Thursday, September 26, 2013

Finishing the top, and it's pretty much done

I glued up the pieces for the top of my planer cart yesterday afternoon, and I left it overnight to dry. I had to run to the store to pick up some things to mount the casters and things like that, so once I picked up all the things I needed, I was able to finish up the top.

The top is constructed out of a double layer of 3/4" MDF. I then topped it with a piece of 3/16" masonite. I oversized the masonite and then used my flush trim bit on my router to trim it perfect. I learned my lesson with that when I built my storage cabinets and bench when I tried to size the masonite perfectly. I struggled as normal trimming out the top with pine since my mitering skills suck. I'm thinking I just need more practice with it.

I installed the magnetic catches for the doors so they stay closed, and then put on the casters. I'm seriously questioning the logic of Home Depot's caster selection. I wanted two total locking casters and two regular casters -- they have total locking casters but no equivalent non-locking swivel casters. I had to resort to a couple conventional casters with brakes and two regular swivel casters. It doesn't lock down as solidly as I want, but it's solid enough.

It's all together, and it rolls around well.
With this done, I have to get the finish on it and the genius me forgot to buy some small lag bolts to attach the planer to the top, so I'm back to the hardware store tomorrow to get that. I think I'll leave this piece unstained and just put some kind of polyurethane or spar varnish on it. I'm leaning towards the spar because I'm going to have to roll this thing outside my garage to plane wood, so it will spend a little time outside.

I think that I can get the coats of finish on tomorrow and then work on filling up the cabinet with my assembly tools, nailers, and other stuff. With this done, I have to think about building an upgraded miter saw stand. After that, I'll try and clear up more space in the garage so that I can have room to build some other things for my room. I have a bookcase and my nightstand to make, so I have to pick up some wood for that. Of course, now that I have a home for my planer, rough hardwood lumber is probably in my future so I can build something using some decent wood and I can try my hand at making something using materials other than what I can get at the borgs.

It's like my router table's little brother.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Another jig, and trim options

I've been taking my time on the planer cart so I can get all the drawer fronts and doors built up properly. I learned that the hinges I bought for the doors didn't fit perfectly, so I had to do a little bit of sanding here and there to make it work out right. Lesson learned on hinges - get ones that are adjustable. I should have bought some different hinges, but for the price, I'm not complaining. I also know that these are for shop cabinets, not something that I'll be putting in my room or the house. I have to get a magnetic catch for the doors, but since I still need to buy casters, I can probably take care of that this afternoon.

Since I wanted the drawer front to have a raised panel look as well, I was contemplating how to work that out because my panel raiser has a back cutter. I could have undone the bolt and took off the back cutter, but I didn't want to take the bit apart. I have a tenoning jig built already, but it's not quite the right shape for most door panels. Since I did have some extra plywood, I built myself a panel raising jig. It took me all of about 20 minutes and now I have something I can use for more types of finish trim on my cabinets.

Works great. Now I can raise panels on the saw.
I cut my drawer front to size and then I set my saw to an 18 degree bevel, which I worked out was the same bevel as the panels in the door. I decided to not field the drawer front, so it just has the bevels on the edges.

After doing some sanding, I got it attached to the drawer box. I had to adjust my slides since I wasn't exactly thinking straight when I put them in originally. I thought I would have to rabbet the back of the drawer front, but I realized that I didn't need to do that. Because of that I had to move my slides so that the drawer box was flush to the front of the face frame. Setting the front was no problem, and I got it screwed to the box.

Looks like it all fits and works out okay. Better build the top now.
Now that I have the trim worked out and everything fits well, I can turn my attention to the top and get this all finished up. I made a sample panel that I have some stain on, but I'm debating just finishing this clear and let it darken with age. I have a lot of polyurethane left over and I don't really need it stained. Plus, the pine showed some grain reversal and some blotching that I'm not really sure I want to have to take the time to deal with since this is just a shop cart. On the other hand, my router table is stained and finished nicely, so I think I might want to actually finish it properly so it'll sort of match. I do have a fair amount of cherry stain left over from building my router table, so I do want to use that up. I'll think about it a bit more and then work on that.

The nice thing about this cart is that it gives me more storage space. I put my air stapler and pin nailer in the drawer and I see that I have tons of room for the nails and screws I usually use. This way I can keep all my assembly tools nearer to my assembly area (currently my outfeed table).

