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Nontoxic toy finishes

Small children put everything in their mouths—including wooden toys. I'm concerned that most paints, varnishes and oil finishes might contain chemicals that are harmful when ingested. Are there any finishes that would be safe to use on wooden toys? —Emma Wynn, Stroudsburg, Pa.

George Mustoe replies: The safest finish is, of course, no finish at all. But if you want to use one, the safest choice is a finish that's labeled "nontoxic." Behlen's Salad Bowl Finish (available from Garrett Wade, 161 Avenue of the Americas, New York, N.Y. 10013) is a clear sealer that contains only ingredients approved by the FDA for use in contact with food. Orr-Lac spray enamel (made by Spray Products Corp., PO Box 737, Norristown, Pa. 19404) is nontoxic when dry. Woodpecker's Tools, Inc. (614 Agua Fria, Santa Fe, N.Mex. 87501) sells a line of nontoxic, "organic" wood-finishing materials under the Livos brand. Clear nitrocellulose lacquer, shellac, mineral oil, vegetable oil and beeswax are also acceptable finishes.

To determine if other commercial finishes are safe for toys, read the label. If the product contains a metal such as lead, zinc, chromium, cobalt, antimony, selenium, barium, arsenic, mercury or cadmium, it isn't safe to chew. Many commercial oil finishes-even tung oil or boiled linseed oil-fall into this category because they often contain toxic metal driers. All exterior finishes should be considered unsafe, because most have mercury compounds to inhibit mildew. Paints and primers sold for use on metal often contain poisonous zinc chro-mate as a rust inhibitor. Pigments such as titanium dioxide, iron oxide and carbon black, and ingredients such as silica and Silicates are often present in black, white or earth-tone paints. They're harmless if ingested in small amounts.

Even if a finish passes the label test, you might also write to the manufacturer. Ask for a product-safety sheet, and ask if their finish is safe to use on infants' toys-just to be sure. [George Mustoe is a geochemistry research technician at the University of Washington in Bellingham.]

Cedar as a moth repellent

Is there any evidence that aromatic cedar is an effective moth repellent? —M. Felix Marti, Monroe, Ore.

R. Briruce Hoadley replies: There seems to be a mix of opinion over the moth repellency of the aromatic cedars such as eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginia). The popular traditional notion is that the wood repels or even kills moths. Most reference sources I've checked imply as much, but carefully hedge their statements. To my knowledge, no one has been able to clearly demonstrate any toxicity. Frankly, my feeling is that the main attraction of this wood is the fragrance that a cedar chest or closet imparts to the clothing stored inside. Any tightly made wooden chest can keep out non-boring insects. [R. Bruce Hoadley is professor of wood science at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.]

Veneering an ogee curve

I'd like to reproduce an old clock that has a veneered ogee molding with the grain of the veneer running across the width of the molding—at right angles to the substrate grain. How was this done? Why hasn't the veneer cracked from movement of the substrate?

—Raymond R. Smith, Shippensburg, Pa. Ian Kirby replies: It's not surprising that the veneer hasn't cracked even though the veneer grain is at right angles to the substrate. Because the substrate is so narrow, the amount of movement is insignificant.

There are many techniques that could have been used to veneer the ogee. Chances are, the veneer was laid with hot hide glue and a hot iron-heat helps make veneer pliable. Another technique was to dampen the veneer and press it between matching male and female forms until dry.

Here's how I'd do it: Make an accurate female mold of the ogee from scrap pine. One way is to rough out the shape on the tablesaw and finish with hand tools and sandpaper. Soften and heat the veneer by dampening and ironing. Apply white glue to the substrate, and when the veneer is pliable, clamp it down with a piece of XX-in. thick high-density foam rubber between the female mold and the veneer. The foam will take up any inaccuracies in the female mold.

[Ian Kirby is a designer, educator and furnituremaker in Cum-ming, Ga.]

