Thursday, January 21, 2021

Closet Makeover finished - part 4

 It's finished!



Okay, I was hoping to make it a one-weekend project and it extended into the week but all told my time and materials cost was around $250 in plywood and 12(ish) hours of labor.

Putting the shelves into the cabinets went pretty quick and was pretty easy. I made some supports out of the offcut from the lower divider / shelf support that were 12-1/4" long. I set these up on either side of the shelf, then using gentle hand pressure on top of the shelf to keep it from slipping I fastened them in place with pocket hole screws. 


I've used plywood for shelf spacing in the past but that's always been 3/4" plywood, often the full depth of the shelf. One thing I found that I really appreciated about these was the ability to get to the pocket holes between the supports. Also, being double layers of plywood they were able to stand on their own.

I do have one picture of the shelves not being packed with games.


I'd have gotten a picture of the completed closet empty but I needed to empty one of the old bookshelves to be able to comfortably get into the left side to install the shelves. So, what's on the shelves is the contents of one of the two small bookshelves that had been shoved into the corners of the closet.

All in all, I am happy with the final results. It's definitely on the utilitarian side but it is still solidly built. It has slightly more storage than our previous arrangement. I think I might have done some bad math when calculating how much additional storage I was going to get. I was expecting a little more than the 8(ish) ft of empty shelf space but that's fine. I think there will be enough space for our games that have gotten scattered around the house and we're not big game purchasers so we should be good for a number of years.

Future enhancements might include:

  • Add some more bracing under the bottom shelf cleats to transfer some of the weight to the floor
  • Add a face frame to the upper shelves to hide gaps and make it prettier



Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Closet Makeover - part 3

 Well, it is done. Monday evening I didn't get any time in the shop but Tuesday evening I had a couple of hours after work to glue the cases together.



I started with one side, added some glue to the dados in that side then added the bottom/top and nailed them in place with my 18 gauge nailer. The cases were too large to keep on my outfeed / assembly table so I transferred the assembly to the floor with the top / bottom pointing upwards. I was then able to add glue to the dados in the opposite side then flip it over and add it to the assembly.

I moved the assembly back up to my assembly table and checked to make sure my joints were tight. Moving the assembly from the table to the floor and back to the table did loosen a couple so I pulled them tight with a clamp and shot a few more nails into those.

Then it was just a matter of putting a thin bead of glue around the back edges and dropping the 1/4" luan onto the backs. I swapped 1/4" crown 1/2" staples for the nails in my nailer / stapler and tacked the back down with those. Glue squeeze out was cleaned up with my finger, a damp rag, and just left depending on how much glue there was and how visible it was going to be later.

Then I set the case aside as seen in the above photo and did the next one. 

With the cases assembled I was able to get an accurate final measurement for the shelves. I set on of them in place and with a couple of test cuts got the fence set to crosscut the shelves. I used the same technique as I used on the sides and top / bottom, using my miter gauge with an extension to keep the board perpendicular to the blade.



The last step before assembling the shelves into the cases was drilling pocket hole screws in the ends. I thought about quitting for the evening but I really want to get this project done. It went a lot quicker than I thought it would. Maybe 45 minutes?


Then it was dinner time: Kielbasa and Pierogis. Yum...

I had after dinner plans but since one of my friends was stuck at work we cancelled. (And yes, it was an on-line event). So, (minus one Toastmaster point for starting a sentence with 'so') since my cases had had sufficient time for the glue to get to it's initial set period I carried them upstairs and put them into the closet.


I carried all four boxes upstairs before adding them to the closet. I have to admit some nervousness that despite all my careful measuring and re-measuring (measure 20 times, cut once) that as I was sliding the second lower box in place that they might not fit. Fortunately, all my careful measuring worked out - and I didn't make any math errors. The second bottom box slipped into place and I have my planned 1" buffer (1/2" on each side).

I was greatly reassured; however, then I got nervous again as I went to add the first upper case. I realized as I was lifting it into place that the lightbar that is on the inside of the closet was in the way. <sigh> It protrudes into the front plane where I was planning on lifting the boxes into. I was able to get the box in place by tilting the box into the back plane. It was a little awkward lifting the box. The box probably only weighs 40 lbs or so but it was large and needed medium-fine manipulation to get into place.

The second upper box was even more awkward as I had even less space in the closet to maneuver in. Regardless it wasn't too bad and actually ended up going easier than the first upper case. I was saved by having left a whole 1" buffer along the top of the shelves. I often get in trouble by cutting my margins too close but I was careful to not make that mistake with this cabinet. It would be nice to have that volume available for storage but it was more important to not have to rebuild the shelf boxes because they didn't fit.

