How To Install a Bartop
One of the trickiest parts of making a new bartop is installing it. The biggest problem is we can’t, or at least we probably don’t want to, just drill through the top. If we could, the job would be much easier and this blog post and video would be much shorter.
Assuming that the bartop is going to be placed on a half wall and not on a run of cabinets, the two areas of concern are giving the top support and providing a way to anchor it down. Adding steel plates underneath, solves both of the problems. We use 3″ wide x 1/2″ thick steel plates attached to the top of the half wall, which then fit into recesses routered into the bottom side of the bartop. We use a CNC router because we have one, but this can be done just as well with a handheld router and a jig. We cut the slots 1/2″ deep, 3-1/2″ wide and 1/2″ longer than the steel. The length of each piece of steel and the placement is up to you and different with every top.
We first fit the bartop to the space using cardboard templates made to fit the existing conditions. Once the tops fit, we then mark the locations of the slots, remove the tops one last time and secure the steel before putting on the tops for the final time. You will be tempted to skip this step by just measuring the layout, but I can tell you from experience, nothing in the world lines up where you think it will and there is a great chance that you will be removing the top again anyway. Of course, if the top is giant and hard to move, or if you are just feeling lucky, go ahead and measure and see what happens. Your odds of getting the steel to fit in the slots the first time will be increased with bigger slots. However, I personally lean towards a tighter fit because I think it looks more professional, despite the fact that it will probably never be seen.
After the steel is in and the the bartop is back in place, it just takes a few minutes to screw down the top. We drill all of the holes in the 1/2″ thick steel on a drill press to make it easier, but it can be done on site with a handheld drill (it just takes a bit longer). A screw at each end of the steel plates is all it takes to hold the bartop in place.
In the video below, the bartop is L-shaped, so each piece gets some additional support from the opposing piece. The two pieces are aligned with loose dominos and pulled together with dogbone connectors, which are commonly used for countertops. Click on the video below to see how we do it and to see how the top was built.
Installing New French Doors
Installing doors isn’t the quickest and easiest thing to do. They need to fit well, with even gaps all around and they need to shut securely, but easily. It is a demanding task, which I decided to make even more so by adding a second door to the mix.
While challenging, you’ll get no complaints from me. I like this little finicky stuff almost as much as I like sanding. And, while that sounds like sarcasm, it is true. I really do like both. I find it rather relaxing to just chill out and get into the work. When I was working on these doors and shooting the video for it, I even thought about making a “slow” woodworking video, with the beautiful weather and the birds chirping and me just chiseling away. Maybe that will be for another video, when everyone is clamoring for me to slow down the action a bit and make the videos much longer (I expect that to happen on the 12th).
In the meantime, click on the link below to see my zen video on installing a set of mahogany french doors at regular speed.
Milling Curly Q Logs
I just milled a short hollow maple log for a customer which ended up having a fun curly Q shape. The log clearly had a wound along the side, running up the length of the log and it was never able to heal over. In the log’s attempt to close the wound, it added extra growth which made the fun shape.
While I was milling the maple log, it brought to mind a sycamore logs which I milled a couple of years ago. They produced some slices with the same curly Q shape, but they were much larger. I clearly remember being quite sad when I cut into the giant logs and discovered they were hollow. Just when I was about to make them firewood, I got a clear view of the curly Q shape and decided to save them.
There really aren’t many practical uses for these cuts, but they attract viewers like crazy in the shop and as far as I can tell have all ended up as pieces of artwork. Check out the video below to see the final product.
Quartersawing a Large White Oak Log: Part 2
It’s official. I’m going to end up with three installments about quartersawing. In an effort to not bore everyone to death in this video, I had to keep out all the important details, like why are we even bothering to do all of this extra work? There are a couple short answers (it’s pretty, it’s more stable) but since I like to give long answers, I’m going to need more time.
My focus for the last video was to show how I deal with oversized logs and this week I show how to actually quartersaw. I think it will help a lot for everyone to see, in a video, how riftsawn and quartersawn lumber are produced from the quartersawing process and see how I tackle the task.
Quartersawing a log takes much more time because each log essentially produces four individual logs (quarters) and each one needs to be processed separately. Throughout the process, lots of decisions need to be made to produce the most and best lumber.
Click on the video link below to see how the quartersawn lumber is cut and to see some really pretty boards.
Quartersawing a Large White Oak Log: Part 1
I spend a lot of time talking about quartersawn lumber with customers and have always wanted to get my thoughts about it into one place. Turns out, it is probably going to be in at least two places when I get done covering it. There is just too much to know and the more I try to explain it, the deeper in the weeds I get, and staying out of the weeds is not my forte.
Since I have spent over twenty years discussing it with customers, studying it on my own and generally just worrying about if I am producing the best quarter sawn lumber as efficiently as possible, I have come up with a lot of talking points. Luckily, for you, I am not going to get too deep into it until the second installment, when I finish producing the quarter sawn lumber.
In this first video, I was most excited to show how I get a log which won’t fit on the sawmill prepared for quartersawing and to get a chance to use my chainsaw (which I do whenever I can). Click the link below to see how I get the large logs ready to be milled.
Building and Installing a “Very Pretty” Barn Door
I just finished installing a barn door to cap off a bar area of a basement remodel. During its construction everyone visiting the shop talked about how pretty it was, and I agree. It’s weird because I didn’t imagine I would like it so much or get so wrapped up in terms like “pretty”, especially since I prefer to use the word “cute”.
