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Note that the original posting dates for these articles were lost during a site move... My apologies!

Local Cost of Wood

posted Feb 3, 2012, 10:24 AM by Michael Dekker   [ updated Mar 16, 2012, 6:15 AM ]

People often ask how much wood costs in someone else's neck of the woods. Well, I hail from near Ottawa, Ontario, the capital of Canada, and though it is hardly a Mecca for woodworkers, it does have some benefits, namely the region's abundance of local maple!

For some prices, I walked through two of my local wood suppliers and noted some prices for some of their domestic and exotic lumber. There is not particular rhyme or reason for the species listed here, other than they caught my eye as I wandered the stacks.

Note that all prices are in Canadian dollars.

At WoodSource, a full-service lumber mill located just a couple kilometres out of town, they stock commercial quantities of most woods, and have a showroom with exotic and shorts (under 6'). You can walk in and browse the showroom selection, but if you have specific requirements, it's more worth your while to stop by the front desk since most of their common lumber is in their warehouse out back.

Species Dimension Price ($ Can)
(bf = board foot,
ea = each)
Maple, Big Leaf $22.00 bf
Maple, Bird's Eye 4/4 $7.00 bf
Maple bat blanks (hard) 3"x3"x3' $20.00 ea
Basswood $5.70 bf
Jatoba $8.90 bf
Mahogany, African 2"x24"x2' $60.80 ea
Mahogany, Genuine 2"x9"x50" (9bf) $145.00 ea
Wenge 1"x6"x3'6" $42.00 ea
Zebrano 1"x6"x4' $52.00 ea
Gabon ebony 2"x3"x3'(? didn't have tape) $150.00 ea

At KJP Select Hardwoods, a more retail-oriented shop with limited milling capabilities on-site, they have a warehouse in a commercial district within the city proper. One entire section is devoted to lumber display, with the other devoted mostly to milling.

Species Dimension Price ($ Can)
(bf = board foot,
ea = each)
Walnut 6/4 $6.80 bf
Sapele 10/4 $13.25 bf
Basswood 6/4 to 8/4 and 10/4 $5.95 bf and $7.05 bf
Rosewood, East Indian $27.50 bf
Makore 4/4 and 8/4 $12.00 bf and $12.90 bf

Now one thing I should mention about all these prices is that they will always vary with time. Just like currency, they will fluctuate and change as the value of woods and dollars change. Always remember that wood that is local to you will be available for a much lower price than wood that has to travel half the world to reach your workshop!

I would really like to know what some of you are paying for similar woods in YOUR neck of the woods, so do leave a comment on this one!

Originally posted Wednesday, April 01, 2009 8:11 AM

Finishing the Tiling

posted Feb 3, 2012, 9:11 AM by Michael Dekker   [ updated Mar 16, 2012, 6:14 AM ]

There you have it: The left and right side of the tub freshly grouted.

Front half of shower/tub area   Back half of tub/shower area

Elongated toilet bowl after installation
And of course, the toilet needs to be installed. In this case, we chose an American Standard Cadet 3 model with elongated bowl. This is a very nice toilet, even if all we do is treat it like crap :)

And next came the shower curtain rod. For this we chose a curved rod that offers more "room" inside the shower. When standing in the shower, there really does seem to be more room, much more than the gentle curve of the rod would appear to give.

The curved shower rod is also helpful because it keeps the curtain out of the way of the body jets. You have more room to move around. And finally, the shower curtain does not "drift away" from the tub's side, since the curve keeps a constant force against the curtain, keeping it properly in place and not against your body.

Curved shower curtain rod   Installed curved shower curtain rod

The next steps are to install the shower hardware, then painting, then the birch cabinets that were made! More on the cabinets in a future post.