Anyway, the shelves are still in the workshop and need to be brought up and installed in the cases. Before that I need to screw fasten the shelf boxes together to make sure they don't shift; though, they are heavy enough I don't think that's a huge worry. I am getting a little worried now that I didn't put enough screws into the cleats holding everything up. I may go back and reinforce those.

That's another day though.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Closet Makeover - part 2

 Relative to most weekends I spent a lot of time in the shop. I got in probably six hours on Saturday and another three hours on Sunday. 

Saturday

Saturday morning I got started early by emptying my closet. It only took me an hour or two to move all the games off the top shelf and pick up the loose stuff off the floor and slide the plastic totes out of the way. It only took minutes to slide the bookshelves out of the closet and into the bedroom; however, that was pretty tense. Both bookshelves tucked into the sides of the closet were relatively heavily loaded and didn't have backs to stiffen them. I was still able to successfully slide them five or six feet without any disasters.

I'm horrible at remembering to get "before" shots

Saturday afternoon was spent moving my materials from the garage down into my shop. All my new plywood was 4 sheets cut down into 2'x4' quarter sheets so I could fit them into my Forrester. I also needed one full sheet of plywood I already had in my garage.

I started with taking one of my 2' x 4' quarter sheets and cutting cleats to hold up the bottom shelf. I somewhat arbitrarily chose 3" for my cleat height. I cut four pieces off one end for the cleats on the closet sides and front walls. I cut two pieces off one of the long edges for the back of the closet. This left me enough wood for one half the bottom divider / middle shelf support. I got the other half out of another one of the quarter sheets. It left a large off-cut but that's fine. Large offcuts eventually get used for something.

The front walls of the closet are only 14" wide and the pieces I'd cut for them were 24". I cut them both down to 13-1/2" so that they wouldn't be obviously visible from outside the closet. I then glued up the over-sized center shelf support / middle divider and put a bunch of clamps and weights on it.


While this was drying I started installing the cleats in the closet. I used my levels to find the high spot in the floors then drew a level line around the closet 13" from the floor using the high spot as my initial point. This will be the line I align all my cleats with when I put them in.


 For example:


I was then able to work my way around the closet putting the cleats in one at a time. I used my stud finder to locate studs, drilled countersunk pilot holes and then used 2-1/2" deck screws to fasten them in place. As you can see in the above photo I have predrilled pocket holes ever 8" or so in the cleats to hold down the bottom shelf.

When I got to the back center where the bottom shelf support / middle divider is going to go I used a temporary block of the right thickness to leave sufficient space. I used one of my deck screw to hold the block in place because I hadn't brought my pocket hole screws up yet.


I measured for the center of the back wall and aligned the temporary block with my marks.


This is definitely one of the cases where close is good enough. I got the block pretty close, then left some wiggle room in between the two cleats.

This work took long enough that I figured I could remove the clamps from my divider. After scraping the glue from the edges I trimmed the edges to be flat and square. From there it just needed to be fitted to the closet. I brought it upstairs and set it in place. I used a pencil set flat on the floor to scribe a line parallel to the floor, then did the same with the back wall. The floor wasn't level but it was flat enough that I decided to not bother cutting to that line. The back wall however needed to be cut. I did that on my table saw using my panel jig and some shims.

With the panel fit to the wall and floor I used a level to draw a level line on the panel from the back wall cleat out towards the door. I again made this cut using my panel cutting sled and some shims. Here's what it looked like after I put it in place. The level was in the shot because I was checking to make sure the front of the divider was level with the cleats on either side of the doorway.


I mean, it should be level but you never know. Those three points I was checking were the end points of the single point I started from - which is about halfway between the side wall and the lower divider / shelf support along the back wall. It is far less expensive to check now rather than to be trying to fit the next piece and have things not working and have to then try and figure out what's wrong.

Speaking of the next piece, that was the lower shelf.


I'd measured the size of this shelf to be 25" deep by 75-1/4" wide. I did the best I could to check for square in the closet but just to give myself a little wiggle room I cut the shelf about 1/4" short in each direction. I did cut the shelf on my table saw and while I appreciate that the rip fence capacity allowed me to make a 26" rip cut, followed by a cleanup cut at 25-1/2" and finally at 24-3/4" to get my final width I was not appreciating how heavy a full sheet of plywood is to cut down. I probably should have used my circular saw and guide to break it down in the garage before bringing the full sheet downstairs.

The sheet pretty much dropped into place. It was a bit awkward to get into the closet and then straightened out over the cleats but once I had the right side pushed into the corner against the cleats I was able to lower the left hand side. I'm really glad I trimmed the board to be a little smaller than the calculated opening because while the back was mostly straight and the corners relatively square, the two short front walls actually angled in a little bit and hung up the board. Some solid thumping with my fist did bring everything flat and didn't seem to damage the walls appreciably.

