. And lest you think that bench went out of style with togas and public baths, think again. These sorts of benches have never […]

The post Workbenches, Mexi-Roman Style appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.


Stop Your Workbench in its Tracks

Stop Your Workbench in its Tracks

While this isn’t the dumbest shop trick ever (that honor belongs to: “A coffee mug is a good place to store pencils”) it’s close. About six months ago, I became crazy annoyed about my workbench moving while under heavy planing. The bench weighs about 350 pounds, so it wasn’t a matter of mass. For some reason I picked up the wooden wedge jammed under one of the legs that keeps […]

The post Stop Your Workbench in its Tracks appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.


Bleaching Wood

Bleaching Wood

Subtract color to add life

By Michael Dresdner

There are four types of bleach that woodworkers commonly use: chlorine, two-part wood bleach, oxalic acid and peroxide. Two-part bleach changes the actual color of wood and the other three remove stains. Read on to find out what each one does and how to use them safely.


Chlorine bleach

Common household laundry bleach (sodium hypochlorite) will kill mildew on your deck and outdoor furniture, and will remove dye-based stain, but not pigment-based stain, from wood. Chlorine bleach can irritate skin and mucous membranes, so wear gloves and goggles.

Deck cleaner. To remove mildew from your deck or exterior furniture, first hose off the wood to remove any loose debris. Mix about a quart of chlorine bleach (Clorox, Purex, etc.) to each gallon of water. Use a syntheticbristle brush and scrub the surface with the bleach mixture. Be sure to wear goggles—it’s easy to splash. Reapply the bleach if necessary in order to keep the surface wet for about 15 minutes. Then, brush off the surface again and hose it down thoroughly with water. Keep the runoff away from plants, pets and other wildlife.

Fortunately, deck stains are formulated with pigments, so they are not affected by the bleach. Let the wood dry completely if you plan to re-stain. If you live in an area where mildew is a problem, choose a deck stain that contains a mildewcide, or add some yourself. Most home centers and paint stores sell them.

Dye remover. Chlorine bleach will remove most dye-based stains from raw wood but will not lighten the wood itself. This is handy to know if you finish your project with a dye, and then decide you want to “erase” it and start over. Chlorine bleach will also remove old dye that you might encounter during a refinishing project.

Use a synthetic-bristle brush or a clean rag to apply the bleach full strength. It should remove the color by the time it dries, but for stubborn stains, repeat the process. If you are removing the stain from an old piece of furniture that you are refinishing, make sure all the finish is off the surface and lightly scuff-sand it first. Bleach will not go through a finish.

As bleach dries, it breaks down to salt and water. Once the water evaporates, you’ll have salt residue on the wood. Brush it off before you finish the wood.


Two-part (A/B) wood bleach

Wood bleach actually lightens the color of wood. It can also de-color many pigments and dyes.

A package of wood bleach contains two bottles, usually labeled “A” and “B.” One contains lye (sodium hydroxide) and the other peroxide (hydrogen peroxide). The bleaching action occurs when the two chemicals come together in contact with wood.

Instructions for use vary from brand to brand. Some say to put part A on first, then apply B before A dries. Others suggest mixing the two just before application. The object is to get both chemicals and the wood all in the same place at the same time. Read the directions.

Use a synthetic-bristle brush or a clean rag to apply the bleach. When the lye goes on first, it initially darkens the wood. Once the peroxide goes on it is likely to foam as it reacts with the wood and lye. Let the wood dry completely, usually overnight, then sponge off all residue with plenty of clean water.


Oxalic acid

Iron, in the form of nails, hardware, or even bits of steel wool, often leaves a blackish stain on woods high in tannin, like oak. A wash of oxalic solution removes these stains as well as the grayed color of oxidized wood.

Oxalic acid is sold in most hardware stores and home centers as a dry, white crystalline powder. The crystals are toxic and irritating to mucous membranes, so wear goggles and a dust mask when handling the dry powder. In a glass or plastic container, dissolve an ounce of oxalic acid into a pint of warm water.

Make certain that you have removed all the offending metal before you bleach the wood. Sometimes stains are caused by broken- off nails or bits of fencing that are hidden in the wood. Wet the surface with the oxalic acid mixture and let it dry. Repeat if the stain is not completely gone. Once dry, sponge the wood with plenty of clean water to remove the crystalline residue. Any oxalic acid residue left in the wood will make irritating dust when you sand, so wear a dust mask and eye protection.



Maple is prone to a particular type of blue stain that is caused by mold during the drying process. A strong, 35- percent peroxide solution, like the “B” portion of wood bleach, can usually remove the stain.

Concentrated peroxide is very caustic, so wear goggles, gloves, and a waterproof apron.

You can buy 35- percent peroxide solution from a chemical supply company, or borrow it from your box of two-part wood bleach. Flood it onto the maple with a foam brush and let it dry completely. There is no need to wash it down, since peroxide (H2O2) neutralizes itself to water and oxygen. In extreme cases, when the peroxide alone won’t do the trick, two-part wood bleach will.

Click any image to view a larger version.

Use bleach like stain. Two-part wood bleach turns red oak bone-white, without obscuring the grain the way a pickling stain would. The top coat is water-based polyurethane.

Chlorine bleach, full strength, easily removes most dye-based stain (right) but will not bleach raw wood white (center), nor will it remove pigment-based stain (left).

Two-part wood bleach takes the color out of most dark woods and blends maple heartwood color with its sapwood.

Apply A/B bleach safely. Wear long neoprene gloves, with ends cuffed to catch drips, a waterproof apron, and goggles. Brush carefully. A/B bleach is extremely caustic and will quickly burn your skin and eyes.

Oxalic acid dissolved in water removes black iron stains like magic from tannin-rich wood like oak.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker April 1999, issue #72.

April 1999, issue #72

Purchase this back issue.



« Older Entries