Sunday, February 19, 2017

Workshop Makeover, part 7 - Workbench Drawers (p2)

Last weekend I got all the pieces for my drawers cut out and I got a single test half blind dovetail joint cut and tested. So, what'd I get done this week?

I had a pretty busy week outside of the shop. I tried a Body Pump™ class on Monday, I had my usual Save the Multiverse game on Tuesday, my bi-weekly board game night on Wednesday and my Mass Effect 3 game night on Friday. Despite that I did get one drawer put together during the week. I got that drawer installed Saturday morning and voila! The plans were right, my math was right and I executed it right. The drawer (tray) installed without any issue. Yay!

I've got to admit installing drawers on slides always makes me nervous.  I think it's because while they have some leeway in installation they don't have a ton. It's kind of that moment of truth: Are they just going to work or and I going to have to do a lot of work to adjust for a crooked case. But I got one!

Saturday was a bit busy too... I didn't get into the shop until later in the afternoon so pretty much all I got done was to get the single drawer installed. Today though I got pretty much a full day in the shop. Before lunch I routed all the half blind dovetails on all my small drawers and put three of them together so the glue could cure while I ate my lunch.

Before lunch I was optimistic enough to be thinking that I was making such good progress I'd have to figure out what to do once my bench was finished. I was counting chickens again though. I did make good progress today. I use the same technique as Norm which is to cut bracers to the height the slide needs to be mounted on the side. Then it only takes one hand to hold it in place and the other hand is available to drive the screws.

I didn't have to worry about what to do after the drawers. Though I am happy with the progress I made, I only got six drawers put together and four of them installed today.

I can hear it now, "Hey! That doesn't look like the last layout you had!"

After installing the first tray I realized I'd been too pessimistic on drawer spacing so I redesigned the drawer layout again. Also I was afraid my medium drawers would be too small to hold any tools. So I added more small drawers to the side compartments and added two large drawers to the middle compartment.

I've got a much less busy week ahead of me so I am hoping I can make some progress before next weekend. I'm short a couple of drawer slides and I need to cut the parts for another large drawer as well as reset the dovetail jig for the larger drawers.

My local Woodcraft hasn't been carrying a very good selection of drawers slides so I am just going to order them from Amazon. They'll be  here soon enough.  Cutting another large drawer shouldn't take too long.

I'm hoping that if I can get into the workshop some evenings this week I'll be onto installing drawer fronts and hardware next weekend. If I can be done with the workbench by next weekend I'll be quite happy.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Workshop Makeover, Part 6 - Building the Workbench Drawers (p1)

Norm used Baltic Birch plywood for his drawers. It's a very nice plywood. Generally very flat and with a lot of void free layers it is very strong. I don't have any Baltic Birch plywood and I'm not building the hutch so his cutting diagram isn't going to work for me anyway.

What I do have is some cabinet grade Birch plywood. It's void free - hopefully - but it has less than half the number of layers as the Baltic Birch. No matter, it's what I have and it should be good enough. At least I hope so. Regardless I need to come up with my own cutting diagram for 4x8 sheets of plywood. The first step is to come up with my cut list.

Small Drawers and Trays - 6x 3-1/2 x 30Front
3-1/2 x 29-1/2Back
3-1/2 x 28Side
27-1/16 x 29-7/16Bottom

Top Drawers - 2x 3-1/2 x 30Front
3-1/2 x 29-1/2Back
3-1/2 x 24Side
23 x 29-7/16Bottom

Large Drawer 11-1/2 x 30Front
11-1/2 x 29-1/2Back
11-1/2 x 28Side
27-1/16 x 29-7/16Bottom

What happened to the medium drawer? I decided that it would just be a lot easier to make another small drawer and have one less setup. If down the road I decide I want to change things up I can always change it then.

Now if I was smart and really did my math right I could probably get all these pieces out of two sheets of plywood. Or at least out of the two and a half sheets of 1/2" plywood I have. Unfortunately I wasn't smart. What I did do was to use my new Makita cordless circular saw to break down two sheets of plywood into three 32x48" pieces each. I then took three of them and started cutting drawer pieces. This left me with three pieces to make drawer drawer from. Then I double checked the size of the drawers and realized I couldn't get two drawer bottoms out of a single 32x48" piece. <sigh>

What I should have done is cut my drawer bottoms out of each piece first, then turned the remainder into the rest of the drawer pieces.

Well, that's all water under the bridge at this point and I do still have enough plywood for four drawer bottoms and I have a big pile of drawer sides, fronts and backs. I'll just stop by my friendly local lumber store and pick up a sheet of 1/2" Baltic Birch after work some day this week.