Tons of room for my assembly tools. This will be great.
I'm going to have to build another cabinet soon so that my chop saw is going to have something good to sit on. Now that I'm getting done with this, I'm seeing that my chop saw is looking pretty sad just on the makeshift table I made for it.

I have to get these shop projects done, then clean up the garage so I have more space. I want to build a bookcase and there's no way I'm going to be able to make it in the garage right now. I don't have enough free floor space for that.

As always, there are tons of things to do, but it never seems like there's enough time to do all of it.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Doors for the planer cart

I got to work today on building the doors for my planer cart. I figured I'd do this before the drawer because I can make drawers without many problems. The difference here is that since I've never done a face frame type build, I wasn't exactly sure how to size up the doors so everything would fit right. I'm pretty comfortable with making doors for a frameless build. I wanted to try a 3/8" lipped inset door, so I had bought a couple sets of cheap hinges that would accommodate that. Of course, it cost me $7 for all the hinges I needed. I consider that to be much better than the ~$30 I usually spend for concealed hinges. Maybe next time I'll build them with completely inset doors and I'll mortise the hinges into the frame and door.

I've made frame and panel doors before fairly often, but I've always just done a stub tenon and groove type construction with a flat panel. This let me use plywood for the doors. Since I obviously can't be making doors out of plywood forever, I got a couple router bit sets from Yonico. I got these sets because I didn't want to spend $150 on a door making set I might not use that frequently. I paid about $100 for two sets of bits. I got a rail and stile bit with a roundover profile and a rail and stile bit with a panel raiser with a beveled profile. Considering that some panel raising bits cost close to $200 by themselves, I consider these bits to be VERY price-friendly for us cheap frugal woodworkers.

I've only made samples out of scrap wood with these things so I've never really got a good chance to use them for real. This time I decided I'd try out the bevel profile set. I ripped the pine to width and crosscut them to length so I could build the frames. After doing some setup and layout, I coped the rails first.

Rails are coped. Works great.
After coping the rails, I then set up the stick bit to mill the groove on the rails and stiles. That worked out really well, and my dry fit of my doors worked out great.

Doing my dry fit showed that it all worked out pretty close to perfectly. I'm sure that a set of higher quality bits would give me better and smoother cuts, but I'm sure that I can just sand the slightly rougher spots smooth. It's not like I don't have to sand the rest of the project. So, I can't really justify buying a set of bits that's 2-3x the price if this gives me the results I'm looking for. Of course, since I'm cutting pine, I'd expect these bits to work well. I haven't built doors with hardwood yet, so I can't say how they'll handle coping and sticking something like maple. I'm sure I'll get a chance to do that. I'm guessing that will come when I finish this cart and I can buy some rough hardwood lumber that I can plane to thickness. Then I'll get to really give my equipment a test to see how it handles harder wood. I know that what I have cuts poplar like it's butter and it handles oak pretty easily too, but anything harder than that, I don't know.

Dry fit is good. Now can make the field.
All I have left to do for these doors is to make the panels for the field. I have some pine that I can use for that. I'm going to try the panel raiser to make the field, and so we'll see how that turns out.

Once I get this put together, I'll build the drawer and cut the associated front for it. I think I could use my tenoning jig to raise panels on the table saw for the drawer front, but I'll have to think about that when the time comes.

Still have more work to do today on this stuff, so I guess my break is over for now...

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A shop project - my planer cart.

Since getting a Dewalt 635 planer from Nadine a couple weeks ago, it's been sitting on the garage floor under the outfeed table for my table saw. I did put it through a couple of test runs already and it works great. It does snipe, but I'm going to pick up the infeed and outfeed supports for it when I get a chance to help with that. It really is a great tool, and I'm looking forward to using it when I have to make some furniture using actual quality hardwood.

If there is a downside to the planer, it's that the thing weighs almost 100 pounds, so carrying it around isn't exactly a walk in the park. I know that I can deadlift over 250 easily, but I like to keep that in the gym. Whoever decided that a tool that weighs this much is "portable" needs to have a lesson in what portable means. So I don't throw out my back moving this thing around my garage, I got to work on making a cart for it. The big upside to this project is that a good chunk of the project helps me use up all the scrap wood from the chest of drawers I just made.