After getting the bottom shelf in place all that remained was shimmying underneath with my Makita Impact Driver and drive the pocket hole screws into place. And by shimmying I mean lots of grunting, twisting and trying to drive screws at angles my shoulders and arms didn't like. I am a little claustrophobic but being focused on the task and only being partially underneath the shelf didn't bother me at all.

That was Saturday... It doesn't seem like all that much but like a house foundation this step was critical to get right as the rest of the cabinets will be built in my shop and will not have much adjustability once they start to go in.

Sunday

My primary goal for Sunday was getting my shelf box parts cut, joined, and glued. Then I could let them sit overnight to let the glue dry, add shelves, insert them into the closet, then reload the closet with all my games and books.

I won't keep you in suspense...  I didn't get all that accomplished.

Fundamentally my shelf boxes are going to be super simple. The sides, tops, bottoms, and shelves are all going to be 11-3/4" wide. My rough-cut quarter-sheets from Lowes are approximately 2' x 4'. So step one was ripping them all down to two pieces each, 11-3/4" wide.


I don't normally let boards just fall of the outfeed table onto the floor. However, after starting the saw, ripping one board, stopping the saw, walking around the saw to get the board and stack it on my New Yankee workbench then repeat just a few times, I realized it was going to take forever. Since all the boards were going to be cut down eventually, I started just shoving them through and letting them fall. Any banged up corners will be trimmed later in the next step.


That's a lot of boards. 26? 32? I don't have the count right in front of me; however, it was a lot. After ripping them all to width I made sure they were all square by trimming both ends using my crosscut sled. Cutting them to length was a little more dicey. I don't have a super wide crosscut sled as I don't normally need to do this and I am running out of space for sleds and jigs. Instead I used the table saw fence and a miter gauge to crosscut them all to the appropriate length. At least all the case pieces. I'm going to leave the shelves for after the cases are constructed so I can be more exact with the shelf lengths.

Yes, I know this isn't the safest way to make this cut; however, my table saw surface is slick so the boards didn't get that much friction. My saw blade is new enough that it cuts cleanly without a lot of force needed. I went very slow to make sure I didn't get binding. I also had an auxiliary fence on my miter gauge to help make sure I didn't twist the boards and get binding.

The next step was cutting the joinery on the case pieces. I'm using a 3/8" tongue and dado for my joints.  I started by installing a 3/8" dado blade in my table saw and set it to make a 3/8" deep dado. Close was good enough as I am leaving 1" of extra space on the side of the shelves. If I am off by 1/64" it won't affect the fit of the cases in the closet. I then cut dados on the top and bottom of all the sides to my four cases. I then added a sacrificial fence and cut tongues on the tops and bottoms of all the cases. I had lots of off cuts to dial in the rabbet for the tongue but it only took me one or two tries to get a tight fit.

I got the case pieces fitted tuning the tongues where necessary with my shoulder plane. I really like this tool. I know I could do the same with a block and some sandpaper but the shoulder plane can take a bigger bite and leaves a nice surface. 

With the cases fitted I cut my plywood for the backs. I've mentioned my mistakes in lumber purchases for this project in a prior post; however, I was able to make the quarter sheets for the 3/4" plywood work out just fine. However, I don't want to have seems in my backs and unfortunately I'd had the 1/4" luan cut down into quarter sheets as well and they just weren't going to fit. I ran out to Lowes Sunday morning to get two more sheets, this time cross cut to 48" then ripped to 40" which is the maximum width my Forrester can take in the back.

Then, I ran out of time in the afternoon. I had to make dinner and feeding me and my wife takes priority over woodworking...  usually...

Next Steps

I was hoping to get into the workshop Monday evening unfortunately I hadn't slept well the night before so I figured keeping fingers was more important than potential progress. I've got my case pieces ready for assembly so that's my next step. I'm going to glue the sides to the tops and bottoms. I've got good joints but I'm probably going to shoot some brad nails into them to "clamp" them while the glue dries. I have enough clamps to glue up all four cases at once but the sides aren't going to be visible. I may as well save myself the dozen trips from my clamp storage in the auxiliary workshop and just use my 18 gauge nailer.

I've got my backs cut out to slightly undersized (about 1/8") and I'll glue and staple them to the case with 18 gauge staples using the same nailer/stapler. This will help me square the case and will "clamp" it square while the glue is drying.

After the cases are assembled it will just be a matter of cutting the shelves to the right length, drilling pocket hole screws into the shelves then installing them. Then dropping the cases into place in the closet and reloading it.

Side Note

I don't use my extended table and fence on my table saw all that much; however, when I need to it is very nice. This last weekend I make dozens of cuts using the greater than 36" capacity of my extended table and fence. I think 39-3/4" was the widest cut I made.








