When details matter

Well, I stained my G&G style mirror last night, and the results seem ok. I know it’s fashionable to bash Minwax stains, but I gotta admit I expected… what? something more lustrous? less muddy – that’s it. Still, I haven’t put a top coat over it yet, so we’ll see what develops.

I dry-fit it together before gluing it up, and noticed one of the stiles just wasn’t mating at a clean right angle to the bottom rail. Turns out when I power sanded the rail I brought the edge out of true. Easiest solution was to give it a pass through the jointer to true it up, a light sanding, and then I had to re-apply the stain… Sigh… Nonetheless, it glued up nicely and naturally into perfect right angle corners.

Last detail – there are small square holes for filling with decorative plugs. You’d think this would be trivial, but I’m discovering this little detail is hard to get right. First, making the plugs — you take a piece of 3/8 or 1/4″ square stock, and bevel the ends on a sander, then slice off a plug. OK, first thing – the plans recommend ebony, but they also stained the mahogony a lighter color. On mine ebony doesn’t show up well. So now I’m trying maple (light plugs). Ooops – I get burn marks on the maple when I sand them. So now I either change method (go for a rounded top rather than pyramidal with hard edges), clean up the plug surface with fine hand sanding, go back to ebony… I’ll have to think about that. The standard technique in the books shows a finishing step with a buffing wheel, but I don’t think that’d take out the burn marks. Or, I could try to have a lighter touch on the sander. 🙂 One version of this technique uses a power mitre saw – I’d use my table saw with a precise mitre gauge. Might work…

I test-fit a couple of the maple plugs I made, and besides the burn marks, they didn’t fit very squarely. Or rather, my holes aren’t perfectly aligned with the frame, and if there’s any twist at all in the plugs it looks *really* ugly, not being aligned with the edges of the frame. I suspect I’m going to spend as much time getting the danged plugs right as I did building the rest of the piece. For one thing, I think I need to cut my plug stock about 1/64″ over size, and then fine tune the plugs as needed? This is the first time I’ve tried proud square plugs like this, so I’m trying to be patient (grrrr…)

All this for what looked like an “after-thought” detail… But the table I’m going to start has a gazillion of these plugs on it (G&G loved using them for detail) so I need to get the process right.

I read somewhere recently that when you’re finished marking, cutting, sanding, and assembling your project, you’re really only half done. The “finishing” (stain, top coats, etc.) can take up just as much time. At the very least, these coats often need 24 hours to dry.

Well, consider this a good warm up for the table. If I can’t be patient with this little project, the table is hopeless. 😉


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