Sunday, September 2, 2018

Pet Gate


So I got the cutest puppy in the world this last May.


I know...  You're thinking two things: Wow, that's the cutest thing in the world and why didn't you get a real sized dog?

Well, you're right on the first part and as for the second part...  She's only eight weeks old in this photo and she's already 11 pounds. As I write this she's just over five months old and is already 50 pounds. Full grown she should be 80 - 100 pounds which is a large dog in anyone's book.

In any case I've been crazy busy taking care of a puppy the last two months.

Ripley, my wife and I also co-habitat with three cats. The cats get fed in the dining room and in interest of giving them that room with no puppy and keeping the puppy out of the cat food we've gated it off with baby gates. We've got a nice commercial gate with a door and an animal pass-through that is large enough for the cats but small enough to keep the dog out for our main door; however, the other doorway is blocked by one of those classic tension lock style gates. It works but it isn't convenient.



So, in my spare time standing around holding a leash and waiting for the puppy to do her business I was designing a new and improved gate I could build in my shop. I set myself two challenges: Build the hinge mechanism myself and build the latch mechanism myself.

I had a few additional specifications:

  • Gate should reach about the height of the chair rail
  • Cats need to be able to pass through the gate
  • Gate should swing both ways
This is what I came up with.



Everything - excepting the screws and bolts - is shop made.

The hinge is a single board screwed to the wall. I rounded over the face so that the gate could swing freely without pinching. As you can see in the photo the top and bottom rails extend from the side of the gate. A 1/4" pin through the top and a 1/4" bolt through the bottom completes the hinge. The picture below shows the top part of the hinge connection when I was prototyping with some scrap.



I added some slick tape on the top of the hinge to eliminate wear. I used a threaded insert in the bottom rail to hold the carriage bolt in place. If I were to make another gate I'd put the threaded insert into the wall mounted block. To help ensure my holes were vertical and placed correctly I made a drilling jig.



I also decided on a simple latching mechanism. I created a swing arm that when lowered would extend from the side of the gate and capture another wall mounted block. In the raised position it would swing the latch out of the way.



I make the latch by first doing some math to figure out where my pivot point needed to be. I then sketched it out on graph paper. I transferred the pattern to poster board which I cut out and used as a pattern. Having a poster board template allowed me to use a thumbtack into the frame of the gate to make sure I had the pivot point and size of the latch pieces calculated correctly.



I had milled down some black walnut to just under an inch thick. I wasn't to concerned with the exact thickness so once the board was flat I stopped planing it. Once I knew the length of the latch piece I could cut out the three pieces: latch filler, long piece, and end filler.

The walnut cap is about 3/4" wider than the gate rails so there's a little overlap. I used my table saw to cut bevels across the top and rounded over the edges to soften the feel of the top. I rounded over the hinge end to let the gate pivot freely.

I made the main body of the gate from poplar because it is light weight, inexpensive, and I have a fair amount of it in my wood stash. The rails and stiles were fastened together with a modified saddle joint. I say modified because to glue the balusters in solidly I ripped the top and bottom rail into two pieces. I could then cut dado joints across the wider of the two pieces to capture the balusters.


The above picture shows my modified saddle joint. I call it modified because 1/3rd of the rail is missing. It gets glued back on after the balusters are glued in place.


In the above picture you can see how I handled attaching the balusters. I using a jig and the dado blade in my table saw I made 1/2" dados about 3-3/4" inch apart. The dados ended up being just a hair bit shallow which was perfect because I could fit each baluster by sanding the end a bit until I had a perfect fit. Then I glued the other piece of the rail on using a bunch of clamps to keep everything aligned and tight.


I wanted the balusters to be square where they met the rails but I decided to make them a little more fancy by putting a round over on the bulk of the rail.


To finish the gate we painted the body of the gate with a white semi-gloss latex paint. The walnut just got some general finishes semi-gloss oil and urethane that I diluted with mineral spirits to make it into a wipe on finish.