Sunday, January 17, 2021

Closet Makeover - part 1

 I'm pretty sure I've mentioned in the past that one of my hobbies is playing board games. We've taken over a bedroom and made it into a game room. It confuses people who come over to play games but it's nice to have a room where we can leave a game set up and not have to worry about it getting in the way of dinner or something else. We took one of the closets in this room to store all of our boxed games.

Currently the games are stored on the top shelf and two small book cases shoved into the sides of the closet. We've got a couple of totes on the floor with scenery for miniature based war games. This works but we've maxed out our storage. We don't really buy that many games but we already have more than can be stored in this arrangement. 

Well, I've been thinking for about the last 20 years that I'd make custom built ins for the closet. This is the year! 

The indecision decision for this project is how to design it. I have Euro Games in their classic square boxes, Book Shelf sized boxes (8.5"x11"), flat pack games, and big box games. I also have some totes with scenery I keep on the floor. I want my shelves to be as wide as possible to maximize storage. I need them to be tall enough to hold my largest boxes on end. I also have a number of wide games that cannot stand on end and need to be stacked. I want some shorter shelves so the stacks don't get so high.

In summary, I want my shelves to be as wide as possible, some short, some tall, and some in the middle.

My closet is 25" deep, 75" wide, and 91" high. I think I can split the width and have 36(ish)" wide shelves. I still want totes for storing things like miniature game scenery so I think I'll create one large shelf that spans the entire closet so that I can just slide my totes in underneath. With that decided I just need to figure out what height I want to make my individual shelves and how to build them.

I thought about boxing in the entire closet to make everything square and flat and then using pocket hole screws to hang shelves. I don't know how out of plumb the walls are but I know from when we installed hardwood floors that the floor slopes 2 inches from the front of the closet to the back. I'm assuming the walls aren't close to plumb. My thought was I could line the sides and back with 3/4" plywood. To get them square and plumb I'd need to shim all the walls with furring strips. It'd be a nightmare to get right and take three full sheets of plywood. I'd also have to build everything in place rather than in my workshop. I'm calling this my "big box" design and I'm not liking it overly much.

My next thought was putting the bottom "full" shelf in level using legs scribed to the floor then building shelves up from there. I drew that design idea out a couple of times then decided that I didn't really need legs on the sides. Since it is a full shelf reaching all the way from side to side I could just use cleats attached to the wall.

The other part I need to figure out is the shelves. The trick to making built-in anything is to build as much of it as possible in your shop and then install it in a way such that it looks like it was built in place. If I were going with the big box strategy I could just pocket hole screw them to the sides and a divider, or use shelf pins to make them adjustable. But since I've already decided against the big box strategy I need a way to support my shelves. 

One of the challenge of working inside a box is the need to be able to get the parts into the space. Since my door is narrower than the space inside I need to make sure everything can fit through it. I also want to minimize my costs.

My Ideas

  • Medium Box - build two boxes 3' wide and 5'(ish) tall in my workshop I can put on top of my base shelf next to each other. I could put fixed or adjustable shelves in them.
  • Small Box - go with a Thomas Jefferson - yes, that Thomas Jefferson - approach and build individual boxes that could be stacked on top of one another. These could vary in width and height so long as I plan ahead.
  • Minimalistic - Instead of making full boxes, I could make U-shaped shelves. Basically a box without a bottom. I could then use pocket hole screws to fasten the sides to the lower shelf.

Medium Box pros and cons

I probably won't be able to make these boxes reach entirely to the ceiling without some gymnastics to get the boxes into the closet. With a wide lower shelf that will cramp the amount of space I have to fit pieces into the upper part of the closet. On the positive side, I'll be able to make the shelves inside it adjustable either through the use of pocket hole screws or shelf pins. I really like the strength of pocket holes vs shelf pins but the easy adjustability of shelf pins is nice. Though there is a bit more work engineering shelf pin style shelves in that I'll need to make a shelf pin hole jig, and I like making small notches in the bottoms of shelves to capture the pins so the shelves cannot easily slide out. I still have some more utility style shelf brackets I could install but those would be ugly.

Small Box pros and cons

These boxes have some very useful attributes. I would be able to build them entirely in my shop, then install them by stacking them on top of each other in the closet. Since each box would only be approximately 1' x 1' x 3' I have no concerns with be able to get them into the closet. If we ever decided to move we would be able to deconstruct the shelf, nail a board across the front and use the boxes as shipping containers for our games. Since the bottoms would be double thicknesses of 3/4" plywood I I would have much less worry about the 3' shelves sagging over time. I would also be able to construct different width shelves so long as I could come up with sets of shelf-boxes that added up to 75" in width.

There are a couple of downsides to this style of shelf. They would take more materials to make than the other designs (materials == cost). They would only be easily adjustable within limits of already constructed boxes.

