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Making buttons - need advice

Discussion in 'Woodturning Discussion Forum' started by Lou Jacobs, Sep 10, 2020.

  1. Lou Jacobs

    Lou Jacobs

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    I’m making some large buttons for my daughter who is knitting a sweater. I wonder if anyone has experience or thoughts about a good finish that may stand up to periodic cleaning, or is that simply impossible? Also, grain orientation. While I like this look, I wonder if making them parallel to the grain (flat-grained) might offer less opportunity for water being absorbed. This one is ash, but I imagine an oilier wood like teak, rosewood, etc., might be a better choice.
    56E4C985-13E5-46D3-9008-6527D3ED4B71.jpeg
     
  2. Ron Solfest

    Ron Solfest

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    I built a cedar strip canoe that saw lots of water. It used thin epoxy (West Systems) soaked into the wood and fiberglass, then had spar varnish over that for UV protection.

    if it were me, I think I’d saturate the buttons in epoxy (NOT 5minute type).
     
  3. Lou Jacobs

    Lou Jacobs

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    Interesting idea Ron. I’ve also built several cedar strip, and also stitch and glue boats. (See my avatar, in one of my Adirondack guideboats). I hadn’t thought about epoxy and varnish, as I didn’t want that glossy a finish, but it is worth a try. Honestly, it had not crossed my mind. I have half a gallon of MAS epoxy and various hardeners on the shelf. Thanks for the suggestion!
     
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  4. Don Wattenhofer

    Don Wattenhofer

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    Rose wood would not need a finish and it should stand up to the kind of cleaning that a sweater would get.
     
  5. robo hippy

    robo hippy

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    I have pondered doing buttons and always wondered if I should go flat grain or end grain. I was thinking flat grain would be more crack resistant. No clue as to finish, but carnuba wax or micro crystaline would be safe...

    robo hippy
     
  6. Lou Jacobs

    Lou Jacobs

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    I think you’re right about flat grain. Will try that next.
     
  7. Lou Jacobs

    Lou Jacobs

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    Reed,
    I hope you are safe. Sounds like there is a fire not far from Eugene.
    Lou
     
  8. Dean

    Dean

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    Might be a good argument for some cactus juice!
    I love wooden buttons they are the perfect finish to a hand made garment
     
  9. Lou Jacobs

    Lou Jacobs

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    Interesting thought Dean. I have no experience with it. Is a vacuum chamber and pump necessary? Nothing like spending a couple hundred bucks to be able to make a $2 piece.
     
    Russ Braun likes this.
  10. robo hippy

    robo hippy

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    I am out in the middle of the valley, so other than smoke and ash, I am fine. Oh, the swimming pool closed again, and the Farmer's Market closed. Supposed to be some rain moving in Monday. I have had one friend that lost his house, and several others that had to evacuate, but thus far, their homes are okay. Rough times for sure.

    robo hippy
     
  11. Lou Jacobs

    Lou Jacobs

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    Glad to hear that you are OK. What a horrible situation! I hope you stay safe.
    Lou
     
  12. Russell Nugent

    Russell Nugent

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    I thought that's how we woodturners justified all tool purchases.
     
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  13. Lou Jacobs

    Lou Jacobs

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    Yup! Another response to the “You know You’re a Woodturner” thread.
     
    Russ Braun likes this.
  14. Gary Beasley

    Gary Beasley

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    Small pieces can be soaked in thin CA and do well, polishes up pretty good too.
     
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  15. Lou Jacobs

    Lou Jacobs

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    Gary, thanks for that suggestion. I’ve got a couple that I put epoxy on a few hours ago. I’ll try your CA idea too.
     
  16. Tom Albrecht

    Tom Albrecht

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    Hey, let's back up a minute. Start to finish, how would you turn a wood button? (Flat grain).
     
