Little Lending Library

Next up on my building schedule is a small lending library — one of the little free libraries you see dotting the curbsides around town. At least around here there are a bunch of them where you can borrow a book or donate a book to the bunch.

The reason this is on my docket is that one of our grandchildren is set on making one. He asked his grandmother if I could help him, and she of course said yes. Not that I mind; I think it will be fun and a great way to spend a Saturday.

As a matter of fact, Woodworker’s Journal has a new plan for a lending library in our August issue that goes on sale in just a few days. It is a very cool design, and while it is well within the skill level of most woodworkers, I think I may come up with a simpler plan for the 4-year-old and me. Time to get into the shop!

Rob Johnstone, Woodworker’s Journal

College Reopens Mehler Woodworking School

College Reopens Mehler Woodworking School

Nestled in the rural Appalachian foothills about two miles from Berea, Kentucky, the Kelly Mehler School of Woodworking had been offering world-class woodworking instruction since 2004. That was interrupted in January 2015 when Mehler was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. He suspended the facility’s course schedule indefinitely, and its future as a woodworking school seemed uncertain.

Still, in the darkest of times, hope can come from unlikely sources. Earlier this year, neighboring Berea College — a top-ranked, four-year liberal arts school and one of eight federally recognized Work Colleges in the country — stepped forward and purchased the school from Mehler, renaming it “The Woodworking School at Pine Croft.” Next month, Pine Croft will receive its first class of students who will complete a two-drawer Shaker-inspired Side Table, under the tutelage of Kelly Mehler. Then, in August, a second project-based course (a Shaker-inspired Two Drawer Peg-Leg Stand) will be taught by Pine Croft’s new head of operations, Andy Glenn — a graduate of Boston’s North Bennet Street School.

Kelly Mehler and Andy Glenn

While the pairing of a private woodworking school with an accredited college may seem unusual, “there’s a natural connection between the (two),” says Glenn. “Berea College has a 127-year tradition of supporting crafts training through its labor program.”

Since its founding in 1855, Berea College has had a work component to its educational experience. It admits only academically promising students with limited financial resources, primarily from Kentucky and Appalachia. Every student attends college tuition free, and those costs are covered by contributions from alumni and other donors as well as various graints. In exchange, students work 10 to 20 hours per week among the college’s 130 departments while pursuing their course of study. One of those departments is Craft, which comprises ceramics, broomcraft, weaving and woodcraft. Glenn runs the woodcraft program. It provides machine and hand-tool woodworking training in a production shop environment. The college sells student-built furniture as a revenue source to help offset tuition costs.

Glenn admits that his teaching role is unique. “In many ways, I’m a co-worker with the students — we are all working together to complete the projects that come through the shop … I work some at the bench, design our production pieces and custom work, continuously train our student crew and help maintain the flow of work through the shop.”

Aside from Glenn, five to seven other guest instructors will head up Pine Croft’s 2020 curriculum. That roster may also include Mehler who, Glenn says, is in full remission and doing well.

“Kelly’s been instrumental in his support and advice as we get the school up and running again,” Glenn says. “My hope is that he’ll teach whenever he’d like to and that he’ll be around as much as he’d like to be.”

At the time of this writing, only the two Shaker-project classes are slated for the remainder of 2019. Courses are tentatively scheduled to resume in April or May 2020 and will run through early autumn. A full schedule for next year should be available in mid-October, Glenn predicts, and registration for classes will begin at that time.

Initially, Pine Croft will be open seasonally and not year-round.

“Our plan for the first year or two will focus mostly on furniture and furniture-related skills. We’ll have classes that highlight regional designs and traditions as well as guest instructors who will bring their expertise from other regions,” Glenn says. “Kentucky has a strong furniture tradition, from works by the Shakers to distinctive Federal-style furniture to the chairmaking tradition of eastern Kentucky.”