My weekend project ended up taking three or four weeks but all in all I'm very happy with how it came out. The only thing I would do different if/when I build another one would be to put the threaded insert into the bottom of the hinge block instead of the bottom gate rail. 

All in all I am very happy with how it came out.





Thursday, December 7, 2017

Medal Stands

I think I've mentioned previously that my wife paints little metal figures and that she's pretty good at it. She enters competitions now and then and wins medals. We have a display cabinet where she puts her winning pieces and whatever award she got for it. ReaperCon gives out these cool medals on a ribbon; however, they're round. There isn't a convenient way to display them next to the piece they were won for.

Woodworking to the rescue!

I wanted the stands to not overshadow the medals; however, I also want them to be interesting to make and to show off whatever wood they were made from. I decided the if the face to sloped towards the back and I could use bronze pins to hold the medal in place. To make it interesting I decided to slope the back face and to keep the stand more hidden I'd round the back which would round the top edge too.


I used TinkerCad to work through some ideas and the above image is what I came up with. It's kind of hard to make out in the static image but it was good enough for me to wrap my head around the concepts I wanted in the final medal stand. My next step was to rough out a prototype.


When I made the above prototype I grabbed some red oak out of my scrap bin that was relatively thick. As you can see I aligned the wood grain with the back of the stand. I did this about a year ago; however, I think I just used my band saw to cut the front and then cleaned it up on my belt sander. I curved the back by trimming the corners on the table saw then after clamping the block to my work table I used my hand plane to refine the curve.

Satisfied with the Alpha prototype I went to my local hardwood store and bought a large block of walnut. I cut a piece off the end to make my Beta prototypes. These would be made to the final size I was aiming for. I did make a plywood template to help me trace the outline.



It looks pretty good but it isn't exactly what I was aiming for. But hey, it was just another prototype. It was nice enough that we went ahead and finished it with spray shellac and gave it to one of Jen's painter friends.

We were in lull during our dining room remodeling and I decided to take my big chunk of black walnut and make more stands. Jen wants hers and her friend - let's call him Rex to preserve his anonymity - wants a few more too. I started by using my template to see how I get holders out of my block of wood.


I don't remember if I planned it this way but I can split my block in half and get seven or eight out of each side. I split the block using my table saw.


I then used my compound miter saw to divide one half into sections big enough to get two stands out of. My 12" miter saw was only able to cut the block because it fit between the arbor and the fence.



Then I used my band saw to split the two stands apart. I then roughly cleaned each stand on my stationary belt sander.


If you look closely you can see that the sanding marks are going horizontally across the face. That's because the only flat surface perpendicular to the face. If I tried using one of the other surfaces I'd probably ruin most of the pieces by sanding them unevenly. Those scratches will clean up with some finish sanding.

There's just a couple of steps left: drilling peg holes in the front, rounding the back, finish sanding and finishing. Depending on how the dining room goes, maybe I'll get to it this weekend.

Here's the templates to make your own.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Workshop Makeover, part 22 - Dust Collector Closet - Painting, Venting, Collecting


A few weeks ago my friends (Robin and Will) stopped over to help with tearing up the carpeting in my dining room. That's barely a job for two people much less four so I figured Will and I could work on my dust collector closet.

Again I may have been a little too ambitious; however, I'd been hoping the two of us could get it mudded and the PVC to collect the dust from my table saw run. Instead it took the two of us most of the afternoon just to do the first coat of mudding. We unfortunately didn't get to the dust collection.



Let me start by saying I understand most of the principles behind a good mudding job, I just have acquired little of the physical skills to execute them. I probably did Will a miss-service in improperly mentoring him in his first drywall experience. Hopefully he's not scarred for life.

In any case over the next week or so I sanded, mudded, sanded, mudded until I figured it was good enough for a basement dust collector closet. This week I primered and painted the closet.


