Well, winter break has come and gone and it’s time to write about what I have been up to in terms of my learning project for ECMP355! I must say that going home to work on my project has inspired some creativeness in me…oh how I have missed being in my workshop for my woodworking projects!

The last time I wrote about my project, I didn’t feel too great about the direction I had chose to go in and the results that I was getting. However, the tides have changed and I think that this may not be all that bad. I was just sitting around the house with nothing to do and I needed something to occupy my mind and hands with, so out to the shop I went. I was kind of roaming around in there, looking for something to do when I saw a piece of plywood that was left over from one of my previous projects. What the heck! I might as well give my shading with stain project another go and besides, who cares if it doesn’t turn out, at least I get to practice my technique more. As Magic School Bus’s Ms. Frizzle would say “Let’s take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!”

In my shop I pretty much have everything I need for tools to do projects like this. Not that I really needed anything more than I already had at university, but it really is just nice to have them for the sake of convenience. With this in mind, I took out my orbital sander and got the surface of the plywood smooth enough to do the stain art. Sanding by hand is one of my least favorite things to do, no matter what project it is.

After applying the wood conditioner and sketching out the design I started to apply the stain. It didn’t take too long and then my first lesson of the day relieved itself as I wiped the stain away  – wood grain. I realize that plywood was not the wood type I had found to work best for these types of things, but I was tired of making mistakes on good wood. 17176291_10211558638217510_622984393_oIf I am going create something ugly, I might as well do it on something that is scrap anyway. In plywood, the grain contrasts the rest of the wood in two quite noticeable ways. The first, and probably most obvious way is that the grain is darker than the rest of the wood. The second, and the one I didn’t think of until later, is how much harder the grain is. When I applied the stain, the lighter colored, softer wood (the non-grain portion) absorbed lots of stain very quickly. While on the other hand, the grain hardly took any stain at all. As a result, I did not get the exact effect I was looking for and because the grain is wide, I ended up getting a flower that basically had tiger stripes.

The other thing that I noticed I had to improve on after looking around on Twitter, was controlling the stain.  Bethany – @SawdustEmbryos, who I have referred to in previous posts, shared a  stain art project that someone else had done.

As you can see in that person’s photo, the edges are clean and definite. It looks really good. However on the one I did, the stain kept bleeding past my lines no matter what I did. It didn’t seem to matter how little I applied at a time or in what direction I would put it in relation to the grain. It would bleed every time. 17149029_10211558603816650_1621190038_oSo naturally, I needed to find the answer to this problem and I began by looking more into how wood conditioner actually works because other than the sanding, that’s where my staining process starts. With much luck and a little reading, I found just what I was looking for – an online article from Popular Woodworking Magazine. In the article, Battling Blotching, Flexner explains why so many people have not been getting the finishing results that they want and the reason for this is quite simple: the directions are wrong. The directions on the can of wood conditioner say to apply a coat of the conditioner, wait 15-30 minutes, and to stain within two hours. The problem with this, I learned, is that that does not give enough time for the conditioner to cure. So what happens is that when you apply the stain, it just mixes with the still liquid conditioner and spreads. As a result, you get bleeding!

With all that being said, I definitely feel a lot more comfortable with this whole process. Sometimes it just takes a careless attitude in terms of the end result, to get closer to that end result you want. It’s kind of like that saying ~ Just go with the flow and don’t overthink it.

Until next time, happy learning!

Featured Image Photo Credit: annapolis_rose Flickr via Compfight cc