Minimalistic

This style of shelf takes some of better attributes of the first two ideas. It uses about as many materials as the Medium Box design. I could make a variety of shelf widths so long as I have sets that add up to 75"

Unfortunately the downsides of this approach outweigh the positives. Since I wouldn't necessarily have a solid panel running from the top to the bottom or solid boxes stacked on top of each other this structure would be much weaker than the first two. It would be less modular and adjustable than either of the first two as I'd have to unload all the shelves, deconstruct them, then put them back together, and then reload them. It would also be more work to make the initial set of shelves since I would have a lot more in-place assembly.

This is basically a really bad idea on multiple levels where the cons out weigh the pros. I'm just including it here as it was an idea I briefly considered.

Ultimate Solution

I'm going to go with a hybrid approach. I'm going to go with the Medium Box design but rather than make two boxes, one for each side, I am going to make four boxes, two for each side. By splitting each side into two boxes, on on top of the other I'll effectively be adding a fixed middle shelf that will add some strength. Of course that's offsetting the strength lost my having monolithic sides. However, I don't have any worry about getting the boxes in place. I can get the bottom two in place and then slide the second two into place by lifting them vertically and sliding them on top of the lower boxes.

The only thing I have to decide now is how tall to make each of the boxes. I think I want the sides to be consistent because it will make construction easier. I've thought about three options, split the height evenly, maximize the use of my 2' x 4' plywood sheets, and finally make sure I get the maximum number of 1' height shelves. I think I am going to go with the last option which will make 1' shelf heights standard and maximize the number of them.

Design Iterations

Initial Design, small box plus two iterations of the base


Big box design plus cleats for bottom shelf

Multiple iterations of the medium box design

The design I am going with is the lower right hand side one in the last page of scribbles. I drew out the top one on that page then realized that I was going to have a lot of off-cuts from from my 2'x4' plywood. So I drew out the bottom left design which made more efficient use of the plywood I have. Then doing the math I realized the 48" high box wasn't going to divide evenly for 1' high shelves. I may not be fast, but I get there.

So, I did some erasing and drew in the right hand side boxes. The lower right hand box is sized to have three 12 1/4" high shelves plus the 3/4" shelf that's 13" per shelf plus an extra 3/4" for the top of the box. The top box gets the remaining space between the bottom box and the top of the closet. It will have space for two shelves plus a third 9" shelf. 

Summary

This should be a quick one-weekend build especially if I scrimp on sanding, leave the plywood edges bare, and don't bother putting finish on it. I know, that doesn't seem like a fine woodworking approach; however, these are utility shelves. The games don't leak, there isn't going to be moisture in the closet. 

It'll be fine.

Or if it isn't fine, I can replace it later. Or I can come back and pull out sections and put finish on them later.

It'll be fine.

(Also, since I am finishing this post Sunday night I can say I didn't quite get the closet built ins finished over the weekend. Super close but that'll come in the next post.)

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Workbench Diversion

 I got no work done on my workbench this last weekend. I'm going to attribute some of that to my next step being flattening the bench. To flatten the bench I need to sharpen my hand planes. To sharpen the hand planes I need to flatten the back of the plane blades. Flattening the back of a blade is much like sanding and I don't like sanding.

Instead of working on my bench I took a trip to Lowes on Saturday. I wanted to pick up some plywood for my next super secret project. And there started my plywood adventure. For some reason I'd thought that I could fit 4' wide plywood into my Forrester. I don't know how that made it into my head. My cargo area is actually closer to 3' x 5'. 

The reason this is relevant is that I had thought I could just cross cut all my plywood once and fit it into the back of my truck. I've had bad luck relying on the resawing services from big box stores before so I'd brought along my cordless circular saw, straight edge guide, and a spare battery. I went to cross cut the first piece of plywood and realized that my battery wasn't just low, it was empty. Fortunately I had the spare. It was only after I cross cut my first piece of plywood then realized I was going to have to double the number of cuts. I admit I was a little nervous because my second battery wasn't full.

Turns out my battery made it through about half the cuts I needed to make. I looked at my pieces of plywood and started calculating the cost of just abandoning them in the parking lot. Instead I took the walk of shame and took my plywood back into the store and got some very helpful workers there to cut my plywood down for me.

Then the only problem was having a tall stack of plywood in the back of the truck and no tiedowns to keep it from crashing around. I drove home super carefully and had no problem; however, it was just kind of the icing on the cake of bad decisions.

That was most of my Saturday as well as a fair bit of sitting on the couch.

Sunday I went over to a friend's house. We'll call him Dave to help protect his identity. He's a beginning woodworker and is still setting up his shop a tool at a time. He'd recently gotten a Rigid contractor/job-site table and a Dewalt 2 1/4 HP router. I ran over to his house over the recent holidays to help him set up his table saw so it wouldn't be extra dangerous. While I was there we'd started building a portable router table of the same design as the one I used for 15 years or so. He has a garage workshop and has to share space with vehicles, especially during our upstate NY winters so a small format easily stored router table will be important.