I painted the closet using the leftover paint from my dining room project so it's a blue/grey color. I'm a little better at painting than I am at mudding but not nearly as good as my wife. Regardless, it's a basement workshop closet.

In the back of the closet you can see the vent/filter for releasing the air pressure when the collector is running after I've got doors on the front.


This is a furnace HEPA filter wrapped in a poplar frame. To keep the filter from just blowing out of the frame I put a hinged back on it and used a bolt with the head cut off and a thumb screw to keep the frame shut.


I didn't do any fancy joinery on the front half the frame. Butt joints, glue and a couple of brad nails. Since the back frame isn't going to have the framing to help hold it together I half lapped the corner joints. Since I only had four corners and it was going into my basement shop I just used some scrap to set the height of my regular table saw blade and just made a bunch of passes until it was done. Not furniture quality work but perfectly acceptable for my purposes.

The other thing I did this last week was dry fit the collector piping for my table saw. It kind of winds around through a wall and under my table saw so I wasn't able to get a good picture of it' however, I did get a few adequate pictures.




I had a couple of concerns with getting the placement of the initial hole correct. The outlet is attached to a stud and I wanted to avoid it and the 220V line running down to it. The next stud over was less than 16" since we laid out the studs from the back of the closet when we built the wall. Also the floor wasn't level so I know the bottom plate is not at floor level but is an inch or so high.

I picked what I thought was a relatively safe spot and drilled a pilot hole through the T1-11, then using a stiff piece of wire I poked around to make sure I'd have enough clearance. I used my compass to draw a circle the outside diameter of the PVC and cut out the hole using my jigsaw. I used a half round rough rasp to clean up the hole so the pipe fit tightly.

To get the correct location to make a hole on the inside of the closet I pushed a short piece of PVC through the outside hole, traced the interior diameter on the back of the drywall using a pencil. I then transferred that line to the outside by pushing some wire nails through to the inside of the closet where I could use my short PVC off cut to trace the outer diameter. Then it was  just a matter of cutting it out with  drywall keyhole saw.

At the end of the pipe next to the table saw you can see that I have a threaded connector for dust collection hose. I'd originally planned to make the connection a solid connection; however, it would have ended up costing me another $20 or so in parts and would have meant a lot of fiddle fitting. A foot of flexible hose at the saw won't be too bad and will have the added benefit of giving me a little flexibility, having an easier cleanout and not having to worry about transferring any vibration into my collection pipe.

All in all, I am happy with how it's all coming out. I have the end in sight. By the end of the weekend I should have the collector back in the closet and the table saw hooked up. I just need to build my doors and run a couple more collection pipes.


Saturday, November 25, 2017

Dining Room, part 1 - Demo and Flooring Prep

It's Thanksgiving week here in the United States. Traditionally people get together, eat lots of food, play touch football, and sometimes even think about all the good things we have to be thankful for.

My wife and I add home improvement projects to our Thanksgiving traditions. We take the long weekend to kick off medium to large projects. Close to ten years ago we started this tradition when we replaced all the nasty old carpeting in our upstairs bedrooms with hardwood. We completely underestimated how much effort stripping 1000 sq feet of carpeting and laying hardwoods would end up being.

It didn't help that after we started ripping up the carpet we decided we may as well replace the base molding. What was in place was basic bull nose molding and we wanted to upgrade to a nicer colonial molding. Then we thought that if we were replacing molding we may as well replace all the case molding around the doors. Then since we had light weight hollow core doors we were planning on replacing eventually anyway we may as well replace them with solid core 6 panel doors.

And you know what? If you've got all your floors torn up and no molding...  You may as well paint too, right?

That long weekend project took three months to finish but it all looks great now. I may even finish the last of the base molding sometime this decade.

It was a good experience because it taught us to not be surprised when you look under the covers. One of our bedrooms had the carpet padding glued to the floor with a rubber cement. You know, just in case the tacks and gravity both failed. Be kind to the next person doing renovations... Don't glue down your carpet padding. We also found water damage that had been partially covered up and a poorly done patch in the sub floor that needed to be fixed. We also found around a half gallon of playground sand under the padding in one of the rooms. If these kinds of things would bug you, pay someone else to do your renovations, or do them yourself so you can know they're done right.

