In over my head with Zebrawood!!!?? - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 23 Old 05-16-2016, 11:33 AM Thread Starter
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Unhappy In over my head with Zebrawood!!!??

Hello there.
I may be in over my head on this project so I would appreciate all the help I can get.

First of all, I am NOT a woodworker. I've build a few knives using some exotics woods and have had good results, but this is my first venture into a somewhat larger project. I'm building a small (30X40) breakfast nook table and choose zebrawood for the top because of it's striking grains and contrasts. Now I'm discovering that I should've researched this before delving in so impetuously. Nevertheless, I'm in it and trying to make the best of it. The table top was formed using various slats of the zebrawood and gluing with Titebond 3. Additionally the wood was screwed to a base plywood from the bottom.

Right now I'm in the sanding stage and leveling all the joints where the slats meet. I'm using 80 grit sandpaper on a handheld belt sander. It's looking good in some areas, but no so much in other areas. This is where I have one of many questions. The wood does not seem to be smoothing out with the 80 grit in some areas. It looks rough cut and fibrous. Is this due to the 80 grit, or is it an inherent characteristic of the wood? Will this go away with finer sanding? If not, how can I remedy it? I've read about using fillers, but do not have the slightest notion of how they work or how to properly apply it.

My plans were to go from 80 grit to 120, and then 220 with a vibration sander. Any advice will be greatly appreciated.
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post #2 of 23 Old 05-16-2016, 11:44 AM
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First, welcome to the forum! Do you have any photos of the table and spots you referenced? Zebrawood isn't the easiest wood to work, so kudos to you for starting with the bar high. You may have to resort to using cabinet scrapers to level the surface at this point. And yes, the 80 grit will cause the fibers to stick around but it is very doable to get a smooth surface with Zebrawood.
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post #3 of 23 Old 05-16-2016, 11:47 AM
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80 grit is pretty much like dragging it down the road while driving. It will remove a lot of material but it's definitely not for finishing.
I am an amateur, at best, and I've never even seen zebra wood, so I can comment on that. But I have sanded other woods down to 400 grit before staining and varnish. The finish is noticeably better if you go really fine with the sanding. Softer woods will look worse with 80 grit than hard woods, so if the zebra wood is a softer variety, go finer immediately.
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post #4 of 23 Old 05-16-2016, 06:43 PM
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Pictures would help.
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post #5 of 23 Old 05-16-2016, 07:58 PM
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First of all a word of caution about screwing the solid wood top to a plywood sub-top. Not just zebrawood but all woods expand and contract with changes in humidity and temperature. If you don't elongate the screw holes and leave the top somewhat loose when the wood shrinks the top will split.

More than likely the wood was just milled more rough in some spots than others and will require more sanding. I think you are doing the right thing by sanding the top with a belt sander however a belt sander can easily make dent marks in the wood if you let the sander tip to one corner or another. It may be you are experiencing some of these dents. They can be sanded out though with an orbital sander with 80 grit discs. Then you can proceed to finer grit. Unless you are going to use some type of oil finish it's unnecessary to sand to 220 grit. 180 is fine enough for a film finish. You can also wet the wood with water and let it dry between grit changes. This raises the grain making your sanding more effective.

When you say you are using a vibrator sander are you meaning a orbital sander or one you put a quarter sheet of sandpaper on. The quarter sheet sander is a finish sander intended to do more fine sanding or sanding a finish between coats. An orbital sander is what is needed for wood. It has a harder base to it which will knock down the high places of the wood to make the surface level.

You don't want to use any kind of filler. It will make patch looking spots on the top. More sanding is all it needs.
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post #6 of 23 Old 05-16-2016, 09:52 PM
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Many table tops have been ruined with a belt sander.
I'm just saying.....
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If you don't have time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to do it over?
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post #7 of 23 Old 05-17-2016, 07:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Toolman50 View Post
Many table tops have been ruined with a belt sander.
I'm just saying.....
Super true statement above! Suggest after wood is FAIRLY even at the glue joints, you put the belt sander down and walk away quickly. Pick up a random orbital sander like Steve suggests. A slower stock remover, but with infinitely more control. If you are going to woodwork, and especially if you will build slab type projects (tables, cabinets, boxes, etc...), an ROS will be invaluable. I have six or seven of the little devils, each with a different paper for easy switching.