All glued up. My planer looks lonely under the table.
I was able to build the carcase out of the remaining 3/4" birch plywood I had from the chest of drawers, and the drawer will be built from the remaining 1/2" plywood. I did have to go out and buy a sheet of MDF and masonite for the top and a couple pieces of pine for the face frame and the top, but in general, this project is turning out to be relatively cheap considering that I didn't have to go out and buy all new wood for it. Assembly went through without incident, and I was able to get it together and nailed without any blowouts.

I wanted to try something different with this build, so I decided I should apply a face frame to this cabinet and get used to doing face frame cabinet making. After all, not everyone is going to want Euro frameless cabinets and I'd hate to tell someone in the future that I wouldn't be able to build them something because I couldn't make it look the way they wanted it to.

After picking up some more #2 pine from Home Depot today, I got to work making the face frame. I ripped the pieces to a uniform width and then used my chop saw to make the crosscuts for length. I think I'm going to have to send my chop saw blade off for sharpening soon. There's no way a 60 tooth ATB blade should cut worse than the 50 tooth combo blade that's in my table saw. Diablo blades don't suck, but I have had this same blade in my chop saw since the day after I got it, and I've only cleaned it a few times.

I guess this counts as a dry-fit.
I know that most "real" woodworkers scoff at the notion of using pocket screws, but I've learned a couple things through my journey into woodworking:

  • There's more than one way to skin a cat.
  • I'm not setting up for mortise and tenons just for a face frame.
  • I have a Kreg jig, and I'm going to use it in situations where it works well.

I decided to put together the face frame with pocket screws since it seemed that it required very little setup and I rarely use my Kreg jig because I'd rather use other joinery methods. My other justification for this is that the pockets are on the back side (i.e., the inside of the cabinet), so who the heck is going to see them? Besides, this is a project for my shop, so I'm going to be the only one who sees this all the time. I also feel that since Norm uses them, it can't be all bad.

I'm glad that I build my things carefully and make sure that these things are as square as I can manage. This made the face frame fit very well. I had to just glue and brad the frame onto the carcase since I don't have a biscuit joiner and a million clamps. I have wood filler to fill the nail holes and I'll just be careful with it so I don't smear it all over the wood. I had some issues with that when I built my chest of drawers and that stuff doesn't pick up the stain or dye very well.

Glued and nailed. Just have to sand now.
I was quite surprised at how stiff the front of the cabinet is with the face frame in place. I've known through my research that a face frame does add stiffness, but that the actual difference in cabinet strength is negligible when compared to a well built Euro cabinet. I'm beginning to wonder if that's for real. I was able to rack the vanity I made for Chibi fairly easily. I think I'd have to put some serious weight to try and draw the front of this thing out of square.

I have a storage drawer for this to make along with a pair of doors. I have a pair of hinges for 3/8" inset doors, so I'm going to give that a shot this time around. I also want to try and use my door-making router bits. I made a couple of samples so I know they work properly, but things always change when you make things for keeps.

I think that aside from being a home for my planer, I'm going to keep my nailers and fasteners in this cart. Right now I store those things in my back bench, and it's always a hassle to have to go past my table saw to get back there. If it were in a cart that I could keep near my router table, it would be a lot easier.

This should be another fast and easy project for me. I know that these shop things are basically practice for when I have to make kitchen cabinets, so I'm welcoming the challenge, and the practice is always good.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

All Done. Forward to the next project.

I got the dresser into the room last night, and like all the other pieces of furniture I've built, my cat decided to give it a test run.

My cat loves to sit on the furniture. Of course, he's so fickle, he'll treat it like it's been there for a million years in a couple of days. Nadine hasn't filled it up with stuff yet, but it's been a pretty busy week of work for both of us, so maybe it'll be a weekend thing. The dresser fits nicely in the room, and I think it'll give Nadine a lot of good space for her kimono and other Japanese dance things. I'm fully aware that it doesn't match the air cleaner sitting next to it, but it's not the same color as the nightstand either and I think they go pretty well together in the room. I was going to originally finish all the bedroom furniture the same way, but what's the fun in that?

Aside from the mishap with the drawer fronts, I thought this project was a good one. It's by far the largest single piece I've made, but not the most expensive in terms of material cost. That's still my router table, mostly because of the cost of the router plate and I needed a lot of plywood and MDF to put that together. This one only required a little more than a sheet of 3/4" ply, a sheet of 1/2" ply, and a couple sheets of 1/4" ply along with the solid pine, which isn't that expensive.