High-speed steel

I've heard that a tool made from high-speed steel holds an edge much longer than a high-carbon-steel tool. Is this true?

—Allen B. Carstensen, Alfred Station, N. Y. Jerry Glaser replies: Yes, high-speed steel will hold an edge longer than high-carbon tool steel. That's why it's used to make cutters for power woodworking machines. But there's a tradeoff: high-speed steel won't take as keen an edge as hfgh-carbon tool steel.

About 30 different high-speed steels-all high-carbon steels alloyed with tungsten, molybdenum or cobalt-have been developed for cutting tools that must resist abrasion and the high edge temperatures caused by friction. The edges of high-carbon-steel tools subjected to these conditions will soften and dull very quickly. The new steels were deSignated "highspeed" because they didn't lose their temper in high-speed machining operations.

Lathe tools are the only hand tools that are subject to high abrasion and high temperature at the same time. Cutting an abrasive wood at high speed concentrates a lot of wear at one small spot on the tool's cutting edge and the edge can get very hot. A lathe tool made from high-speed steel will stand up to this punishment better than one made of high-carbon tool steel. This means that you won't have to regrind as often.

Since plane irons, chisels and carving tools are never subjected to this kind of wear and heat, there's no need to make them from high-speed steel. High-carbon tool steel is the better choice because it takes the very keen edge that these cutting tools require.

[Jern- Glaser is a manufacturing engineer who lives in Playa del Rey, Calif.]

Ripping on the radial-arm saw

I've had some nasty kickbacks while ripping boards on my radial-arm saw and I've heard ofpeople being badly hurt. Is there a safe way to rip on this saw?

—John Walter, Regina, Sask. Curtis Erpelding replies: Ripping on the radial-arm saw is reasonably safe if you're careful, but it isn't the best machine for the job. There was a time when I ripped on my radial-arm saw, but I discovered long ago that bandsaws and tablesaws are safer, more effective ripping machines.

The correct way to feed stock into a radial-arm saw-or any power tool-is against the rotation of the blade. To attempt to feed the stock with the rotation always results in the blade trying to "climb" the work, tearing it out of your grasp and flinging it across the room or into your body, depending on where

14 Fine Woodworking

Drawings: Lee Hov


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you are standing. The main difference between ripping on a radial-arm saw and on a tablesaw is that the tablesaw blade tends to push the work down on the table, while the radial-arm-saw blade tends to lift the work off the table.

Always use a push stick when you rip on a radial-arm saw. To minimize the chance of kickback when ripping, set the adjustable blade guard so that its front edge is just barely above the surface of the work. This will also prevent the blade from throwing chips and dust back at you. Position the anti-kickback pawls so they drag freely on the work as it's pushed into the blade but lock tight against the work should the blade try to push it back.

[Curtis Erpelding is a furnituremaker in Seattle, Wash. He wrote about cutting joints on a radial-arm saw in FUFW#32.]

Drying olive wood

About six months ago I was given some 10-in. dia. olive logs. I immediately ripped them into 3-in. thick boards, painted the ends, and placed them under cover with stickers between the boards to allow air to circulate. Last month I checked the boards and was horrified to see deep cracks throughout. This beautiful wood is now good for nothing but firewood. What did I do wrong? —Eric Schramm, Los Gatos, Calif

Eugwie Wengert replies: The best way to dry a species you aren't familiar with is to handle it as though it were extremely prone to checking and cracking. This means sawing it into 1-in. boards and drying it at a very slow rate. Relative humidity should be about 70% to 90%, temperature under 100°F, and strong air currents eliminated. Cover the pile with burlap if the weather is too dry, hot or windy. This may be overkill for some woods, but it is safe for all.

Drying difficulty increases greatly with thicker wood. Even in the commercial drying industry, it's rare to find anyone successfully drying 3-in. thick oak. If you want thick stock, saw 1-in. boards, number them in the order they come off the log, then glue the boards back together when they're dry. [Eugene Wengert is extension specialist in wood technology at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.]