Tiling a Bathroom Floor

posted Feb 3, 2012, 9:04 AM by Michael Dekker   [ updated Mar 16, 2012, 6:15 AM ]

Dry-fitting the floor membrane
My next task was to tile the bathroom floor. For this, I wanted to use the uncoupling membrane called Ditra by Schluter. I started by doing a thorough cleaning in the room, then rolling out the membrane and cutting it to length. The second length of the sheet needed some fancy shaping around the tub and plumbing-wall, however that was relatively easy to tackle with a fresh blade in the utility knife. Just remember to install the product mesh-side down :)

Install the floor membrane and starting the tiling
The directions ask for a modified mortar under the membrane and the normal mortar on top of the membrane, so make sure you know which bag is which! Once you mix up the mortar, apply it only where the roll will be, because if you trowel on the mortar in too wide of a path, you will have trouble reaching the far side of the Ditra product (they are 3 feet wide). I used a 3-foot section of 2x4 to help evenly press the membrane into the mortar bed, and avoided stepping directly on the membrane. The instructions state that you can start tiling immediately (no need to let it dry), however I had to stop for the day. The only lesson I can give is to make sure the membrane is level, flat, and that the corners stay down. The product is sold in a roll, and the ends may tend to curl, even with the mortar pulling it down. I simply let it cure with the 2x4 resting on the edge.

Tiling the floor begins at the back of the room
Then I simply started to tile the floor, being careful to remember to have a cutout for my toilet flange. An angle-grinder with a diamond blade is perfect for this kind of complex curve. Cuts through the tile like butter. I worked my way along the floor in 3-foot chunks until I got to the end.
Tiling is finished at the door


Looking over the finished tiling near the door

Once I was finished with the tiling, I let it cure for a couple days then came back for the grout work. This was not that complicated, however the biggest warning I can give is to make sure you remove as much grout from the face of your tiles with your float before it dries. On my vertical surfaces in the shower, I did not do such a great job of this, and had to spend hours removing the cured residue over the following weeks... But otherwise it is a very simple task. Also do not use too much water when wiping off the tiles, as it tends to suck the colour out of the mortar.

Next steps: Finishing touches on the tile work...
Adding the tile grout

Installing Glass Mosaic Tiles

posted Feb 3, 2012, 8:51 AM by Michael Dekker   [ updated Mar 16, 2012, 6:15 AM ]

Mosaic tiles taped to prevent slipping
Since my troubles with the glass tiles the first day, I wanted to postpone my pain as long as I could, and simply installed support bars to help me with all the upper rows, leaving a gap for my glass tiles to be installed later. But now I had to tackle it. So I applied mortar to the band on the wall, back-buttered the glass tiles with a thin layer, laid the tiles on the wall, and used green tape to hold the tiles at the correct level. A trick I used is to use a thin wedge on the bottom of the tiles to hold the tiles at the correct height. Once the tiles had 1/2 set (in a couple of hours) I returned and carefully removed the wedge so that it would not set permanently. Well, I learned a couple of lessons from this. First is that tape has trouble sticking to glass tile when it is not perfectly clean, and sticks even less on the large tiles because of the small amount of dust remaining from the tile cutting. My second lesson is that adjusting the depth of the glass tiles is virtually impossible to do with your hands. After much fiddling and frustration, I got to a point that I found "acceptable" and left it alone. The individual mosaic tiles were not all "flat" with respect to each other, but it was the best I felt I could do. No more glass tile for that day, and I went on to other tasks feeling frustrated.

Mosaic tiles in the process of being installed - checking for evenness
When I had advanced enough elsewhere and had let a day or so pass, I finally returned to the glass tiles with some new ideas and strategies, and I am glad to say that they worked! As you can see from the image at the right, the resulting glass tiles are smooth, flat, and the gaps between them are very clean. How did I accomplish this? What was my trick?

