Christmas Party

For those of you who missed the annual Christmas Party at Brixx Pizza in uptown Charlotte this year, we missed you and we hope you’ll join us next year for a wonderful celebration.

This year we celebrated with our annual gift exchange. Picture below are all the items that we were able to photograph.

The Annual McAlister Award was presented to Mike Smith. You can read about it here: Here are some of the photos from the award presentation.

The raffle prize and annual club drawing gift certificates were also awarded. Thank you Mike for setting it up.

For those interested in viewing the photo slideshow, you can watch it here:

2018 McAlister Award

The winner of the 2018 McAlister award is Mike Smith. When Mike joined CWA in the early 2000s, he became an active contributor to the club and activities. He has continued this level of involvement throughout his membership.

Mike served 2 terms as CWA president, where he guided the club into being operated as a business, with regular board meetings and official activities. Under Mike’s guidance and encouragement, CWA became Incorporated as a tax-exempt non-profit, and achieved 501(c)(3) status.

Mike has performed in major club activities, doing demonstrations and talking with the public. His presence at Matthews Alive and Festival In The Park makes CWA’s displays and demos come to life.

Mike makes himself available at short-notice to put on programs at regular club meetings. His demonstrations and talks are always informative and enjoyed by everyone.

Mike, with his personal efforts to liquidate shops, has helped new members obtain tools and machines members may not have been able to have or afford.

Mike has hosted many CWA members in his own home shop, teaching and coaching on their projects.

Mike is the one who answers all the inquiries about the club that come via our website and Facebook page. He does a great job promoting the club and is always a fine example of the people involved in the club. He also does a great job at the club Christmas party which involves a lot of time making the items he gives out.

With Mike’s involvement, CWA has become a better organization, and many members have become better woodworkers.

Mike is a giver, in the truest sense, and is highly deserving of the McAlister Award.

A Finish to Envy

When our club treasurer, Bob McElfresh, was visiting the International Woodworking Fair in Atlanta this year, he was enamored with the presentation and finishing products from The CrystaLac Company.  While talking with their representative, Dave Sheppard, Dave offered to come to our club and give us the same presentation.  Dave also enlisted his professional woodworking friend, Lyn R. Walker to present the product to our organization. 

Treasurer Bob McElfresh introducing Dave Sheppard and Lyn R. Walker

The CrystaLac Company was formed in 1989 in Mountain City, Tennessee.  Mountain City is about as far North and East as you can go in Tennessee before you cross into Virginia or North Carolina.  It’s a small town nestled in the hills along the Appalachian Mountains and an unexpected place to find a high tech company with a great finishing product. 

Dave, originally from West Jefferson / Lancing, NC, loved the company so much he put a ring on the owner’s daughter and made it official.  He’s now traveling the country pitching the product and the business.  Dave’s father-in-law, Derek Becker, now 85 and “semi”-retired started the business by making a boat finish after having worked for a number of different finishing product companies including Dupont.  He grew the family business with a focus on a high quality product and great customer service.  This past year, Dave’s wife and Derek’s youngest daughter, Dorinda, purchased the company from her father and is now leading the company forward.

This is a family business through and through, but this small family owned and operated company from a small town competes well above its weight class on the world-wide stage.  They have customers, big name customers, and are working with some large distributors, but maintain a low profile.

Luthiers and wood turners love their products because of the high gloss high sheen finish.  Even the Smithsonian uses their products in restorations.  It’s put on everything from fingernails to Dinosaurs. Martin Guitars has used the grain fillers for years.  Woodcraft, StewMac, McFeely’s and Amazon sell their products, but the best place to buy it is direct from The CrystaLac Company on their website: The CrystaLac Store ( 

The CrystaLac Company focuses on water based finishes.  You won’t find oil in their mix.  The product line is meant to be a finish that can be used together and applied, in some cases with all of the coats from sanding sealer to the final finish in one day.  One can even change the order of the applications if needed to achieve the desired final finish.

Their products are self leveling and can be applied with a simple foam brush or sprayer.  According to Dave, the key to a great finish is to apply several thin coats of the product with a 2 hour dry time between coats.  If it’s done properly, you’ll be able to eliminate several steps in the typical finishing process and shorten the time invested.