Airless sprayers

I'd like to start spraying lacquer in my small one-man shop, but I don't have room for a big compressor. In the 1950s I had a little electric spray gun that worked just fine. Are any of the airless sprayers such as the Campbell-Hausfeld or the


Re circles on painted chests (FUFW#48, pp. 64-67). Here's a photo of the gizmo I use for painting circles. The essential ingredient is the wheel, which keeps the splay of the brush constant. I used a wheel and bracket from a rolling closet door. The flattened nail slides in a bandsawn slot and is fixed by tightening the thumb screw. The brush is held on with rubber bands, which are very convenient because they adapt to different-size brushes and allow for precise adjustment of brush length. Note that about in. of brush and ferrule extends beyond the brush holder, so the brush can be loaded from a shallow tin. Artists' bristle brushes in a shape called "filbert" seem to work well with my device. Brushes may also be trimmed to give the right spring and shape.

This compass is useful for circles from 1-in. to 6-in. radius. The circles shown in the photo (the brush is dry) were done with a very fluid paint that made it possible to complete a circle in one stroke. Some old chests have painted arcs with raised edges that you can feel. To obtain this raised edge, use thicker paint. You'll have to stop in the middle of the arc and reload the brush. —Ric Hanisch, Quakertown, Pa.

Wagner adequate for occasional non-production work? I make only one piece at a time. —Arthur Kay, Tucson, Ariz. George Morris replies: For occasional use, either of the airless sprayers you mentioned would be adequate. There are three major disadvantages with airless sprayers: they don't atomize as finely or spray as fast as an air gun and they can spit. A fast-drying finish such as lacquer aggravates these problems, and the extremely low humidity in southern Arizona will make things even worse. Part of your project will be dry before you've finished spraying. This will result in gritty overspray and an "orange-peel" texture.

There are several ways to deal with these problems. You can add reducer or a drying retarder to the lacquer. Either of these, however, will reduce the lacquer's already meager solids content and force you to spray extra coats, which will increase the likelihood of drips and runs. The better remedy is to spray brushing lacquer with its appropriate thinner (available from Mohawk Finishing Products, Inc., Rt. 30 orth, Amsterdam, N.Y. 12010). It's designed to dry more slowly than spraying lacquer, so overspray, texture and droplets have time to level out before the finish sets.

Words of caution: Your small shop will need a specially ventilated spray booth for spraying lacquer. The vapors are toxic, so wear a cartridge-type respirator.

[George Morris makes guitars in Post Mills, Vt. He wrote about lacquer finishes in FUFW#31.]

Grub-infested wood

I often pick up carving wood from building sites. Sometimes I find that the wood has been invaded by white worms that dig deep tunnels. Occasionally I've found the same tunnels and worms in well-dried wood bought from a dealer. Some of the worms are as long as 2 in. and as thick as a pencil, while others are the size of a little pin. Is there any way to destroy these worms and prevent them from reinvading my 2-ft. to 3ft. long sculptures? —Paul E. Yarden, Jericho, N.Y. Daniel Cassens replies: Your wood is probably infested with long-horned bores or powderpost beetles-two general groups of insects that cause damage to wood. These pests can infest logs, stored wood or wooden items already in service. You can usually detect their presence from the holes that they bore in the wood or from the flour-like powder that they push out of the holes. Long-horned bore larvae can be as long as 1 in. and bore a Y.-in. dia. hole. Powderpost beetles are usual-

A paintbrush compass makes accurate circles and arcs.

16 Fine Woodworking

Photo; Ric Hanisch


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Wood Working 101

Wood Working 101

Have you ever wanted to begin woodworking at home? Woodworking can be a fun, yet dangerous experience if not performed properly. In The Art of Woodworking Beginners Guide, we will show you how to choose everything from saws to hand tools and how to use them properly to avoid ending up in the ER.

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