Class sizes will be limited to 10 students or less. The school’s 2,400-square-foot building has a fully equipped machine room on the lower floor that can accommodate eight to nine students with no waiting. Eleven benches upstairs, illuminated by ample LED and south-facing window light, create a pleasant and spacious environment for hand- and power tool work and assembly.

Project lumber will come from the college’s private forests, whenever possible. “Our forests have a great variety of oaks, hickories and maples,” Glenn adds. “Our green woodworking classes will use local logs, and we’re working with the (Berea College) foresters on a stool project that uses ash from local stands before the emerald ash borer decimates available stock.”

Next year’s Pine Croft season will focus on public classes, but eventually Berea College students also will have access to the facility and its instructors. Glenn is excited about the prospects of both forms of educational outreach, as well as the opportunity to rub elbows with chair makers, studio furniture makers, woodturners and whomever else may come to Berea to teach at the school.

“Pine Croft is another way Berea College can support the greater crafts community as a whole,” Glenn says. “Berea College students will get to see working woodworking professionals, engage with class attendees and witness high-level craft — which I’m hoping will open their eyes as makers and provide new opportunities for them to grow as woodworkers.”

To learn more about The Woodworking School at Pine Croft, click here or call 859-985-3224.

How to Speed Up Your Sub-Base

How to Speed Up Your Sub-Base

Have you ever experienced the annoying tendency of some plastic router sub-bases to drag along the workpiece when you’re routing by hand? The slower feed rate can even lead to more burn marks and chattering.

Edge routing workpiece with beeswax

To overcome that nuisance, I rub a little plain beeswax onto the baseplate, which reduces the friction considerably without leaving a residue on the wood. I’ve also tried paraffin wax for this purpose, but beeswax works much better.

– Father Chrysanthos
Etna, California

Wagner Control Pro™ 130 Sprayer

Wagner Control Pro™ 130 Sprayer

Featuring a new High Efficiency Airless™ gun and tip technology, Wagner Spray Tech’s Control Pro 130 Tank Sprayer delivers a softer spray fan pattern, a more consistent finish and produces up to 55 percent less overspray than conventional airless systems. Due to the design of the sprayer and the professional grade gun and tip, the Control Pro 130 Power Tank can spray an 8 x 10-ft. wall in as little as two minutes. It is also useful for a smooth, uniform finish on surfaces like walls, decks and fences. The gravity-fed tank has a capacity of 1.5 gallons and can spray unthinned latex or oil-based paint, primer or stain continuously. The Control Pro 130 Power Tank sprayer has a 25-ft. hose for extended reach, built-in handles for easy moving and on-unit storage for the gun and hose. Available now, its suggested price is $229.99.

Bora Workbench Caster Kit

Bora Workbench Caster Kit

Bora Tool’s new PM-900 Workbench Caster Kit provides an all-swivel solution that can make it easy to move full-size workbenches around the shop without lifting. Each rubberized 3-in. wheel will support up to 155 lbs., which Bora reports is up to 50 lbs. more than other similar kits. The wheels are non-marking, and their diameter makes it possible to roll a bench smoothly over uneven floor surfaces. A heavy-duty foot lever mechanism, borrowed from Bora’s machine mobile base family of products, makes it easy to engage the wheels by pushing down or lifting the lever to lower a bench for use. Steel brackets with included hardware enable the casters to be retrofitted to most workbenches.

With an overall load rating of 620 lbs., the Bora Tool PM-900 Kit includes four casters and sells for $89. It will be available later this month.

Pigment-free Paint for Outdoor Bench?

Pigment-free Paint for Outdoor Bench?

Years ago, I read about using good quality, non-pigmented paint on outdoor wood projects. Recently, I replaced the slats on a cast-iron bench using pressure-treated wood. Is non-pigmented paint a good option? – Bill Donley

Tim Inman: Paint pigments are basically ground dirt or glass. Non pigments are dyes. Dyes fade. Some dirt will fade, too, but not as much. Most paint pigments have non-fading ratings. If you use a paint outdoors, the pigmented stuff is what you want. Unfortunately, many coatings makers use both dyes and pigments in the same recipe. The upshot of this is that your colors will change over time as the dyes give out to the sun.

