ity—wood doesn't. So it seems to me that if the insulation wore off and exposed a bare wire somewhere inside the lamp, you'd be safer if that bare wire touched wood. If it touched metal, the entire piece of metal — and probably all the metal parts of the lamp—could become a shock hazard. Am I missing the point? If the wire shorts out inside the metal wireway would it simply trip the circuit breaker?

Larry montmark Espanola, NM

Charles Linn responds: This is a good question, it is certainly true that broken conductor insulation inside a metal wireway can cause a hazardous condition, especially if the wireway is )iot grounded. But metal wirewxivs are all around us, in light fixtures, in buildings and outdoors. The only wxty to ensure that they don 7 present a hazard is to be sure that the wiring inside them is properly installed. After installation, they rarely present a hazard. By the wxty Mr. Montmark, an exposed hot conductor inside a metal wireway would not necessarily trip your circuit breaker, so be careful.

I recommend installing a metal wireway because of what can happen to a light fixture after it femes the workshop. Someone gets ahold of a lamp that was designed for some soft, ambient lighting, and replaces its three, 40-watt bulbs with three 300-wxitt bulbs. As the wiring heats up, the insulation melts muay, allowing the hot and neutral conductors to join in a short circuit, and suddenly a miniature arc-welding exhibition is taking place deep inside that wxxxioi lamp base. The idea is that the metal wireway will keep the sparks and molten copper wire sejxtrated from the wood so that the lamp does nor burst into flames. Such a fire may be embarrassbig if it occurs spontaneously during a dinner party or romantic interlude.

The most difficidt part of designing an object so that it is safe is anticipating the infinite \xiriety of means that people have of rendering the object unsafe. Installing the metal wirewuy may be inconvenient at times, but I recommend it.

I enjoyed the article on wooden lights (AW #17). I need a source of supply for light parts. Can you help?


If a local electrical-supply company doesn 7 ha\i* what you need, parts for lamps and light fixtures are mailable by mail from: Paxton Hardware, 7818 Bmdshaw Rd., Upper Falls. MD 21156, (301) 592-8505.

Tell us what you think. Send your comments, compliments, complaints and corrections to: Editor, AMERICAN WOODWORKER.

33 E Minor Sr., Envnaus, PA 18098.

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Clear Finishes

Ql want a clear finish on my funii-• ture, bid I'm not set up for spraying. I've tried varnish, polyurethane, shellac a? id oils. They 're all slightly yellow—none of them is really clear. Is there a clear lacquer that brushes on? Is there anything else that would do?

Tim Gallagher Denver, CO

Even Table Legs

The clarity of a finish is deter-

• mined by the color of the resin used to form the film. The solvents in the finishes vou mentioned are w all clear as water. Nitrocellulose lacquers are clear, but lacquers modified with alkvd resins can be as w amber as varnish.

One commonly available clear w brushing lacquer that would meet your needs is Deft Clear Woodfinish (available at many hardware stores). Apply it with a fine, natural-bristle brush loaded for a wet coat, and move a bit faster than usual, as brushing lacquers dry quickly. Follow the directions on the can, and it should do the trick. Deft also comes in aerosol cans, which are fine for smaller areas or for your last coat, to keep brush marks to a minimum. Adequate ventilation and an organic vapor respirator will keep fumes from giving you a headache.

To avoid solvent fumes, try a water-base clear finish such as Deft Wood Armor, or Flecto Varathane Elite Diamond Finish (available at hardware and paint stores).

Minwax's Helmsman Spar Ure-thane is another possibilty. It's not crvstal clear, but it's one of the clear-

est varnishes I've used and beats many standard lacquers for clarity.

The catch with clear finishes is that they often yellow over time. Direct sunlight will hasten the process in any finish. I recently repaired a chair that I had lacquered five years ago. The lacquer was clear when I sprayed it, but it had gradually yellowed to the color of an oil finish. Sometimes the best thing to do is accept fate; combined with maturing of the wood color, a bit of yellowing can complement the piece.

Nancy Lindouist

Woodworker und finish consultant

Kansas City, MO

QWhen / make a table, I take great • care to cut all four legs exactly the same length. But no matter how careftd I am, the table always rocks a little and I need to shorten one of the legs by 'In in. or so to eliminate the rock. Is there a wxxy to a\oid this?

Jack Mahoney Paris. TX


Unequal diagonals indicate out-of-square. (Exaggerated)

Reposition clamp and retigfiten to square up legs; recheck diagonals.

A There are lots of chances for • error when making a table. First, address the obvious concerns —cutting parts to correct length and making ends perfectly square. Make sure your saw blade and miter gauge are square. Pay particular attention to the mortise-and-tenon joints of the rails and legs, as error here will be compounded eight times over in the final piece.

Glue up the table in stages instead of all at once. Glue one rail and the two corresponding legs together, and then the opposite rail and its two corresponding legs. It's much easier to deal with two mortise-and-tenon joints at one time rather than all eight at once, and there won't be as many clamps to get in the way. Immediately after clamping up each of these subassemblies, before the glue has begun to set, measure the diagonals to check for square. If one measures even '/»in. longer than the other, the legs are not square. (Sec drawing.) This can usually be corrected by angling the clamp slightly and retightening it.

After the glue sets on the subassemblies, glue and clamp them together with the remaining rails to complete the whole table base. Move the whole base with clamps to the flattest spot in the shop—the table-saw is your best bet—and check for any rocking. If you find some un-cvencss, a slight clamp adjustment, as before, will force the raised leg down, and the table base will sit flat. Make the adjustments before the glue sets, otherwise you'll fracture the joint.