Stacking the finishes, one layer on another…

All CrystaLac Top Coats and even the Clear Grain Filler or Wood Putty can be tinted. Any aniline, alcohol or water based dyes will work fine. Universal tints will also work. It is recommended to dilute dyes with a little bit of water before adding them to the CrystaLac products. (Source:

The best finishes are stirred, not shaken.  As a water based product, we don’t want air bubbles invading the finish.  CrystaLac products use only the best quality resins.  They also are some of the most environmentally friendly products.  They have no or low odor and less than 1 gram per liter of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) in their products. By comparison, California has some of the toughest VOC regulation in the country and requires less than 100 grams per liter.

Demonstrating the self leveling compound test

All of CrystaLac’s finishing compounds are self leveling.  To demonstrate this, Dave applied his finish to a self leveling strip that’s used in the industry to measure the self leveling quality.  The room was pretty dusty, but in spite of that the test demonstrated a consistent layer of the finish.

Before beginning any application it’s very important to start with a clean and dry surface with no oils.  If an oil based product (or wax) is already on the wood, it must be completely dry before applying any of the water based CrystaLac products.  You can apply the product over oil based products, but you may need to rough up the surface first.  CrystaLac forms a bond with the wood and it needs something other than wax or oil to bond.

Sanding sealer may be applied directly to the wood.  Because it is a water based product depending on the type of wood, there may be some sanding required afterwards due to the grain raising.  Typically this is minor sanding, but it’s important to clean the surface of dust prior to subsequent applications.

CrystaLac also makes a wood grain filling product.  Wood grain filler typically after the sanding sealer. It’s easy to use and can be applied with fingers to rub into the grain and then squeegeed off or rubbed off with a damp paper towel.  Typical applications of grain filler require 2 or three coats, but given the ease of application, clean-up, and quick drying time (2 hours), and the ability to apply finishing products directly on top of the wood grain filler, the process to a final product is very fast.

Some of the CrystaLac products have an amber tint added so be sure to test your finish before using it on your final piece.  The amber tint adds an aged look to some woods and looks great on floors such as Teak. img_2090

TopCoat Super Premium is where it all started for Crystalac.  This is a polyurethane acrylic blend.  None of their products will water spot or have issues from having a hot pizza box sitting on them.  You can apply as many coats as you want.  Layers do make a difference.  It’s recommended to apply a minimum of three coats with 3 hours between coats using thin light coats.  It’s important to keep fingers and dust out of the finish and no sanding is required between coats to achieve a superior result.  

The products are food & child safe and is commonly used for bowls.  

Dave recommended starting from the beginning and testing the finish it all the way through all of the products.  If it doesn’t look right, then call the company.  They will address any questions you have with the product.

The Extreme Protection Polyurethane is made for high traffic areas such as restaurant tables, brass kick plates, etc.  It is UV protected.  Application is simple as it is water thin and can be sprayed or brushed right out of the can.

All products have 5 year shelf life guarantee as long as you don’t let it freeze… even if it’s opened.  All products will typically take three hard freezes, but it’s recommended to store them above freezing.   

Typically the product needs one day cure time per coat.  

According to Lyn, the bowl (pictured below) has only 5 coats of finish with no buffing or polishing required.  This was applied while still on the lathe using a foam brush.


When using any sandpaper on the wood, DO NOT USE STEARATED sandpaper.  It contains wax which will transfer onto the wood and prevent the finish from bonding properly.  Use only non-stearated sandpaper!

The Crabcoat Marine Finish contains a UV stabilizer and fungicide making it ideal for outdoor applications.  A four coat finish gets a minimum of 2 years of wear outside.   For maintenance,  pressure wash and clean every 2 to 3 years and apply a fresh coat of the finish.  This product is used on boats and kayaks, etc.  It is important to let this cure for 30 days prior to immersing in water (for all CrystaLac products).

img_2100Brite Tone Top Coat is primarily an Instrument finish.  It’s used all over the world by luthiers.  It’s nearly 100% resin, UV protected, and can set in window without discoloring the wood.  Typically it’s applied with 4 or more coats.