  • Clean the surface of the glass tile (Windex for me)
  • Clean the wall tiles above the glass tiles (again, Windex)
  • Apply mortar to the band where I want the glass tiles to be, to a thickness that will leave the tiles at the same depth as the surrounding tiles. Do NOT use the notched side of the trowel. Make this layer of mortar perfectly flat and smooth. The smoother you can get this, the happier you will be with the result
  • Optionally, insert a thin support  on the tiles below your glass blocks. I needed to do this because my gap was slightly oversized, and I needed something to keep my sheet of tiles supported slightly. You could probably get away without this, but I found it very useful. The "tombstone" spacers make a mess of things on the small glass tiles, since you would need one under every column.
  • Lay your glass tile face-down on a square of stiff cardboard that is approximately the same dimensions as your sheet of glass tiles, and carefully butter the back of the blocks with mortar. Be extremely gentle to not squeeze the mortar between the tiles. Do not use the notched side of the trowel, use the flat side instead. I used a 4" putty knife myself.
  • Last section of glass tiles taped  for support
    Get 4-5 strips of green tape ready by temporarily sticking it to the tiles above the band where the glass tiles will be placed.
  • Clean your hands with a cloth since any moist mortar on your hands will make a mess in the coming steps.
  • Lift the cardboard holding your mosaic tiles, and carefully shift the tiles so the bottom of the mosaic sheet is at the edge of your cardboard
  • Place the cardboard, still holding it horizontal, so that the bottom of the mosaic sheet is against the spacer, then raise the cardboard so that it becomes vertical, pressing gently against the mosaic sheet so that it presses against the mortar bed that you laid.
  • Finished shot of the glass mosaic tiles in the tub/shower area
    Carefully use the cardboard sheet to "massage" the mosaic sheet into place, using small circular motions (1/4" or less). Avoid the temptation to press hard, since all that will do is squeeze an excess of mortar between the glass blocks that you will later have to clean out. Once you think it will hold its own weight, you can remove the cardboard then carefully (and very gently) tape the glass blocks to the tiles above it. This will keep the tiles from sagging, or that is what I told myself anyway.
  • Worked like a charm.
Lots of work, lots of time, and just remember that your mortar is only good for a couple of hours before it should not be used! Make small batches, and keep it mixed.

Before you apply the grout, make sure you clean up between the tiles, since you don't want to see any mortar after the grout is applied. A carbide-tipped scraping tool is perfect for this, such as the one sold for scoring-and-cutting cement backer boards.

The floor was next, so stay tuned!

Tiling a Bathtub and Shower Enclosure

posted Feb 3, 2012, 8:34 AM by Michael Dekker   [ updated Mar 16, 2012, 6:16 AM ]

I will preface my entry by stating very clearly that this was my first attempt at tiling. Therefore take all my tiling wisdom with a grain of salt. To mangle an overused quote:

Damn-it, Jim! I'm a woodworker, not a bricklayer!

Wet tile saw
I setup my wet tile saw on the bathroom floor and surrounded it by a dark-coloured towel. Cutting bisque/clay tiles leaves them covered with red dust and small tile chips, and if you do not wipe the tile off after cutting the dust may affect adhesion. Of course, keep a close eye on your water level as well, since as you cut tiles and wipe them dry, you have to remember that the water collecting on your towel is no longer in the tile saw's reservoir! After a few hours of cutting and installing, the tile saw can get quite grimy, to the point where the fence was difficult to shift because of all the tile chips on the tracks. Do remember to clean your wet tile saw after every day of use, since the tile dust will dry to a remarkably stubborn layer on your tool. This MasterCraft model was purchased new from Canadian Tire for under $20 during a great sale they had on a few months ago. Knowing I would need it, I picked it up and am glad to report that it works like a charm.

Since my tiles were massive 13" tiles, I installed a horizontal support using a straight piece of scrap and started working upwards. The cutout for the soap dish was easy enough, but when I reached the level of my glass tiles, I started to run into problems. First, the glass block seemed to sink in further than the tiles and when I continued to lay tiles above them, the upper 13" tiles would slide downwards and compact all the glass tiles! After a while of panicked attempts to repair the situation, I could see that I was getting myself further into a hole, so I decided to pin the upper 13" tiles in place by minimally inserting a concrete screw below them, then peeling off the glass tiles, and scraping clean the mortar that was in the gap. At this point, I called it a day and proceeded to cleaning up the glass tiles before the mortar could cure any more (it was starting to get sandy).

When I returned to the project the next day, I discovered my second mistake: I had forgotten to cutout a space for the corner tray at the front of the shower! I had only discovered this error when I returned to the wall on the second day. My compromise was to install it lower, at the level of my support bar which was now removed. My wife also told me afterwards that she had wanted two corner shelves, one at the front and one at the back, however I had not picked up two shelves... Hindsight is always 20/20.

Installing tiles around tub - Looking at tap area  Installing tiles around tub - Looking at front part of side wall

Installing tiles around tub - Looking at back part of side wall  Installing tiles around tub - Looking at back wall

Google SketchUp Joints

posted Feb 3, 2012, 8:24 AM by Michael Dekker   [ updated Mar 16, 2012, 6:14 AM ]

For a long time now, I have wanted to add images to my catalogue of woodworking joints on the site. Though I do have some basic drafting and artistic skills, I thought it would be clearer and more consistent if I used a drawing tool.

