I know, I know.  Get a life and all that.  But these things are looking really good and deserve to be addressed because as I said before:  free hardwood flooring.

Yesterday, I took my two prototypes over to my friend’s house (garage actually) who has a thickness sander.  This machine took out all the changes in elevation and got rid of my silly angle grinder mistakes and produced a perfectly smooth, flat surface on both.  He even gave me a couple of bottles of clear epoxy finish that he was not going to use.  This is the stuff you usually only see on bars and/or the tables in Mexican restaurants with coins and stuff embedded in the surface. 

I took them home and proceeded immediately to mix up some of the epoxy stuff.  This is a strange material that is very viscous like honey but has a high surface tension and will seep into any crack now matter how small.  It both fills the crack and locks the whole thing together into a solid mass.  Like most things, the process is fundamentally simple but there are a hundred little things that you need to be aware of that can bite you.  This inexorable crack seepage is a double-edged sword.  It fills the cracks, yes, but it can also flow under the whole thing and stick it to your workbench.  Luckily this occurred to me in time to rescue everything and I hurriedly arranged for a pedestal to sit things on so that the excess ran off the side and puddle on a piece of paper that I also hurriedly arranged. 

Also, when bubbles form, you can pop them easily with the flame from a blowtorch held well above the surface.  This is satisfying on several levels.  You get rid of an imperfection and get to play with a blowtorch at the same time. 

This crack seepage also means that you end up with little depressions where the epoxy flowed into the crack but hardened before the rest could flow in to the gap and make the surface level.  Still, one can hardly complain.  This is easily remedied by a second coat and the process has the advantage of getting a beautiful finish in place in one step.  Two steps I guess when you add the leveling coat. 

If I were to do it again, I would apply a very thin coat first with a brush and let all this seepage occur and plug all the leaks in the process.  Then I would pour the top coat on.  It would still be a two step process but would not involve any sanding.  That’s always a plus.  I find sanding to be a very unrewarding process.  It helped when I bought a random orbit sander with easily replaceable disks which I replace often.   

Amongst woodworkers, this thick, ultra glossy type finish is looked down upon.  It’s considered the equivalent of too much makeup.  Purists say that if you want your woodworking projects to look like they are incased in plastic, just use fake wood to begin with.  But this really does accentuate the grain. 

These things look like museum pieces when they get done.  I might just frame one and hang it on the wall.  I can’t get over how beautiful they are. 

In the end, I’m not sure I can lay my hands on enough of this stuff to actually make an entire floor – at least not out of walnut.  It would be pretty easy to lay my hands on enough oak though.  I’m sure I could raid the woodpiles of all my friends and neighbors for a few sticks each and get enough for the job.  But there is also a precision that is required that I haven’t quite worked out yet.  Each of these, to make an entire floor, must be absolutely the same size; otherwise, the tiles would not all line up and the eye would go to those imperfections immediately and be a source of annoyance forever.  I think that by building myself another jig for the table saw, I could solve this problem.  It’s not important that they be any particular size – only that they all be exactly the same size.  I suppose I could also just take all of the tiles and run them through the table saw after they are assembled and take off a tiny bit from each edge – that would force the consistency.  The only design issue to be worked out is to avoid having any teeny tiny pieces that have to be cut since it is a dangerous business to do such things on a table saw and to cut tiny pieces by hand would be only slightly faster than weaving chain maille.  I’ve done that too but would prefer a more expedient approach. 

I also looked into the issue of whether you can glue these things down directly to concrete slabs and the answer is yes if you buy the proper adhesive.  This is a fairly recent innovation so I’m lucky there.  The stuff is pretty expensive but will allow the job to be done easily.  Then there is the issue of how to break up the existing floor and get the concrete smooth.  Perhaps you don’t do that at all, you just trowel a thick layer of adhesive right over the old uneven mortar that was used on the old tiles.  I’ll have to answer this positively before doing anything else.

I’m a gnat’s eyelash away from being able to produce an intricately designed hardwood floor for my entryway.  I’m talking about an intricacy and elegance that you might find in the palace of Versailles.  And all at very little cost – only labor.  That’s pretty exciting.

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