The day before I started at Popular Woodworking Magazine in August of 2005 was the last day I had occasion to iron a shirt.
But today, I pulled my iron out from the deep recesses of a cabinet in a little-used third-floor room that I call ‘The Room Where Everything Goes to Die” – it’s full of stuff I don’t really need – but can’t bear to get rid of. And it’s a good thing I kept that dreaded appliance, because I just ironed my benchtop.
In the midst of moving my bench to the conference center for Woodworking in America, it got dragged over the top of my pointy newel post on its way down the stairs and out the door, which left a nasty meandering gash in the soft pine top – like a drunkard had taken a scrub plane to it. (Huh – maybe I should check the level in the bourbon bottle.)
It wasn’t a big deal (as it would have been had the top of the newel post broken off), but it was going to take a lot of planing to bring the rest of the bench down to the bottom of that trench.
So before I went through that amount of work, I decided to try steaming out the gash. After selecting “Linen” as the appropriate setting for pine, I sprayed water on the wound, threw a dish cloth atop it, and pressed the hot iron down on the towel for 5-10 seconds at a time, adding water when the towel was dry.
The steam raised the grain enough so that the trench has all but disappeared. A pointy-newel-post shaped scar still remains, but it’s no longer indented. That’s good enough for me. And, I don’t have to deal with immediately cleaning up massive amounts of shavings (I have a somewhat elderly and not terribly bright cat; leaving piles of plane shavings around is not a good idea).
Now, the iron can go back into hibernation – I hope for another six years…or more.
— Megan Fitzpatrick
• My bench, which you can’t really see in the pictures above, is a French-style bench built almost exactly like the one on Christopher Schwarz’s “Build an 18th-century Workbench” DVD – but mine is made of cheap white pine leftovers from a log cabin build rather than cherry – and thank goodness; had it been heavier or harder, I might have spent the weekend fixing the staircase rather than five minutes ironing the benchtop.