Google's SketchUp is a great tool for woodworkers that I have dabbled with in the past, but this is my first real attempt to produce something for viewing by anyone other than myself.

Mortise and tenon joints, along with end miter joints, are the first to receive the treatment. I will be adding more as time goes on.

What do you think of the images? Are they clear enough? Or do you prefer solid surfaces? Feedback is always appreciated!

Winterize your Workshop

posted Feb 3, 2012, 8:19 AM by Michael Dekker   [ updated Mar 16, 2012, 6:16 AM ]

Up here in Ontario, the mercury is starting to dip below freezing overnight, and it is time to start thinking of the workshop, and what you should do to protect it for winter.

When your workshop will be exposed to these temperatures, you should bring in all your waterborne finishes and glues. Finishes that are alcohol or oil-based should not be a problem outside, however do read the labels. Wood filler, though usually oil-based, should be brought in as well.

As far as tools go, there are two problems that you may encounter. The plastic casings for many tools are hard however they expand and contract differently than the metal they may be attached to. When this happens, the plastic is prone to crack when it freezes, or even thaws.

The other danger is moisture! Warm air can hold more moisture than cold air. When a tool is cold and a warm breeze passes over it, water will tend to condense on its surface. Just look at your ice-cold drinks on a hot day, and you will see what I mean. To protect your tools from rust that will form on metal surfaces, give the tool a "second skin" that will let the moisture bead up on. Put your tools in a tool chest, box, or other storage area that is relatively sealed, but not completely. You want to allow the entire container to warm up at the same rate, without actually stopping the air from entering.

As a further suggestion, put a desiccant in with the tool in the container. A desiccant is a substance that can absorb the water from the air, and trap it in a form that won't endanger your tools. Silica gel is the most common desiccant nowadays, and a cheap source is premium cat litter. The silica gel looks like opalescent beads, whitish but almost translucent. Simply wrap a small amount in something that can breathe (nylon stocking, or even a regular stocking) and place in the container with your tools.

Of course, simply bringing them inside is the best option. Just be sure that if the tool is already cold when you bring it in to wrap it with cloth as it warms up, to prevent the moisture from condensing on the surface of the tool.

Now there is no excuse to find rusted tools in the spring!

Repairing a Crib Spindle

posted Feb 3, 2012, 8:18 AM by Michael Dekker   [ updated Mar 16, 2012, 6:15 AM ]

Crib with the missing spindle
So my 15-month old daughter woke up in a foul mood from her afternoon nap today, and I entered her bedroom to the sight of a slightly less-than-safe crib!

She had somehow managed to push hard enough on one spindle to break it at a narrow point, leaving the lower half pointing dangerously upwards, and the top half was half way across the bedroom.

Lacking a lathe (note to wife...), I headed for the next best thing: the drill press. I happen to have some 1/4" dowel stock on hand, so I drilled a one inch deep hole in the centre of the top and bottom halves of the spindle (make sure they are centred and matched!), and then I cut a 1-3/4" section of dowel and dry-fit the pieces.

Crib spindle and dowel
Of course, I was off a fraction from centre when drilling the holes, so I simply shaved a bit off the side of the dowel to allow it to move once inserted into the holes. Another dry fit and it was ready for glue.

With the pieces ready, I headed back to the bedroom with the spindles, dowel, glue bottle, a damp rag, and a 3-foot clamp. For the model of crib that I have, the top and bottom of the spindles are very slightly tapered. This means that I have some wiggle-room when it comes to spindle height. So I put the top half of the spindle in place and pulled upwards with the top of the crib against my chest, to force the spindle as high as possible. Then I placed the lower half of the spindle in place, put some glue in the dowel hole and along the exposed shoulder, and inserted the dowel. I then removed the top half of the spindle again, added some glue to the dowel hole and again to the shoulder. The next manoeuvre had to be done all in one attempt, or glue would end up dribbling everywhere; I put the top half into its proper hole, pulled it as high as it would go again, pushed the lower spindle as low as it would go, lined up the dowel with the top half of the spindle, then straightened the spindle until the dowel slid into the hole. Make sure you have the top and bottom halves properly aligned so that the "teeth" match, or you will ruin the fit of the two pieces.

