The most economical way to purchase lumber is to buy green, rough cut lumber. Of course the disadvantage is that you have to dry it yourself, which takes time (yes this can take up to 3 or 4 years with some hardwoods), and then in order to make it useable, you need to break it down or "dress" the lumber (at least in most cases) which simply means making it useable for woodworking projects.
The problem with this process is that frequently your wood will warp and bend as it drys, which is normal. Some wood will bend and move slightly while other pieces will bend wildly out of shape. Most lumber as it dries will bend and move in more than one plane creating what is termed a "propeller"shape.
Dressing this lumber down can be a real hazard if you are not careful because of the the way the wood is warped, and especiallt if you are working with 8 or 9 quarter inch thick boards ( 2" - 2 1/2"). thinner lumber such as 4 quarter (one inch thick) is less a bit easier to work with but BOTH can be a hazard, and here'w why ....
Almost every woodwork has used stain to change the color or wood at one time or another, but few of them have ever used "wood dye" to color wood, in fact, few woodworkers have even heard of wood dye so now is the opportunity to see the differences and understand the pros and cons of each. With this information we can then go about choosing which products to select for any given project.
Stain - Pretty much the standard of the woodworking industry, wood stains are primarily made from dirt. Yup, that's right dirt. Ground up and pulverized clays of various colors are the primary ingredient in stains. They are then often mixed with some sort of oil type base and a few other ingredients like driers and emulsifiers to give them specific paint-on and adherence features. Because stains are made from earthen material they are very color fast, in fact, that is why they are used on fences, the outsides of buildings and many other out-door applications, because they are so color fast. Basically if you can get a stain to adhere to a wood, and leave it in the sun, it will barely fade after years and years of exposure. What actually happens in most cases is the stain dries and slowly falls off after time because the oil base can no longer keep it adhered to the wood. The key with stains, is they are earthen and that when they are painted on, they are primarily coated on the surface of the wood. There is very little penetration of the stain into the wood, mostly the stain lays on top the wood. Because most stains are oil based, they don't raise the grain of the wood and all in all, for most projects they give a great finish.
So now you may be wondering, if stain is so good, why would anyone even bother with a wood dye? The answer of course is in what are the properties of wood dyes and why should a woodworker know about them and want to use them? Read on for the answers ....
When we have no other criteria to judge things on, we always select the cheapest product. Well, most of us do. Isn't it always true that once we know some things to look for in the products and services we purchase, we are all willing to pay more if there are benefits to the more expensive product. This is always the case with the lowly paint brush. I have done it myself. There I stand in front of a rack of paint brushes, they all look pretty much the same to me sitting their in their packages and priced from $1.99 up to $24.99 ... so, what do I do, I purchase the cheapest one. Then when I get home and start clear finishing my woodworking projects and find that I am really making a mess of an otherwise great project, and something I spent a lot of time making, and how the finish I am putting on is looking like crap. What's the first thing I blade ... the can of finish. BUT little did I know the real culprit was ME by selecting a cheap paint brush in the first place.
I can honestly say that when it comes to purchasing paint brushes, the more you pay the better quality you are going to get. But like all things, when you are armed with knowledge it makes all the difference in the world, and so ...
In the scheme of things, there are not many actual "tools" when it comes to finishing of wood projects. Sure there are paint brushes of various types and sizes and large selection of spray type tools and attachments but other than that, there is not a lot avalable. One of the challenges of so many of who use paint brushes to apply stains and final coats is trying to finish an entire project in one session. That often means having to finish all the sides that "show" without having to worry about the finish being marred. In most cases we have to do the finishing in 2 sessions, which contributes to making the finishing process long and tedious. Thankfully someone has addressed some of the finishing challenges that woodworkers encounter while finishing and have invented some products to help meet these challenges.
The first product is the Veraspin 360. Nothing particularly high tech about this unit, it is basically a plastic turn table that comes in 2 sizes, 11" and 16". True, it spins around in a 360 degree circle nicely, but the real benefit to the Veraspins' are the built in little "nubs" on the top surface. These little nubs are used to help hold 2 other products that attach on top of them to make a great finishing platform.
Finishing woodwork projects is the last step in a labor of love so it's critical that the finish show off the hard work, and the details of the wood . Add this to the fact that I have always tried to use products that are eco friendly and the list of finishing products starts to diminish signficantly. The only problem is that in many cases, the eco-friendly products I have tried have not given me anywhere near the kind of finish I wanted ... or expected ... until I discoverd OSMO.
If you have never heard of the word OSMO, don't be too alarmed. It is wood finishing product developed in Germany about 30 years ago. Sadly, it has taken many, many years to hit the North American markets. One of the biggest advantages of OSMO is that it is eco friendly, and that is because it is made primarily from natural, renewable sunflower oil and plant waxes. In many countries in Europe, with their very high population density, their laws and restrictions on finishing products is quite advanced. OSMO is often a preferred product as it is so safe that it is even approved as a finish for children's toys! Originally created as a floor finishing product, OSMO has since been adapted for use in other ways, but knowing that it is used as floor finishing material helps to understand just how durable this product can be.
For woodworkers, the benefits are numerous, The product will not chip, flake, blister or peel, it has an enormous coverage which means it is not expensive to use. Best of all, it is easy to apply and makes a great finish, AND if it is being used in situations where "finish wear" is a concern, OSMO can be re-finished over top of it'self with only moderate sanding or roughing of the area to be re-finished. It reall is a remarkable product. OSMO comes in both an interior and exterior grade. The main difference with the exterior grade is the addition of UV inhibiting charcteristics.
IT IS VERY IMPORTANT to understand the OSMO is NOT applied to woodworking projects like many of the finishing products you may be accustomed to using. OSMO is NOT a product for the spray gun, nor is using it with most standard paint brushes recommended. OSMO must be applied with a very thin coat, which means it requires special application.
We were very lucky to know expert woodworker and finisher Phil Makin of Frameworks Services, who kindly took the time to explain OSMO to us and take us through the steps of finishing with OSMO. We wish to acknowledge Phil for his time and recommend him for your wood project requirements, sample of which are posted in the second part of this article.