Sunday, October 19, 2014

October Meeting -- Approx. 28 in Attendance

It was with a bit of pride and fanfare that Jamie announced that our club is approaching our sixth year of being in existence!  That's really commendable in a town like ours where many folks are "transient" and working shifts to satisfy the 24 hour nature of the hospitality industry.  Much of the growth of the group has to do with the great job she has done creating her school and offering classes to all sorts of people through the colleges and university.
Round Robin Introductions and Opening
One of the first things many of us noticed and commented on was the cleanliness of the shop!  Jamie said there was a crew of about 10 volunteers helping her get the place ready for the Lie-Nielsen Tool Event that took place this past Friday and Saturday.  Hopefully, most of you had an opportunity to go -- after all; this was like a candy store (albeit an expensive one!) for woodworkers.  If nothing else, it gave you the opportunity to get some hands on experience with these fine tools.  I'm unapologetically a huge fan of L-N tools.  The L-N personal there where very informative and showed techniques on how to use and set up the tools.

Ted announced that next month we will have a woodturner as our featured speaker/presenter who specializes in segmented turnings that become bangles.  He also asked us to let him know what types of presentations and demonstrations we would like to see in the coming year.  There are only two meetings left for 2014 and the last one features our social Christmas party.  For those of you that are new, this is where we have our end of the year challenge, invite our significant others, and enjoy some wine and goodies.  It's also the time for raffles for all due paying members to get a chance for Lee Valley gift certificates.  The tie in is that if you contact Ted and do a demonstration for the group you get an additional chance for the raffle!

The end of the year challenge is based on the cooking show Chopped.  Basically, in the show chefs are given a mystery basket of ingredients to create an appetizer, main course, and dessert that must prominently feature those ingredients.  Our ingredients are limited to 1" x 6" x 8' quantity of lumber, some type of rods or dowels, something made of brass, and then a miscellaneous, non-wood material of your choice.  I sent a PDF of the entry to everyone but if you need another send me an email at  The projects will be displayed anonymously and voted on by the members at the Christmas party.  

Featured Presentation

Zac Higgens

Our presenter this month was Zac Higgens who used to be an active member but moved up to the Carson City/ Reno area a few years ago.  He's been working with wood for over 10 years and like many of us, started out by what he could learn from books and the internet.  Then he discovered Jamie's school and the Sin City Woodworkers and things just continued to grow from there.  He had an opportunity to leave Las Vegas and obtain some free shop space so he took a chance and went for it.  A few years ago he added woodturning to his repertoire.  One of the things he turned were pens and although he didn't really like turning them, people liked them enough to buy them from him so it became the start of his business.  I sent all of you his list of suppliers and also his contact information so you can see the success he's had and also ask him any questions about his work and techniques.
Although the name Higgens doesn't seem Dutch like mine is he decided to try his hand at casting his own resins to make pen blanks because of the high cost of blanks available on line.  He prefers to use a polyurethane product called Alumilite to do his castings.  A cheaper, more common product is Polyester resins but he listed a number of drawbacks to it.  It's available at local, big box hobby stores but the main drawback is its' smell --- very toxic and strong!  It is also brittle, cheap, and takes a long time to cure.  About the only redeeming quality is that it's available locally and can even be cast in PVC pipe.
The polyurethane resins he uses need to be ordered and require a bit more experience/expertise to work with but if you saw the resins he made with them you'll agree they are well worth the extra effort.

Some of the Goodies -- Looks like a Lab Set-up
Zac brought in a lot of equipment to do his demonstration.  I'll try to explain what things are to the best of my recollection!  Starting at the left are plastic cups used to mix the resin.  That is followed by some stir sticks and a special silicon mold used for individual pen blanks.  Next is a pressure pot used during the cure process.  This is a fairly inexpensive model from Harbor Freight  (LINK).  The pink molds are silicone while the plastic, white one is a mold Zac made to cast a brick of resin at a time.  Notice there is something sticking out of the pressure pot?  That's a holder for that mold.  Next are some bottles of colorant that is sold by the Alumilite people to color their resins.  The metal, quart can holds the contains the dreaded polyester resins!  Polyester resins can be colored with a variety of dyes such as Mixol and  Transtint but Alumilite recommends using their proprietary colorants.

Nevada Sagebrush
Some of the really interesting work Zac has done is using native Nevada "stuff" to cast into his resins.  A prime example is this blank and pen.  It features Nevada Sagebrush that has been thoroughly dried and stabilized cast into a block of resin and then turned.  Really comes out quite spectacular.  He's also cast Manzanita into a blank which still needs to be turned.

Manzanita in Resin
Yet another interesting pen is one where coffee beans were put into the resin.  He showed a "brick" of coffee bean resin and you wouldn't have thought that it would yield something as interesting as this pen.

Coffee Bean Pen

Pressure Pot
Once all of the items were explained to us it was time to mix up a batch of the resin. It is made with a 50/50 ratio that is weighed out on an accurate, electronic scale.  There is about a 10 minute working time to thoroughly mix the two parts and the desired colorant into it. In this case, the color was solid but you can also use clear colorants to make your resin.  The only added step is that the inside of your pen blank needs to be painted to hide the "pen guts".  Once things were mixed properly he poured it into the mold and lowered it into the pressure pot.  Very critical to not over pressurize the pot, you only need about 40 psi for this process.
He left it in the pot for about 30 minutes, time will vary with the temperature of the room.  During the cure time we had our show and tell which I'll write about next.  The old adage of "a watched pot never boils" was the case here.  After carefully releasing all of the pressure out of the pot the mold was removed.  In actual process he would have probably left if for an hour or so but this time we had a watching audience!  The resin brick was removed from the mold by removing one side (screws) and then rapping it on the floor so it fell out.  It was too hot and fresh to cut into turnable blanks but we had the opportunity to see the process.  Thanks Zac --- I'm sure I'm speaking for all of the members in saying we learned a lot from you and now know more about casting resins then we did before!

Show & Tell

Beth's Bookstand
We had two members bring in some of their latest work for show and tell this time.  Beth brought in this beautiful book rack.  It is made of Walnut with chip carved Basswood panels.  She saw this on the Woodsmith Shop on PBS.  Not sure of the schedule but you can find that on-line.  The Woodsmith Shop has a website where they sell all of their plans, here's a LINK to that for you to check out if you'd like.  Here is a detail of one of the chip carved side panels, this is her first attempt at this, can you believe that -- it's beautiful!
Side Panel Detail

John's Cutting Board
Another member that brought is some of his work to share was John with this cutting board.  This is a project he had made previously but the top of it never met his criteria and since it was end grain it was very difficult to smooth out.  Recently, he took a router technique class at Jamie's that was taught by Dennis Patchett and learned a process that allowed him to flatten the top once and for all.

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