Beach Wood or Bleach Wood?

Beach Wood or Bleach Wood?

This next project had Peter Brown finding himself at a true crossroads in life… following through with a build request from his wife that put into question every woodworking sensibility he had. Would he be able to table his preconceived notions that traditional woodworking has drilled into him over a lifetime of experience? Or would he stick to his guns while sleeping on his couch for the rest of his marriage? Let’s find out!

His wife put in a request for a hardwood box to house her antique kitchen napkin collection. Peter went for one of the most popular and beautiful woods available in the US, walnut. It has a rich color, nice grain and is a dream to work with. 

Using his table saw, planer, router and his custom box making sled, he was able to coax this mighty wood into a nice set of perfectly formed walnut rectangles.

The end of the rectangles were 45 degree miters to allow for a seamless joint when fully glued up.

Before Peter was able to glue these gorgeous specimens of Juglans Californica (California Black Walnut) together, word came down from upon high to halt production.  Ms. Brown received the news that her project was going to be made of this lovely lumber, and was not having it. Despite her namesake, she was not about to have just a Brown napkin holder, as it was “for old people”. Rather than throwing more wood on the fire, Peter acquiesced and smartly valued his relationship more than his traditionalist woodworking stance. He decided to go the Steve Ramsey approach and strip away walnut’s dignity. 

Armed with a gallon of bleach, foam brushes and a heat gun, Peter began to remove the distinctive brown color and smoothness.  One by one he converted the boards into rough approximations of Paul Jackman’s pallet wood scraps. Mrs. Brown preferred the more rustic beachy look for her kitchen and that was what she was going to get!

After bleaching the inside of the panels, Peter glued up the miters and used packing tape and a band clamp to hold the boards in place. 

He even broke out a protip from Sterling Davis to use a cut straw to remove glue squeeze out from the corners. Once the box was assembled, he finished off the bleaching process on the top and outsides of the form.

One side effect of applying bleach to walnut is that it causes the wood grain to raise severely.

It is certain that Peter’s micromesh side of his brain was having a total conniption fit, but he stayed true to his word to gift his wife with the most rustic napkin holder this side of the Beverly Hillbillies

While I think the real reason he gave in was that he used up the last of his walnut on this build that would have otherwise been used for his doghouse! Smart move Peter!