Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Covid 19 week 10 - Gaming Console Console Progress (plus distractions)

Yes, I missed posting for week 9, and week 10. I'm fine! I just didn't find the time and energy to post a blog update. On the Covid front, Governor Cuomo has reopened the Finger Lakes Region for phase 1 and Phase 2.

Phase 1 meant that retail stores could reopen and provide curbside pickup. Most of the things we needed were already providing this kind of service because essential services were already doing this; however, non-essential services have been permitted to reopen as well.

Phase 2 allows businesses to reopen offices; however, there are a lot of provisions. They must allow social distancing, provide masks, screen employees as they come in every morning asking them a list of questions about disease symptoms (apparently lost of taste/smell is a better predictor than fever), keep track of who is meeting with who for purposes of contact tracing, etc. The company I work for has already said they aren't going to open the offices before July 4th so I have at least another month of working from home.

Also, I made this:

This is a garlic oil pizza with red onion and some leftover grilled Spiedie chicken. Super tasty. This was the same dough as my last pepperoni pizza but thrown in the freezer for the last few weeks. The directions were to thaw the dough at room temperature; however, I thawed it in my fridge over a couple of days. It thawed but didn't rise so I put it on the counter for a few hours before dinner time and it rose up just fine. It didn't seem to stretch quite as big as my earlier pizza but that could have been due to the freezing or because I made a mess of getting it out of the freezer bag. Definitely requires more experiments.

Before I get into what progress I made over the last three weeks (weekends), let me show you the plywood box I mentioned in my last post.

The first picture shows the box with the lid partially opened. I added shop made handles to make it easier to take to top on and off. There are blocks of plywood scrap under the lid to keep it from slipping off. I did purposely leave a little bit of play to make the lid easier to fit in place. It's probably just a 1/4 inch in any direction.

The lower image shows a game in progress. My wife is playing this game - Arena Rex - remotely with a friend. She'll make her move, take a picture and text it to him. He'll figure out his move and text it to her and she'll move his pieces for him. It isn't how the game is supposed to be played but it seems to be working well enough for them.

On to what I did for the last three weeks.

We had some very nice weather three weeks ago. It was very nice and was the first weather that allowed me to put finish on my projects that have been sitting in my garage waiting...  just waiting...

The picture above is after several coats of polyurethane. My standard finish is General Finishes Satin Oil and Urethane that I thin 2 parts finish to 1 part mineral spirits to turn it into a wiping varnish. Clockwise from the top left is the paper towel dispenser case, three weapon mounts, the paper towel dispenser lid, the front and back to a magazine box, and finally two more weapon mounts. The little "sticks" between the bigger pieces are the bars that keep the weapons from falling off the bars on the mounts. You can see them if you look closely at the photos below.

Those pieces are all quarter sawn white oak. My plan had been to simulate fumed white oak by first coating them with Watco Walnut Danish Oil before coating them with polyurethane but while cleaning the dust off them with mineral spirits I decided I really liked the look so I skipped the danish oil and just went straight to putting on the polyurethane. Also, it allowed me to get the pieces fully finished in a weekend versus needing to wait a week for the danish oil to finish curing.

After finishing the finish I waited a day and then started mounting the pieces. First was the paper towel dispenser.

I had some jigs and my old plastic paper towel dispenser mounted on the wall at the door to my shop. I took all that down and replaced it with the new paper towel dispenser. I loaded it up and started using it. The paper towels don't actually dispense all that easily so if I was going to make another one of these I'd work on refining the opening the paper towels come out.

The weapon mounts went to the game room, got paired to the weapons and mounted to the wall using a single drywall anchor and screw that fit into a keyhole slot in the back

Yes, I know the walls are a hideous green color. I actually like it and my wife indulged me and painted the room that color for me. Let's be clear here...  that color is not her fault. Also, while the weapons look cool, none of them are real.

This was just finishing up some projects...  Let's get to the new stuff I worked on.

Gaming Console Console - Door

I dithered and hummed-and-hawed for weeks about how I wanted to build the cabinet door. There's a lot of ways to join frame and panel doors. I don't particularly want to enumerate all the ways I debated. Since I wanted it to be quick I decided on using half-lap joints. They might not be the mark of fine woodworking; however, I am getting into the part of the project where I just want it done. They've got a lot to say for them...  So long as the rails and stiles are cut cleanly and consistently they "self square" the door. When the door is closed the joints are concealed. Also...  they are very quick to cut.

Of course after deciding on half lap joints I had to decide if I wanted to cut the rabbet for the glass before or after cutting the half laps. The benefit of cutting them before hand would be that my corners would come out square. The benefit of cutting them afterwards with a router and a rabbeting bit is the joinery is a lot less complex but with the downside of rounded corner that will need to be chiseled out later.

Ultimately I decided on the simpler approach which would be to cut the rabbet after the half lap joints.

As I mentioned in my previous post I'd already milled the stock for the rails and stiles to final thickness and width. I just needed to cut them to length and then cut the half laps. There are several ways to cut half lap joints and I decided to do it by using my vertical panel cutter configured to allow me to make a vertical cut on the rails and stiles.

I built this jig to cut raised panels. I modified it to allow me to make the cheek cuts by screwing a scrap piece of hardwood vertical to the table. I then used one of my homemade hold downs to clamp the rail or stile vertical and ran it through the saw. The blade height is set to the width of the rails and stiles and the fence is set to leave half the thickness.

I then used my small parts table saw sled to cut the shoulders using a stop block.

The test joint came out fine so I cut all my rails and stiles double and triple checking every cut to make sure I had the piece oriented correctly.

