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Qas i was applying stain to my finished project, I noticed some "ripples" in the wood. / thought I had done a thorough job of sanding. What causes these ripples and how do I get rid of them?

Mojcinc Davks Norton, Ohio

A When you buy surfaced lumber from a home center or your local lumberyard, it's already been planed to thickness. And possibly even jointed on one or both edges.

But this is no guarantee that the surface is flat and ready for a finish.

Planers and jointers use rotary cutters like you see in the drawing at left. This rotary cutting action can leave ridges, or bumps, on the surface of the workpiece.

REVEALING RIDGES. The problem is you often don't see these ripples until the stain or the finish is applied. So how do you avoid this problem? There are a few things you can do to ensure the surface is prepared for stain or paint.

The first thing I do is try to sort out the work-pieces that have these ridges and require a little extra attention. I do this before assembling the project. Sometimes, wiping the workpiece with mineral spirits will help you see any ripples or rough areas that need some work, A bright, raking light held at a sharp angle can also help

(photo below). Then I'll mark these areas with a pencil.

SMOOTHING. Next, I'll work on smoothing the surface in one of three ways: by sanding, using a hand scraper, or leveling the ridges out with a smoothing plane.

When sanding, I start with a coarse grit and sand until the rippies are gone. Then you can continue using finer grits to eliminate the scratches left by the previous grit. I find it best to use a sanding block to help keep the surface flat and to keep from rounding the edges of the workpiece.

Another option is to use a hand scraper. I'll hold it at an angle so the scraper won't follow the ridges and valleys, as you can see in the il lustra tion above.

A smoothing plane can come in handy, too. I set it to take a very thin shaving. A hand plane works great because the sole of the plane will ride over the ridges as the iron shaves them down. You're left with a glass-smooth surface.

Whatever method you use, it's good to check your progress periodically. When all the ridges and valleys are gone, then you know the surface is ready for a finish. G9 ..c -' -

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Just write down your question and mail it to us: Woodsmith, Q&A, 2200 Grand Avenue, Des Moines, Iowa 50312. Or you can email us the question at: [email protected].

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Typical ridges caused by thickness planer

Typical ridges caused by thickness planer

hardware & supplies



It pays to get in the habit of wearing safety glasses (page 10) in the shop. You can order glasses and face shields from the suppliers listed in the margin at right.


Setting the angle of your miter gauge usually involves a lot of trial and error. But the ProMiter-100 miter gauge shown on page 14 eliminates the guesswork. It's available directly from the manufacturer, Salazar Solutions,

For setting the blade angle just right for a bevel cut, you might want to consider the Wixey Digital Angle Gauge (page 15). You can order it directly from Wixey or from Rockier or Woodcraft.


Just a few pieces of hardware is all it takes to complete the message center on page 16. The brass hinges can be ordered from Lee Valley (01D30.20).

The pop-up note dispenser is really handy. It's the spring that makes it work. I picked one up from my local hardware store. It's a V-long (free length) closed-end compression spring, 0.48" in diameter. The most important dimension for the spring is its free length (not compressed).

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Wood Working 101

Wood Working 101

Have you ever wanted to begin woodworking at home? Woodworking can be a fun, yet dangerous experience if not performed properly. In The Art of Woodworking Beginners Guide, we will show you how to choose everything from saws to hand tools and how to use them properly to avoid ending up in the ER.

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