In any case, I was heading out this last weekend because we hadn't finished building the router table or the table saw sleds and jigs that every shop should have. Unfortunately the router table insert he'd bought in the intervening week was for trim routers rather than his full sized router so we again couldn't finish his router table. Instead we spent the morning working on his cross cut sled for his table saw. He decided he didn't need a tall fence or a panel/tenoning jig so we didn't make either of those. I forgot the miter joint spline jig which is too bad because he might actually have wanted one of those.

We also went over router safety and basic use.

That took most of my morning and since I had slept adequately but not great the night before I may have taken a short nap on our couch. When I got up there wasn't a lot of afternoon left but knowing I'd be sad if I didn't get a little time in my shop. So I headed down and after putting away the toys I'd brought with me to Dave's house I decided to work on a small project.

I have a small coat closet in my kitchen next to the door to the garage. It holds most of our coats, shoes, hats, dog leashes, and other things that we might want before heading out the door. The top shelf in this closet has a pile of gloves, mittens, hats, and scarves. Whenever we want something off that shelf we pretty much have to dump the contents, sort them out then try to pile everything back on the shelf.



So, I'd come up with an idea on how to improve this space a few weeks back. I didn't want to start on this project while my shop was still nigh unusable due to having workbench pieces all over the place but now that the workbench was out of the way I figured this would be a nice diversion from working on the bench.

The construction was super simple. I ripped a bunch of Baltic Birch to 11 3/4" x 60". I cross cut four pieces to 24" for the sides, six pieces to 19" for the top, bottom, and shelf, and one piece to 9" for a divider. 

I set up my table saw with a 1/4" dado stack and raised it to 1/4" above the table. I then set my fence so I could cut dados in the top and bottom of the sides. Then I moved the fence and cut dados about 9" up the sides for the shelf. I then adjusted my fence to cut dados for the divider in the shelf and the bottom. I decided to make that dado a full width dado in order to get it centered. I very carefully snuck up on the size of the dado, then cut all four.

Then it was just a matter of fitting all the pieces together and gluing them up. Once glued I took them up and fitted them into the closet. Thinking ahead I'd create two separate boxes that I could insert them individually. Anyway, they fit perfectly and are working out great so far for organizing our stuff.




Monday, January 4, 2021

It even looks like a bench

Where did we leave off? I had placed the benchtop onto the base. My workshop was a mess. The first thing I did getting into the workshop on Saturday was to clean up the shop. It's not a terribly large shop but I could spend a lot of time carrying single items back and forth to put them away. Most items get used near to where they are stored but a few items get stored on the back wall. 

My cleaning method is effectively a bubble sort. I pick a single spot and move everything in reach towards the direction it needs to go. After everything in reach has moved in the direction it needs to be, I move to another area and do the same thing. Eventually I end up with a pile of things that are a short step or two from where they need to be, then picking that spot I can put the pile of stuff away. I'm sure many/most people/some people do it this way also; however, it is also my way.

Anyway, I've got pictures:



Much better...  I'm not a neat freak but I don't like my shop being slovenly either. I also don't let tidiness get in the way of finishing a project. I basically make a mess while building a project, pausing now and then to tidy, then when the project is completed I clean everything up and put everything away.

Today I couldn't wait. Too many things had gotten piled around because I couldn't easily get to their drawers. Everything got put away, the floor got swept, I remounted the grinder in the far back corner of my shop. I don't know if that will be the final spot but it is out of the way for now. I found someplace to store my table saw cross cut jig.


This weird bump out is protecting my water main. Before I'd put the walls up I'd once grabbed a board leaning against the wall, turned and tried walking away. The board got stuck and pulled out of my hand. Looking back I saw that it had snagged behind the water meter. The vision of breaking one of those pipes and not being able to turn off the full city water pressure as water gushed into my shop terrified me. The basement was already partially finished, I just cleaned it up and put a closet around the water meter to protect it from getting smashed.

Cleaning the shop took me an hour and a half or so. But with that done I turned back to the workbench and set up to cut the top to length.

I used my Milwaukee corded circular saw. It's probably been years since I used it last. My Makita cordless has been my go-to circular saw for breaking down plywood or even cross cutting two-by stock. However, I think it has a smaller blade and it is certainly not as powerful as my Milwaukee. 

Unfortunately, I don't have guides for the Milwaukee anymore. I've cut them all down to use with the Makita. So, I went old school. I set up a straight edge 5" from where I wanted to cut, clamped it down and used it to trim the end. I used a framing square to make sure my cut was relatively perpendicular to the front/back.