As an aside, I was watching Adam Savage's You Tube channel "Tested" where he was explaining why experienced makers learned to double check everything because failure meant having to remake one or more parts. He then promptly glued and nailed two boards in the incorrect orientation and had to rip them apart.

After cutting all the cheeks and shoulders on my rails and stiles I test fit, tested for square, and then glued up the door.

Unfortunately I didn't leave any space in the joint for glue and ended up with a ridge that needed to be sanded.

I sanded the back of the door with my random orbit sander. I started with 80 grit but it was taking too long so I dropped down to a 60 grit pad before working my way back up through the grits. While Sapele is super nice to sand it still makes me a little afraid to do that much sanding. I always get afraid that I am going to end up sanding too much in one spot.

Then I remembered by Jet 16-32 drum sander. I pulled that out and it made quick work of the front of the door. I then used my random orbit sander to work my way up through the grits.

That was most of week 9.

Week 10 I moved onto the drawers. I'd purchased some 6/4 S2S poplar for the drawers a week earlier. I'm not sure if the lumberyard really counts as an essential business but they were open. I was super careful maintaining social distancing from the clerk there. They weren't allowing people in the building but brought a selection of stuff outside for me to pick through. I wore my mask, was super careful to not touch my face until I got home, then I showered and burned my clothes.

I'd wanted to use maple for my drawer boxes but unfortunately my lumber yard was a bit low on all stock so I went with poplar. I'd wanted maple for the better durability but frankly this console isn't going to get super heavy use and the poplar will probably out live me.

I resawed my poplar down to approximately 5/8 inch thick and then flattened them on my jointer and used my thickness planer to get them down to 1/2 inch thick. After I had the pieces flattened I used the hose from my dust collector to clean up some stray dust on my tools. I noticed that the collector wasn't really drawing as much air as it should be so I checked my collector bags and saw that they were quite full. In previous posts I've shown my dust collector bag changing process and this was much the same except when I pulled the hoses off the impeller I saw that one of the ports was packed full of sawdust.

My first thought...  "That's bad". If that port is blocked that means that not only are the bags full the the plenum chamber is packed with dust, the fan housing is packed with dust. If that were the case I'd probably have a fun afternoon of taking the entire dust collector apart. Also, if the fan housing was packed with dust that means that the motor was probably straining and put additional stress on it potentially shortening its lifespan.

Fortunately when I pulled out the plug of dust I found that a small plastic bag had been sucked into the collector and had gotten stuck on a filter that's right before the fan to keep large chunks of wood from flying into the impeller. The bag had blocked some bigger shavings of UHMD plastic which then caught some wood shavings which caught the dust and cut down on my collector efficiency.

Still changing the bags which were over full took me over an hour and reminded me that software engineers do not get robust exercise as part of their daily work activities. One of the problems with changing the bags is how I've replaced the lower fabric bags with 30 gallon garbage cans and a plastic garbage bag liner. The huge benefit is that I can just tie off the top of the bag and throw it out and don't need to create a huge dust cloud emptying a fabric bag. The downside is that the dust really gets packed in, is kind of heavy and creates a vacuum seal in the garbage can.

I was lamenting the torn plastic garbage bags requiring me to double bag the waste thinking it would be nice if the garbage cans had vents to break the airlock when I realized, "These are my garbage cans. I can modify them if I want to." So I flipped them over, put a 1" (ish) hole saw in my drill and put several holes in the bottom of each one. Sure, they'll never hold liquids again; however, they are dedicated to my dust collector. I hope they never see liquids.

Anyway, that was my Friday of the long Memorial Day Weekend.

Over Saturday and Sunday...  or maybe it was just Sunday... frankly, the days are starting to run together...  But I finished milling the boards for the drawers. This consisted of cutting them to length and width, cutting dados for the drawer front and back, cutting rabbets in the front and back pieces, and cutting the 1/4 inch plywood bottoms. Sunday I glued the drawers together.

I didn't get any good pictures of the pieces and parts pre-glue up but suffice it to say, these are pretty standard light-weight drawers. Rabbets in the front and back fit into dados in the sides. There's a 1/4 inch groove in the bottom of the sides and front holding the bottom. The back didn't get a groove but got cut narrow enough that it fits on top of the bottom.

I didn't trap the bottom in a groove in the back because I'd thought I would slide it in and use a screw through the bottom into the drawer back to hold it in place. Test fitting the drawers I realized I had a bit of bow in the drawer sides that made them a snug fit in the cabinet. I decided to instead glue the bottom in place - it's plywood so it shouldn't cause expansion problems - which meant it was better to glue the bottom to the back versus putting a screw into it. The clamps in the middle of the drawers in the picture above are to make sure the drawer sides aren't bowed while the glue is drying.

As you can see in the picture below the drawers came out fine and fit; though, they are quite snug. I'd aimed for a 1/16 inch gap on both sides and probably ended up with maybe a 1/32 inch gap instead. I'm not planning on putting finish on the drawers so if they swell and stick I can pull them out and hit them with a belt sander or a block plane.

That pretty much wrapped up my Memorial Day weekend. I believe it was Wednesday I got a few more hours in my workshop and made wooden slides. They're two different thicknesses, 1/4 inch on the divider and 1/2 inch on the right panel. I made the right hand slide 1/2 inch thick because then I could make notches for the stiles but allow the middle of the slide to ride against the panel which will help with keeping them from bending during use.

The slides are just less that 5/8" wide. I'd intended to get them close to 5/8 inch but when they ended up narrower I just figured I'd have a slightly looser fit. So, 5/8 inch x 1/4 inch x ~15 inches long.

To install the slides I did a lot of math. It wasn't hard math. By a lot of math I mean I just checked and double checked my logic a few times. Which was good because I got it wrong at least once.

