Creche dedication at Georgia State Capital building in Atlanta, GA

CrecheThis creche, located in the rotunda at the State Capital building in downtown Atlanta, GA., was dedicated yesterday December 23, 2014 by Archbishop Wilton Gregory (on the right). It was built by Eagle Scout Patrick Smith (on the left) for an Eagle Scout project. Religious exhibits like this are allowed in public places.

Patrick needed some advise on how to build the creche, so he came over to the shop and we sketched up a plan and steps to follow, and a materials list. I didn’t do any of the actual work, but I was happy to help any way I could.

Patrick is a terrific young man. Read his letter, it’s really cool!

Capitol letter

Here’s the long and the short of it, screws that is

On a recent project I worked with a lot of 1/2″ material. Most hardware is intended for 3/4″ stock. So the obvious problem is that most of the screws supplied were too long. Now you can buy shorter 1/2″ screws, but when you mortise your hinges, 1/2″ screws are still too long.

Mortised butler hinge

Mortised butler hinge

So what do you do? You cut down the screws (I know what you’re saying, but that’s another post!) Here’s how I did it after trying to clamp the screws in a couple of different vices to no avail.

All you need is a scrap piece of hardwood, I used red oak. Drill a hole in the wood that’s equal to the shank size of the screw, screw in the screw like this and clamp the wood in a vise:

Screw into hardwood and clamped in a vise.

Screw into hardwood and clamped in a vise.

Then cut off the length with a fine hacksaw blade.

Cut with a fine tooted hacksaw.

Cut with a fine tooted hacksaw.

Then file the point with a file to get rid of any burrs that WILL wallow out the hole. Be sure you file it!

File to a point.

File to a point.

I suggest you pre-drill the holes in your project, and establish the threads before installing the cut screws.  While it’s a bit meticulous, especially when you need a lot of short screws, this method works great!

Long screws (left), cut screws (right).

Long screws (left), cut screws (right).

Push piece, not the miter gauge

When I have to cut a long board on my table saw, I’ve had difficulty in the past pushing it through the cut without it twisting a couple of degrees one way or the other as it travels. It doesn’t matter if I’m using a miter gauge or my sled. This usually happens when I’m feeding a large piece through and I push either on the sled or the miter gauge, and that’s the problem. The trick is to push on the piece of wood itself not on the miter gauge. Another really big help is to wax your table saw top with car wax. That helps a lot and it also prevents rust.

Protecting inlay from stain

I remember a while back about how I was puzzled on how period furniture had parts of the inlay that were NOT stained dark, while the rest of the inlay and the furniture itself appeared to have a dark stain. How was that done?

After some investigation on the internet and asking around, the answer was very simple. You don’t use a dark stain at all, but you use darker woods like walnut or mahogany and put a clear finish on it. Duh!

During the process of figuring that out, maybe a few months, I actually did a couple of pieces where I had to figure out the best way to protect the white parts of an inlay (holly, maple, whatever) after they were installed. After all, staining the piece before installing the inlay had a whole different set of problems, and I didn’t want to even go there.

To make a long story short, it can be done, and quite successfully so. The steps are to apply a couple of wash coats of  1.5# dewaxed shellac on the inlay before installation. The cans of Zinnser SealCoat are 2# cut, so just add some denatured alcohol to get it to 1.5#. You could use it full strength though, but that’s what I had laying around at the time.

Install the inlay, and tape it off with Frog tape cut in thin strips. I also tried automotive detail tape that you can buy at most any auto parts store. Whatever you use get a good seal using the edge of your fingernail.

Now apply the stain, let it dry, and carefully peel off the tape. It usually turns out very well. That is what I did on the sacristy table pictured on this site. Not bad at all.

The downside is the shellac does add color to the wood, so if you want the holly inlay to be really white, scrap this idea, and do it correctly, i.e. use a dark wood and forget the dark stain.

UPDATE: I attended a finishing class by Peter Gedry’s (petergedrys.com) and he showed us a trick (much more of a skill), where he used a small brush and painted on the stain FREEHAND around the inlay. Not for the timid, but it works!