My circular saw isn't so big that it could make the 3 inch cut in one pass. What I had to do was make an initial cut on the top side, flip the bench top over, transfer the cut line to the bottom (now top) and after resetting the straight edge clamp, make a second cut. To transfer the cut line I used my try square and a marking knife.

My first one of these was about 1/8" off on the far end after making the cut.


On the other end instead of trusting the framing square I transferred the cut line from both sides to the bottom (now top) and aligned both ends of the straight edge with that. Came out much better. I'm not happy about the sloppy end but it isn't going to affect the utility of the bench so I'm going to leave it. If it really bothers me some day I'll fix it then.

With the top trimmed to length I was able to slip in in between the water meter closet and the miter saw.


With the bench in place I was able to check the height of the bench in relation to the miter saw. Unfortunately it wasn't perfect.



That's about a 1/4 inch gap. Curious I checked to see what was level and what wasn't. Turns out the last 1/3 of my built in bench slopes downwards a little bit. That's kind of irritating because I thought I had done a better job leveling it. Regardless that explains why the miter saw can be coplanar with the built in bench but miss aligning with the new hand tool bench. I'm either going to raise the stand the bench is on, or more likely I'll just add some shims under the left side of the saw to get it to be the same height as the bench.

The other thing I did before calling it a day in the shop on Saturday was fix my drill press. It wasn't broken yet per se but it wasn't fully functional either. My drill press is a Grizzly Radial Arm drill press. What's a radial arm drill press you ask? Well, it is a drill press head that is mounted on an arm so I can change the swing distance. Interestingly since the arm is a round tube I can twist the head to drill at an angle instead of building an angled sled or tilting my table. Of course I've never done this in the 20 years I've owned it but I could if I wanted to.

The part that wasn't working was the ability to change the swing distance. There's a small plastic hand wheel on the right side of the drill head that engages a track on the bottom of the head tube (the tube the head rides on...). It wasn't turning and wasn't moving the head in an out. Instead of having a moveable fence I have a moveable drill. If I cannot move the drill head I cannot change the distance my holes are from the fence.

I sprayed a little WD40 on both ends of the T-joint that holds the head tube to the vertical column. When that didn't work I found more things I could open up to get WD40 into the mechanism. Namely the set screw that keeps the head from moving after everything is in place. That's the little red handle on the side of the T-joint in the picture below.


And then under this nut I found on the other side.


And no, I don't actually know what that nut is for. I'm sure it is something important. I'm going to have to look through my manual and see what it says.

In any case after squirting some WD40 into all the spots I could find and then twisting the head around the longitudinal axis I was able to get the little hand wheel working again. I think the twisting helped the WD40 get into whatever was binding. I also think I need to thoroughly clean to head tube and either wax it or oil it. Just another shop chore to add to my list. I need to clean the top of my table saw again too.

Anyway, with the drill press fixed I was able to start working on a drilling guide for my dog holes. The first step was to square the drill with the table. One of the downsides of this kind of drill press is that pretty much any adjustment requires squaring the drill again. To be honest, much of the time I deal with a little inaccuracy but since I am drilling a 3 inch hole through a block that will be a guide to drill 3-1/4 inch deep hole through the bench. Since there's always going to be some error just because I am drilling by hand with a guide block, I don't need to start with a guide that isn't as good as I can make it.

I took some of the leg off cuts and marked a center on the top and the bottom. After using a try square to get the drill as perpendicular as I could I drilled a test hole. It was off by a slight amount so I went back and did a better job with the square and the second one was close enough to perfect.


I used a wooden hand screw clamp to hold my block of wood while I was stilling it. With the brand new brad point bit the drilling went very easy.

I found a piece of 1/4 inch plywood in my scrap pile that will become the base for the dog hole jig. I'm going to add a fence that will ride along the front of the bench and keep the dog holes 5 inches from the front. I'll also have an indexing peg that will space all my dog holes 4 inches apart. 



I was hoping to get this jig completed yesterday and get my dog holes drilled but instead I played Dead of Winter with some friends using Tabletop Simulator - and yes, between all of us playing we have purchased multiple copies of the game. There's always more time to do woodworking, family and friends come first.

I still haven't fastened the top to the base. Hopefully sometime this week I can get the dog holes drilled, the top fastened, and the miter saw table aligned with both the New Yankee bench and my new traditional workbench. I'll still need to flatten it but that's going to be phase 2, along with the leg vise.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Workbench base

 Wooo! I got the base done and together!

I had to stop by my local Woodcraft last weekend to buy a longer 3.8 inch brad point bit. While I was there I picked up a 3/4 inch brad point bit, an extra coarse diamond stone, and some washer head screws. I follow Norm Abram's credo that a workshop should have sufficient screws on hand for whatever needs to be done. Sure, the initial investment adds up but considering that every time I need to run to Home Depot or Lowes for just one more thing it costs me an hour to an hour and a half, having sufficient supplies on hand has saved me hours and hours of wasted time.