One of the things I'm really happy with on this project is the finish. It's still not perfect -- I'm going to need to do some rubbing out of the finish to make it closer to what I 'm aiming for. I was very happy with how the glue sizing controlled the color, and I really like how the dye brings out some of the figure in the wood. The birch plywood had some interesting patterns on it that I couldn't really see until I hit it with the dye and started putting on the poly. I was able to work up some wipe-on procedures I'm happy with and it gave me a better finish than I got on the nightstand, so I'm pretty sure this will get better over time. I especially like the wipe-on technique because it kind of keeps me from building up the finish too thick and making the piece look like I shrink-wrapped it, so it has a nice shine and it still looks close to the wood.

I might have to think about getting some other colors of the dye I used to try on future projects. One of the best surprises I got on this project was how the finish just popped when I put the clear finish over the dye. It was so drab and dull with just the dye on, and everything came to life with the polyurethane on it.

Now that this project is in the books and in my room, I have to move on to my next project. Since I got that new planer, I have to make something to put that on so it doesn't sit on the garage floor. I also wanted to improve my miter saw stand because it's just a table that I threw together out of scraps and it's sorely inadequate.  I thought about building them into a storage solution together, but I'm not going to be using them at the same time, so I'm going to make a couple different pieces. I have to look at some design ideas for the planer cart since I want to find a way to work in some support so it doesn't snipe as much. I have to pick up the extension tables for the planer too, but I want to have it on something to bolt the planer down to that's good and mobile. At almost 100 pounds, the planer definitely isn't something I want to be lifting up over and over.

After I work on building my shop stuff, I have to get back on track with finishing up furnishings for my room. I have my nightstand, a bookcase, and built-in storage for the closet to build. I think I might work in a blanket case as well, but I don't want to use up all the floor space in my room. I like the openness that the room has now, and I want to keep it that way as much as I can.

I have just about a full week of work lined up next week already, so woodworking is going to turn into a late afternoon/weekend thing, but I think that I'll be able to get things done.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Mistakes, finishing, and an unexpected gift

The chest of drawers was coming along nicely all up until I got to the drawers. I got the frame done, I edged it out in pine, and it looked like I was finally going to have an incident-free build. Of course, since I guess I'm required to have one major learning moment during every project, I got one in a major way this time. The drawers are made of 1/2" plywood with a 1/4" ply bottom. Since engineered materials like plywood are relatively consistent, that wasn't my problem. The problem came when I decided to use solid wood for the fronts. When I make fronts for my shop cabinets and other cabinet-type things, I usually make the box entirely of 1/2" material, then apply a false front. This prevents me from having to do joinery on the front itself. Since the chest of drawers qualifies as furniture and my nightstand drawer wasn't hard to build, I figured that this should be a fairly painless process. Here's where I learned a couple of things:

  • Poplar is way more consistent than pine.
  • The poplar I bought for the nightstand was much flatter than the pine I used for this project.

I went with pine on this project because I wanted it to have a more Shaker-inspired look. My nightstand, while also Shaker-inspired, was finished so it would look like cherry. When I think of Shaker stuff, I don't always think of cherry as the first material to use. I tend to think of maple or pine. Being a bit on the cheap frugal side, I used #2 pine. I thought the knots and defects added some character. I thought I was being pretty careful with stock selection. I guess that I thought wrong.

My initial set of drawer fronts was going along well until I decided to make the grooves for the joinery. First thing I did was reference the wrong face against the fence. That meant the groove was in the wrong place. I also tried to fix it by centering the groove. Of course, that would only work if the stock were straight and flat. A couple of the pieces were far from that. After totally mangling my first set of fronts, I had to build a new set of fronts, which meant I had to buy more wood.

So as to not waste some decent stock, I cut the grooves and stuff off the drawer fronts that weren't too bad, and edge glued them to make a top for my nightstand. I haven't settled on a design for it yet, but at the very least, I have a top.

At least I have a top for my nightstand..
 After buying some new pieces of pine that were considerably flatter than the ones I bought initially, I recut the fronts and did the joinery properly. This time I didn't make a hot mess of everything and I was able to do a decent dry fit and assembly of the drawers.