I want a 1/6 inch gap around my drawers. The drawer fronts are going to be 6-3/4 inch high which with my 4x 1/16 inch gaps would fill the opening.  I made the bottom of the grooves in the drawer sides 1 inch from the bottom of the drawer. I then used spacers to align the wooden slide. The complication came in when you remember that my slides weren't exactly 5/8 inch but slightly narrower. So I made my bottom spacer 1-1/8 inch high. It's actually the piece of poplar on the lower left of the above photo. I set the spacer on the bottom and then the slide on top of that. I don't think I'd ever had a good plan on how to attach these slides but I ended up using my 18 gauge brad nailer and tacked it in the front and the back. I then did the same on the other side.

Then I needed to calculate the distance to the next slide. The drawers are 6-3/4 inches high so my first instinct was to make the spacer the same height. Fortunately I marked it out using the divider as a story stick and realized when it didn't work out that I needed to actually subtract the width of the slide. So I ended up with 6-3/4" - 9/16" (slider height) + 1/16" (drawer gap) == 6-1/4". I placed this spacer on top of the bottom slide to fit the middle and then on top of the middle to fit the top. The result was three evenly spaced drawers as you see above (and below).

That's a lot but pretty well sums up my two weeks of progress. Lots of stress and worry that I'd done something wrong but lots of celebration when things worked out as planed. The drawers fit, slide easily and don't bind. There's a bit more I can say about the drawers but this post is getting quite long so I'll leave that for next week's post.

But what about the distractions...

If you remember the storage unit I made for my wife's painting supplies...

The plan from the beginning was to put a hardwood false front on the trays and drawers. When I was picking up the poplar for the console console drawers I also picked up some red oak. I started cutting it to size and ripping it to width for the 1/4 inch veneer going on the fronts of the trays.

I don't have any pictures of that but I'm sure you can imagine what a 1/4" x 4" x 34-1/2" piece of red oak looks like. I was a bit tired and a bit rushed when I started and ended up cutting my boards in an inefficient manner. I ended up wasting about a 36 inch portion of wood. I need five 4 inch wide veneer and three 6 inch wide veneer. Since I am resawing 3/4 inch boards down to 1/4 inch I could have resawn two 6 inch boards and then ripped one of the 6 inch veneers into a 4 inch wide veneer.

Instead I ripped three 4 inch boards and two 6 inch boards. When I resaw these boards I will end up with a 4" x 36" and a 6" x 36" piece of scrap. C'est la vie...

That's what I get for trying to sneak in a little extra work at the end of a long day.

Fortunately I have a spare piece of red oak in my stock. Not being "efficient" is just going to cost me $10 or $15 in wood opportunity cost. I'll also probably find some use for it at some point. It is extremely unlikely these "waste" pieces will end up in a fire pit.

I didn't get anywhere past cross cutting some boards and ripping one of the 4 inch boards to length.

In Summary

I got what feels like a fair bit done. Sure, it was only three drawers but that included milling the wood, creating the drawer slides, mounting them in the case...  That's a lot.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Covid 19 week 8 - small progress

It's week 8 of the NYS Pause and Andrew Cuomo - our governor - has laid out the reopening plan. Each region of the state is going to reopen at its own pace depending on how the hospitals are doing and how much new infection occurs. Our region - the Finger Lakes - meets all 7 of the criteria needed for reopening so we'll probably see some changes in the near future. Chances are I'll be in one of the last few groups to be brought back into the office as I can do my job perfectly well from home but we'll see.


This last weekend I did very little in the shop. I milled the material for the console console door down to final dimensions but that was about it. Oh, I made a pizza...

I finally found an adequate pizza dough recipe. The dough stretched fine and it crisped up very nicely. The flavor was adequate so I'm going to keep looking but I'm happy enough with this recipe.

Monday evening, I made a plywood box. My wife has been playing Arena Rex - which is meant to be played in person - via text messages. It's set up on my finishing table which works fine but the cats like walking through the playing area and move pieces and sometimes break things. So, I made a box with an interior dimensions of 32" x 32" x 4.5". I used random pieces of plywood I found in my shop. The bottom is 3/4" ply, the top is 1/2" ply and the sides are both 3/4" and 1/2" as that's what I had in scrap. I made a couple of handles for the top out of 3/4" plywood using my handle template.

No pictures right now. Maybe I'll grab some later.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Covid 19 week 7 - More Console Console work

It's week 7...  or is it really week 8 of the New York Pause due to Covid 19. Frankly I am lucky to be able to keep track of the day of the week much less which week we are on.

This last weekend I did get a few hours in the workshop. Again not as many as I would have liked but I passed a couple of milestones. Saturday I did final fitting on the case and got it glued up. Sunday I got the top glued up and spent some time prototyping the door.

I did have one small task before gluing up the case and that was to cut the Sapele trim on the top rail down. This was a simple task of getting out the table saw sled and lining the edge of the trim up with the blade and making the cut.

I dry fit everything first and as a happenstance I realized that the middle panel was sliding in much easier when there was a brace place immediately underneath it. I did a bunch of fiddling while I had the case dry fit and clamped to make sure everything would come out square. I was able to get the right side panel square and the middle divider square with the bottom shelf but the left side panel didn't also come out square. I double checked all my measurements, checked that the top rails were the right size and were not creating a rhomboid. I just couldn't get it perfect.

After much gnashing of teeth I decided to just go ahead and glue it up. The variance was so slight that I didn't think it will matter so long as I got the drawer side of the cabinet square. The left side is just going to be shelves anyway.

I added glue to the left panel dado, added the bottom shelf, stood it up on my workbench with the braces to hold the bottom shelf in place, then added the right hand panel. I added a couple of k-body clamps across the bottom to hold everything together while I inserted the middle panel and the two top rails.