Try 120 grit in the ROS first and see if your problem areas begin to smooth out. Once the entire slab has had a good going over, sight down the length of the slab. If you see dents, divots or uneven spots (usually from not keeping the belt sander moving), you might be forced to go to 80 on the ROS. Again, leave the belt sander in the cabinet. When the project is smoothed out sufficiently, trade back to 120 again for a bit, then move down to 220 for a baby's butt finish.

Finish preparation is one of the hardest things in woodworking (at least for me), but is probably the most important. We all want it to go fast and be done, and some of us will go to great lengths (and expense) to speed the process. But a FINE woodworker will take great care in his prep work. Time means nothing. Details matter. And it shows off in his finished product every time.
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Another $000,000,000.02 worth of advice,
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Last edited by Shop_Rat; 05-17-2016 at 07:38 PM.
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post #8 of 23 Old 05-18-2016, 05:36 AM
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We use right much ZW on our bows.Dull sandpaper causes heat build up,which will "lift" ZW grain.It doesn't stand straight up,it sorta just bends or lifts up.Cheap paper.....isn't.Trying to economize, running paper too long....isn't.

Seriously good luck with a handheld belt grinder,err,sander on your table top.Don't sit still,you need to be moving...and watch the "heat build".
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post #9 of 23 Old 05-19-2016, 09:00 PM
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Zebrawood will sand smooth and take a nice finish, but it takes some patience.

Here's a steering wheel I finished a few weeks ago.

Ed
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For just a little more, you can do it yourself.
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post #10 of 23 Old 05-19-2016, 10:04 PM
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Forget all hand sanding. Call a few cabinet shops in the area and ask if they have a 30"+ wide belt sander, and if for a few bucks they'd run a table top through it for you.

It may take one or two calls, but you'll find one that for 25-30 bucks will sand it. They'll likely sand it using very low grit belts, but it will get you flat and even almost instantly.

Then you'll use 120, 180 and finally 220 grit discs on a ROS.

Case closed!!
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The tools don't make the craftsman....
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post #11 of 23 Old 05-19-2016, 10:09 PM
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post #12 of 23 Old 05-19-2016, 10:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shop_Rat View Post
Super true statement above! Suggest after wood is FAIRLY even at the glue joints, you put the belt sander down and walk away quickly. Pick up a random orbital sander like Steve suggests. A slower stock remover, but with infinitely more control. If you are going to woodwork, and especially if you will build slab type projects (tables, cabinets, boxes, etc...), an ROS will be invaluable. I have six or seven of the little devils, each with a different paper for easy switching.

Try 120 grit in the ROS first and see if your problem areas begin to smooth out. Once the entire slab has had a good going over, sight down the length of the slab. If you see dents, divots or uneven spots (usually from not keeping the belt sander moving), you might be forced to go to 80 on the ROS. Again, leave the belt sander in the cabinet. When the project is smoothed out sufficiently, trade back to 120 again for a bit, then move down to 220 for a baby's butt finish.

Finish preparation is one of the hardest things in woodworking (at least for me), but is probably the most important. We all want it to go fast and be done, and some of us will go to great lengths (and expense) to speed the process. But a FINE woodworker will take great care in his prep work. Time means nothing. Details matter. And it shows off in his finished product every time.
What Steve suggested was to belt sand it first though. A belt sander is like any other tool, once you learn how to use it the tool is a great asset. Even a beginner would be better off sanding a glue up flat with a belt sander as long as they follow with the orbital. The defects caused by the sander pale in comparison to uneven wood of a glue up. I often start by sanding cross grain first and then with the grain. The important thing to remember is not to put very much weight on the sander and keep it flat on the wood and keep moving with it. It's also best to run the sander in an oval pattern to keep from digging holes.
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post #13 of 23 Old 05-19-2016, 11:23 PM
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Like this!!
Haha nice! I was just at Stiles Machinery's NC showroom for a training course last week. They had a Homag Butferring wide belt that had to be 50+ inches wide, with 3 heads on it. What a monster!!
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post #14 of 23 Old 07-28-2016, 08:52 AM Thread Starter
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Well I've read through all the recommendations on here and I very much appreciate all the input. It's taking me awhile but after a few weeks I got back on the project. Since I didn't want to risk ruining the wood with a handheld belt sander, I managed to find a local cabinet maker that had a 36# planer / sander. We ran the table top through about 20-30 times until it leveled off nicely. $40 total cost which was not bad.
When I got it home I continued sanding smoothing with 120, 220, 400... and even 600 grain. That final sanding / polishing really brought out a nice sheer in the natural wood.