Mark Sfirri Cabinet maker/woodworker New Hope, PA

Smoothing Planes

Ql haw trouble getting a smooth

• surface with a hand plane without leaving little gouges on the wxxxi. I wonder if there's any difference between an ordinary bench plane and a smoothing plane. If so, would a smoothing plane help me to get a better surface?

Arthur guilmette sr.

West port. MA

A Bench planes are simply planes

• that are used at the bench for surfacing and jointing boards. The three most common bench planes are the long jointer plane, the mid-length jack plane and the shorter (about 9 in.) smoothing plane.

First, do the rough planing and flattening with the jack plane, then start working with the smoothing plane, taking very thin cuts. To avoid gouges, round off the corners on the blade of the smoothing plane just a bit. Do this by nabbing the corners lightly on a fine sharpening stone after you've made the last pass on the stone to hone the bevel. I like to take this approach even further by grinding and honing a very slight convex curve along the edge of the blade from side to side.

For the final planing on the wood.

adjust the blade so it's evenly exposed only a few thousandths of an inch, then take the last strokes just "kissing" off the high spots. Some people think the subtle ridges left by a hand plane lend a "handmade" character to a piece of furniture. But if you like, you can remove these ridges with a hand scraper.

MIKE DUNBAR Contributing editor Portsmouth, NH

Stain on Kerf-Bent Plvwood w

Q Recently I made some speaker • stands with 'Mn. birch plywood. The plywxxxt was kerf bent to a 4-in. radius to wrap aronnd an interior frame. When I stained the stands, I got a *print through" of each kerf on the outside of the plywood. I was careful not to cut the face vetieer, and I sealed the outside before I stained. Where did I go wrong?

Richard Stone Middletown. OH

A Kerf bending stretches the • outer layer of veneer unevenly—the areas still backed by the full thickness of the plywood remain largely unstretchcd, while the areas over the kerf cuts stretch the most. This changes the way the grain of the face veneer accepts stain in the different areas.

To reuse the stands as they are, you could veneer over the entire unit and refinish. You could glue the veneer directlv to the stands, but you'll

have to work carefully to avoid ir-regularities or glue-starved bulges that can telegraph through the thin veneer alone.

A better way is to glue the veneer onto thin, bending ply with the grain going in the same direction as the bending ply, and then glue the bending ply to your stands. Bending ply is simply thin, ('/* in. or less) three-ply plywood. You can glue the veneer to the bending ply flat. When bent, the bending plv will adhere better to the stands than the veneer alone. If the radius of the curve is very tight (IV2 in. or less), use special bending ply that has the grain of all three plies going in the same direction. Bending plv is available at any good plywood supplier, especially one who deals with the kitchen-cabinet trade.

Josh Markel Furniture designer and maker Philadelphia. PA

Drying Wood

QAt age 85,1 accumulated a • lot ofwxxxlworking tools, but what I need is a way to dry tnv wxxxl.

/ salwged the contols, heaters and blowers from an old clothes dryer, and I wotider if I coidd make a small wood dryer from these parts that

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uxxild hold about 200 board ft. of wood. Atty suggestions?

En Fry Versailles. MO

A Yes, you probably could, but I • wouldn't recommend it for a number of reasons. Frcsh-cut wood typically has about 75% moisture content. For furniture making it should be dried to about 1% moisture content. The first stage of drying —down to about 25% moisture—is very critical. The temperature and humidity in the dryer must be carefully controlled during this stage. If it dries too fast, cracking will occur; too slow and staining (from enzymes in the wood) is likely. If the wood is dried "green" from the saw it may have residual drying stresses that could cause pinched saw blades or immediate warping when worked with machines. It's doubtful the clothes dryer parts could be set up to provide the kind of fine-tuned control necessary to avoid these problems.

You'd also have to rig a safety control that will cut off the heat if the thermostat fails. And since the heating elements are exposed to air and wood develops fine dust as it dries, there's a real fire hazard. That means you'd have to design a dual-chamber heating system like those in hot-air home-heating furnaces.

I'd recommend a solar lumber dryer as an alternative. For 200 board ft. you'd need a small, insulated kiln with 20 sq. ft. of clear corrugated fiberglass sheet in the roof to let the sun's heat in. Drying time is about eight weeks in good weather, and the quality of the dried wood is excellent. For a set of free plans for a larger solar dryer, send a S.A.S.E to: Forest Products Center, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061. You can scale the plans down to the size vou need.

Dr Gene vvengert

Professor, wood technology Blacksburg, VA

Where To Find It

Beveled glass mirrors in circlcs, ovals, rectangles and other shapes, and various sizes for hand mirrors and jewelry boxes are available from Floral Glass & Mirror, Inc., 895 Motor Pkwy., Hauppauge, NY 11788.

Tagua nuts, a vegetable alternative to ivory for small turnings, inlays. and scrimshaw are available from Hiltarv Agricultural Products. 7117 3rd Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251.

Specialty files, rifflers and rasps in unusual shapes and sizes are available from T.B. Hagstoz & Son, Inc., 709 Sansom St., Philadelphia, PA 19106.

Got a mxx/uwrfcmg question for the experts? Send it to Q&A, AMERICAN WOODWORKER. 33 E. Minor St., Enunaus, PA 18098.


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