I'd previously screwed the separators to the top rail so adding and clamping the middle divider into place went very smoothly. I then obsessively went back over everything to make sure panels were seated in their dados and that the case was square.

I was using Titebond 3 so I gave the joints a good 40 to 50 minutes before moving it from my bench to the shop floor. My wife was in the area so I had her help me lift it down to avoid any unnecessary stress on the glue joints. Once on the floor I was able to add screws in the pocket holes and drill and screw the middle panel in through the top rail and that pretty much summed up my tangible progress on Saturday.

I did spend some time staring at the remaining pieces of Sapele I had left and started planning where I was going to get the wood for the top, the door and the false fronts on the drawers. I got pulled away from my staring at lumber by an offer of a walk with my wife in the beautiful weather we were having. It was worth quitting early for that.

I was in a bit of a mental debate because I had planned the top to be 18-3/4 inches deep but the lumber I had was going to be at best 7-1/4 inches wide or 9 inches wide after cleaning up and straightening it. If I used the 7(ish) inch boards I might not be able to get all the front pieces out of a single board. If I used the 9 inch boards I would only be able to have an 18 inch top.

After giving it some good thought over night I decided that an 18 inch deep top would be just fine. So first thing Sunday I cut the ends off the 9 inch wide board (the grain was straighter there), cleaned up the edges, flattened 6 inches of one face, ran them through my planer with a carrier board to get one face flat, then flipped them and got the other face flat. Test fitting the two pieces to align the grain and hide the joint the best I could I found that the best looking joint was also the best fitting.

More glue, a 40 minute wait to let the glue dry then I removed the clamps and scraped the semi-dried glue squeeze out.

Setting the half-finished top on the cabinet makes it almost look like a piece of furniture.

Next I turned to designing my door. Looking at my plans I realized I hadn't written anything down for the rails and stiles. Frankly I don't remember if I did that intentionally or if it was an oversight. Doesn't matter at this point, just have to make a plan and execute it.

I found some scrap pine in my discard bin and held it up in the opening and decided it was way too wide. I found a shim lying on the floor nearby so I help that up and decided it was way too narrow. Since the pine was essentially just garbage I trimmed it down to 1-3/4 inch and held it in place in the door opening. Eureka! I cut the rest of the pine to 1-3/4 inches wide and cut them to length so I could mock up a full door. Looks fine to me.

That's pretty much where I left things with the console on Sunday. I didn't want to sand the top until I was sure all the moisture from the glue had evaporated. I didn't feel like cutting out the pieces for the door. I'm pretty sure I'm going to go with half laps rather than stub tenon and groove and I didn't want to have to do the extra thinking required to cut a joint for a half lap including a 1/2 inch by 1/4 inch rabbet around the inside for the glass.

I did however, make some supports for storing some 4x4 lumber I've had sitting on the floor in my garage. These supports were patterned off the lumber rack I built for storing the bulk of my wood. I pre-drilled holes and them mounted them to an exiting wall in the back of my garage using a 4 ft level to keep them the same height and a speed level to make sure they tilted slightly up rather than slightly down.

One nice thing about being stuck in the house, it has encouraged me to start knocking off those to-do items.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Covid 19 week 6.2 - Console console final touches before first glue up

I got a few more hours into the shop this week and I focused on getting the final few punch list items necessary before gluing up the main parts of the case.

  • Fix shelf pin hole
  • Drill pocket holes in top rails
  • Make trim pieces
  • Glue trim to top rail
  • Create screw holes in top rails

Fix Shelf Pin Hole

In my last post I mentioned that when adding the photos to the blog post that I noticed I'd missed a shelf pin hole. It was the one at the bottom and will probably never be used but I couldn't just leave it, especially since it would be easy to fix.

I still have my story stick that doubles as my shelf pin drilling jig. To get the holes to line up I took apart a couple of the shelf pins, put the pins in a couple of holes and used them to register the jig.

With the pegs sticking out I could just drop the jig over them and it just lines up. This was even easier than the original set of holes since I didn't even have to clamp the jig. One item done!

Create Screw Holes in Top Rails

The top rails are a couple strips of plywood that run between the side panels across the top front and top back of the case. The actual solid wood top will be attached with screw through the rails. To accommodate for seasonal wood movement the screw through the back rail need to be in slots so when the top expands and contracts the screws can slide rather than splitting the top or breaking the case.

I double checked that the new rails were a perfect fit. Then the holes in the front were just drilled and countersunk. The slots in the back had the bulk of the waste removed with a 1/4" brad point and cleaned up with a chisel. I might come back with a file and make the slots cleaner but they'll work.

Drill Pocket Holes

I also mentioned in my week 6.1 post that I drilled the pocket holes in my top rails before doing a final trim requiring me to make new top rails. I didn't drill the pocket holes in them earlier in the week so it still needed to be done.

This was just a matter of pulling out the Kreg jig and drilling the holes.

Cut Trim

The side panels to my case are solid wood but the bottom shelf, the middle panel and the top rails are plywood. I need some 3/4 inch trim to cover the plywood edges and I made it thick enough to also hide the inside of the case once the door and drawers are installed. It's effectively 3/4 inch x 3/4 inch.

When I cut the legs and panels for the sides I made rip cuts along the grain in my boards so the grain in the legs would be vertical and not run out the sides. This left me with a couple of triangle shaped off cuts that were perfect for ripping down then running through the planer until they were the right size. Sapele isn't super expensive but why waste it.

Glue Trim to Top Rail

I actually only need to glue the trim to the top front rail. The back rail will never be seen as it will be hidden by the solid wood top and the back. 

The top board in the photo is the front rail. I'm using the back rail as a clamping caul to help spread the clamping pressure evenly. I left the glue up to set for an hour or so then came back and scraped the glue drips.