Since then we've done our living room with Kempas and I did our first floor powder room with some of the leftover red oak.

This year we're redoing our dining room. We've lived here for about sixteen years and the dining room has been the same awful pepto-bismol pink as it was when we bought it. The carpet wasn't too bad when we moved in but sixteen years of cats and people made it pretty gross.

We started demo a few weeks ago with the help of some friends of mine. We'll call them Will and Robin to help protect their identities. Will has started a vocational program for carpentry and I thought he might like some real life hands on experience. Robin is his older brother and is college. He's tagging along for fun.

Heimdall, Idris and Luther in their new playground
This weekend we're going to be laying the new flooring (Tigerwood) and with any luck we'll be putting molding in too. We started breaking out the boxes and sorting the boards by length. You can see the new colors in the next photo too.




Workshop Makeover, part 21 - Dust Collector Closet - Table Saw Wiring

I don't remember what I was thinking when I had my table saw outlet first installed. The box is floating loose which isn't safe.


The power cord also stretches across the only way to get from the front of my shop to the back of my shop. Not only is this a tripping hazard but whenever I roll tools into the shop I have to unplug the saw to get them through. Now that I have the closet completed the best place for the power cord is on the other side of the saw on the exterior wall of the closet. That will keep the power cord under the table saw top extension and out from under foot.

When I designed my initial shop walls I thought I might be making more wiring changes to support new tools down the road. I wanted it to be as easy as possible to add new wiring. Since these walls aren't really load bearing - they aren't holding up the house anyway - I put a wide channel in the back of the studs and putting a plywood backer across it to staple wiring to. Covering all this I put a chair rail that can be removed easily to get to the wiring. To run the wiring to the other side of the shop I'd just need to remove the current box, take the existing wire and run it over one more stud bay and then up to the ceiling. From there I could install a junction box, run a new wire across the floor joists, down the closet wall and into a new box.

Seems simple enough, right? Well, my plan did work out; however, there were a few challenges along the way.

The first challenge was getting the current wire loose. My electrician had done a very quality job putting the wiring in and had stapled the existing wire to the stud. I was going to have to remove the T1-11 panel below the chair rail to get the wire loose. Fortunately I'd used deck screws to put up the T1-11 so it was just an issue of pulling a dozen or so screws that had been painted over.  Unfortunately after pulling the screw I realized both sides were trapped. The right side by the adjacent T1-11 paneling the left side by trim around my water closet(*).

The T1-11 came out with a little flexing of the panel, some prying and a lot of grunting.

With the panel removed getting the wire loose and into the next stud bay was easy. Getting it through the top plate a little less so. There was barely enough room to get a drill and a spade bit between it and the floor above. It wasn't pretty but I got the hole drilled.

With the hole drilled I used my wire fish to pull the wire up through the hole and into the junction box I'd fastened to the floor joist.

The closet side was much easier since the wall cavity was still open. I could get to the bottom of the top plate and drill a hole up through it. Then it was just a matter of running a wire from the box through up the wall and through the hole and then across the floor joists to the junction box.

All that was left was tying it all together, black to black, white to white, ground to ground.


(*) My water closet isn't a water closet in the British sense. The main water line for my house comes in through my workshop. Since I really don't want to break it by accident and flood my workshop. That would be unfortunate. I built a closet around the pipes to protect them.

[I did this work back in May...  Just getting back to blogging and found this one unpublished in my queue.]

It's woodworking season again!

The weather outside is cold, dreary, rainy, dark...  just plain yucky.

So what have I been doing all summer? Well, stuff... Some outdoorsy stuff, some indoorsy stuff. I did keep a few woodworking projects moving over the summer but not too much.

