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 Post subject: Sanding Lacewood
PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2009 7:57 am 
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Hi all - it's been a while since i visited here, and i just came back yesterday to research my question when i found myself still reading through and looking at pictures 2 hours later. This internet things seems to just suck time away.

Anyway, i began my new project this past weekend: a lap steel guitar in lacewood. Does anyone have any experience sanding lacewood? The grain is very flaky and it seems that all that the sanding is doing is continuing to open up the grain below and below.

I know that patience is one of the most important woodworking skills, and sanding is my least favorite activity, but wow that was a lot of sanding. Anyone have any tips or tricks?

Thanks!


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2009 8:34 am 
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Have you tried a scraper? I know that often times when sandpaper frustrates me, a scraper will smooth things much easier. I believe there is even a tutorial or two in the "how to" section on easy sharpening.

Lawrence


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2009 9:16 am 
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Thanks guys. I haven't tried a scraper. I don't even have one but I'm always looking for excuses to get a new tool. I like the idea of filling in with dust and shellac, too, but I would really prefer to sand it smooth.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2009 9:37 am 
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Hey Bfish,

Sometimes, when you're sanding a wood that has alternating soft and hard grain, the soft parts tear up under the pressure required to sand the hard parts. That's where a good sanding sealer helps. It hardens up the soft fibers so that they can be cut off instead of torn up.

Sanding sealers are typically either lacquers or shellacs. The important thing to remember is that they need to soak into the wood, so they should be relatively thin. 1# cut shellac is my favorite. Be sure to wait until it's thoroughly dry before sanding. If you live in a humid environment, you may have better luck with lacquer.

Oh, one other thing, never use premixed shellac that's past its pull date, it will not harden enough to sand, and will make a gummy mess. Either make it fresh yourself, or buy only what you can use for the project at hand.

Good luck,
Tom

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2009 9:40 am 
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Awesome advice - thanks Tom!


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2009 10:00 am 
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If you are going to sand, use a sanding block.

Finger pressure will allow the sandpaper to *bend* into the softer areas of wood.

A flat, hard surface such as a block will not.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2009 10:52 am 
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There are Luthiers that will only use a scraper when building instruments. Something about the fuzz that sanding leaves behind muting the sound.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2009 11:03 am 
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That's interesting - thanks Jeff. I don't believe that I will ever feel confident enough to build a fine instrument like a guitar. The lap steel, however, is simply a block of wood with some electronics and hardware dropped in. I'm cautiously optimistic that it will come out alright. Dialing in the exact dimensions for the fretboard is going to be key.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2009 11:15 am 
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bfish wrote:
That's interesting - thanks Jeff. I don't believe that I will ever feel confident enough to build a fine instrument like a guitar. The lap steel, however, is simply a block of wood with some electronics and hardware dropped in. I'm cautiously optimistic that it will come out alright. Dialing in the exact dimensions for the fretboard is going to be key.


I'm not familiar with a "Lap Steel", but if you can buy the fret board already cut I would highly recommend it. If your frets are off just a little, you will not be happy with the result.

Have you gone to www.stumac.com ?

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Jeff

If man made it, I can fix it.
If God made it we can pray for it.

Lessons I have learned:
NEVER MAKE ANYTHING OUT OF TEAK
Always remove the zero clearance insert before you tilt the blade DAMHIKT


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2009 6:15 pm 
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I built a table out of lacewood sometime back and just found that I had to be very patient; work your way through all of the grits; and definitely used a shellac seal coat. Finish was oil/varnish and it came out beautiful.

Just be careful with the dust; it can cause allergic reactions (my ears and nose blew up to 2x normal size!)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2009 9:15 pm 
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Thanks all! Very glad to have a new approach on this piece. Now I just need to pick up some new shellac flakes. To incorporate some of the sanding dust into this seal coat, would I just add the dust to my shellac?

Jeff - yes, I have checked out that site. They definitely have the goods for guitar and instrument makers. I'll be getting all of the hardware from different spots - two websites (stewmac.com being one) as well as the local guitar shop. I'd love to buy it all at the local shop, but I'm a little particular about prices.

For the fretboard, I'm just going to use a 1/16" router bit to indicate the fret positions. With the lap steel, you play with a steel bar and the strings are about 1.5" above the frets - there is no direct contact as with a guitar. They're simply for reference. With that being said, their spacing is crucial from a playing/musical perspective.

Thanks again!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2009 11:10 pm 
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Hey Bfish,

I would just use a straight coat of 1# shellac, and sand directly.

Tom

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2009 10:19 am 
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Scraper is your answer if you don't have a suitable plane. For the same reason as having a firm block behind your sandpaper - it doesn't skate over hard and scoop into soft spots. Your spots are ray figure - harder and poorly attached to the rest of the wood structure. Those of us who split firewood like rays, because they are a weak line of cleavage.

Scraping is a technique well worth learning, because it can produce a surface that is only worsened by 400 grit on the nastiest of wood patterns. You'll need a scraper and something to burnish it as well as your stone and vise for best edge. Lots of literature on scrapers out there. I got lazy rather than picky and bought the Veritas variable angle burnisher. Now I can keep two or three grades of burrs turned and ready at all times.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2009 11:47 am 
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No advice to add - but Ben is right. Lacewood has some properties that make some people have a surprising reaction to it.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Jan 30, 2010 6:54 pm 
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Hey all - I finished this a few months ago and realized I never posted a pic of the final piece. Special thanks to all who provided sanding suggestions - now I always shellac prior to sanding.

Image
See "Lap Steel - lacewood"
[/img]


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Jan 30, 2010 6:58 pm 
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Let me be the first to say that your lap steel is flat gorgeous. How does it sound?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Jan 30, 2010 6:59 pm 
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NICE - very nice! 8)

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Jan 30, 2010 7:06 pm 
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Thanks guys! Well, one of my friends has made it sound pretty sweet. I'm a rookie....and probably the only one on earth who has ever made a lap steel without having ever played one!


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