Drawer Spacers

I thought I was done but then I remembered that I am going to need spacers to make sure the middle divider is a consistent spacing from the right hand panel. If it leans in or out the drawers will either stick on their sliders or fall off. Fortunately I had some scrap cherry plywood lying around that I just needed to cut the pocket holes off of.

This cherry plywood is actually very nice. I did find a couple of small voids in the interior but its actually 3/4 inches thick and it is super flat and smooth

Gluing Preparations Done

That pretty much completes all the things I needed to get done in preparation for gluing the bottom shelf into the side panels. I was getting a bit tired and didn't want to take on that task when I wasn't at 100%.

Next up, gluing the case, adding the top rails and gluing up the top and some shelves.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Covid 19 week 6.1 - More Console Console

I only got an hour or so in the workshop yesterday but I figured I'd give an update on what I got done.

I started my evening by cutting the top rails. I'd been careful when cutting the bottom shelf and the divider out of the 3/4 inch cherry plywood to leave an off cut that could be used for this. I cut it roughly to the right length then carefully trimmed it with light cuts until it fit tightly between the sides. Then I ripped it down into two 3 inch wide pieces.

I then cut notches in the top of the middle panel for the top rails to go between. Here is where I made my first mistake on this project. Every project - at least pretty much everyone of my projects - has at least one mistake in it. Some are horrible and require remaking one or more parts, some just require small adjustments to the plans.

This mistake was more of the latter kind. When I cut the notch in the front I cut it back 3 inches for the plywood rail and then another 3/4 inches for the hardwood trim. The problem with this is that the middle divider is also getting the same trim so I didn't need to account for it. No worries, I'd just have a weird gap up at the top of my divider that no one will ever see.

If you look closely you can see that the notch in the front - the right side of the picture - is just a little wider than the one on the left. Also, I chose this side so you can see the shelf pin holes. Looking at the photo it looks like I missed a hole. <sigh> I'll try to remember to fix that tomorrow.

I then went looking for a piece of plywood I could use for the back. I keep a stock of 1/4" luan so I was pretty sure I'd find something. But, lo and behold I found a piece of 1/4" cherry plywood leftover from the same project the 3/4" plywood came from. If I didn't care that the grain was running horizontally it would be plenty big enough. If I wanted to run the grain vertically it was going to be just a little too narrow.

Yes, there is a very dusty chair in my workshop. It is a friend's chair and it was falling apart and they asked me if I could fix it. It's in my queue. I don't want to take it apart so I am going to try drilling holes into the joints and injecting epoxy. But that is a project for another day.

I just couldn't do it...  I could make the case narrower by taking a little off the bottom shelf. Taking from the drawer side would ruin it since the drawers have to be wide enough to hold dvd and bluray cases. So I very carefully - double checking my cut - took a 1/4 inch off the shelf side. I then carefully refit the top rails.

I decided it was time to cut the rabbet in the back of the side panels to accept the plywood back so I could get a better idea of how it would all fit. I set up my router table with a rabbeting bit to take off about 1/4" x 3/8". On the left panel I carefully plunged the side into the bit. For the right hand side I just stopped cutting when I heard that the bit had made it to the dado for the bottom shelf.

Time for more dry fitting except this time I could see how the back fit. This was probably the fifth or sixth time I'd put the case together to see how things were fitting.

I decided the back was still not a good fit so I carefully - double checking everything - took another 1/4 inch off the bottom shelf. Voila, perfect fit!

I decided the next best step was to drill the pocket holes in the top rails so I pulled out my Kreig pocket hole jig and drilled a pair of holes in each rail. It was as I was finishing the second set of holes in the second rail that I realized I hadn't trimmed the second 1/4 inch of the rails. I could trim it off now but then the pocket holes would be too close to the edge.


After some sitting and pondering I looked through my scrap plywood pile and found a nice piece of Baltic birch 3/4 inch plywood that was just long enough and just wide enough to work. On the plus side I cut the front rail to 3-3/4 inch so it wouldn't leave a gap behind it. I did not drill the pocket holes in the new rails.

You can see in this next picture how the cherry rails are just a wee bit - 1/4 inch - too long.

Some time during my evening in the workshop I decided I wasn't happy with how the bottom shelf and the middle divider were leaving for the back. I trimmed them down by about 1/8 inch. Very carefully, double checking that I was taking the correct side of the middle divider.

A summary of the evening would include many dry-fittings, cutting the top rails (twice), trimming the bottom shelf so the plywood I chose for the back would fit width-wise, and trimmed the bottom shelf and middle divider depth so the back would not protrude. Mostly fitting rather than cutting and construction; however, making sure everything is going to fit is an important step in the process. It is much easier to fix things when there isn't glue drying in all the joints.

I grabbed a couple of extra pictures while I was in the shop. Here's a picture of the story stick I used to drill the shelf pin holes.

Here's a picture of the boards I used for routing the dados in the sides that are now assisting with fitting and dry assembly.

That's it for tonight.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Covid 19 week 6 - Restarting the Gaming Console Console

I figured I've procrastinated enough on the gaming console console. After all, since starting it I've made plaques for mounting faux weapons on my walls, I've made a paper towel dispenser, and I got my workshop pretty well tidied up. I even gave myself the excuse that since there is a pandemic that even though I've never seriously hurt myself in the workshop now would be a really bad time to have to go to the hospital. I also made a much better drawing and parts list.

Yeah, I know...  all the "real" makers on YouTube and what-not use Google Sketchup. I haven't bothered to learn it yet and I like being able to doodle on a sketch pad and not need a computer. It works for me.