To clean a finish, simply use a damp cloth and dry towel to repair.  

The flooring finishes are Polyoxide, UV protected,  and contain Aluminum Oxide.  It is extremely durable and resilient.  

The product descriptions, preparations, application, and dry times are available here: CrystaLac_master_catalog_11_27_2017 and on their website at

A special thanks to Dave Sheppard and Lyn Walker for coming and presenting to our organization.

Presentation: Bill Maloney – White Cedar Birds

This month’s presentation was delivered by Bill Maloney.

Bill has been making white cedar birds for most of his life. This craft has been passed down through many generations and is believed to have originated in Russia or one of the scandinavian countries, but Bill is not sure where his father, being Irish, learned it and passed it down to him and his brothers.

As a boy he was delegated one specific task in the process.  When he and his brothers were still young, his father passed away, but they continued the craft.  As his brothers reach High School age, they lost interest and taught Bill the rest of the process.  When Bill reached High School, like his brothers, his interest changed and he stopped making these birds until he got out of the Service.  At 85, Bill has continued to make these birds every since.  He demonstrates a unique and special love for his craft and is willing and eager to share it with anyone who is interested.  Bill doesn’t compromise on quality, but he does recognize there is a balance between quality, time and artistic expression.

Bill’s White Cedar Birds are all made from one single piece of wood and have no glue.  They are finished only with a coat of shellac and some wood burning to accent the piece.  Sometimes he will mount them on a stand, but prefers to hang them up.  Because “it’s difficult to get a bird to balance”, Bill will mount the ones that won’t balance on the string.

Information on Northern White Cedar:

The whole process of making the birds begins with selecting the right trees.  Every few years, Bill drives to Vermont and hand selects the right trees.  Though, it’s possible to make them from all kinds of wood, they are best made from straight-grained White Cedar.

If the bark is straight, the grain of the wood is straight.  The first three feet of the tree is not used because it contains imperfections in the grain.  However, the next 14-18 feet of the wood above the 3 foot base is used.  These are cut into 38 inch lengths for the trip home.  All of the bark is removed and only the sapwood is used.

Once the wood arrives, it’s put into a 55 gallon barrels filled with water where it remains until it’s used.  Often his stock will remains here for a few years.  Storing the wood this way stops checking and insures the highest quality piece.  White cedar is very easy to carve when wet.

A regular bird takes Bill about 30 minutes to make.  Hummingbirds take about 15 minutes each.  Bill teaches some class on how to make a bird and generally it takes a new student about 2 hours to learn the entire process and make their first bird.


It is very hard to make a mistake.  He has taught classes on how to do this in about 2 hours for an new student.

Once it’s carved, the piece is dried overnight.  The next day, the piece is shaved and sanded.  The carving process is done with a sharp swiss army knife with a thin blade.

Next, Bill uses a Swiss Army Knife with a thin blade to slice the wings.  This knife is ideal for this part of the process and technique is key to getting clean slices.  The grain of the wood help, but also the very thin blade prevents the need for a sawing movement.  Bill learned that simply moving the piece a little further from his body during cutting enables him to produce pieces much faster and with better consistency.  

Once the wing slices are made the bird wings are interlocked and set to dry.  The next day, Bill will add the details and finish with one coat of shellac.

How to Flatten Wood by Mike Smith


Mike Smith gave a presentation on how to flatten a board.

First when selecting wood look at the end grain

The left shows how a “flat sawn” log is cut. The end grain on the board would be in a circular pattern. As the wood dries the grain would flatten out which can lead to cracking and warping.
The right photo shows a “quarter sawn log.”  The log is cut so the end grain is straighter which makes the board more stable and less prawn to warping and cracking.

Mike discussed several ways to flatten a warped or cupped board.
First, acclimate the wood to the local environment/temperature. Leave it in your shop for a few days so to help eliminate movement and cracking.

One way to flatten a “cupped board” is to run it through a joiner (with the grain) with the cupped face down until that face is flat. Next run it through the planner

To create a straight side you could again use a joiner. You could also attach your board to a known straight edge as shown here then run it over your table saw.