Crib and spindle all clamped and waiting to dry
Once in place, I applied a clamp from the top to the bottom rail and tightened it until I could see some glue squeezing out. Let dry for at least 1/2 hour (read your glue bottle...), and it is ready for a baby once again!

If you don't have a drill press, another option is to cut a notch in both top and bottom halves, and insert a small hardwood or hardboard spline. Do not simply glue the two pieces together without any support because it would result in an end grain-to-end grain joint, which is the worst joint for strength, and even a 15 month-old can break that joint!

Hopefully this helps you fix your next broken crib!

Eye is OK

posted Feb 3, 2012, 8:14 AM by Michael Dekker   [ updated Mar 16, 2012, 6:14 AM ]

Eye is OK after all
Well, not much of a post, really, except to say that I went to bed last night seeing double out of my right eye, and hoping things would get back to normal soon, by Friday as the doctor noted. If things didn't feel like they were improving by Friday, I was to go to the Eye Institute at the Hospital...

But I woke up this morning, and my eyesight is 90% back to normal. I still have some doubling right in front of me, but it it only on the scale of a very slight distortion. From what I know of eyes, this small distortion is relatively easy to fix... but I also know that the outer layer has the capability to fix itself... and I think I'm in that category.

When I first looked at my eye after the accident, quite literally you could see a sear-mark diagonally across my iris. Yes, my eyeball looked like a nicely BBQ'd steak. Now it appears to have "dissolved" and the tissue is healing.

So once again, wear your safety equipment :)

Always Wear Safety Equipment! (a.k.a. Oops!)

posted Feb 3, 2012, 8:11 AM by Michael Dekker   [ updated Mar 16, 2012, 6:13 AM ]

Ask anyone who knows me, and they will confirm that I am "Mister Safety". Goggles, NOISH filter mask, earmuff-type hearing protection...

But for some weird reason, today I was wearing my mask, and my hearing protection while I was doing some soldering, but I neglected to put on my safety goggles. Big mistake...

I was soldering the pipes for the shower controller together, torch in the left hand, solder in the right with maybe 12 inches sticking out off the reel, and I was kneeling in front of the wall and looking slightly up. I finished soldering the joint, lowered the torch, and pulled back on the solder, when I somehow "slapped" my eye with the unrolled solder. I blinked a couple times, thought nothing of it, and went back to work, thinking of how lucky I was with my close call. But after about 10 seconds, I knew I was not so lucky, since my eye was tearing up a little. In fact, it was starting to sting. So I quickly shut off the torch, put down the solder, placed a damp cloth on the controller (to reduce its temperature), an looked in the mirror.

What I saw kinda surprised me. My cornea (the part directly in front of the black dot of my iris) had a diagonal slash across it, like a white haze, about 3mm long, and about 1.5mm wide. When looking out of the right eye, my vision was perfect at the edges, but straight ahead and to the left my vision is blurred. Double oops. I'm now thinking I'm in trouble. What happened is the solder which was just touching the hot brass/copper had swung back and slapped my eyeball with the solder right near the tip, where it was still super-hot. 
So I go outside where my wife is playing with my daughter, tell her that I've "made a mistake", and that I'm heading to the hospital to have them look at my eye.

There, they freeze my eye (just by drops, not by a needle) then give me more drops of a yellow dye so they can look at my eye through a vertical-slit opthamological tool with a blue light, and since blue and yellow make green, any green that they see would indicate a "gouge" in the eye, where the yellow dye pooled.

Looks like my eye is not that severely damaged. The doctor thinks it is just superficial, and prescribed some drops to stop any infection, and told me that if I don't feel a bit better by Friday morning that I should go back (for more drastic measures...)

In the end, I got off lucky. The solder was in contact with my eye for such a short period of time that the burn was not that deep. It was not the impact that did the damage (scratch) but it was the temperature of the tip at the time of impact that did the burn, like touching the edge of the oven when taking out the turkey. I'm taking the rest of the day off, of course, but I'll be back to work tomorrow. My "vacation" time is running out, and the project must get done! 
With goggles this time.

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