Newbie with finish questions

I have been lurking here a while and I think "the wreck" will be wonderfully useful for me... once I know enough to use the right words. At the moment my tools are mostly doohickeys, thingies, and whatchamacallums.
I would like to make a maru dai (braiding stand). I name it on the off-chance that there's someone here from the fiber arts community, who will know exactly what I need! The trick is, the working surface needs to be smooth enough not to catch or abrade fine threads, yet it should not be slickery-slippery (it really needs enough friction to keep the threads from sliding around).
I'm starting with pine (go with what you know, and that's all I've worked with so far) and hope to move to hardwoods once I get the hang of this. I'd like to use some finish both for cosmetic reasons (finished wood just looks nicer) and to provide a little protection for the wood. What are my finishing options, for a smoothed but not slick or slippery surface?
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On Wed, 03 Nov 2004 10:58:31 -0600, Elizabeth Naime

You should try using beech instead. There are some other woods you could use instead, but beech is excellent, cheap, easy to find, easy to work and traditional. Pine is awkward to work with - it's a "coarse" timber, so hard to make anything precise with it.
One useful source of beech in an emergency is kitchen tools ! Most of your wooden spoons (certainly in Europe) are made of beech, and it wouldn't be the first one that I've cannibalised to make something quickly.

Your topcoat needs to be wax, and re-waxed occasionally. Underneath this you might use oil, or you might just wax from scratch. Best thing is a can of commercial finishing oil and a tin of commercial wax. I use Liberon's range.
If you have an interest in woodturning, then turned wooden spindle and round tenons are the traditional way to build thread and fabric handling tools. It's also a good way to get a smooth and gently curved snag-free finish. Apart from a lathe, it doesn't need much equipment either.
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Hi, Andy, and thanks for responding!
Where might I find beech? Right now I need pieces a little more than 3.5" square, or boards from which they can be cut; 3.5" rounds in 1X pine have weighted out just about right for wool spindle whorls. I haven't gotten off paper and into wood with the braiding stand designs, but I'm leaning towards a 10" radius or slightly less for the top of the stand. Maybe larger later on; I braid on a stand whose mirror (top) is significantly less than this, and know it will work better if a bit larger. I'll have to get one completely finished and then braid on it for a while to really get an idea of what the best size will be.
Pine may be awkward, but it is what I have lying around. Wooden spoons wouldn't give me much more than a potential spindle shaft, for which my first efforts have used oak dowels.
A lathe (and room to set it and some other tools up) is definitely on my wish list, but isn't possible yet. Trust me, when I get within reach of one, I'll be posting "how do I start learning to use a lathe" messages left and right!
I have read enough of the group to realize that "the Borg" is not the best place to get good wood, but I've only just started looking for other local sources. Although I do have a downed maple tree that is going to be cut into "slices" with a chain saw, but I expect it will have to cure before use. (Won't it?) Are sawmills and furniture shops my best bet for pieces smaller than "a bunch of boards" but larger than "scrap?"
The traditional wood for a maru dai is, I believe, maple. And this is way in the future, but, I would love to make some things with osage orange (aka hedge, hedge apple, bois d'arc) someday. It has a beautiful color at least when fresh or in the first year or so, and in the very few instances I've seen it actually used as lumber, it seems to age into a pretty nearly indestructable material. I'm guessing that the extreme hardness when very well cured (and the fact that the only place I can think of to get it is to saw down some firewood) makes it an Advanced Project wood...
Since I've got eleven pine spindle whorls cut and enough oak dowelling to use with them, I will probably continue this first "batch" with those materials. But, I'm very open to ideas about where to go next, and I'll do some hunting around for braiding-stand sized chunks of beech.
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On Wed, 03 Nov 2004 20:41:15 -0600, Elizabeth Naime
Europe ! Thinking about it, this might not be the best choice for you. I've no experience of US beech, but I seem to remember that US beech isn't much good (like trying to find decent maple in the UK). Your best US choice might be maple.
Avoid pine. Pine is hard to work with, because it's just too flimsy to really shape well. Something that's a bit _firmer_ is just more predictable. You also need a hard, smooth surface which isn't something you can get with pine.
I don't know where best to buy timber in your area. Small timberyards are best, but I think there are some smaller chains near you that are reasonable. The real "big shed" Borgs though are indeed useless.
I've just realised where I'd heard of a maru dai before - it's for making kumihimo. Yet another craft I've been meaning to learn. I sew Japanese clothing and I've been looking for braid sources. I also restore swords, which includes re-wrapping their hilts. Ito (silk braid) for doing this is an insane price ($25/metre) and I'd like to try weaving some of my own.
So, I think three maru dai are going to be made soon ! One for me, two for weaver / rug maker friends.
This is definitely a wood turning project. The "mirror" needs a smooth rounded edge, that funnel shape to the centre and a sharp edge to it to act as a thread brake. Although you could easily make one with just a jigsawn or coping saw sawn disk, it would be a tedious job to form the edges by hand. Making tama would also be a perfect excuse for turning - it's also a chance to fool around with small pieces of dense exotic timbers.
So you need a lathe. How are you fixed for woodturners, or woodturning classes ? Turning is an interesting occupation (I'm no turner). It's pretty much useless these days (there are only so many wooden bowls you really need in your life), yet it's an extremely pleasant craft to actually practice. So most woodturners spend their time puzzling over what to make next - they've done all the obvious or useful stuff, and before long they're banging out "treen" - an invented word for what's effectively doodling with a lathe.
In the meantime, I think you should just make a maru dai out of anything you have to hand. Use something tight-grained for the mirror, sand it through the stages (80 grit, 120, 180, 240) and then wax finish it. Beech, maple, pretty much any decent fine-grained hardwood. Don't worry if it's any good - it's not hard to make, and the important thing is to do one first. Then when you get the chance, take what you've learned and make another by turning.
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+0000,