Today I set up my Leigh dovetail jig. I did use it once before. Well to be accurate, I helped a friend use it for his replica civil war campaign desk. It had to have been set up for that but that was a number of years ago and I can hope I'm better at setting up tools now than I was then. Better safe than sorry. Since the tool was already assembled all I needed to do was set up the side stops.

Next step was cutting some test half-blind dovetails.

I setup my mid-sized router with an 18 degree 3/8" dovetail bit from Whiteside Machine. The set that I bought has a number of bits that are equivalent to Leigh bits unfortunately they use a different labeling scheme. Easy enough to solve. I just wrote the Leigh equivalents next to the bits.

My first attempt was way too tight so I raised the bit a small hair and the second pass worked perfectly.

When I got to this point it was near the end of the afternoon so instead of starting the work of trimming the fronts and sides to length I decided to wait and do it when I wasn't already tired. If I get an evening in the shop this week I'll trim the fronts and sides to length so next weekend I can get right into cutting dovetails and building drawers.

This is going to be a lot more work than just cutting drawer lock joints but as a side benefit it should get me some good practice using my Leigh jig.

Fine Woodworking It's Not

I think I mentioned previously that one of the things I've had to do over the last two months is prepare my garage and basement workshop for some foundation work. Well, I finished the preparation and the masons did their part this week and it looks very nice. I'm quite happy with the job they did.

Basement Waterproofing

New Garage Floor

However, part of the deal was that I would replace the steps going into the house. No big deal, I just need some 2x8's and some deck boards and a little bit of planning.

My plans do not 100% represent the actual build. My stairs are 4' wide and when using 5/4 deck boards it's recommended to have joists at least every 16". My final build actually has five not four...  uh, stringers? I'm actually not sure if that's what they're called for this kind of stairs. Essentially there is a large box on the bottom that is 6-7/16" high with a top box that is 7-7/16" high. Each step is actually about 10" deep not 11-1/4". My sketched plans for these kinds of projects are usually just for rough materials estimates and to work through my mental build plans. Shortening the steps from 11-1/4" to 10" doesn't really change anything important.

So how did I come up with my measurements? Aren't there a lot of rules and stuff with building steps? Well yes, there are rules and codes and such. I sort of know the rules... You want your steps to be around 10" deep and between something like 6" and 8" high and they should all be consistent. However, I don't need to know them exactly. Instead I cheated. I just looked up a deck stair calculator on the internet, punched in the height of my door sill and used the results.

This picture helps explain why the bottom box is an inch shorter than the second step. Each step is a total of 7-7/16" high. The first Step is 6-7/16" high plus 1" from the deck board. Since the second step isn't build on top of the deck boards it needs that extra inch to make up the height from the first steps deck boards.

Conveniently 7-7/16" is pretty much the height of a 2x8 stood on edge so I just needed a bunch of 2x8s. Inconveniently, I don't have my truck anymore. I've got multiple friends with trucks who are happy to help me get stuff home from the lumber yard but I prefer saving favors for when I really need them. 

Instead, I decided to buy a cordless Makita 18v LXT circular saw. I'd first gotten a hankering for one of these walking though my local DIY store. For the last few months they have them on an end cap selling for $100. I occasionally have the need to do woodworking where there isn't a convenient power outlet so I thought for $100 it might be worth it. Then I did my research and found the brushless version which has been very well reviewed. Sure, it's almost twice as much but I already have the batteries I got with my Makita drill/driver combo. So I ordered one.

Well, it didn't work out quite as cheap as I was hoping. Turns out the saw will not run on the 2 Ah batteries I have for my drills so I had to order some 3 Ah batteries. I may not be able to use the smaller batteries with the saw but I can use the bigger batteries with my drill/drivers. So word to the wise, the saw works with 3 AH BL1830 batteries but not the 2 Ah BL1820.

In any case, Saturday morning saw me in the parking lot at my local lumber store cutting 2x8-10 down into lengths that would fit in the back of my SUV. This was my first actual use of my new saw and I've got to say, on first look it is very nice. I've got a very nice corded Milwaukee circular saw but it's a bit heavier and it does require a power outlet. The Makita was more than capable of cutting through the pressure treated 2x8s like they were butter.

