Wednesday, April 6

Tray Tables - Packaging completed.

I gave the tables until after lunch to cure.  By then they seemed to be hardened up well.

I resume by cutting pads of Styrofoam to fit inside the upper and lower tray rails.  These will support the second table and prevent the two from knocking together during transport.  I also stack two smaller pads on each leg pair.

Then I lay the second table on top and use stretch wrap to strap the two together.  I repeat the process with the other two tables.

Then I strap pads to the stand arms.

And set the table pairs in place.  More stretch wrap straps the tables to the stand securely.

Now the whole bundle goes into the foam-lined box.  Normally the stand handle sticks up to contact the foam padding at that end and the stand feet set against the foam at the opposite end to prevent the bundle from sliding around in the box.  Jeff asked that I recess the handle flush with the trays, so I need to cut an extra filler piece of foam to fill that gap.  Then I another to lay in on top of the bundle along the “top” edge of the tables where it’s a little narrower than at the foot end.  Again that just prevents movement.

For the same purpose I fill the air space along the sides with shredded paper.  Then I can lay in the final sheet of foam, close up the flaps and tape the box up securely.

All that remains is to set the box on the scale to get a weight - which is really quite irrelevant because the package is over-sized, so I will pay for 70 pounds of shipping even though the box only weighs half that - and run a shipping label.

The table boxes were sized so that they are *just* within the limits of this shipping tier, Shelly’s tables are larger, so they will get bumped up to the next tier and we’ll get billed for even more shipping.

A pick-up has been scheduled for tomorrow.  I’ll keep the vicious, horrible, killer dogs inside the shop tomorrow (they won’t like that) so the FedEx man does not risk his life to get the box and it will be on it’s way to Jeffrey.  Hope you enjoy them Jeff.

Now I’ll pull more foam out of the shed loft and bundle Shelly’s tables.  Then I can determine the minimum size box I’ll need so we can go box hunting.

Thanks for reading!

Tray Tables - Packaging

Today we’re sliding into home on Jeffrey’s tables, Shelly’s are just behind.
The first thing I need to do is to crawl up into the loft of the lumber shed and pull down a half-sheet of Styrofoam, my box of Styrofoam scraps, and a flattened shipping box.  We bought these boxes from a box maker specifically for this purpose.  Each of our major products has a custom shipping container made for it.  We store the boxes flat, as they came from the manufacturer, and fold them out into boxes only when we’re ready to put a product into them.

We used to be able to buy something called “whiteboard” from the lumber yards: a 3/4” thick, 4 foot x 8 foot sheet of plain Styrofoam.  These cost me between $4 and $5 a sheet.  But recently the lumber yards have switched to a product that has a silver Mylar film on one side and a clear plastic film on the other and costs $17 to $20 per sheet.  This  distresses to us as we have no use for these insulative films - indeed we have to peel them off and dispose of them - and the added cost is most unwelcome. 

Packaging suppliers will sell us sheets of the old style foam, but bundles of them have to be delivered by truck; generally semi-tractor trailer truck.  That means high shipping costs and having to go meet the semi at a truck stop to transfer their load to our truck because a semi can not get up to our shop to unload.  Even just driving along
Piney Mountain Road
scares the willies out of them; a couple have tried it and swore they’d never do so again!

We would like to switch to the corn starch foam that dissolves away to nothing when it gets wet.  The cost of this product has been prohibitively high when compared to whiteboard, but is about comparable to the new insulative foam boards.  If we could find a local supplier (meaning within an hours drive or so from here) we’d just make the switch and everyone would be better off.

I mount a special extra-fine saw blade on the table saw, set the fence for a 24 inch cut, peel the films off the half-sheet of foam, and cut it in half.

The first pieces I need will be 24” x 36”.  The 24” dimension is done, but my table saw does not have the 54” wing that would allow a cut of 36” between blade and fence, so I lay out my cut and set the fence to the width of the excess instead.  The excess piece is then cut down to 10½”.  The cut-offs from that step will become pads between tables.  Nothing is wasted.

I push the flattened box out into a 3 dimentional shape and fold the bottom flaps over.  Then I grab my packaging tape gun and triple tape the bottom, center seam; single tape the end seams just so they don't snag as the box gets slid along things.

