Whoever said that woodworking has no place in the kitchen is crazy...
As I was perusing the Wood Talk forums; more specifically those relating the Wood Whisperer Guild and the Roubo workbench build, I stumbled across a thread discussing how to bake your steel hardware with a coating of flax oil. The result of which turns the steel an awesome bronze and gives the added benefit of seasoning/protecting it. I was intrigued by the 3 or 4 posts in the thread. It sounded extremely interesting and could provide me with that extra touch I was looking for on my build. I did a quick search of the internet for a more in-depth how to as well as looking at the blog post provided by Bench Crafted directly.
Basically what it boils down to is a few key processes.
1: Make sure each piece is absolutely clean of any oils (this includes touching it with bare skin)
2: A little goes a long way: The thinner the coat the better the results
With those key pieces running through my head I set out on my baking adventure.
After searching town for as pure a flax oil as I could find I finally found it at the local WalMart of all places and the price wasn't that bad (look for it in the nutritional supplements in the pharmacy). You won't need a lot of oil, so don't run out and buy a gallon of it. with the oil in hand it was time to get started.
1: Set your oven to 500*
2: Clean your hardware (or whatever) with a degreaser or similar product. I actually just washed everything in as hot of water as I could stand with some liquid dish washing detergent
3: Dry your hardware completely. Remember water and oil don't mix...if your piece is remotely damp the oil isn't going to adhere and will leave you with a blotch.
4: Apply the flax oil in every nook and every cranny.
5: Remove all the oil from every nook and every cranny.
6: Remove all the oil from every nook and every cranny again. You only want the thinnest of coatings. (I also wore nitrile gloves to ensure that I didn't leave finger prints)
7: Bake at 500* for an hour.
8: Turn off the oven & let everything cool to room temperature
The more coats you put on the darker the end result. Also I found that the rougher the steel the darker the results. I opted to coat every piece of hard ware...nut blocks, screws, handles etc. My thinking for doing so is in a hope that the added anti corrosion protection will keep my maintenance requirements to a minimum as well as give that extra bit of longevity to the entire bench.
I also found that applying the oil with a tooth brush worked beautifully....especially on the rough cast iron. I highly recommend the cookie monster tooth brush pictured below...
If you're not careful with the amount of oil you use or if you don't wipe it off evenly or if you happen to touch it with your bare hands prior to baking you might end up with some blotchiness and no amount of oxyclean will get rid of it. In all seriousness if you do end up with some blotches you can lightly scrub the area with a scotchbrite and re coat. I had a problem with a large area that I must have missed when wiping the hand wheels on coat #2.
By the time I got to coat 5 the blotch was mostly gone...so don't fret if you have one or two early on in the process. Also remember to make sure that you clean out all the grooves/threads in the nut blocks and screws...if the coat of oil is too thick it will form a thick vanish on the threads and impact the performance of your vice...trust me...I know from first hand experience.
The process is extremely time consuming. Each round of coating, baking and cooling took about 3.5-4 hours....multiply that by 5 or 6 coats and you have a fair amount of time on your hands. All in all I ended up at about 22 hours in all.
Up next: "Look at Dem Gams"
Total Build Time:
- 1.5 hours (lumber selection, transport & stacking)
-4 hours (Top Slab milling)
- 1.5 hours (slab prep and glue up*)
-0.5 hours (preliminary flattening of both slabs)
-0.5 hours (Final rough slab milling)
-0.5 hours (trimming end and bringing into flat & square)
-1 hour (cutting and finishing tenon)
-0.5 hours (milling and laminating end cap)
-2.5 hours (milling screw cavity support & routing screw cavity includes markup/layout)
-0.5 hours (routing mortise in end cap)
-0.5 hours (fine tune end cap fit)
-2 hours (drilling and installing end cap includes markup/layout)
-1 hour (milling rough stock for dog hole strip and laminate cap)
-2 hours (production of dog hole template & routing of dog holes)
-0.5 hours (glue up of dog hole strip and laminate cap)*
- 0.5 hour (glue up and alignment of dog hole strip to front slab)*
-0.5 hour (milling of front slab dovetail strip)
-1 hour (set up and layout of End Cap Dovetail)
-1.5 hours (milling and fine tuning of End Cap Dovetail)
-0.5 hour (front strip/dovetail glue up)
-3 hours (routing front slab & installing tail vise)
-22 hours (cleaning, coating, baking and cooling of Vise hardware)**
-48.5 hours total
*I havent included my clamp time in these figures if you want to add those figures in, each glue up sat for 24 hours
** I'm including the baking of my vise hardware into my build. If you don't want to include this reduce the total by 22 hours