Card Dock Adventures: Tuning the Jig and Making Stains
I’ve been buried in a programming project for a museum, and I find this very fatiguing. When I need a break, I return to the Index Card Holder project and work with my hands a bit. The plan is to make a bunch of these “card docks” and sell them on Etsy for the sheer fun of it. Part of the fun is not knowing very much about woodworking at all. Making blocks is about as simple as one can get, so it’s a good starting point to learn.
I’ve been making do with the handful of miscellaneous tools I have. I’ve been buying the hardwood pre-cut, then cutting it down to size with a miter saw box. I made a jig to hold the resulting brick of wood at an angle so I can use the saw to cut the slot at an angle. Finally, I’ve been sanding them by hand.
Because the miter saw isn’t easy to make square, I’ve been using pieces of gaffer’s tape to layer my crudely-cut jig so I can reliably make straight cuts (see above picture). One challenge is cutting the slot at an even depth given two challenges. First, the depth guides on the miter saw are NOT calibrated in any way, so I’ve been refining shims to make the cut even. Secondly, the jig itself does not reliably zero on the miter saw bed.
I’ve been looking for a tool solution, but they are expensive. One idea is to buy a table saw that can tilt the blade at an angle, then rip the wood through it against the fence. To get the fine slot width, though (I belief this is called the “kerf”), I think I need a hobby table saw, such as the $350 tilting arbor one from tool supplier MicroMark. Proxxon makes one also, though it gets spotty reviews. Alternatively, I could get a hand-powered Jointmaster Pro SW, but these are even more expensive and have a production wait list. Very nice, though!
In the meantime, I’m just going to work with my miter saw setup and see how it goes. Maybe over time, I’ll figure out a cool way of precisely replicating these blocks.
I also have been looking at wood stains. Not being very familiar with them, I bought a few small cans and some painters pyramids to try to stain them myself. I’ve been using medium and fine grit sandpaper sheets lying on my toolbench, sanding along the grain by moving the blocks over the sheet a few times very lightly. I also have been lightly sanding the slot and block edges to round them very slightly (and hopefully evenly). I’ve been having some trouble with the ends, which don’t have an attractive look. Oh well.
It looks like the staining process takes several days, because I have to stain, dry, restain, then add a protective coat. It’s kind of unpleasant…I don’t like the smell, and the latex gloves I’m using are a little annoying. My basement, fortunately, is exhausted to the outside so the fumes don’t build up.
I haven’t figured out a wood burning or marking stamp yet, so I am trying writing on the bottom of the docks with pencil. I promptly smeared the first one, a prototype that I’m planning to send to buddy Colleen in LA for her opinion on whether it’s cool or not. So many fine motor skills required for woodworking and staining! Working it out as I go.