I think part of why I've been putting off finishing this project is that the next step is to cut some stopped dados in the sides accepting the bottom. I've done this operation before a handful of times but not enough to be casually comfortable with it. One of the things I've learned is that staring at something has almost never gotten it done. At some point you've just got to move forward and do the best you can. After all, it's just a day or two's worth of work and maybe fifty dollars worth of wood.

So yesterday I started moving forward again.

Yesterday - Saturday - I dug through my plywood stash to find something that was appropriate. I keep a variety of beech, maple, Baltic birch, and whitewood plywood in my stores. They are a staple of much of my workshop projects and quick projects like the storage unit I built for my wife's painting supplies. However, in digging though my stash I found a nice sheet of cherry plywood. Nice in that it was surprisingly flat and didn't have dinged edges or faces.

It's not nice because it is cherry and it's been browning for at least the last fifteen years. I bought a larger sheet to make a counter top wine rack for my parents as a surprise but before I could surprise them with it they bought one. I gave it to a friend and it is now in New Jersey. In any case this piece of plywood has been kicking around the workshop for over decade and hasn't been used because it is "too good" for most of my projects. It won't be the same color as the Sapele that I am using in the Gaming Console Console but I'm hoping the darker color blends better than a more blonde wood like maple or beech.

I put the end panels for the case together a few weeks ago.

I'd resawed and glued up the inner panels. I sanded them to 180 grit then pre-finished them before putting them inside the rails and stiles. I did a decent job on the joints on sides so I was able to get away with just a little sanding with 80, 120, 180 grit sandpaper on my random orbit sander. And then they sat for weeks getting moved from one side of my shop to the other while I worked on other little interstitial projects.

The first step today was to re-measure everything. It's been a few weeks and it is possible that I diverged from my plans and the construction doesn't match. Fortunately everything was right on the money.

The second step was to look over the sides and select which faces would be on the inside and which would be on the outside. My joints on the side panels came out pretty good but some were better than others. I put the nicest face on the outside of the right side and the second nicest face on the outside of the left side.

One of the things I did while futzing around for a few weeks was build a story stick for the case. It wasn't necessarily necessary but I also used it to create a shelf pin jig. The inside of the left side gets shelf pins as does the middle divider. At this point I didn't have the middle divider cut yet but the left side was ready for shelf pins so I did those first.

The shelf pin jig registers off the top as well as the font and back for the corresponding set of holes. With the jig already built I just needed to line it up, clamped it down and drilled each of the shelf pin holes. I used a piece of blue painter tape on the drill bit to make sure I didn't drill all the way through the side.

To cut the dados for the bottom panel I used a router with a 1/2" pattern bit. I don't have pictures of my setup but I used a pretty common technique. The pattern bit runs between two parallel boards that are clamped to the work piece the distance between them being the thickness of the plywood. Then with a router and a pattern bit you can just clean out the waste. To make lining up patterns I cut both boards to 4 1/2" which is the distance from the floor to the bottom of the dado. This allowed me to reference one side off the bottom of the feet, then use a spacer block to locate the second board.

On the first side I just eyeballed where the stopped dado needed to go to but this made me very nervous. On the second side I figured out where the router would need to stop and screwed another piece of wood across my pattern boards to make sure I didn't over cut the dado.

The dado in both sides came out very nice. The above picture is actually a close up of the divider panel in the bottom but the sides came out similarly well. The dado in the shelf is a through dado but the sides have a stopped dado. Since I cut them with a router I had to square up the ends with a chisel. I was prepared for some difficult chopping but I was able to do the cleanup with just a little muscle and putting my weight on the chisel. I've just been working with so much oak lately that I've forgotten what it is like to work with a wood that is more friendly to hand tools.

When it came time to dry fit the bottom in the sides I realized there was another side benefit to cutting my routing guides to match the height of the dado from the floor. It allowed me to use them as braces to support the bottom shelf.

This is pretty much where I left it for the afternoon. The bottom fits in both sides. The middle panel fits in its dado in the bottom and all my shelf pin holes have been drilled and line up. I would have liked to have gotten a little more progress made today but I got the really scary stuff done.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Covid 19 week 5.1 - Futzing in the shop

It's Sunday... I spent most of yesterday foraging for supplies, dropping off a N95 dust mask at my friend's house, cleaning, and cooking. Yes, I gave a friend an N95 mask rather than giving it to the local hospital. First, it was already used and my local hospital only wants new-in-box masks. Second, while you are saying "ewww,  used mask", it had already been used by that friend so it already had his cooties in it.

I have to admit that foraging for supplies included picking up chocolate; however, in my defense this particular chocolate is pretty good. Also, they were taking phone orders and would fling it out their door as you drove past at a high rate of speed. I'm kidding of course. My wife walked up to the door, gave her name and the bag of chocolate was handed through.

Today is Sunday and I'd hoped to have all kinds of energy for going into the workshop. I didn't find the wellspring of energy I was hoping for; however, I did have enough energy to go futz around the shop.

I believe I lamented some weeks ago about having too many projects in flight at a single time. That's always a bad thing for me because while I have a good sized shop I've also got enough tools that when I am working on multiple projects they tend to all get pulled out and left around the shop. Once that happens it gets progressively difficult to keep the dust swept and becomes exponentially harder to get things done.

Today I put hand tools back in their spot on the peg board and in the cabinets, I put the large power tools back in their parking spot, and put the hand power tools back in their cases and then the tool cases into their storage drawer.

While cleaning up my box of hardwood scraps - which mostly consists of picking up the pieces that I'd flung in that direction but missed - I found a large enough piece of white oak scrap that I could make a handle for the top of the paper towel dispenser. Since in my cleaning I'd just come across my handle template I traced out a few, cut them on the band saw then cleaned them up on my oscillating spindle sander and stationary belt sander. The white oak was a leftover from cutting out the weapon mounts and was probably at least a full inch thick. This was much thicker than I wanted the handle so I ran the handles through my table saw. I didn't really measure but they are probably about 3/4" thick now.