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  17. Lou Jacobs

    Lou Jacobs

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    I would cut a piece of stock as if it were a very narrow bowl blank. Center of the tree at the headstock or tailstock (I don’t think it would matter much either way), and growth rings perpendicular to the axis of rotation. The way the buttons were made, as in post #1, it was cut from a spindle with growth rings parallel to the bed. Maybe a better way to put it is that the tree, before the blank is cut would be perpendicular to the bed. In the ones I cut the tree is parallel to the bed. I’ll try to do some tomorrow and post a picture.
     
  18. Lou Jacobs

    Lou Jacobs

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    PS - I neglected to say that I’d mount the blank, as I did for the previous buttons, securely in a chuck just at the headstock and cut them off the end of the spindle, after first facing off the front of the button with a bowl gouge, sanding it smooth, then with a parting tool, cut most of the back of the button, sanding the back that I can reach, then finish parting it off. Sand the remaining nub with a disc mounted in the lathe or drill press, then drill holes for sewing the button.
     
  19. Don Wattenhofer

    Don Wattenhofer

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    Weather it is face grain or end grain would depend on the species since there are strength issues with both. The problem could be solved by making a plywood out of veneer or thin strips cut from the edge of a board. The flat blank cut roughly round can be held between a flat face jig in your headstock with sand paper on it and a live center with a flat face. Example for a 1" diameter button the drive end would be a block of wood turned down to 1/2" diameter with a flat end and sand paper glued on. The tail-stock live center would be fitted with a 1/4" diameter flat face. The blank can be sandwiched in without marking and the edges and a 3/8" donut will be exposed for turning the details. This is method that I have used to turn bottoms for shrink boxes without having any marks on them so I think it should work at the smaller scale to make buttons. I may try it
    tomorrow Note to admin. when I miss spelled tomorrow and used spell check it shifted to a new line.
     
  20. Emiliano Achaval

    Emiliano Achaval Administrator Staff Member

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    Stay safe Reed!
     
  21. Emiliano Achaval

    Emiliano Achaval Administrator Staff Member

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    I would use something dense, side grain. Because I have it, Lignum Vitae would be perfect. You should try to clean up the torn grain before sanding your button, if you apply some finish that is going to be very noticeable.
     
  22. Lou Jacobs

    Lou Jacobs

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    Emiliano, of course you’re correct about the tear out. The one shown was only a prototype, but still no excuse to not be more careful with a smoother cut. I’d suspect Lignum Vitae might be oily enough to require no finish. I should look for some. In the meantime, I’ll experiment later today with some side grain ash and hard maple. I have a few pieces of ash with wide enough growth rings, that I might even be able to get some discs entirely out of the less porous summer wood section of the ring.
     
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  23. Lou Jacobs

    Lou Jacobs

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    Tom, here’s what I did a few minutes ago:
    Cut a cross grain piece off an ash slab, 2 1/2” x 2 1/2” by about 8”. Turn round between centers, then mount in scroll chuck, turn down to 1 3/4” diameter, and face off end with slight concavity. Sand face, then partially part off, sand, then finish parting. Drilling for thread and sanding the back is done on the drill press.
    Not much springwood is visible, at least on the faces, and I believe these will be much stronger than cross grained buttons. I’m still trying to decide if I’ll apply a hard (epoxy or CA?) finish, or just oil them.
    8147000B-EBA8-4182-A6B1-6C50AD815D54.jpeg 43753140-E134-4ACC-B090-3C6414D72D0D.jpeg 908298D7-B780-4B23-8A6C-9273E3373E26.jpeg 36AD9EA3-8978-4699-92FB-8E9D5E8C8278.jpeg 8CE0DAE9-D558-49FB-B9CE-8EB082B49523.jpeg
     
  24. Gary Beasley

    Gary Beasley

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    If the garment is going into the wash on occasion a hard finish like CA or poly will eventually start to flake off. A good curing oil may look better over the long run.
     
    Lou Jacobs likes this.
  25. Lou Jacobs

    Lou Jacobs

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    Gary,
    Thanks for that! Tung oil or Danish oil? That sounds like a good solution to me.
     
