Winter is traditionally a busy month in north India; this is the time to party, cook large rich meals and go walking. Friends from all over constantly drop in and there seems so much to do and so little time. The last couple of weeks were also bitterly cold by our standards and I was busier rustling up our barbecue than spending time in the workshop. Nevertheless, I did find time to sneak in and give my tools company, sharpen a few planes and chisels and decide something needed to be done with the stacks of odd pieces of plywood left over from previous projects.
Over the years a woodworker will invariably accumulate large quantities of scrap pieces and while they will all eventually come in use in some project or the other. I found that I had a large number of irregular pieces of plywood stacked all over the place and felt it would not be a bad idea to use up the pieces to build quick and easy shelves, racks and so on. Apart from using up the plywood, this would give me much needed practice with plywood.
|A Quick Rack for my Workshop|
I have long realised that the more you do something, the more challenges you surmount – this I suppose is what the learning process is all about. This time I looked at the process of plywood working a little more systematically and came to the conclusion that it consists of the following stages: marking, cutting and sizing the pieces, putting them together, fixing the dents and holes, optionally laminating the piece, most definitely covering the open edges and finally finishing the piece.
I find that the first step is to accurately mark the pieces prior to cutting; unfortunately, often marking tools are not accurate (especially squares) and this leads to problems of fit and so on. Once marked accurately, pieces can be cut easily by a variety of means. Putting pieces together is also no big deal as screws or nails and glue will suffice.
|Palette Knife: Great for applying filler evenly|
Dents, holes and other imperfections can be repaired in a number of ways. I found a wood filler from a local store which claims it is imported from Italy! I paid about Rs 250 for a container weighing a kilo. Imported or not it is cheap and good stuff. It is like putty but dries harder and stains better. I can sand it off after it dries and get a good even finish. However, it does not dry as hard as automotive putty and clearly should not be applied in areas that will be banged, rubbed hard or subject to any kind of stress. I suggest woodworkers having a problem getting a good finish on their plywood projects look for this or a similar product.
|Covering Gaps with Wood Filler|
The other ways to cover holes and so no have been covered in some of my previous blogs but to reiterate, they can be filled by a mixture of fine sawdust and glue, by sawdust and CA glue drops or by other proprietary fillers. Do not use wax or any soft substance to cover dents; they do not take a finish well and often pop off when dry.
Laminating plywood or using a product faced with veneer produces the best results. In my practice, I quickly put together a shelf and laminated it with some plastic laminate that had been lying around. I then stained the insides red, applied a couple of coats of shellac and glued on synthetic banding over the exposed edges. I then filled up the areas I wanted to cover, let it dry, stained it again and once again applied shellac. The simple, utilitarian rack was ready in no time and I learnt a few things about accurate marking and the wisdom of cutting dadoes for shelves. I also learnt that synthetic edging which is glued on by a hot iron is not as satisfactory as it is touted; it is better to stick thin strips of wood over the exposed plywood edges and stain them with the rest of the piece.
The rack is not fine furniture by a long shot nor was meant to be. But consider the speed of putting it together apart from its obvious utility: an hour or so for cutting and putting together the pieces; ten minutes for each of the laminated sides, plus drying time in between; and five minutes each for staining and putting on three coats of shellac, plus two hours drying time in between. I did this in between my other work and before I knew it I had cleared some scrap and had a lot of rack space available.
|The Rack in use|
I also made a couple of tool holders and am in the process of making a medicine cabinet about which I will post later. The tool holders are simple: just two long pieces of plywood joined together in the middle of one; the back piece attaches to the wall while the piece perpendicular to it has a series of ¾ inch holes drilled in them to take the tools.
Finishing is another issue with plywood and I suspect a lot of woodworkers face would agree. The three ways to cover plywood projects are: cladding (veneer or laminate), painting and staining. The choice will depend on the use of the piece. I normally just stain and shellac pieces to be used in my workshop, garage and so on; I would veneer pieces used elsewhere. Painting is another option but it requires practice, proper surface preparation and layers of very thin coats to get a good finish. I would stick with veneer or stain, as both would be faster to apply than paint which requires drying time between each coat.
I realise that the old adage ‘practice makes perfect’ applies most to woodworking. Familiarity with processes adds to confidence and hones skills for measuring, cutting, finishing and so on. It is best to take the plunge and keep making stuff; even small shelves one feet by one feet are extremely useful in the house. Keep at it and you will get better and end up having a more organised home.
21 January 2013
21 January 2013