Anyway, the next step to getting the base of the workbench together is to use some 6 inch hex bolts, washers, and nuts to connect the front and back rails to the side assemblies. I thought about making a drilling guide but then I realized my drill press was still set up for drilling holes centered on the legs. So, instead of making a template I just measured and marked where the 7/8 inch counter sinks needed to be. 

After carefully drilling those I made a 3/8 inch through hole using the mark left by the brad on the Forstner bit used to make the counter sink. These through holes intersect the mortises for the front and back rails. Then I assembled the base and used the holes in the legs as guides for drilling the holes in the rails. That super long 3/8 inch bit really worked out well for this.

The last step to preparing the rails is to cut some mortises in the side rails that intersect the holes drilled down the length of the rail through the tenons. One tricky bit is that I wanted to locate the bottom of the hole I'd drilled in from the end of the rail. To do this I inserted the drill bit then used a straight edge and a couple of engineer's squares to line it up with the drill bit.


I did this from both sides of the drill bit so I could trace the entire path.


The red line is where I would have expected the center line to be if I had managed to drill straight. None of the holes that I checked with a square would have been a miss but this board is pretty typical. Probably why the plans call for cutting a 1-1/2 inch mortise. Kind of a shotgun approach.

To cut the mortises I chucked a 1/2 inch Forstner bit into my drill press. I'd tried setting a fence but the problem was that my drill press has multiple joints in the arm holding the table and getting those locked tight enough to keep them from moving when there is force applied. In any case it didn't really work out for me. I ended up doing a pretty good job drilling things the mortises by eye. However things got messy when I tried cleaning up the mortises with a chisel.

Unfortunately I didn't do the math and realize how thin the residual thickness was after drilling the mortises. I may have chopped a little hard and pounded the chisel through the bottom of the mortise and out the side of the rail. I was sad but fundamentally I can always make a new rail if this one starts bugging me down the road. Now is not the time to start rebuilding parts of the bench.

I was more careful with the rest of the mortises.

To make the leg ends into a bench base I needed to get bolts into the holes I'd drilled and a washer and nut into the mortise. This is where I found the second problem.

The plans had called for a 7/8 inch countersink in the legs for the hex bolt and washer. Unfortunately I didn't measure for the washers I have on hand. They were actually exactly 1 inch in diameter so they didn't fit. I had to chuck a 1-1/8 inch bit in the drill press and redrill all the counter sinks. This worked out well enough. I just centered the Forstner bit over the existing hold and drilled a slightly larger counter sink.

After solving the first issue - the countersink - I then started bolting the rails to the legs. This seems like it should be a very simple process. In practice it was quite challenging. The problem came in trying to line up a washer and a nut in a tiny slot while pushing a nut into the hole and turning one or the other to get the threads to catch. There was plenty of opportunity to mutter some inappropriate words. In the end what I found worked was getting the bolt to extend into the hole slightly, get the washer onto the end of the bolt, hold that in place with a small screw driver while I inserted the nut into the mortise with a pair of needle nose pliers. Once I thought I had everything lined up I'd push and twist the bolt or in most of the cases, just push on the nut while trying to spin the nut with the pliers.

The first three or four were pretty annoying. By the time I got to the last two or three it was still annoying but I wasn't spending 30 minutes cursing and failing either.

Even more annoying once I got the legs tightened up they had a bit of a rock. I'm currently satisfied telling myself it is just because my shop floor isn't very flat. 

One last step to get the base finished is to add some cleats to the top of the leg assemblies to fasten the top.


The plans call for some ledgers attached to the bottom rails and some more two-by lumber to make a bottom shelf. I haven't decided what I want to do with that space yet so I am just going to leave it open for now.

I needed to get my shop back. I've had the legs off and on set up in the space in front of my table saw. I've had the bench top sitting on a pair of saw horses occupying the back of my shop space. It's reminding me of how crowded the shop was before I remodeled and put the majority of my tools on mobile bases and moved them into the shop annex. It's been a necessary inconvenience but now that my base has been bolted together I got my wife to help me move the top onto the base.



Hopefully today or tomorrow I'll be able to get the bench to a state where it's a functional horizontal shop surface and I can then move on to accessorizing. Next steps:

  • dog holes
  • cutting the bench to length
  • flattening the top
  • adjusting the miter saw
Once the bench is finished I'm going to accessorize it by adding a planing stop to one end, a leg vise to the front left, and probably do something with the bottom shelf area.

But before I start work today I need to get things cleaned up a bit. The pieces and parts have made putting tools away difficult to impossible so they've been accumulating on every other horizontal surface in the shop.