I flip the box over and drop one large pad in the bottom of the box and set the two end pads in place.  Now I’m ready to bundle the tables.

I retrieve the tables from the finishing room.  Before I start pressing foam to poly I do a quick test.  In an inconspicuous spot; a corner, I press the tip of my pinky finger against the polyurethane finish firmly.  If a ridgey fingerprint remains when I take my finger tip away, and it does, then the poly is not cured yet.

It is dry to the touch, but not cured out hard yet.  In this state, fumes escaping the finish as it cures could soften the Styrofoam pressed against it and cause it to mar the finish.  The temperature got down to the middle 30’s last night, apparently it got cold enough in my finishing room to slow the curing of the poly.  I move the tables into a room with more heat and turn up the furnace to help the poly to finish curing quickly.  It may only take a couple of hours.

Tuesday, April 5

Tray Tables - Finished Finishing

I shot the walnut tables with their third coat this morning (did not get that far last night)  That gave them a few hours to cure out a bit before I applied the polyurethane.

Here I have the maple tables lined up ready for their skim-coat.  I apply the poly with a cloth pad, using a figure-eight pattern, and check my work by bouncing a strong light off the tray tops.  Any skips or swirls will show up as a dull spot on the shiny wet finish.

If it's good, I fold up the table and set it out of the way.  The skim coat is too thin to run.

When The maple tables are done, I set up the walnut tables and coat them.  As each table is completed, I fold it up and stand it facing the wall to prevent air-borne dust from landing in the sticky polyurethane.

Lacquer dries very quickly, the poly will take around 8 hours to "dry".  It's not really a drying out process like the lacquer is where the liquid carrier evaporates out, but a catalyzing process where elements in the polyurethane hook up and combine as the solvent evaporates.  In any case, it will take 8 to 12 hours for the poly to harden enough I can start packaging to the tables for shipment.  If I go too soon the Styrofoam pads between the tables will dissolve a little in the uncured poly and mar the finish.  We don't want that.  In cold weather getting Poly to cure can be a pain, but it's not cold now so it should go well and I can start packaging in the morning.

Monday, April 4

Tray Tables - Lacquering Continues

Today I will complete the lacquering of these tables... I hope.  We have a storm front moving in that is promising high winds and tunderstorms.  When we get those conditions here in the mountains we generally lose our electricty for a while.  Hopefully I'll get it done before that happens.  Weather Radar shows that the storm is moving in faster than was predicted... but I will try.

Jeffrey's Maple tables had two coats on when I started the day, Shelly's Walnut table had one coat.  I'm spraying the second coat on the walnut tables now.  As each dries I move it out of the finishing room and store them on the stand.  While waiting for lacquer to dry, I'm scuff sanding the maple tables so they will be ready for their third and final coat.

While the lacquer on each of those dries, I'll scuff the walnut tables and send them in for their third coat.  Then all will be ready for their skim coat of polyurethane.

Friday, April 1

Tray Tables - Lacquering

I'll spend the entire day today sanding, and shooting lacquer.  It is times like this that I am especially grateful to finally have a finishing room with doors on it.  In the past I did finishing work in the work area of the shop.  That meant having to stop all woodworking, clean the shop thoroughly (including walls and ceiling) than drape sheets over any near-by tools so over-spray would not get on them and gum them up.

Now I just take the pieces to be finished into the finishing room.  The doors are kept closed at all times to keep wood dust from migrating in.  In that clean environment I can spray finish, then go back out to the shop and continue woodworking.  In this case, I am sanding more tables.

It takes about 45 minutes to sand a table.  When done, I vacuum it, tack rag it and take it in for the first coat of lacquer.  While the lacquer is drying, I sand another table.  When all 8 tables and two stands have one coat, I'll go back and shoot all with a second coat.  When those are dry I'll scuff sand to smooth the finish, tack them off again and shoot the third coat.

Once the third coat has hardened up well (overnight) I'll apply a skim-coat of quality polyurethane to just the panel tops of the trays to help protect them from careless living.  Lacquer is a beautiful finish, but it will take on white water marks if sweaty drink glasses or hot plates are left sitting on it.  The polyurethane helps prevent that.

The polyurethane has to cure for at least 8 hours - more if it's cold or damp - before I can begin packaging the table set for shipment.