Chris Marshall: I’m not sure what the advantage of non-pigmented paint would be on an outdoor wood project. Pigments help to block the UV light that eventually causes wood to turn gray and degrade. They also help to give paint its color longevity, as Tim points out. If what you’re after is a semi-transparent color that allows some of the wood grain to show through, I’d opt for an exterior-rated oil-based stain, because it won’t peel off over time and become a refinishing hassle. If you decide to go with any form of paint, make sure that your treated lumber is suitably dry (below 12 percent moisture content) before you paint it. The pressure-treated lumber I see at home centers is often so saturated with water and chemicals that it literally feels wet; if you paint over damp wood like that, you’re compromising the paint’s bond to the wood. More than likely, it will peel when the wood dries out. Personally, I’d give those slats six months to a year of drying time first before painting. After all, with treated lumber, there’s no harm in waiting.

Minnesota “State Bird” Reflections

Minnesota “State Bird” Reflections

Last week, with the prospect of a few good weather days, Rob was eagerly anticipating tackling a power carving project. His frustration with recent heavy rain recalled, for one reader, the pesky outcome of too much rain in Minnesota lake country. – Editor

I am sure this rain is enjoyed by your Minnesota mosquitoes. I have only been to your state one time. I was driving home from a trip to California and the west coast up into Washington and Mt. Rainier, way back in ’63. We had been to Duluth earlier in the day, and it was getting on toward darkness. We were looking for a place to spend the night. I would be sleeping in my sleeping bag on the ground, but my buddy Pete would be sleeping in the cab of my truck. He had seen a scorpion on the road in South Dakota on our way out to the coast, and he never slept out on the ground the whole rest of our trip. We were traveling through the lake country, and I found a lake with a campground after it had been dark for an hour or two.

I drove down to the campground close to water’s edge. The campers were all sealed in for the night. I observed that every tent or mobile camper was sealed tight. Outside, between those campers and our truck were millions of mosquitoes. Clouds of them. As we had approached the camp area, I had noticed a picnic site with a hand water pump on the hillside just above, about 100 yards up the slope. I beat a hasty retreat to that site. There were no pesky winged blood suckers flying around the site, so I rolled out my sleeping bag and pulled the flap over my head (just in case). Pete closed the truck windows and we went to sleep.

The next morning, it was still dark, and I am an early riser by habit. (I grew up on a farm in the Massachusetts Berkshires, and the cows taught me that before the daylight was chow time.) As I was coming out of my slumber, I became aware of a roar. At first, I thought it was a waterfall, but as I gained my senses I realized the country all around the lake had no serious drops in elevation where a waterfall was even possible. I realized it was the roar of the mosquitoes. I climbed out of my sleeping bag. There were no bugs of any kind flying around our private campground. I worked the pump and splashed water on my face and body, got dressed, packed my sleeping bag onto the truck, woke my pal and suggested we get rolling.

Pete, who was not naturally an early riser, climbed out of the truck, blinked his eyes, grabbed a towel and suggested he would go jump into the lake to wake himself up.

“I don’t think that is a good idea,” I warned.

I might just as well have saved my breath. Pete was on his way. In the dark, I heard a couple splashes as he charged into the shallow water, and then, “Yeowww!!!” and a couple more splashes. Suddenly, from out of the darkness, a very excited and naked Pete appeared. He refused to go back to get his clothes or even his towel. Since I had suspected his ordeal, I had no intentions to go retrieve his clothing. Somewhere, around the Minnesota lake country, there are mosquitoes wearing his skivvies left on that lake shore. Those mosquitoes were actually THAAAT BIG! – Wayne Tinker