Monday, September 22, 2014

Project: Reclaimed Barnwood Desk - Building Up

Previously, I had ripped the boards to a smaller width, laid them out on the carcass to get a feel of how they would look, and established a game plan.

Continuing on with the build it was time to start gluing the boards to the carcass. This would prove to be a bit challenging because I didn't plan to use pin nails or screws to keep the boards flat to the carcass, and I also didn't have deep throated clamps.

(Above: I cleaned out my box of spring clamps for the glue-up)

You can see, as I moved along with gluing the boards on, I had to get creative with my clamping.

(Above: Weights, or anything heavy, work well for this)

I also had to plane some of the board edges to get them to fit, since when I ripped the boards it was far from accurate. Planing the edges also gives the desktop a more 'handmade' feel.

(Above: A good selection of planes and chisels are always helpful)

As I continued gluing boards on I put a bevel on the edges to minimize glue squeeze-out (and also minimizing the need for me to chisel/scrape glue squeeze-out after the fact.)

(Above: Get rid of excess glue before it becomes a pain in the ass)

Now that all the boards were glued to the carcass top, I had to do some planing to get rid of the rest of the glue, and do a basic leveling of the desk top.

(Above: You can see the high spots getting taken down first)

Lastly, I had to trim off the excess wood from the edges to get them flush and square.

(Above: A circular saw and an edge guide are a decent table saw alternative)

Oh and I also wore some safe footwear - barefoot. Not smart, I know, but it would be my own fault if I got hurt.

(Above: Barefoot = not the safest)

That's all for now, the next stages are planing the top flat, filling any knot holes and cracks with epoxy, some high-level sanding, and some pre-finish sanding. But that will be another day.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Project: Ikea Dimmer Switch Mount

A long time ago, I had purchased a couple of Ikea dimmer switch cords - because I wanted some variation on my pendant lighting in my room. (And I had a nifty set of Tardis patio lights that I wanted to dim down when I was using them)

The problem with them is they just kind of sit there, usually the slider flips over and you have to pick it up to adjust the brightness. As a result of this, I started to plan a way to mount them, and have them look nice in the process. They'd be in the same location (near the outlet) so I could mount them in the same place.

(Above: Simple dimmer from Ikea)

This is a project that I started quite some time ago, and picked up, put down, rinse and repeat for far too long. Before I knew any better, I bought some Baltic Birch plywood (very small pieces, sadly) at Michael's craft store for far too much money.

The panel needed to be approximately 1" thick, and the stock I had was 1/2" thick. To remedy this, I cut the stock in half, and proceeded to laminate them together.

(Above: Laminate boards together if you need additional thickness)

After figuring out spacing, drawing guidelines onto the stock, I broke out Mr. Jigsaw and began hacking away at the plywood. This is where I learned a few things. 1) Use the correct blade for the job. 2) Learn what the various settings on your jigsaw do, before you cut expensive wood.

As a result of the lessons learned, there was a significant amount of tear-out on the back of the piece, and the blades I used dulled very fast. Leaving me with very rough holes, that took a lot of filing, sanding, and cursing - all to get it to a still rough state, but one that barely fits the dimmer switches.

(Above: Poor planning and impatience lends itself to a bad result)

I still have another 1" thick piece of stock, so I plan to re-cut the sockets for the dimmer switches. In this case, I will use a router and a spiral bit to hollow out what I need, which will leave cleaner edges, and a better fit.

Next I started on the cover-plate. I didn't want the dimmers to be seen, only the slider portion of it would be shown. 

I took measurements, found the appropriate sized/radius of drill bit, and went to town. 

To clear out the rest, I used a coping saw to clean out the remainder. Since I don't own a scroll saw, this is a simple and inexpensive alternative.

Once I cut out the excess, I did a quick test fit, which turned out pretty close, I just need to do a little bit of filing to perfect the fit, and I'll be happy with the result.

This is where it stands. I'm not very happy with the build up to this point. I'll be planning and building a second version, with a different method of construction. This is all part of the learning process, learning how to design better, how to plan better, and practicing different woodworking techniques.

Stay tuned for the revised build!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Project: The Freezer Lid Hook

Sometimes you make things to improve how something works, other times you make things to fix something that isn't working the way it should.

At my parents house, they have a very old 'deep freeze' unit that has a hinged lid. The hinges on the lid at one time (must have been before my time) held the lid open. But I never remember them working.

Years upon years my Mother complained that she couldn't sort the freezer because she always had to hold the lid with one hand, and try to bend down and sort the frozen goods with the other.

Since I've been doing some odd repair jobs around her house, I chose to fix this problem for her.

I started out by sketching the design on my new favorite paper - the Square Cross Grid.

And then cut my 'to scale' designs out with a hobby knife and a ruler...

I transferred the lines out onto some cabinet-grade plywood (I think it's oak plywood, but I'm not sure, they are reclaimed scraps) and took the work outside with a jigsaw, and carefully cut out the pieces. I didn't take photos of this process, because I forgot, but also because it would have been difficult. I then had to sand them to their final size.

(Above: Looks safe, right?)

Once the parts were shaped and sanded, I did a dry fit, and got to gluing and clamping. My tiny Bessey clamps were perfect for this, they also kept my knuckles out of the belt sander. Still, they're expensive for what they are.

Once the glue dried, I did another check of the fit.

(Above: A 1/4" dowel will make a good, strong pivot)

Now it was time to drill the mounting holes for the bracket to attach it to under the cabinets. I also drilled a shallow hole with a Forstner bit to flush-mount a rare earth magnet. (More on that later)

In order to get the rare-earth magnet to stay put, I had to lightly sand the back of it, and brought out the epoxy. I'm going to have to buy a larger quantity of two part epoxy eventually. Those little tubes are expensive.