If you have, a board that is warped/twisted places it on a sled and shim it so it doesn’t move. Starting with the high end, feed it through your planner taking SMALL bites (do both sides).

Another way is to make a box and set the wood inside. Next, mount your router on a stiff board so it rests on the side of the box. Use a flat bottom router bit protruding through the board and move the router along the sides and taking small bites off the warped wood.
Note: The bigger the router bit the slower the speed needs to be (see manufacturer manual).


Hart Square Day (27 October 2018)

Since 1986, as the first touches of autumn fleck Hog Hill on the fourth Saturday in October, Hart Square bustles with over three hundred knowledgeable artisans and docents demonstrating and sharing the craftsmanship and subsistence of Carolina’s pioneers. To enter the village on festival day is to enter the early 1800s. Here, visitors will witness everything from flax making, cotton baling, and tinsmithing to apple butter making and the sweet sounds of old time music. The Village is located outside Hickory. Tickets are available for $45 through either the Catawba County Museum of History (828-465-0383) or contact Bob Fields.

July 2018 Guest Speaker: Harold Dotson

The guest speaker for July (2018) was Harold Dotson.  Harold started out as a cabinet and furniture maker from Pickens, South Carolina.  He now specializes in custom rocking chairs.

Harold starts his chairs from a selection of 8/4 wood.  It leaves a lot of waste, but in the end he will use what’s left over for other projects or as firewood.  One very noticeable trait of Harold’s chairs is that he laminates the rockers with several thin strips of wood in a form. He uses epoxy on the leg and seat joints to prevent “creep”.  It forms a very sold and strong joint and he’s found it to be better than wood glue.

The slats of the chair are made on a bandsaw and are designed to make the chair more comfortable.  In fact, all of his designs are derived from 30 years of experimenting to find what works and what doesn’t.  Harold started with a basic design from a magazine back in the 1980s and progressed from there.

Harold shared with us the secret to a good rocking chair.

The chair becomes an extension of the person sitting in it.  A custom piece will become a family heirloom such as “Grandma’s chair or Auntie’s chair.”  The chair also has to have the correct tilt so it “invites you” to sit it. Lastly it has to “feel good” to the person.

Harold has one on one classes showing how to make the chair. The class includes the wood and allows you to keep the forms if you want to make more on your own.

Wood Identification: The American Chestnut – Castanea dentata

Presented by Randy Hock

Common Name(s): American Chestnut
Scientific Name: Castaea dentata
Distribution: Eastern United States
Tree Size: 100-120 ft (30-37 m) tall, 5-7 ft (1.5-2.0m) trunk diameter (Because of the chestnut blight of the early 1900s, very few trees of this size currently exist)
Average Dried Weight: 30 lbs/ft3
Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .40, .48
Janka Hardness: 540



Natural Range of the American Chestnut Tree

The American chestnut tree reigned over 200 million acres of eastern woodlands from Maine to Florida, and from the Piedmont plateau in the Carolinas west to the Ohio Valley, until succumbing to a lethal fungus infestation, known as the chestnut blight, during the first half of the 20th century.  An estimated 4 billion American chestuts, up to 1/4 of the hardwood tree population, grew within this range.

Chestnut Blight

The blight was caused by an accidentally introduced Asian bark fungus (Cryphonectria parasitica). It was responsible for killing over 3 billion chestnut trees.  The wood in these standing trees was subsequently damaged by insects, leaving holes and discoloration.  The trees were thenharvested and converted to lumber which is now known as Wormy Chestnut.  Wormy Chestnut is preferred when a rustic or unpolished appearance is desired due to nail holes, discoloration, work and insect damage.

Before the early 1900s one in every four hardwood trees in North America’s eastern forests was an American Chestnut.  Together, chestnuts and oaks predominated the 200 million acre forest.  Every Spring so many chestnut trees erupted in white blossoms that from a distance, the hills appeared to be draped in quilts of snow.