The rest of the morning had me in my garage building the steps. My 3Ah battery was just enough to break down the boards in the parking lot and to then make my finish cuts once I got home. It ran down early into my second project of the day. In my limited experience, the 3 Ah is plenty if you're just going to be doing small projects or for occasional use (like breaking down plywood before taking it to your table saw) but it wouldn't last very long for larger projects. Since the batteries do charge really quick you might be able to get away with two3 Ah  batteries on a larger project but you might also want to invest in the larger 4 Ah or 5 Ah batteries if you plan to use the saw a lot.

The Finished Steps

Why no in-progress photos? Well, there are a couple of reasons. Mostly it's just that I needed to get the steps done and didn't want to take the extra time. Also, I don't think there's much interesting in the project. It's only two boxes stacked on each other with some deck boards on top. It's done, I can get in and out of my garage and in a few more days I can start parking my cars in the garage again.

[NOTE: I buy all my tools out-of-pocket and I receive no compensation for mentioning or linking to any website or product here.]

Friday, February 10, 2017

Dresser, Part 9 - Almost There

We had some good weather last week - for upstate New York in January - and I was able to get polyurethane on the dresser top. I put five coats of my wipe on oil and urethane/mineral spirits mixture. It isn't as many coats as I put on my nightstand but I think it will be plenty.

Today I wasn't quite ready to start working on the drawers for my new workbench so I decided to do the final assembly and fitting on the dresser. The dresser only has five things left to do: fasten the top, attach the back, attach the door, install the shelves, and fix the sticky drawer.

The first step was to fasten the top to the dresser. It gets three #8 screws in the front and and three waster head screws in slots in the back to handle wood expansion. I made the slots by drilling overlapping holes and cleaning them up some with a file. I think next time I have to make these I'm going to use a router to get cleaner slots.

In any case the screws went in easy on the left side where there is a big opening and I could get my drill/drivers into the opening. On the right hand side where I had limited space and my drills and drivers couldn't get into it was a little more complicated. Even my little toy power screw driver wouldn't fit. To predrill the holes I used a bit-counter sink combo and drilled the holes in the top by hand. I'd already drilled holes in the case so I used those holes to steady the bit as I rotated it and put pressure on it with my hands. It was slow but it actually worked!

I couldn't drive the screws with my fingers like I did the drill bit so I got my little socket wrench with an appropriately sized socket to turn a screw driver bit. That was pretty short and allowed me to get torque on the screw to get it driven in.  It was all awkward but it worked.

I painted the back months ago. I was just waiting for the top to be attached before I attached back. Now that the top was on, it was time for the back. Since I'd already pre-drilled the holes in the back in all the right places all I had to do was to use the holes in the back to pre-drill the carcass then put a screw in each hole. I'd decided to use bead board for the back which is a little thicker than the 1/4 plywood the plans called for so it sticks out a little but since it is going to be against the wall no one will ever notice.

That's two of the five things.

I don't have the shelves made yet so my choices were fixing the sticky drawer or installing the door. Since I hate installing doors I decided to fix the drawer. I first tried using my stationary belt sander but it didn't seem to be making very good progress so I tried one of my hand planes. That didn't work very well either. Another tool I need to learn to use better. So, I went back to the belt sander. After five or ten minutes I decided to try it in the dresser again and lo and behold it fit well. I put the false front back on and called it done.

That's three... All that's left is either building shelves or attaching the door. Did I mention I hate hanging doors?

Well, even though I hate hanging doors it needs to be done eventually.

Let's just say that hanging the door went poorly.

Attaching the hinges to the door went fine. It's attaching the door to the case that always gives me issues and this time was no different. In theory I should be able to put some double sided tape on the hinge, press the door into place, open it, then put a couple screws in to hold it in place.

I must need better double sided tape because this never works for me. The hinges never stick.

I decided that an easier way would be to make a template. Attach a piece of poster board to the hinges, drill through that then use the poster board as a template to drill the screw holes.

It worked great! Well, I did fail to drill one of the holes deep enough so I snapped the head of the screw trying to drive it in. No matter, keep on attaching the door! I got the door attached! Then it bound up when I closed it. I put it in too close to the inner frame!

My second attempt went a little better. I used my template again; however, this time I put a spacer in between the frame behind the door and the bottom. My wife was passing through so I drafted her and had her hold the door. I was more careful to keep the spacing between the door and the frame and it worked! The door was attached and it works. Not perfectly but it works.

Either my door isn't perfectly square or the opening isn't. It catches a little bit on the bottom right.

It's good enough.

I drilled the holes for the handle and attached it. Sort of anyway. The screws are bit too long so I need to go buy some new shorter ones.

I put a magnetic door stop at the top to keep the door from closing too far and I'm going to call this part of the job done.

All that's left is building a couple of shelves.