After the epoxy dried, I tested out the fit of the parts, and tested out the screws. I pre-drilled pilots, and well, they were too small. I ended up boring out the holes to the same size as the screws so they would fit loose. Makes for mounting it easier.

After checking the lid and the hook for positioning and making sure there was no interference when opening the lid past the hook, I secured it in place. I then added a #6 screw to meet up with the magnet, to keep the hook in the 'up' position when not in use.

(Above: you can barely see the small screw that meets with the magnet)

And now, the freezer lid can stay up, and my Mom can use both hands to get at all those frozen goods. No risk of the lid banging her in the head, that hook is very secure. It's not the prettiest piece, but the whole thing took me about 25 minutes to build (excluding drying time)...

I left it unfinished, because really, it doesn't need to be pretty... the only thing I might do is take it back off, and give it one last sanding, just to clean it up and make it look a tiny bit nicer. In the end, my Mom is happy. I might re-design a second version eventually, but this will do the trick until then.

As always, thanks for reading!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Project: Steel Strap Bookshelf - Design

Ikea makes decent furniture. We all know this. It's cheap. Easy to transport. Easy to build. Looks okay. But...

Everyone has Ikea furniture at some point or another. In my case, I have a couple of the Expedit shelves (Ikea now calls them Kallax shelves... and are a tiny bit 'skinnier', but it's the same thing.) I have the 2x4 cube, and the 2x2 cube shelves. They do the job, but I want to get rid of them.

(Above: Expedit, the record collectors shelf of dreams)

Now, this design is not 100% my own. Not at all. I originally was turned onto it from a Youtube video I had seen by a fellow named Ben who runs The shelf as he calls it is the "Iron-bound Bookcase". 

It's a nice and simple design. And relatively simple to build. I used that design as the basis for my project. I want to build a shelf that will replace my Expedit 2x4 cube shelf, making it a hair shorter (or taller, we'll see) - and making it a lot deeper, to provide more space for my turntable and stereo amp.

(Above: Sketch your ideas as they come, even if it changes in the end)

I started to make my sketches, and planned out how to attach the shelves to the brackets. I wanted this shelf to be very sturdy, but at the same time, I'd want to be able to take it apart if I needed to move.

I also needed to modify Bens' design to afford more support for the shelf in the middle, to prevent sagging, and in case I decide to use it as a TV stand/console down the road. An element to a good design is making sure it can serve multiple purposes or uses.

After a trip to Home Depot, I found the fasteners I planned to use. They're beautiful. Just under 3" long and an M6 screw, they'll provide a lot of bite and support. And the nickel plating is nice and durable, and will contrast the metal brackets nicely.

(Above: Check things out online to save you the hassle in-store.)

Once I was at Home Depot, I could get a feel for what materials were available, and the relative cost. And I could also use them to compare to what I had seen online.

After planning, and revising my sketches, I came up with a pretty solid final design, I went ahead and bought the screws (man they cost a lot!) and the metal for the upright brackets. The wood will be purchased when I have cleared up space and finished other projects.

Stay tuned for more!


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Project: Reclaimed Barnwood Desk - Prologue

I've been really enjoying woodworking more and more lately, and in an effort to learn more skills, and practice things I already knew - I am tackling a desktop project.

A friend of mine donated a lot of old barnwood to me, and I wanted to make something with it.  A lot of the boards had twists or were cupped, so I selected the straightest pieces I could find.

But for the base of the desk (sometimes referred to as a carcass), I used a 20" x 48" x 1/2" laminated pine project board from Home Depot. They're cheap, flat, straight, and square. Also they're fairly rough, so gluing to this 'base' will be easy.

After selecting a few of the straighter boards, I laid them out on top of the carcass, to get a feel of how it would look. Also, it gave me a good idea of how much wood would be required for the project.

You can see quite a difference from the really old boards versus the new pine board. Close to the same thickness, bringing the overall thickness to a bit under 1.5", give or take.

After laying out the boards on the carcass, I realized I didn't like them as wide as they were. Or is it depth? Depends, I suppose. Regardless, the boards were around 5" wide, and because some were mildly cupped, ripping them to 2.5" wide boards would lessen the cup, and also provide more boards to vary a pattern with.

I had picked up a "Footprint Tools Clamp and Cutting Guide" from Lowes a while back, and this would be the best opportunity to use it. I would have used a table saw, but it was broken, and well, it would have been tough to move anyway.

Now, this clamping and cutting setup is not ideal, at all. Possibly unsafe as well. But if you are cautious about where the blade is in relation to your body parts - at all times - you'll come out of it un-injured. But really, I would have killed for a table saw, 40 minutes of a portable circular saw would have been 5 minutes or less on a table saw.

Once all the boards were cut, I clamped them together, and took a belt sander to one side, to try and create a flat, even surface, and to bring the width of the boards down to 'near the same'.  A scrub plane and a rough smoothing plane would have been a better choice, but I wasn't confident enough with planes yet to try.

Now, that big pile of wood, although it looked good, wasn't entirely usable. Some of the boards had knots that were too large, splits, cracks, and surfaces that would not yield a nice desktop. So I had to take them to the miter saw, and hack off the bits that I couldn't use.

(Above: Not much left after a trip to the miter saw to remove the bad wood & knots) 

Layout of the re-sized planks, trying to come up with a 'random' pattern that also looks good and fits well. Had to use my Japanese pull saw and miter box to trim up a few planks to fill the leftover spaces.

And with that, I'll leave it for now. Next steps will be securing the boards to the carcass, smoothing the boards, fixing holes, putting on edging... okay a lot of work left to go.

Stay tuned!