For finishing, I tried butcher block oil followed by paste wax. No bueno, as water stains appear and will not come off. I considered coating it with a polyurathane but am not confident in my skills to apply a perfect coat without overruns or brush marks. In the end I opted for 3 coats of tung oil followed by two coats of hard paste wax. This application create a very nice gloss AND did survive the spilled water and hot plate test. I don't know what kind of maintenance I'll have to do it but figured I'll cross that bridge when the time comes. In the end I'm very happy with the finished product. Wifey is happy too!
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post #15 of 23 Old 08-02-2016, 03:42 PM Thread Starter
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Well here's a development in this project. I have a scrap piece of zebra-wood finished in tung oil and topped off with paste wax. After about two weeks of putting hot and cold cups and iced drinks on it, it is developing some water marks that will not come off, at least not with the standard wood polish like Pledge. This wasn't happening early on in my experimenting process. Is there a recommended product that will clean and remove these marks? I was going to experiment with Lemon oil and a few other furniture polishes...
I'd hate to have to refinish this and perhaps coat it with some type of polyurethane...

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post #16 of 23 Old 08-02-2016, 04:23 PM
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wow. that's a gorgeous table!

oxalic acid is used on teak to 'bleach out' water stains but I caution you in the most severe terms to thoroughly test this out on scrap before using it on the table. teak and the like do not have the variation in grain color....

otoh, it's easy to get - BarKeeper's Friend (in the scouring powder section) uses oxalic acid for cleaning copper. I used it on a teak and a walnut nightstand with good results.
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post #17 of 23 Old 08-03-2016, 12:28 AM
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Neither tung oil nor paste wax is very durable against water. The water has possibly penetrated to the wood. You can try a repair by removing the wax with a solvent, then rubbing with fine steel wool and tung oil. If that doesn't fix it, you may have to sand the top enough to remove the marks, and reapply the finish.

There are other finishes that are more durable than tung oil, but not plastic looking like urethane can be. Danish oil is one. Not super durable, but better than tung oil.

Ed
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post #18 of 23 Old 08-03-2016, 02:27 PM Thread Starter
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Neither tung oil nor paste wax is very durable against water. The water has possibly penetrated to the wood. You can try a repair by removing the wax with a solvent, then rubbing with fine steel wool and tung oil. If that doesn't fix it, you may have to sand the top enough to remove the marks, and reapply the finish.

There are other finishes that are more durable than tung oil, but not plastic looking like urethane can be. Danish oil is one. Not super durable, but better than tung oil.

Ed

Thanks Ed. Can you recommend a solvent to remove the wax? Any problem applying the Danish oil over the Tung oil?
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post #19 of 23 Old 08-03-2016, 02:28 PM Thread Starter
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wow. that's a gorgeous table!

oxalic acid is used on teak to 'bleach out' water stains but I caution you in the most severe terms to thoroughly test this out on scrap before using it on the table. teak and the like do not have the variation in grain color....

otoh, it's easy to get - BarKeeper's Friend (in the scouring powder section) uses oxalic acid for cleaning copper. I used it on a teak and a walnut nightstand with good results.
Bartender's Friend? I will look for that and try it on my scrap piece. Thanks a million.
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post #20 of 23 Old 08-04-2016, 10:42 AM
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Thanks Ed. Can you recommend a solvent to remove the wax? Any problem applying the Danish oil over the Tung oil?
Almost any organic solvent will remove the wax. Mineral spirits (paint thinner) or naphtha are good choices, rubbed with very fine steel wool.

Danish oil should work OK over the tung oil. Danish oil is a drying oil (tung or linseed, I think) mixed with a more durable varnish.

Products marketed as tung oil "finishes" (as opposed to pure tung oil) are usually tung oil mixed with a varnish.

Ed
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