Oct 06 2011

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Walnut Turner’s Cube

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A few weeks ago I was digging through the free bin at Rocker and I found a 2-1/2″ square walnut cutoff. The only defect it had was a slight check in the end grain that would hopefully disappear when I cut the hunk of walnut into a cube. The reason for making it into a cube was that I wanted to make another Turner’s cube; I had made a simple cube in a cube that my daughter loved, so I figured that she would love a more complicated one.

I ran into a little snag squaring up the sides of the cube with my miter saw. I couldn’t figure out why I was always about 1/32″ out of square when I checked a cut. It turns out that my miter saw was slightly out of square. After I loosened the bevel angle and cleaned the sawdust from the stop, it went right back to square. I ended up with a little smaller cube that I had intended, but the proportions ended up being right where I wanted them. The dimensions of my last Turner’s cube was 1-1/2″ cubed and I used a 1″ Forstner to cut the intersecting holes. I liked the proportions of this cube so keeping with this 3:2 ratio, if I made the cube 2-1/4″, I could use a 1-1/2″ and 1″ Forstner to make the middle and inner cubes.

I set the fence and stop block on my drill press table to line up the Forstner bit in the center of a cube face. To set the right drilling depth I drilled two sides with the 1-1/2″ Forstner until they intersected enough to create a sizable through-hole — I didn’t want to cut too deep because I was afraid that the middle cube would break away when I was drilling the smallest cube. I shouldn’t have worried. Then I set the depth stop on my drill press and drilled the rest of the holes. I repeated this for the innermost cube.

I then used a 25tpi scroll saw blade to cut the edges of the smallest cube free. This only took me a few minutes. Cutting out the inner cube took longer because, like I alluded to before, I was too conservative when I was drilling it. 

I sanded the two inner cubes with a Dremel sanding sleeve until I couldn’t stand it anymore. I know I could have done a better job, but I just didn’t have the patience. I carefully sanded the outside of the cube though, since I could. I applied two coats of wipe on urethane and stopped. I’m not sure if it was the temperature of my shop, or the reduced airflow around the cube due to my sawdust protector (read plastic shoebox I put over the drying cube), but the finish was turning out dull. Of course I was also sick of trying to scratch up the finish of the inner cubes with steel wool between coats.

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  1. Jeff

    That is a cool little project. On my bed project, I used a coat of brush on satin poly which always has a too glossy sheen for my taste and then put a coat of satin wipe on poly and it turns out just about right. What level of sheen did you use?

    “…but I just didn’t have the patience.” I know what you mean. 🙂

    1. benjamen

      The can doesn’t say. I used the salad bowl finish from Rockler that I’ve used on the last few toys. Not that I care about the cube being food safe (most finishes are actually foodsafe anyway), I just wanted a quick way to finish it and it’s what I had on hand.

      My issue is that last time I used it on walnut — even sanded to the same grit — the finish was glossy, even after the first coat. This time it was flat every coat. The two differences were that I finished the last project in my garage when it was warm vs in my basement which gets to about 60F over night right now. The other is that I had the cover over it. I know from past experience that if its colder than the recommended temperature the finish won’t penetrate as well and can cure with a cloudy look, but I was still within the temperature range specified on the can. So I’m wondering if the restricted airflow exacerbated the situation.

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