Building with Wood

coffee table

Coffee Table with Hidden Drawer

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So while I was shopping for wood for the bathroom vanity, I picked up quite a few pieces of odd pieces of wood from the cabinet shop: birch, a bit of walnut, honduras mahogany, a bit of pecan, and some stuff I still can’t identify. I wanted to try my hand at a coffee table, and also had some old painted pine (the blue-green bits) I had picked up off the curb from a remodel in a nearby neighborhood ages ago. With a bit of experimenting I found a combination of wood and patterns I liked a lot, so I began to edge glue them together. I glued one piece at a time usually, and did that to make three separate panels. Three panels because otherwise I would exceed the longest clamps I had. Also I had read the results would be better – more flat for one, but also since I had never tried edge gluing, I figured it’d be better for me to do it a bit at a time anyway.

I wanted to do something a bit different with the table, so I decided to use my new dado skills I learned from the vanity, and devised a way to make a hidden drawer, with a slotted lid. The drawer is made from 3/8 mdf leftover from the vanity, which I simply glued to the bottom of the table, and then added a couple of small metal angles with screws for good measure.

table4

Slotted lid drawer

I biscuited the trim to the panels, but didn’t allow enough room for wood movement. The 45 miters at the end looked good at first, but depending on humidity will expand to a gap of 1/16 or so on each end. Not bad, but a bit distracting. I guess I’d either need to leave more room for the wood to move within the panels, or use a more flexible technique for putting on the trim.

table3

At any rate, I loved how it turned out, and am eager to make more tables.

Bathroom Floating Vanity

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Both bathrooms in my house are long overdue for updating. I started looking around at the vanities at the big box stores, and not only did I just not like the way they looked, they were shoddily made. It made sense to try to make my own. I picked up some alder hardwood, alder-faced plywood,  and alder mdf (for the cabinet panels) for a discount at a cabinet shop that was closing, and I was on my way. I pretty much made up this design, based on the size of the existing cabinet in the bathroom.

I had two new things to learn for this project –  making cabinet doors with a panel insert, and making box joints for the drawers with the new jig I had acquired.

Door Detail

Door Detail

 

floating_vanity

Drawer Detail

For both of these tasks, the setup is critical. One thing I am learning – maybe a bit too slowly – is that you need to MAKE MORE THAN YOU NEED. For the stiles and rails for the cabinet doors, for instance – if you mess one up, you need to have extra. Otherwise, you’ll have to recut the dado, and it’ll never, ever match what you did before. So much better to waste a bit of wood that you don’t end up needing than waste HOURS and HOURS trying to get a piece to match a cut you did the previous week.

I’m not exactly sure how I’m going to hang it, but I’ll figure it out. 🙂

A Platform Bed: My First Indoor Furniture

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I’d been looking on the web for inspiration for a platform bed with drawers, but in the end it was a bed in Marfa, Texas that inspired this one. (I later discovered that bed was from Ikea – mixed feelings about that discovery!)

This was the first time I’ve made anything from non-big box store lumber, and the first time I worked from my own design, so you can bet plenty of mistakes were made!

I knew I wanted to use reclaimed lumber for this, and in Texas that generally means pine. I kept an eye on Craigslist, and eventually found these guys in Johnson City which had a bunch of long-leaf pine from a 1930’s school house. They were so nice, they even cut the boards to fit in my SUV (max 8ft lengths) and then let me keep the offcuts for experimenting with. I spent about $300 for the wood, and should have enough left over to make side tables.

I knew I wanted these boards thick – so I settled on 1 1/8, and began to plane them all down from 1 1/2. That took quite a bit of time, and also two sets of planer blades. The pine tended to gum up the blades, and I had to clean the rollers a couple of times to keep things moving. I bought the planer just for this project, but it didn’t take long for me to get used to cleaning the rollers and plates and learn how to change out the blades. I did have a little trouble with snipe, but figured I would so kept everything extra long so I could avoid it when cutting to length. I wish the boards had been a little wider, primarily because it limited the height of the drawers, which ended up only being about 5.25 deep, I think. Shallow, but on the other hand, they’re huge.

I knew I wanted to try a rather unusual 45 angle joint (another reason for wanting extra thick wood), and wasn’t sure how it would hold together, but finally decided to use dowels. I totally guessed at how often to place them, but settled on about 6 inches. Getting the boards positioned was a bit tricky – I could have used another 4 clamps at least. But in the end I made a little support system to hold the boards up while they were being drilled, doweled and glued. That worked pretty good, but there are places where i can see that they boards could have come together more tightly. I employed every clamp I had, but for a project this size, I simply needed more. I would have realized that before except for another unexpected consequence of making something this size: I had to work on the floor, and this sorely impaired my ability to see what I was doing.

dowelBed

This inability to see caused quite an issue later – the middle support seen in the photo above (2×6 pine cut down) was off by about 1/8 of an inch on one side. And since it had been attached prior to the top rails, could not be moved. What this meant later was that I’d have to make two different size drawers – one set in front, and another slightly bigger set in back. Total pain in the ass. Rather than use drawer hardware, which would stick out and be a problem, I made a template of hardboard, and used the router to make the hand holds for the drawer fronts.

preSlats

In the above picture, you can see a few of the slats in place. Getting the ends rabbited so that they would fit in the rabbit already in the top rails was also a pain, and took many tries for me to get the right combination of depth and inset.

I don’t have pictures, but I put it up on sawhorses to attach the base and finish. I didn’t miter the base pieces, thinking they wouldn’t be visible. But they are, and now I wish I had. I used the kreg drill bit to drill inset holes in the base and attached with big head screws.  I finished it with several coats of shellac and then a couple of coats of wax. It’s heavy, but not impossible to wrangle. So far it’s holding up fine, and the extra storage for sheets and stuff is handy.

finishedBed2

Adirondack Chairs

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adirondackChair

I found this design on Popular Mechanics. Since I had recently added a small bandsaw to my tool collection, these seemed like a good choice for bandsaw practice. I made a template in Illustrator, and then cut them out of a heavy cardstock. This worked reasonably well, but did require some adjustments, as they did not turn out perfect, due to the fact that I had to tile the pages on my printer. The instructions I found somewhat lacking, like how to cut the arc on the back slats. There were several bevels required on the seat slats and overall I thought this a challenging and fun project. One of the chairs sits a little better than the other, but I’m not exactly sure why. I used cedar and sealed them with an oil-based sealer. Each chair cost about $75 to make.

chairPai

Rain Barrel Stands

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Rain Barrel StandsThe unusually cold Austin winter certainly slowed me down, along with a long hardscaping project. Now that those two are behind me, I hope to get busy on a few projects. Here’s a design for rain barrels I saw on the web that I liked, and since I had picked up a used router and router table and not really gotten a chance to use it, I thought it’d be a good first router project. Cutting the rabbits on the 4x4s took quite a few passes, and a new router bit (naturally), but once I got into a rhythm it went pretty quickly. Routers make a huge mess, so I’ll need to work something out better for that eventually.