Rolling out coasters
After making cutting boards for the last 18 months or so, I thought it would be an easy transition to making coasters. My goal was to crank some out prior to Christmas so that I could give them as gifts. Then, add coasters to my online store. Ultimately, I got bogged down with other projects (really other Christmas gifts) and didn’t finish the coasters in 2020. A few weeks ago, I re-engaged on them and, after more trial and error than I anticipated, I may have worked out a good process.
What do others do?
Like most of my projects, I started the coasters as a relative newcomer. I watched a bunch of YouTube videos.
Videos to check out:
DIY Scrap Wood Coasters with 3 Tools, DIY Huntress
Making Hardwood End Grain Drinks Coasters, Rag 'n' Bone Brown
I decided to make end-grain coasters. I had a few scrap pieces of walnut that were too thin for cutting boards that I could glue up with a thicker piece of ambrosia maple. The maple was also not great cutting board material because of the worm holes that had produced the ambrosia effect, but the grain was amazing. I glued these up and produced a striped block that was about five inches square and a little over a foot long. Then the project was set aside for Christmas. Fast forward to January 2021 and I am ready to cut the coaster blanks.
I realized quickly that I would not be able to cut the block using my table saw, or miter saw, because the block was too big. Although I had seen videos where folks made two passes on the table saw, I have never had great luck doing that. I decided to try my somewhat underutilized band saw. (I am fortunate to have a very nice Grizzly band saw, but often forget how useful and versatile it can be.) My first few cuts on the band saw were pretty bad. I used the fence, set at about half an inch, and pushed the stock through using the miter gauge that came with the saw. Due to a poorly tuned machine, I experienced some drift that resulted in varying widths across the span of the coaster. Not ideal! Feeling a little defeated, I put the project down for a week and thought about solutions.
With plenty of material left, I started again. I began by making a jig for my band saw similar to the crosscut sled I use on my table saw. That, along with some tuning, resulted in a coaster blank that seemed square and flat. I took the first two and tried a couple of different edges on my router table. Although this was a little tricky because of how small they are relative to my other projects, I finally decided that a round-over not only looked good but would be easier to sand. To be honest, I am not convinced I need an edge at all. I then sanded the coaster with my ROS and all of the normal grits and finished with regular cutting board oil (I typically use Walrus Oil). I also put four small felt circles on the bottom. The final product looked awesome and received a lot of love when I posted a picture as a side note to a walnut bar-top I had also finished.
Coasters can be a great product to make in batches and because of the nature of wood, every single one is 100% unique. They require a lot of work, so I am still reviewing what is the proper pricing. But I am confident that there is a price point that will work.
After all that, only about 20 more to finish. Back to the shop!