To knock down the sharp edges on the handles I briefly thought about throwing a round-over bit in the router table but then decided this was a low use handle and I didn't care enough to take that much effort. In the end I just free-handed the sanding using the oscillating spindle sander and belt sander to get the corners slightly rounded. I left the handle in the shop and didn't attach it to the paper towel dispenser so if I change my mind later I can come back and round over the handle. The weather here in upstate New York has been horrible and all my projects are still sitting in the garage waiting for finishing. The forecast is more weeks of horrible weather so I have time to think about it.

The other thing I did while futzing around the shop was replace the dust collector connection on my router table. The one I had was 3d printed by a friend but he had used his standard infill that was somewhat less than 100% to save filament. Unfortunately that made the piece fragile and when I abused it it shattered. Fortunately he'd printed me two: a prototype and the real one. I removed the real one, gave it to my wife who in the past has been paid to glue things together and asked her to fix it for me. I put the prototype on the router table so at least I have dust collection again.

And that was about it for today. Spent a few quality hours in the shop, got it ready for real work again and made a handle for my paper towel dispenser.

Covid 19 week 5 - No, they aren't single cup brassieres

I didn't get into the shop this week. Here in New York State our governor Andrew Cuomo issued an Executive Order requiring anyone in a public place where they cannot maintain a 6 ft distance from others to wear a face covering that covers your nose and mouth. I am skeptical as to the usefulness of a cloth covering for personal protection; however, I can believe that something that will cover my coughs or sneezes would help protect other people in case I am an asymptomatic carrier. So instead of time in my shop I spent time in my sewing room.

I'd been doing research over the last few weeks looking for sewing patterns. Three weeks ago I fund one I liked that was a surgical face mask pattern - i.e. it had pleats - however I couldn't find it again. I did however find this pattern at Craft Passion that looked like it would work and perhaps even be easier to make.

I decided to teach myself how to sew this week and making face masks seemed like a reasonable place to start.

My wife helped me dig up some leftover fabric and showed me her sewing kit then left me to set up the sewing machine. Not having instructions I ran thread everywhere it looked like it should go. Oddly enough it didn't work. I ended up with about a mile of thread jamming up the bobbin - the thingy under the needle holding the bottom thread. Seeing me take a screwdriver to her 50 year old Kenmore sewing machine my wife took pity on me and showed me how to properly run the thread.

Then I was off the the races. I'd watched a number of videos to see how to sew these masks and the one by Amanda Todaro was the most helpful to me. I cut out the paper pattern, used it to trace out the requisite pieces of cloth. I ran then through the machine and voila! I had a prototype mask. I don't have elastic but I do have yards and yards of paracord so I thought I'd use that for ties. I used a dowel to feed two lengths of paracord through the loops in the ends left for that purpose.

It worked bu 1/4" paracord really wasn't very comfortable to wear. The other thing I didn't like was the fabric was pretty but I felt it was too thin.

This weekend my wife asked me to make masks for my in laws. I switched in some thicker cloth for the inner liner. It isn't as pretty as the outer fabric but it is a bit heavier so it will hopefully do a better job of filtering droplets.

The cords are the same material as the inner liner just folded over four times (three times?) with a stitch run down the approximate middle. Much more comfortable than the paracord.

I want to try  incorporating a nose wire in my next set. These did okay but I was noticing that when I exhaled I had a breeze going into my eyes that I couldn't get rid of by adjusting the mask. Except when I pinched it to my nose the breeze went away. I have some 16-3 romex that I can strip down for some 6" lengths of wire.

I'm very happy with my face coverings...  Are they good? Most certainly not on the scale of anyone who does any quantity of sewing. Are they done and functional? Yes. Did they survive their first run through the washing machine? Yes.

One of the cool things about sewing is the similarities to wood working. No, there aren't mortise and tenon joints in sewing. You don't have to worry about wood stretching as your are gluing it together. However, The need for precision cutting and fastening is there. Knowing how to make a good joint between two pieces is important too. The need for hand eye coordination is much the same even if the actual motions are different.

If you're reading this and want a mask, let me know. I'll make you one.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Covid 19 week 4 - Finished Paper Towel Dispenser

The paper towel dispenser is done. It still needs finish but with my wife and I working from home we're using the finishing room as an office (technically, it's always been our office, I just do my finishing in there because we don't allow the cats in there. Because my finishing room isn't available I'm going to do the finishing in the garage. However, temperatures here this last week and predicted for the next ten days are dropping into the 30's overnight and are only reaching the 50's (Fahrenheit) during the day. And rain...  oh, the rain.

Last week I'd built my box joint jig and made a couple of 1/4" thick quarter sawn white oak panels. This week I wanted to finish building the box.

I started by making a test joint in some 1/4" plywood. My previous experience with setting up box joints is they are very fiddly and require a lot of set up. In this case, to my surprise my first joint just worked. I thought about cutting more test joints but since the first one worked and the entire box is just a learning experiment I figured I should just dive in.

I started on the front right corner of the dispenser. Unfortunately I made two errors. The first error was not making sure I had enough room to cut the entire joint. I got most of the way through the first joint when my router table fence which I'd swung to the side got in the way of the front panel. Simple enough I thought. I'll just move the fence. And here is where I made my second mistake.

Since the panel was doing a pretty good job of staying in place I let go of it. The panel then promptly fell into the still running router bit. I didn't try to grab it. I learned that lesson years ago. However, the router bit did a great job of boring a hole into the panel. Needless to say I was disappointed. Fortunately the hole was near the end of the panel so I decided to just make the dispenser a little shorter.