Once I finished up the drawers, I started work on the base. This I made from the solid pine that I had left over from making the drawer fronts. This turned out to be a lot easier than the drawers. The hardest part was cutting the wood out to make the feet. I tried using a technique I saw Norm do when he was making his jewelry box. This involved the router table and a spiral bit. It worked out great, and I'm convinced I should use it in the future since I don't really trust myself with setting up a circular saw and straightedge to make cuts other than roughing out plywood, and there's no way I'm going to try a plunge cut on my table saw.
The new drawer fronts. Properly fitted...
 Assembly of the base was pretty good. I still can't really cut miters that well, but I blame part of that on the fact that one of the pieces wasn't totally flat. Again, my lack of perfect stock is messing with my results, but it wasn't anything that couldn't be worked out.

After getting all the major pieces together for the bottom, I got to work on the top. Since I didn't want to make a large solid wood panel and have to glue up a lot of stock to make the top, I went with edged plywood. I saved a nice piece from my rough cuts and sized it up, then cut a groove on three sides so that I could fit the edging in. I made the edging by ripping some of the pine I had left to size and then cut a tongue to fit the groove. Again, my miters weren't quite as good as I wanted, but I know that I'll get better with practice.

The top was attached with very little effort and I used a 3/8" beading bit to cut a nice profile on the top. Aside from the small roundovers on the drawer fronts, there isn't much in terms of decorative elements. Since this is Shaker-inspired, I didn't want to embellish it up too much. Besides, I like the way the simple lines look.

With all the major woodworking done, I'm currently working on the finish. My test pieces came out pretty okay, but there was a fair amount of blotching around the knots. Since I used #2 pine, there are obviously a few knots that I have to contend with. After looking through some techniques online, I found that using some kind of pre-stain sealer helps, but most of the commercial ones are pretty useless. Being of a kind of DIY bent about this, I made my own glue sizing. It only took some Elmer's Glue-All diluted 5:1 in water so it kind of resembles something like milk. I painted that on the surface of the case, and let it dry. I made a sample to test it before I tried it on the case, and it worked extremely well to control the color. The knots were very even and it looked good. With a coat of finish on it, I really liked the look, so I dyed the case with the maple dye I tested. Like always, it didn't look quite the same as my sample because there's a LOT more area than the sample, but it's come out pretty good. Since I know I have a procedure for adding the polyurethane, I'm going to apply finish to the case tomorrow. I have to glue size and dye the drawers, so that's going to be my job for tomorrow. I also have to put on poly on the insides of the drawers. There's a bit more to do from a finishing standpoint, but I know that I can get this done by Wednesday at the latest, then it can go into the room. I swear this thing weighs in excess of 100 pounds, but I know that I can get it into the house without much incident.
Drawers are sanded and the knobs are on. Ready for finishing.

Dye is on. Looks good. Have to apply the wipe-on poly tomorrow.
 I spent some time talking with Nadine about my birthday present. She felt pretty determined to get me something, so I told her that we could split the cost of a surface planer. After seeing my troubles with the solid stock on this project, she agreed it would be a nice thing to have. I was pretty set on getting a fairly inexpensive planer with the intention that I'd use it a lot, wear it out, then save up the money for a better one when the time came for me to get a better one. It turns out that Nadine had other ideas. While we were at Lowe's, I was looking at the Porter-Cable planer that I wanted, but she was looking at the DeWalt 735. I thought that $599 was a little steep for, especially since my table saw was $50 cheaper than that. Apparently Nadine really had other ideas. She decided that she'd get me the 735, and I wasn't going to pay for one cent of it! I felt bad about it since it is a lot of money, but she said that she knew I'd put it to good use and she'd end up with nice furniture in return, so it was a fair trade. I still have it in the box and haven't even tried it yet since I want to make sure I have a place to put it, so I'm working on a design for a combination cabinet for my planer and chop saw. I just hope that I'll get good use out of the planer and it will help me build better furniture.

This was NOT the planer I was expecting to come home with...

