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Woodworking Finishing & Coping Saw Tips

Do You Want a Simple Process?

Numerous “experts” state their method of woodworking finishing. Most of them recommend a different method — using different abrasives to a wipe-on top coat. Which one is right for you?

Try This Simple Method of Woodworking Finishing:

1. Use 120 grit sandpaper for final sanding. This allows the stain to penetrate the wood. Use 220-grit sandpaper on the edges. This tends to make the end-grain take the same color as the face-grain.

2. I like using an orbital sander for final sanding. It doesn’t leave gouges and scratches like other sanders. After trying different types of sanders, I settled on the Makita B06030. It gives consistent results and is variable speed. Hook & loop sandpaper is easy to change. See the Orbital Sander Page for more detail.

3. Hand-sand the edges with 220-grit using a sanding block or your hands depending on contour. See the Sandpaper Tips Page for more details on a quality sanding block for woodworking finishing.

4. Use a scraper in tight places where there are glue spots. It is easier to use than sandpaper. Once you have experience, the scraper gives you a nice surface.

Important Woodworking Finishing Tip:

Clean the air.

Allow a day for the dust to settle after sanding. If you have an air cleaner, use it during sanding and during your finish coats.

Remove the dust from your project prior to staining. You can vacuum it or you can use a tack cloth. I prefer using the Tack Cloth, since it removes all of the dust.

Woodworking finishing requires that you use a high quality stain. I like MinWax penetrating stain. You can mix stain to get your desired color. Example: A mix of Golden Oak (which is a little darker than I like) and Ipswich Pine (which is a little lighter and has some bright color) gives my color of choice.

You want to protect your hands from clean-up later. Get some quality throw-away gloves.

Use a quality brush or rag to apply the stain. I tried an expensive paintbrush to cheap foam brushes. The best ones are high-quality foam brushes.

Cover the floor and work area with some plastic. Apply the stain with a quality foam brush.
Let the stain penetrate for around 30-45 minutes. Then wipe off with a lint-free cloth. This gives a uniform color to the wood. Sometimes you can wait longer; it depends on the project. Allow the stain to dry for a day, and then apply another coat. Rub the second coat off around 20-30 minutes or so. The second coat gives the project a richer finish than one coat. Let it dry for another day. After it is dry, you may apply a third coat. It just depends on the color you want to achieve.

Now let the stain dry for several days. It should be thoroughly dry prior to the finish coats. It is better to wait a little longer than apply the finish coat too soon.

Take the tack cloth and remove any dust that may have settled. If the project is not too big, you could enclose it in a box. Then seal all edges of the box. That will keep most of the dust off.

I like using MinWax Fast Drying Polyurethane. It gives an excellent finish and dries in about four hours, depending on humidity. I do NOT like water-based finishes for my projects. Once again, use a quality foam brush. There are extra tips on the Foam Brush Page, such as how to store for multiple uses.

Brush in one direction and make sure that you keep the surface “wet”. If the project is not too large, make very light strokes down the entire length. Just make sure the polyurethane is not drying. Two coats are normally sufficient. For rougher use, such as table tops or drawer fronts, try using three coats. Use 220-grit sandpaper on a block to lightly sand between each coat.

Just remove any bumps on the surface. Of course, after the light sanding, you clean up with a tack cloth.

Once you have the desired finish, wait three days prior to final finish. This extra step makes your project take on a professional look. This is needed for quality woodworking finishing.

I do not like steel wool, since it leaves a residue on the surface. Some of the other recommendations use different types of pads, but they are not foolproof either.

Squirt some Formby’s Lemon Oil Treatment on the poly-surface. Using 600-grit wet/dry sandpaper and a block, gently smooth out the finish. If the sandpaper gets “dry”, squirt on some more Lemon Oil Treatment. You can squirt the Lemon Oil Treatment directly to the sandpaper.

This is especially good in hard to reach places. This final treatment removes any blemishes. It gives a professional touch to your project without a lot of work. You will be amazed at the results.

What is the advantage of using the coping saw to a miter saw?

 The coping saw won’t cut your fingers off on the first pass!

Anytime I’m cutting funny angles, I always ask myself what’s going to get the job completed as fast, accurate and safe as possible! The miter saw is always going to give you the truest and fastest cut. In a perfect world! However, we live in a world of out of plumb walls and doors, crazy ceiling angles. All kinds of fun stuff to turn a ten minute project into a two hour headache. Or maybe longer if you’re not sure what you’re doing. That’s why the coping saw is such an invaluable tool to anyone considering installing moldings in there home.

The primary purpose of a coping saw is to cope the profile of an inside miter after the piece has already been cut with a miter saw. (whether hand miter saw or electric miter saw).

The advantage of using a coping saw over a miter saw when you have to make crazy little cuts. Is having the flexibility to cut the smaller and odd shaped cuts and notches that are either too dangerous or just impossible to make with the miter saw. You always want to be thinking about your fingers!

On all your outside angles, the electric miter saw is the way to go! This is going to give you the easiest and most accurate outcome. I’d definitely recommend cutting your crown a little longer and work your way down to the exact cut. This gives you the flexibility if you have to change the angle a little in order to make a tight fit.


Coping Crown Molding With A Coping Saw

So you want to install crown molding the easy way?

The first step would be to learn how to properly use a coping saw!

The first question I would ask anybody applying for a job is whether or not they could use a coping saw. Only the dummies would lie about it and get run off!

The coping saw is a small hand saw used by professional finish carpenters for making fine deep cuts when fitting moldings. The object is to cut the backside of the profile so two pieces will fit on an inside corner perfectly! No Caulk or glue. Once the proper technique is mastered, coping moldings and other various woodworking cuts will be a cinch. You’ll save time, material and a whole lot of aggravation dealing with out of square corners that are almost guaranteed to be in every house.

A coping saw can be purchased with a pack of blades at most local home improvement centers for about the same price as a twelve pack of Guinness. I just wouldn’t recommend drinking the Guinness until after the job is done. Or you’ll probably need more than caulk!

When coping a piece of crown, you’re actually hand cutting the profile of the molding so it fits into an identical piece. This does take a little practice so be patient, get some scraps and go to work, You won’t regret it.

The first step is to get the blade pointed in the right direction. I’ve witnessed two different methods of coping over the years, (the push to cut or the pull to cut). I’m a push man myself!

Here’s why!

The object of using any tool is to let the tool do the work. By standing above the work piece and using gravity to help push the blade through the wood to make the cut instead of pulling, you end up with a much easier and more controllable cut.(Let the blade do the cutting)
Pushing the blade into the cut also directs the burrs towards the inside of the piece and not to the finished outside. This will eliminate any need for sanding and leave a much finer cope.
When coping crown you don’t have to cope it in all one pass either, the object is to get the cope as accurate as possible and rushing will only lead to a lousy joint that needs filling. I’ve found that it’s easier to cut the piece out in sections and work towards intersecting points, rather then trying to round corners and bend the blade all to hell.
Undercutting is also key to getting tight coped joints. The more you undercut, the more forgiving out of square walls and wavy ceilings will be. Another trick to getting tight crown joints is to not nail the molding in the corners until both pieces are fitted. This will give a little play in the corner for twisting the crown molding into place.

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