I bought a Harbor Freight 4'x8' folding trailer this summer. What's the big deal with that you ask? Well, since I traded my Silverado in for a Forrester I've not had a good way to get plywood home from the lumberyard. The Harbor Freight trailer was such a good deal. It's normally a $400 trailer but I got it on a better than normal sale. Great price, I just had to put it together.

I may have picked a poor day to start putting it together. I started bolting it together in my garage and part way through I started not feeling well so I laid down on the concrete to try and cool off some. I figured it was just a matter of having a typical software engineer physique. Turns out it was a 93 degree Fahrenheit day in Upstate NY in October. Set a new record high. <sigh>

Anyway, over a couple of weeks I got it put together, learned how to grease trailer wheel hub bearings and how to wire a trailer. All of these things are easier than you might think if you haven't ever one it before.

This last weekend I bought a sheet of 3/4" PT plywood to deck it with. Adding the plywood decking was quite annoying. The first step was to use a spade bit to make recesses for the bolt heads sticking up through the frame. That went pretty well except for needing a few tries to get everything lined up right.

The directions called for using 3/8" cross head bolts to fasten the decking to the trailer except I couldn't find them in my Home Depot. I substituted carriage bolts and they seemed to work out well enough. The most annoying part was trying to get the bolt holes in the decking in the right place. What I found worked for me was getting a couple of bolts in place then folding the trailer so I could work on each half vertically. I drilled a hole in about the right spot then when I figured out where the hole was I'd angle the drill bit to get it through the hole in the frame and then straighten the drill. So some of my holes are slightly elongated but I don't think it'll matter in the long run.

What else did I do over the summer? Well, I flew to Chicago to pick up my dad then drove to Carbondale, Il to see the eclipse. How was it? Well, I laughed, I cried, it was better than cats.

We experienced about two and a half minutes of totality; however, unfortunately a cloud occluded the sun for about two minutes of it.


Very sad but at least I had the presence of mind to take a picture of what I could see of the 360 degree sunset. In the panorama below, there's about 20 minutes between the two photos, the lower showing a chunk of the 360 degree sunset during totality.


Regardless  I got to spend a long weekend with my father and 100 or so new friends from Astronomy Cast's fans as well as Fraser Cain and Pamela Gay.

And now! Back to woodworking season!


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Workshop Makeover, part 20 - Dust Collector Closet - Dust Collector

I had a little bit of time Friday night before having to cook dinner and and play Mass Effect 3 for the evening so I cleaned up construction debris and moved my dust collector into the closet. There was just one complication - so far - which is that the bag supports are taller than the ceiling in the closet.


This wasn't a surprise, I'd been planning on it. Step one is to remove the supports from the collector. Fortunately the arm is segmented and the upper arm can be removed. I unhooked one top bag and checked how the bolts are connected on the inside. I was afraid there'd be nuts on the inside and if I just unscrewed the bolt the nut would be lost in the sawdust bag. Turns out there's no nuts, the plenum has threaded holes.

I started by loosening both bolts and then removing the top one.


This allowed me to spin the arm to the side, reinstall the top bolt, remove and replace the bottom bolt and voila! Bob's your uncle!



Then I was able to move the entire collector into the closet and best of all, it fit. It's a little tight but that's okay. I'm pretty sure the dust collector isn't claustrophobic.



The bags shouldn't be allowed to collapse entirely because they might bind up or snap when inflating. That's what those support arms I removed were doing. I was originally thinking of using eye bolts and carabiners but then decided it would be easier to just run a string the length of the closet.


In the picture I'm using some paracord I had lying around. I didn't like the way the bags hung on it so today I replaced it with some heavier rope (not pictured here). I still need to rotate the bags so the bags hang straight but I'm not too worried about it for now.

I put the garbage can cyclone into the back corner.


The picture doesn't have the cyclone cover or hoses. I still need to trim one of the hoses shorter so that it fits better. I'll get to it eventually; however, since I haven't run any of the duct work yet there is no rush.