The American Chestnut once provided food and shelter for animals and people alike.  Bears, deer and all kinds of mammals and birds feasted on the fallen chestnuts.  There were so many piled high that people would scoop them up with shovels from the forest floor.  Reaching heights of 130 feed and growing over 6 feet in diameter, American Chestnuts were home to squirrels, chipmunks, blue jays and scores of benign burrowing insects.  Because the wood was lightweight, rot-resistant, straight grained and easy to work with, it was used to build houses, barns, telegraph poles, railroad ties, furniture and musical instruments.

In the late 1876 a New York City nurseryman named S.B. Parsons imported Japanese chestnut trees, which he raised and sold to customers who wanted something exotic in their gardens.  One or perhaps all of these shipments concealed the pathogenic fungus Cryphonectria parasitica which chokes chestnut trees to death by wedging itself into their trunks and obstructing conduits for nutrients.  Asian chestnut trees had a resistance to Cryphonectria parasitica, but the American chestnut trees were extremely susceptible to the fungal disease which came to be known as the chestnut blight.

The chestnut blight was first discovered in New York in 1904.  Within 50 years, it killed nearly four billion chestnut trees.  Now few large trees remain in the chestnut’s native range.  Because the species has a resilient root system, the American chestnut survives here and there in the form of living stumps, which sometimes send up young skinny treelings.  Such saplings almost always succumb to blight by their teens or 20s, never getting old enough to flower and reproduce.

Working with Chestnut

American Chestnut is easy to work with both hand and machine tools.  It’s straight grain, light weight and highly rot resistance make ideal fence posts, railroad ties, barn beams, home construction, as well as fine furniture and musical instruments.  Chestnut splits easily, so care must be taken in nailing and screwing the wood.  Due to it’s course texture, turning is mediocre.

Although no adverse health effects have been specifically reported for the American Chestnut, other types of Chestnut in the the Castanea genus (C. sativa and C. mollissima) have been reported to cause skin irritation.


Precision and Accuracy in Woodworking

Presentation by: Bill Sutton

The May 2018 presentation was delivered by Bill Sutton.  Bill has delivered a number of presentations to our association in the past and today brings his experience to bear on the topic of precision and accuracy in woodworking.

Precision and accuracy

Precision and accuracy are both important, but it’s important first to understand the differences.  Accuracy refers to the closeness of a value to a known value. Precision refers the closeness of two or more measures to each other.  This is where we want to focus our woodworking – High accuracy AND high precision.  The bullseye chart shows what can happen if we lack one of these characteristics.


Some tools show up to 1/64th measures on their gages.  This doesn’t really matter.  What is important is that the parts are the same in the right dimensions.  Rulers and tape measures make it easy to read the wrong measurement and/or mark a piece incorrectly. Once its cut you can’t stretch it.  Rulers have a place, but typically we’re not building things that require extreme close tolerances.

In manufacturing, parts have to be done precisely so that the parts are interchangeable. This is not as important for custom work where each piece is custom fit to another. Story Stick

However, we don’t want to be sloppy either.  We don’t want visible gaps, or noticeable inconsistencies, etc.  The level of precision is different depending on the scale of the piece as well.

Tape measures are important.  There are certain dimensions that are critical.  For instance, a chair seat should typically be 17 inches.  Dining table height needs to be set so that the legs can go under it.

Old timers built pieces from proportions.   One of the tools they used was a “story stick”. A stick is chosen that is long enough to make a tick mark on the stick for each of the measurements.  Then use use the stick as your measurement instead of trying to record and remember numbers from a tape measure or measures.  The stick can be saved and used again and again if you need to produce another piece.

In addition, other tools can also make the measurements precise and accurate.  If you use a marking gage, use the thickness of the piece to size the scribe line.  Use a compass to find center.

Wood is constantly moving so it doesn’t need to measure in 1/1000ths of an inch. However, it is important to understand the wood and its nature when picking joints, etc.

World’s smallest Table

Worlds Smallest Table.jpg

If you want a table to be square and rectangular, but the pieces are different, you don’t end up with a rectangle, you get a trapezoid instead.  By properly measuring each piece from the same reference point, we can cut all the same size pieces with the same settings.  Then they mate up and fit the same.