  26. Perry Hilbert

    Perry Hilbert

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    Years ago, when I did some re-enacting, my broadfall trousers had wooden buttons.. I believe, I was told they were sycamore. They were flat grained with four holes, and were perhaps an inch in diameter. They were treated with something, because I washed the trousers in the wash machine at least a dozen times before the buttons started to turn ugly. I replaced them with hand turned horn buttons that lasted just fine through years of washer and dryer abuse. The horn buttons were also cut flat grained. I cut them out with a plug cutter mounted in a drill press and going very slowly., then sanded them flat and mounted them on my metal lathe to drill holes, finish and polish.
     
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  27. Tom Albrecht

    Tom Albrecht

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    Thanks Lou!
     
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  28. Don Wattenhofer

    Don Wattenhofer

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    I tried to describe a method I thought would work in a previous post so I decided to try it. The test buttons are 1" diameter and made form 3/16" thick material. The light colored one is a 3 ply plywood made of lilac and the darker one is face grain sorta from highly figured buckthorn. The drive is a block of maple turned down to a 1/2" diameter flat face with a disk of sandpaper glued on. The clamp or tail stock live center is a Nova live center with a custom made 1/4" flat face. The holes are drilled using one adjustment - the button is pressed into the block and drilled for the first hole then rotated 90 degrees for the second of 4 holes, 180 degrees for the second of 2 holes etc. The tool shown in picture 3 is a small round nose scraper made form a 8-32 HS broken tap and held with a vise grip, which makes an excellent handle. The 4th picture shows a small screw driver holding the button so that it does not lift out with the drill bit and the cross notches are there to pop the button out if it is a tight fit. The one problem is that you can't dish out the button unless you made a jam chuck for that operation.
    Button1.jpg button2.jpg button3.jpg button4.jpg
     
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  29. Lou Jacobs

    Lou Jacobs

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    Don, everything about your process is exquisite! I love the small scraper you made. Perfect for the curve of the button face, and likewise the jig for drilling the four holes at perfect 90° opposition. I’m sure I’ll adopt some of your method as I’m already being asked for more buttons! I wonder how long before they justify the cost of the lathe...
     
  30. Don Wattenhofer

    Don Wattenhofer

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    If you were worried about justifying the cost of the lathe you would not be doing it. It is nice to link up to another craft especially when it is your daughter.
     
  31. Lou Jacobs

    Lou Jacobs

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    Of course you’re right Don. The way I look at it, turning is cheaper than psychotherapy...well, maybe, maybe not! ;-)
     
  32. Dave Mueller

    Dave Mueller

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    Why not stabilize the button before turning?
     
  33. Lou Jacobs

    Lou Jacobs

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    I’d love to Dave. Am I correct that it requires a vacuum pump and chamber? I don’t have them right now, but would love to put together a vacuum chuck, so that would just further help justify the purchase.
     
  34. robo hippy

    robo hippy

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    I like the way you problem solve!

    robo hippy
     
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  35. Lou Jacobs

    Lou Jacobs

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    Thank you!
     
  36. Tom Gall

    Tom Gall

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    You can try using Minwax Wood Hardener. Submerge blanks in a cat food/tuna fish can until air bubbles stop - let dry (overnight) - then turn. No vacuum pump or chamber needed! Hardener is reusable.
     
  37. Lou Jacobs

    Lou Jacobs

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    Tom, no excuse to buy a vacuum chuck, at least for this project? Shucks!
    Seriously, I’m not familiar with the product, but will look into it. Thanks loads!
    I’ve already put a few coats of Danish oil on these latest buttons, and am liking how they look. Yet to be seen how they stand up to wear.
     
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  38. Don Wattenhofer

    Don Wattenhofer

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    It may not be cheaper but it is more effective then psychobabble
     
  39. Lou Jacobs

    Lou Jacobs

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    Careful, I’m a retired psychotherapist! But I did have more than one client who I tried to convince that taking up something like turning or pottery would be more therapeutic than seeing me.
     
  40. Don Wattenhofer

    Don Wattenhofer

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    Please excuse me while I take my foot out of my mouth.
     

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