Wednesday, November 3, 2010

How to Clean a Zebra

I ventured out into the wilds of the workshop to tackle some clean-up on those Zebrawood boxes.  Two of the four boxes had some glue squeeze-out at the inside corners that cured hard before I could remove it. 
Obviously, not the look I was going for.  Step one of the solution was to raid my lovely wife's bathroom cabinet for her acetone (nail polish remover.)  The acetone will soften the woodworker's glue a little and make it a little more receptive to a chisel.  Yes...I'm now woodworking with a Q-Tip!
After a healthy dose of acetone on the dried glue and a little time to set, it was time to start working into the corners with the chisels.  My set of Crown skew chisels were just the right tool for the job.  They allowed me to apply the full width of the edge square to the corners while coming in at an angle from the top of the box.  Having both the left and right skewed chisels allowed me to work into each corner from both sides and clean out all of the glue.
The glue was pretty hard, even after the acetone, so I had to shave just a hair of material in a couple spots to make sure all the glue was removed.  Any glue left on the surface of the wood will become a beacon of error once a finished is applied.

After all the chisel work I used some 180 grit sandpaper to clean up any little nicks in the corners the best that I could.  I used a scrap piece of Wenge (Weng-ee) left over from another project.  It was square and small enough to work into the corners quite well.

At the end of the day, the real lesson here is to be mindful in preparing the pieces correctly before assembly, and to remove any glue early while it's soft.  I don't think the corners will ever be as crisp and clean as I'd like...I guess that's the curse for all woodworkers...we know where every little flaw is.

The next big steps will be cutting some small grooves into the corners to accept some Walnut splines and crafting the lids.  Two of the boxes will receive lids made from a small slab of Padauk (Pa-duke) that I have set aside.  The contrast should be pretty striking with the Zebrawood. 

I haven't decided on the lid stock for the remaining two boxes yet, however, I'm considering using Walnut to match the splines and give a more subtle look.  After all construction is done I'll be applying a hand rubbed clear finish.  The Zebrawood looks nice now, but when the finish is applied the grain and color contrast will really pop. 

Stay tuned for the next episode of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, where Pete will wrestle with Leopardwood and Tiger Maple.

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