Answers to the Workshop Smarts questions from issue 152
A. If the source is a Southern particleboard manufacturer, expect the wood to be Southern yellow pine; if the particleboard comes from the Northwest, it will be some other coniferous wood native to that region, such a Douglas fir or ponderosa pine. Coniferous woods such as these are used instead of hardwood because they are less dense and provide the needed strength without extra weight.
A. A champion tree is defined as the largest tree of its species still standing. Florida has the most champion trees at 169, followed by California, which has 97.
A. Bluing, a type of oxidation, occurs when you heat steel to around 600º F. Generally speaking, tools and bits carrying the label HSS (meaning high-speed steel) soften slightly by bluing while sharpening. Chisels and lathe tools, which are made of "tool steel"—that is, high-speed steel containing alloying elements—soften even less than high-speed steel. In both cases, the steel's ability to hold an edge suffers slightly. To avoid this, pull the tool away from the sharpener when discoloration begins, rather than applying continuous damaging pressure. Or consider using a white (aluminum oxide) grinding wheel or a slow-speed, water-cooled grinder to sharpen tools and bits made from high-speed steel or tool steel.