Matching Marking & Reference Surfaces

When milling, pick a reference surface.  All layout should start from that surface.  Use a pencil to mark the reference edge (squiggle), then mark the top.   For dark woods use chalk.  The markings need to be clearly visible.


Legs are marked with a triangle pointing to the front.  This way we never mix up the legs or their orientation.

The last thing we want to do is cut a mortise in the wrong place and this will help prevent you from making that mistake. The way to do this is to lay them on the table and open them up.  Put them back together, then open them up the other way.  Then, mark the mortises.

Do the same thing with the sides and front/back.  Set the triangle.

Another area where it’s easy to make a mistake is when taper the legs.  Just remember that the taper is always on the side with the mortise for most shaker and period style furniture and you should be fine.

Band Saw Tune-up & Repair

Presentation By: Bruce Bogust

If you are a new member, or thinking about buying a new band saw the things to consider are: the vertical height in which the saw guides can be raised, the distance between the blade and the stand (called throat clearance), what material the wheels are made of and type of blade guides.  The saw blade needs weight to move the blade so steel or cast iron wheels are superior to the aluminum wheels. Roller bearing guides are better than the solid blocks.


Club President Bruce Bogust repaired the shop band saw. The following is a guide in case your band saw wheel bearings are making a funny noise (worn) or if the rubber on the wheels is deteriorating and needs to be replaced.

First, many of the parts are specific to top and bottom wheels so take a photograph of your machine as a guide to reinstall the parts in their proper place.

Peel off the old rubber tire of the wheels. To install the new rubber wheel (also called a tire) work the rubber back on with the aid of a screwdriver. Sometimes heating the rubber SLIGHTLY with a halogen light will aid in the installation.

Again, the pulleys and bearings on the machine are sometimes specific so ensure you note how they are initially installed on the machine. Remove the nuts that hold on the wheels and bearings.

One can purchase the manufacturers bearings or order generic bearings (often at a lesser price) from companies such as McMaster-Carr.

You will need three measurements if purchasing generic bearings. Bruce is getting ready to measure outside diameter, the inside diameter of the hole and the width of the bearing (shown on the right). If you get a “funny” number upon your measurement, it is probably a metric size.

If installing the bearing on a shaft or axle first heat the bearing with a lamp (Bruce used a halogen lamp) Place some light oil on the shaft. Using a pipe that is SMALLER than the diameter so you do not damage the bearing, tape the new bearing onto the shaft

When installing bearings in a race, cool the bearing to aid in the installation. You may use a WOOD DOWEL to help tap it into place.

Spin the wheels by hand to ensure they are free to move and are balanced. The previous owner drilled holes in the wheels as seen here to balance them

Check to see if the pulley is keyed then Install it properly. Check to ensure the belt runs straight.

Assuming the floor is level and flat use a large level to determine if both wheels are straight (called co-planning). The level should touch the top and bottom of both wheels at the same time. If not a washer, smaller than the bearing can be used to make corrections.

Install the blade so the teeth point down (yes… people have done it backwards).

Adjust the tension of the blade using the scale on the side of the machine. Another way is the blade should “ring” when plucked.

Bandsaw-10Use a credit card or dollar bill to adjust the distance between the blade and roller guide or block guide. The roller guides are superior to a guide block. (Potentially your machine could be retro fitted). In addition, “cool blocks” are available from Woodcraft if to help keep your blade friction to a minimum.

The pin at the end of the table keeps both halves level. Run a straight edge across the it. If you hear, a “click” (meaning they are not level with the pin installed) either use a stone to level it or take it to a local repair shop.

Use a square to check the table is perpendicular to the table (most table adjustments are under it). From the Wood Show they cut half way through a piece of wood, turned the machine off, then turn the piece of wood upside down and attempted to slide it on the back of the blade. If it did not smoothly go into place, something was not straight.

Table adjustments are at the back of the table and set at the factory so they should not need any adjustment.

Use a square and draw a straight line on a piece of wood. Cut along the line with the assistance of the fence. The line and cut should agree. If not follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to square your fence. Some newer fences have adjustments on the fence its self.

Turn the machine on and place a stone on the BACK EDGES of the blade to round them off a bit. This provides for a smoother cut as the wood passes the blade.