A busy couple of weeks for me, first a demo at Cambridge and then at Bury St Edmunds. It was really nice to do some local demos and be able to get home the same day.
Some important news, in case you haven’t seen this elsewhere; the Midlands Woodworking Show, due to be held in Newark later this month, has been postponed until 19-20 June due to the corona virus situation. If you’ve already bought a ticket it will still be valid, if you have any questions please contact the show organisers, not me. I won’t know!
At least no-one’s talking about Brexit on the news anymore!
Now to some questions I can answer…

I was thinking about writing this week’s Newsletter earlier, wondering what to include. Have I answered everything yet? I pondered. Nope, this one came in this afternoon to remind me there’s still lots to do…
Our emailer is using End Seal on tool handles to both seal them and improve the grip (these are for gardening tools). During application the liquid ‘balls up’ and they wanted to know if they can dilute the End Seal with water. The answer is yes, but it’s unlikely to stop this. End Seal is a particular type of liquid which, when friction is applied to it, forms into small lumps rather than dry as a film. If you rub some between your fingers you’ll see what I mean. (There’s a scientific name for it but it escapes me). Using End Seal as intended won’t cause this to happen though.

Last week I was talking about finishing a guitar with Hard Wax Oil, and it wasn’t coming up with the expected shine, although it had been fine on other pieces. I’m still pretty sure that some of the problem was the flash coat of polyurethane applied before the oil, but even after sanding back and several coats it wasn’t giving the desired effect. Various application methods had been tried, with the grain, against the grain, in circles…nothing was making a difference. What else could be done??
The only thing I could think of was that the oil wasn’t flowing out properly; it needs to settle to a smooth surface to give a gloss, so I suggested thinning it slightly (about 25% with white spirit) to allow it to self-level better. I’m really pleased to say that we got a call today to tell us that this had done the trick and the guitar was looking great now.

And finally, an old favourite; if one of our finishes is ‘toy safe’, does that also mean it’s ‘food safe’? This one is far more complicated than you might think or that some would have you believe. The short answer, though, is ‘no’.
There is a specific test for coatings for toys and nursery furniture, called EN71 Part 3. This comes under the wider ranging Toy Safety Directive 2009/48/EC. There is NO similar test for Food Contact Safety. We’ve seen various tests applied and used, none ideal and the most spurious being EN 1186 which deals with ‘Materials and articles in contact with foodstuffs’ and is most commonly used to test plastics used in gloves.
EN71-3 tests coatings to ensure that if (for example) licked or chewed there is nothing contained within that can cause harm. Food Safety should ensure that there is no migration of harmful constituents and that it does not change composition, taste or odour in an unacceptable way. (EC) 1935/2004 refers to this.
I’ll be returning to Food Safety (yet again!) in a future Newsletter, but for now I just want to talk about Toy Safety.
It is the responsibility of the seller to ensure that the toys they are selling are safe. From a finishing perspective this can include the Safety Data Sheets of the materials used (all downloadable from our website) and full safety testing to EN71. We’ve done that part for you already on many of our products, and have independent certificates available to show this. This is just one example. (All of our certificates are – or very soon will be – available to download from our website as well). We have been asked on many occasions to provide these certificates for Trading Standards Inspections. It’s only when you’re told that you can no longer sell the items you’ve made that the importance of this comes home. And you don’t have to be selling them for these rules to apply; the rules talk of ‘supply’ which will include gifts or prizes. Besides which, of course, would you morally want to supply a toy to a child without knowing that you’ve done everything you can to make sure it is safe..?

(I’m sorry that last part was so lengthy – I think it’s important enough to warrant it though.)
That’s all for this week – frankly, I think it’s enough! I’ll be back next week with more questions and answers, maybe some news, I hope I’ll see you then.

All the best