Um. I have a downed Maple tree; if I had paid more attention I could tell you the species. Brought down in a storm and cut down from there, and though I haven't cut it up yet, there's reason to believe it's not insect-damaged.
Since I'm doing round things right now, I have thought that disks cut from this tree might be interesting to work with. I know the very center of a tree is often weak or even hollow, but I can see both spindle whorls and maru dai mirrors with the grain going round and round rather than to and fro. What do you think? And, how might I treat the wood before putting it to use? No, I'm not assuming I'll take the chain saw to the tree on Saturday and start using the wood on Sunday. ;-)

Woo hoo! As I slowly find myself showing the symptoms of carpentry addiction, I can take comfort in the certain knowledge that you will find yourself becoming a fiber nut. Kumihimo on a maru dai is one of the most relaxing and mesmerising things you can do with string! There are more portable techniques using rigid disks with slots for the threads, but these never did much for me. You are going to LOVE kumihimo.

Yes and no. I have one just as described (below the very workmanlike mirror it deteriorates, using ridiculously thin softwood dowels for legs) and indeed that configuration is traditional and works wonderfully. I also have an ordinary stool into which I cut a hole, and did some emergency sanding on; and surprisingly, it also serves the purpose very well. Although the relatively wide funnel seems ideal and is what I want to make in the long term, I think a more perfunctory funnel might be quite usable.
Then again, I am thinking that without a lathe, it's a good thing that I don't mind sanding. Lots of sanding. Enough to actually do some shaping...
Tama, indeed, cry out for a lathe. So much so that I don't plan on making any until I do have one. I'm willing to work around quite a lot of obstacles, but that would really be too much.

There is a major woodworking supply store a little more distant than I'd care to travel daily, but within reach for classes; does anyone recognize the name "Woodcrafters?" I think that's the name of it and I'm pretty sure it is a chain. I hadn't thought of them. I suppose at 41 they won't let me sit in on high school shop classes...
Indeed if I continue making fiber equipment, I may be in the interesting position of having a LOT of things I can do with a lathe. One can never have too many knitting needles or crochet hooks, either, and aside from the final shaping of the hook on the latter, these also cry out for a lathe. The more specialized knitting and fiber craft stores carry commercially made needles and hooks with ornamental bits on the non-working end that to my eye MUST have been made on a lathe.
I may even "have" a lathe; I'm not sure. My father had a hobbyist's wood shop since I was a kid; I wish he were still around to take lessons from. After his death several years ago, I asked my mother if she could keep his tools and equipment, against a future date when I would actually have space to set up. I don't know if he had a lathe but I know he did some woodturning, so there is a good possibility that there is a lathe (doubtless out of date but likely a good one nonetheless, Dad loved good tools). Hence my thinking about where and how to learn -- I may be able to get the equipment, but I doubt using a lathe is as simple and straightforward as using a drill press.
Trouble is, I don't yet have the space. For the first time since I made the request, having the space is actually in sight as a possibility, perhaps even a bit before the new year! I am determined to bang out a few things the hard way before then, though, having promised a new kumihimo convert that I'd find a maru dai she could use and having people interested in simple spindles.

Thanks! That's sort of where I am on the spindles -- I learned so much from the horribly-balanced few that I made at first, and after using a drill press to get this last pine batch done I think I'll have learned all I can from pine and be ready to start all over again on better wood.
Actually... I have, recently enough to know I wasn't getting a good deal, gotten a little bit of red oak from a "borg" (Home Depot, who will sell shorter boards that may still be ridiculously expensive but which I can afford to invest in for a small project like this). It's not that fine grained, though. I have been thinking, from all the anti-pine messages I've been reading, if I should skip the "try it on a cheap pine one-by that's lying around already" and just use the oak for my first maru dai?
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On Thu, 04 Nov 2004 22:58:38 -0600, Elizabeth Naime
Timber doesn't store well as logs. Get it sawn, and get it sawn quickly (or maybe store it submerged, if you have the space and a suitable lake / pond)

Disks are, generally speaking, no use. You can't dry a disk - they get radial cracks (this is a complex subject, but Googling this ng ought to show better explanations)
However in one case you _can_ dry a disk successfully - if you take an inch or two hole out of the central pith. Reducing the "solid radius" of your disk reduces the forces generated during shrinking and makes it possible for a dried disk to remain stable and not split.
I'd suggest that you treat this tree as a separate problem from your maru dai though. "A year an inch" is the usual rule of thumb for drying timber, and this applies whether you saw to boards and dry them, or if you turn the piece green and then dry it. Get it sawn, stickered and stored under cover, then ignore it for two years.

I already have a cat. No shortage of string-based amusements.

Lace bobbins are what I usually think of here - I think they're made different to code the individual threads. There's a whole sub-division of woodturning that uses tiny lathes, tiny tools and produces pens, lace bobbins and the like. It's a good way to handle expensive exotic timbers, or to use up offcuts from bigger projects.
I'd still be cautious with oak. Now American white oak is softer than I'm used to, but it's still a hard and somewhat brittle timber. I wouldn't want to make thread-handling equipment from it.
Timber is cheap, it just costs a lot if you go to the wrong place. Right now I'd use hornbeam (a lovely turning wood), because I have a carload that came from a friend's garden. More good timber than I can store, and it didn't cost me a penny. For small work you can even use things like fruitwood (apple or pear) or boxwood (hedges) from garden clearances. There's a lot of timber around if you ask the people who handle it regularly. A friend of mine is a gardener and he's always shifting truckload of old hedges or small bushes - not much is useful, but it's usually lovely tight-grained timber for small turned pieces.
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