Monday, February 12, 2018

It's a Start

One warm day about a month back or so, I used the opportunity to take one of the big slabs into "boards" and got about ten or so knocked out. I used one of the edge slabs with lots of irregular shaped bark and some insect damage. I did so mostly just to see what it looked like in a smoother state and was impressed. I showed off one piece to my wife and she promptly said she wanted a cheeseboard made from it only I needed to make the cheeseboard bigger. So I went out to the garage again and found another board I thought my suit and brought it inside. As I was asking her if those would make it big enough I noticed that I had grabbed the matching board so when butted together they made a fairly symmetrical grain pattern across the joint. Perfect. I edge glued them together.

After that, we had another very cold snap and the glue on the left end popped loose a little bit but I think it won't really be noticeable with finish on it. The rest of it looked stunning. I knocked off the bark and rounded the edges a bit but didn't intentionally try to make it look like West Virginia or a guitar body. I sanded it smooth and then debated on what to do for a finish for a couple days. That is when I noticed some fresh sawdust on top one morning and knew that the insect damage was still occurring. So I ruled out just using linseed oil and wax. I also knew that I needed to fill the voids with something food safe. I ended up ordering some food grade epoxy online.

There were no directions with the epoxy for application temperatures but I knew that the colder it was the slower it cured. So I put a heater on my workbench and after heating up the cheeseboard applied a coat of epoxy. It went on very nicely but due to the voids on top connecting to voids on the bottom, it wouldn't fill the voids and just ran out the bottom side. So I let the first coat set up a couple days, taped the bottom and poured more epoxy in the voids successfully filling them up. I let that cure a couple days and went to sand things smooth except that there was one area that still remained tacky.

I let it set up a couple days and tried sanding it again but as soon as I broke through the dry top later, it remained tacky underneath. I repeated it a couple days later (the heater running full blast all this time) but met with similar results. I finally decided to take a putty knife and dig out the tacky spot thinking I didn't get the hardener mixed thoroughly in that area and would put better mixed epoxy in the divot I dug out. However I quickly learned that the entire first coat of epoxy that I applied is still only hard on the very outside and still tacky up next to the wood.

At this point I don't know if it is the temps or the epoxy just isn't fresh or something else altogether. The project just sits on my workbench as I think things through and decide on my next move. Right now I think I will just leave it be for the time being and see if the rest of the epoxy will go ahead and fully cure. If it doesn't, I think I will have to sand or plane it all off and try again but that would be a lot of work for what was supposed to be a simple cheeseboard. If I go that route, I think I will leave the epoxy in the voids (assuming it sets up) and just oil the board instead of applying the epoxy all over.

I still learning as a woodworker even after all these years.


Susan said...

Oh, my gosh! That is beautiful! I imagine that, working with new materials, there is always a challenge or five. It is going to be gorgeous!

Kelly said...

So this may just have to wait for warmer weather? Your talk of insect damage mildly disturbs me (mildly, since this piece won't be sitting on my counter). Will the finish end up smothering and killing them? I remember a woman who made cute jewelry using acorns always put them in the oven first, to kill whatever might be inside. While some bugs don't bother me, others definitely give me the willies!

Ed said...

Susan - Most certainly!

Kelly - I thought I had blown them out with compressed air before I applied the epoxy but evidently two survived in some unseen pocket. They almost made it out of the epoxy after I applied it and I had to remove them the rest of the way with my fingernail. Any bugs that remain are surely out of oxygen by this time.

Leigh said...

I certainly hope you figure it out because it is an extremely interesting piece of wood. Definitely a show piece! Maybe a wood worker on YouTube will have some experience and some tips.