After I finished the first half that corner I moved onto the side panel for the same corner. There was much less drama with the side panel. Test fitting the joint it came together a little snug but otherwise perfect.

At this point I was getting a little bored. I decided to pair up the sides and cut two halves at the same time. There's some risk from the extra complexity of managing two boards at the same time but on the other hand it cuts the time in half as you have half the number of cuts. This seemed to go okay but made me nervous since it was more challenging to keep the boards aligned properly. I cut the rest of the boards one at a time. Maybe I'll move onto the more advanced techniques once I get a little more practice.

Anyway, I worked my way around the box doing the rest of the joints. Unfortunately after the first corner my joints kept getting worse. I played around with how I was putting pressure on the jig and the boards in the jig. Frankly I'm not sure if it was that or that I was using oak which would occasionally splinter leaving me an odd sized finger in the joint. Since the spacing of all the joints down the line depend on the size of the previous finger one poorly cut finger messes everything up.

I think I'll come back and try again with a more forgiving wood like poplar or cherry.

Anyway, I used a chisel to trim fingers to get everything to fit. It doesn't look good but it worked. I could use wood filler of some sort if I cared but this is a workshop project. Also, I like keeping my early bad attempts around because when I end up mastering something I can see how far I've come. I'm not embarrassed by not being good at everything on the first try. It's part of living, learning, and growing.

I had an idea of how I wanted the opening in the bottom of the box to work so I traced it out on a piece of 1/4" plywood and cut it out with a jigsaw. I liked the look and it seemed to work for dispensing the towels so I used the better looking half to trace out the shape on a couple pieces of scrap (one being the off cut from my mistake on the front panel). After gluing up the box I just glued these directly to the bottom with no joinery.

I'd intentionally cut the fingers a little long so they were proud of the sides. I used  my stationary belt sander to bring them flush, then used my random orbit sander to remove the scratch marks left by the belt sander.

Looking at my glued up box with one short side I decided that instead of cutting the other sides down to the same height as the front I could instead cut the sides at an angle and have a slopped top. My thought was that maybe it would also help keep it from accumulating dust in the shop. I used a straight edge to mark the cut then eyeballed the angle on my table saw. It took two passed (front and back) to cut all the way through but it came out fine.

I looked for a single piece of scrap wood that I could make the top out of but all my scraps were either too thin or were too small in one of the other dimensions. Instead I took some of my 1/4" scrap and laminated them together with the top piece being larger than the box and the inner being a tight press fit. The lid has no mechanical fasteners, it gets held in place with gravity.

Along the process of construction I'd briefly thought about using a french cleat to hold it to the wall but I wanted this to be a quick build. I haven't mounted it to a wall yet; however, I am most likely just going to drive a couple screws through the back. Now that the back is taller than the front I wont even have to angle the screw holes.

It's too cold here in upstate New York to do finishing outdoors and since my family is sheltering in the home I'm deferring all my finishing for a few weeks. I've got a backlog of quarter sawn white oak projects. They're all probably going to get Watco Dark Walnut Danish Oil and a few coats of wipe on polyurethane. I'll post pictures when they are all done.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Covid 19 Week 3.1 - Box Joint Jig

I worked on two projects today. The first thing I did today was decide how I wanted to "lock" the weapons onto the mounts. I came up with a simple restraining arm that will screw into the end of one of the pegs and will be able to be swung across the front to keep the weapon from falling off the pegs. I cut the restraining arms, sanded and fit them today. I didn't get pictures so I'll make sure to get those into the final pictures when the project is done. Now I just need to wait for a few days where the weather will permit me to apply some danish oil and polyurethane.

My big project for today was building a new box joint jig that I'll use for building my paper towel dispenser. I mentioned in a previous post that during the early days of the covid crisis people were buying every paper product and hoarding it. I happened to be out of or low on pretty much every paper product you can think of so when I found some tri-fold towels at BJsI bought some. Now that the stores are restocked we can get most things so I'm going to use the tri-fold towels in my shop. They'll probably actually be better than "normal" paper towel rolls as far as convenience goes.

The box joint jig starts with a base that keys into the miter slot and is locked into place with a couple of clamps. I'm using some cheap C-clamps that I probably bought from Big Lots. I just thought I'd use them because they were low profile and I haven't really ever used them much yet. I used my router table to cut two slots the length of the base that will accept runners from the movable part of the jig.

The larger of the two holes is for the router bit. The smaller of the two holes is for access to the router lift mechanism so I can adjust the height of the cut without removing the jig. I drew the line across the jig to show when the sliding part has cross the middle of the bit so I know when I've completed my cut.

The sliding part of the jig is made up of a 1/4" plywood base that slides on two runners captured in the slots in the jig base. The fence is two pieces of 1/2" plywood. The front fence is held to the back fence with a couple of t-bolts and t-slots. The sliding fence will allow me to make micro-adjustments to fine tune the fit of the joints.

I finished up my workshop hours to glue the key in place so  I didn't actually try it out yet. I'll try to get some better pictures of the jig in use when I cut the joints on the towel dispenser.

Speaking of the towel dispenser, I'd resawn and glued up some quarter-sawn white oak panels earlier this week. While I was waiting for the glue to dry on the jig I worked on cleaning up the panels. I briefly thought about sending them through the planer to get them level; however, I'd done a pretty good job getting the boards lined up when I clamped them. I was able to scrape the glue then use my random orbit sander with 60 grit paper to get them flat quickly, then 80, 120, 180, and finally 220 grit to smooth them out.

That was today's progress. Hopefully I'll be able to get into the basement tomorrow and make more progress.