Michael Morton

Nov 222016

Recently I’ve been finishing a bench for a client. And I mean that literally: applying finish. The finishing process can be quite confusing but I find it enjoyable – watching the piece become what I had always had in my minds eye. During this process, I use quite a few shop supplies. So for this years Wish List, I’m going to focus on how to re-up my finishing supplies. This is a great list to help any woodworker with that final step which really effects the outcome.

Norton Sandpaper Assorted GritsFirst of course is sandpaper. I use all kinds, but often just need plain old sheets of various grits. I use these as I’m building for smoothing, shaping and cleaning up. So, let’s grab a couple of these packs of assorted grits.

Once the build is complete, it’s time to go over it all with finer grits. I’ll use 220 and 320 on all the flat and curved surfaces. I can use quite a bit of paper, depending on the size of the project, so I’ll go with packs of just those two grits (5 or 20 sheets).

At this time, I’ll also break all the edges. I like crisp, beveled edges instead of rounding over. So I use a block plane on all my 90 degree intersections. And once I’ve got those bevels, I’ll go back over with 320 grit lightly. I use either my Hock Tools Block Plane or this Lie-Nielsen Block Plane. (But you don’t actually need both, right?)

Now it’s time to apply some finish. Almost. First, let’s make sure that the wood is clean from all that dust. I use my Festool Dust Collector to first suck up all the dust. Then I’ll go over it with some tack cloths for a final wiping. Or try one of these new Norton Red Dry Tack Cloth. You can also use some mineral spirits on a rag to wipe up the dust.

Behlen Pure Tung OilNow (finally!) to the finish. My favorite is an oil/varnish blend. I’ll start with 50/50 oil/thinner (turpentine or mineral spirits) to the bare wood. Then each successive coat, I’ll add in some varnish and reduce the thinner. So by coat 5-6 the blend might be about 30/50/20 oil/varnish/thinner. For the oil, I prefer tung oil but it takes a long time to dry, so I’ll substitute boiled linseed oil for projects that have a timeline. I’ve been using Epifanes Varnish for years – but this one from Highland is probably just as good. I like spar varnish for a longer-lasting finish that holds up really well. And of course, grab some thinner. You might want to be careful of the cheapest thinner at the big box stores – look for something a little pricier that will give you better results. You don’t need much.

Behlen Pure Tung OilHow to apply the finish? I’ll wipe on with rags, which get used up quickly so grab a couple of few of these packs from Highland. I’ll also use foam brushes for coats of finish – it doesn’t have to be fancy. Again, they get used quickly so grab a bunch. Between coats of finish I’ll use some wet/dry sandpaper (400-600 grit) and/or some steel wool to knock back the finish and smooth it out.

Behlen Pure Tung OilAfter the last coat of finish is all dry, it’s time for a final rubbing out and smoothing. For this I’ll turn again to the steel wool and use some wool lube to create a satin finish. The wool lube helps the steel wool create smaller scratches and hence a more polished finish. After all that, a coat of wax on top! I like this paste wax (or use the dark version for darker woods) or I’ll use Renaissance Wax.

While not as sexy as a set of new chisels, I find that I use up finishing supplies pretty quickly and they are critical for me to create stunning furniture.

Wish List

Jun 032016

Morton and the new Tormek T-8

Do I look excited? You can see why! The brand new Tormek T-8 Sharpening System has arrived into my shop for a video review. I can’t wait to unbox this machine and check it out!

Some of the new features include:

  • Fully cast zinc body – including better tolerances especially for the guide posts
  • New Water Trough – the water tray can easily come on/off and go up/down
  • Magnetic Scraper – a magnetic scraper for the water tray should keep everything operating smoothly!
  • Cambered Blades – the new straight jig, SE-77 can slightly camber blades now.

Check back soon for a full video review!

Feb 262016

Open Invitation to Fellow Online Woodworkers —

Tom Iovino and I (Morton) are very excited to invite everyone to participate in this year’s Get Woodworking Week.  It’s a chance to promote our craft to the online community at large and encourage everyone to get some time in their shop, or create a shop!  The purpose of the week is to get people off their couches and into their shops to try their hand at woodworking or to pick up the craft again if it has been a while since they have tried it.

This year, Get Woodworking Week will be held from March 20-26.  We ask that you post your content during that week to have a nice coordinated effort online.


So, what are we looking for? Here are some suggestions:

  • Stories and posts about getting people into your shop (kids are always great).
  • Stories and posts about how you got started in the craft.
  • Cool techniques that a beginner should learn
  • Information about smart (or dumb) tool choices you have made through the years
  • Projects that can be completed with a beginner’s tool kit
  • What essential tools do you use all the time
  • Why it’s OK to make mistakes
  • Explain a complicated topic so the average Joe/Jo could understand
  • How to shop for wood
  • How to build a useful shop appliance/jig (Table Saw crosscut sled, work support, etc.)

You can check out some of the awesome entries from years past here: http://tomsworkbench.com/get-woodworking/  We’re excited for Highland Woodworking to once again be a part of this effort.

If you do write a post, create a video or do something for the event, Tom and I would appreciate two things:

  1. Please e-mail me the link of what you plan to write or what you end up posting when you do it. This way, we can promote each other’s content.
  2. Please use the 2016 imagery (herehere, here and here) for Get Woodworking Week on your posts. This way, we can brand the effort accordingly.
  3. For any social postings, let’s use: #getwoodworking

Any questions, comments, concerns or ideas – please let me know.

Thank you for considering participating in this years event.  Get Woodworking Week has been a real treat for new and old woodworkers over the years, and we’re very excited to see it continuing this year!

Morton and Tom gww2016