Originally, we thought we might add some color to the individual boards, like maybe some washes of blue to go with the cabinets, but it turned out to be unnecessary. We wrangled up some wood in the shop from several different barns, and all of them stood on their own with no paint necessary. They were different enough that Tom, who built the door, even named them to keep them separated. The most textured gray pieces, which were sycamore, he called “dragon skin” and the smoother brown ones he named “Douggie Fir”. I think getting to know the wood really helped Tom pass the time at the chop saw.
The door is extra wide and turned out to be quite heavy, with two layers of hardwoods and a core of 1/2″ thick MDF, which required the wall hardware to be custom made and beefed up a bit. I got to visit one of my favorite places, Shapiro Metal Supply, to get the material and browse for a bit. The video below was shot just days before their recent fire.
While I did need extra muscle to get the door in the house (luckily they had a walkout basement), I was able to hang the door on my own. Click on the video below to see how it came together and see just how “pretty” it is.
Using a Hot Glue Gun to Fill Wood
In a couple of my latest videos I showed a little snippet of filling voids with a hot glue gun. And, while I was quick to gloss over it, many viewers asked what in the heck I was doing with a hot glue gun on the fancy wood. The short answer is filling voids, mostly from knots, but also from cracks and any other imperfections which show up naturally while processing solid wood.
We started using the system (we purchased it from Rangate) about a year ago, and it has won us over in the shop for its speed, while producing great results. It has been taking over for epoxy in more and more situations as we gain more confidence in its ability to perform.
The knot filler sticks are basically hot glue sticks and we call them hot glue sticks. However, they are definitely different. I can tell you from experience that actual hot glue sticks aren’t sandable like the knot filler sticks made to fill wood. I attribute it to a lower melting temperature of the hot glue sticks, which almost immediately gum up sandpaper and just get pushed around on the surface like old chewing gum. YOU HAVE TO USE KNOT FILLER STICKS.
We have been using the sticks purchased from Knottec because they are more reasonably priced than the options from Rangate and seem to work equally well. Overall, I feel like the Rangate system is overpriced based on the fact that in the end it is really just a 300 watt hot glue gun and a couple of simple accessories, which are available for much less money than we paid.
The knot filler sticks are available in several different colors, but we mostly use black. It seems to look the best in almost all occasions. Only on white woods, like maple, do we deviate from the black, but there are many times even in those white woods, where the black looks great. If you only get one color, get black.
Overall, using the hot glue gun is super simple. Just squirt some in the defect, squish it in with an aluminum block (which also quickly cools the glue), and then cut off the extra. Click the video below to see just how quick and easy it is.
Signs for the Shop
Well, I finally did it. After endless comments from customers about not being able to find the shop and a recent encounter with a customer that went quite poorly due to the lack of signage, I broke down and decided to make some directional signs for the shop. We have a sign on our door, but it is hidden from the street and doesn’t really do much except to confirm that you are indeed in the right place just before you actually enter the shop. Everyone finds the building without a problem, but we need to help them find the door.
First, let me address why this took so long. All of our work has always been word of mouth. I built the business slowly, starting by working from my home shop, so I never really needed a sign. I usually visited customers at their house and very few visited the shop. As the business has grown, more customers find us on their own, and I would rather them not be mad at me before they get to the shop (or don’t get to the shop as the case may be).
In St. Charles, any directional signs 2 square feet and under, do not require a sign permit, so I am making that the size limit for my signs. Hopefully, that way I can put up the signs at multiple entrances without causing any problems.
I decided to use the cnc router to make the signs and mix in a little artwork in the design and construction, which is the perfect mix for me. Plus, I used some salvaged wood for the project, which makes me feel even that much better about it. The boards came from a set of bleachers I salvaged from an old gym. Most of them were straight-grained Douglas fir with a clear coat on them. Those boards were super nice and didn’t stay around the shop long. The boards I used for the signs were some replacement boards made from southern yellow pine, which were painted and were never going to be purchased in the shop, so they were the perfect pick for this job.
I still have a few signs to finish up, but click the link below to see how the first one was made:
Installing a Live Edge Spalted Sycamore Bartop
Last week we delivered and installed a bartop after a nice long drive to the customer’s house, which made for some nice quality time in the truck with Tom.
The live-edge sycamore top was nicely spalted, so it had some extra character. Spalting happens in all wood (some more than others) when it starts to decay. The trick is to mill the logs at the right time, so they have more visual interest but haven’t rotted too much. For sycamore, the right amount of time for the log to sit for optimal spalting is around the one-year range. However, the wood can be spalted and still useable for up to three years. This timing is widely variable depending on climate and storage conditions, and you can’t really know the results until the log is milled.
The customer plans to install decorative brackets later, but we still installed steel plates, which add support and give us a place to fasten down the top. Before finishing with Krystal conversion varnish, Tom milled slots in the bottom of the slab with the CNC router to accept the steel plates, which tuck in underneath. To see how it all came together, check out the video below.
Milling a 5-year-old cypress log
We have a kitchen remodel which we are working on in the shop and the wood of choice is cypress to match a door I built about 15-years ago. To match the rustic setting of his cabin, the customer recently decided to cover a wall with cypress and we needed a little more lumber. I had a few remaining cypress logs that have been there for about five years, so I took a gamble and milled them to see what I could get. It was a small gamble because cypress is very rot resistant, and it is common for us to find logs in this condition and still find plenty of good wood inside (click here to read more about milling rotten logs). The sapwood was starting to rot, which happens first in all species, no matter how rot resistant they are, but most of the heartwood was fine.
Check out the video below to see the process and hang out with me on a nice winter day at the sawmill.