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Reader Questions, Answered

Woodworker's Journal readers regularly submit questions related to the ins and outs of woodworki ng —an d, in conversation with those readers, WJ finds someone to answer them.


These books will help you identify unknown woods.

QThey say you should use a table-mounted router when using the large router bits, and you should lower the rpm. I have this setup and also purchased a speed controller, but how do you set the rpms?

Lonnie Waltrip Elko, Nevada

A Good question. The short answer is: you don't set the router to a specific rpm. Run the router as slow as you can and still achieve a clean cut with a reasonable rate of feed. 'Ill is could be 10,000 rpm for a soft hardwood, and 14,000 rpm for harder woods.

The only way to do this is by trial and error. Start with the router (or speed controller) set to run slower than you think you need, and make a trial cut If the quality of the cut is poor, or you have to feed the workpiece exceptionally slowly to keep the router from bogging down, increase the rpm slightly and repeal until both the cut quality and feed rate are acceptable. It's not rocket science, but until someone comes up with a digital rpm readout for routers, it's the best you can do.

Steve Krohmer

QI often use recycled and found wood in my projects. My problem is identifying the woods. Is there a resource on the web or in print that makes identification easier?

Stephen Kleinatland Dover, Tennessee

A Among the books which have photos and descriptions of various woods' characteristics you can use for comparison purposes are The Real Wood Bible by Nick Gibbs and World Woods in Color by William A Lincoln.

An additional book, Identifying Wood: Accurate Results with Simple Tools by Bruce Hoadley, has not only the photos and descriptions but, as the name implies, further directions for the scientific identification of woods. You'll need a hand lens or an elementary microscope.

The U.S. Forest Products laboratory uses similar tech-


These books will help you identify unknown woods.

ñiques to identify wood, but do make a point of stating that they — and you — are likely to only be able to nail down a wood's genus (for example, "some sort of oak") rather than necessarily a specific, exact species.

The U.S. Forest Products Laboratory will identify a maxium of five wood samples per calendar year for a U.S. citizen. You can check out further details, like their requirements for the samples, at http://www2.fpl.fs.fed. us/ WoodlD/idfact. html.

Joanna Werch Takes

Ql've been finishing wood for 30 years, but I never have any luck with polyurethane. I get bubbles or bumps every time. Can you help me figure out how to get a smooth finish without spending hours and hours sanding and rubbing?

Mark Armstrong Sacramento, California

A You are not the only one facing this dilemma, but the manufacturers are listening to you. Rockier Polyurethane Gel (rockler.com) is designed as a foolproof wipe-on/wipe-off finish: it will give you exactly what you are seeking — a flawless polyurethane finish with no dust, bubbles or brush

marks, and very little work. All you need to do is apply it correctly. Don a pair of vinyl gloves (it's not harmful, but it will make your hands sticky), and grab a piece of fine, gray Scotchbrite®. Dip the Scotchbrite into the gel, and use it to scrub the finish onto the wood. Go back with a cloth or paper shop towels and wipe it all off. Wiping off the finish will leave a very thin, but uniform, coat, free of brush or rag marks. Apply one coat per day in exactly the same way. Three coats are a bare minimum; six or more are better. There's no need to sand between coats for adhesion, as long as you apply the next coat within two weeks. Sand only if you need to remove dust nibs, an unlikely scenario with a wipe-off finish.

Michael Dresdner

QOver the years, I've seen the following screw sizes: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10 and 12. What happened to sizes 7,9 and 11?

Skip Tenney Morgantown, West Virginia

A Screw sizes — or more, accurately, screw gauges — are based on a numbering system that standardizes the thickness of the screw shank (not the threads) at its widest diameter. These numbers were established almost 60 years ago by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). For instance, if a screw manufacturer follows ISO standards closely, a #4 screw will have a shank diameter of .112", and a #8 will have a .164"-thick shank. Manufacturers engineer screws within tolerances that may vary a few thousandths of an inch from ISO standards. As you know from buying screws, the higher the gauge, the thicker the shank. The gauges you've seen are those stocked most often in stores, but specifications for the more obscure #7, #9 and #11 — as well as #0 and #1 — do exist. They just aren't commonly manufactured or sold.

LiLi Jackson

QI have recently read that when a router is mounted under a router table (bit spinning counterclockwise) that you have to feed the piece clockwise and around the fence. Why is that?

Andy Pozorski Sauk Rapids, Minnesota

A Your question is best answered with a drawing. The view is looking down on the fence and bit. Notice that the bit is only partially exposed by the fence. As you push wood along the fence from your right to your left, (called the feed direction in the Drawing at left below), the rotation of the bit is against the direction you are pushing the wood. This allows the bit to safely cut the wood and you to safely push the wood along and finish the cut

Now imagine pushing the wood from your left to your right Notice that the rotation of the bit is now the same direction that you are pushing the wood. The bit now acts as a fast spinning wheel that grabs the wood out of your hands and quickly propels the wood across your shop, often pulling your hands into the bit. This is a very dangerous practice and is to be avoided at all times.

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Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

There are a lot of things that either needs to be repaired, or put together when youre a homeowner. If youre a new homeowner, and have just gotten out of apartment style living, you might want to take this list with you to the hardware store. From remolding jobs to putting together furniture you can use these 5 power tools to get your stuff together. Dont forget too that youll need a few extra tools for other jobs around the house.

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