Friday, August 30, 2013

Chest of Drawers - case construction

I started work on the chest of drawers the other day, and I seem to be doing pretty okay with it. Frame construction was fairly straightforward. I got a little shut out in terms of materials since I was planning on using oak plywood with oak hardwood edging, drawer fronts, and moldings, but when I went to go buy wood, they didn't have any oak ply. I picked up a sheet of birch ply instead and got some #2 pine for the solid parts. I milled up everything pretty quick, and my Marples blade is still working great.
The outfeed table finally gets some real use. 6' pieces no problem.
 My outfeed table for my saw has been more of an assembly table than anything else mostly because I usually break down my plywood by making the rough crosscuts first. This is partly out of laziness because I don't want to carry huge pieces of ply into the garage. This time, however, I worked out my cut list to minimize the waste, and so I ended up making a 6 foot long piece and used the remnant piece to make the solid bottom. Needless to say, the outfeed worked great. 6' pieces of ply go through the saw like butter and sit comfortably on the table after the cut and don't need additional support. I suppose if I use a couple of roller stands, I could easily rip cut a full sheet of plywood. I have to organize my back bench so that it makes a good staging area to start these cuts.

Dust Frames.
After sizing out the sides, I built the dust frames that make the compartments for the dresser. Since I'm not using solid wood for this, I decided to make the dust frames pieces wider than I normally would so that it wouldn't sag. I probably should have put cross-members on all the frames, but the bottom two don't seem to be bothered much by the lack of a center rail.

Cutting out the dadoes and rabbets for the sides was a simple procedure once I got the dado set up to the right width. I worked out a cutting order for the sides, and got to work. Since my sides were cut up square and both pieces matched, assembly went through without much hassles until I got to the back.
Dry fit looks good.
It all fits!
Cutting out the back piece turned into a bit of an adventure because this piece of furniture exceeds my maximum rip cut in both dimensions, so the smart person would have sized the back in two pieces. Me being not quite so smart, figured out that I could sort of manage the rip cut with the fence way off at the end. Not smart...I'm lucky I didn't get a kickback and send the piece of plywood out the back of my garage. The piece of wood was also too wide for my panel cutter. Let's just say that next time, I'm making the back in two pieces and seaming it over one of the shelves.

Aside from that adventure with sizing the back, the assembly went pretty well. I got to test out my narrow crown stapler that I got from Harbor Freight. I have to say that for being a tool that didn't cost me more than $30, it performs great. I suppose part of its good performance comes from the Senco staples (that I think might have cost more than the tool).

I spent some time today working on the finish details. Since this piece is Shaker-inspired, I wanted something a little more on the classic side. I also wanted to try out some dye on this project. Since I was online buying air inlet caps for my brad nailer and finish nailer, I noticed the site I was on also sold aniline dyes. I picked up a bottle of cherry rosewood and pilgrim maple. I wanted to give this a shot since it was water based and the colors seemed to take a lot faster than the stains I can find in the store here.
It sure goes on strong...I hope that I don't regret this.

It looks good with finish on it and under the light.

Aside from the blotchy part near the knot, it took on the pine well.
I do like the ease of use of the dye. I do also like the fact that 1 ounce of dye power makes over a quart of usable liquid dye. Considering the coverage of this stuff, I think the sample batches I made will last me a while. I think I'll go with the maple color for this project since this is Shaker style and the color seems more even between the birch ply and the pine on the maple than the cherry rosewood. I do have to say the cherry rosewood is beautiful. I'll definitely have to save it for another project.

I didn't do much milling of stock today since I was testing out finishes, but I did manage to build the edging for the case and put it together. I spend the rest of the evening sizing up the drawers and I'll probably build those tomorrow. After that, I have to size up the top and build the base. I should be able to finish the woodworking on this by Sunday, then I have to finish it.

Nadine seemed happy with it even though it's only about half done, but she'll finally have a place to store her kimono stuff once it's finished. I do have another dresser I want to make, but I think a bookcase might come first. I'd like to get all my books and stuff back in my room. I still need to make my nightstand too.

So many little time and so little good wood available. I could really use a surface planer so that I'm not limited to wood from Home Depot and Lowe's.

Pine edging is applied. Time for some sanding and more sanding...and drawers.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The power of cheap...

I bought a pair of zero clearance inserts when I got my table saw because I did research into it and it seemed that for the optimum cut quality and safety, ZCI's are pretty much required. Since I only had one blade for my saw at the time, I didn't think I'd need more than one for a while. My saw is fairly well tuned, and so I didn't think that it would fall out of alignment any time soon (and it hasn't).

The issue came up when I sent my original combination blade off to be sharpened. So I wouldn't be laid up without a good standard blade, I bought an Irwin Marples blade. This blade is definitely worth the money -- if you want a good blade that won't set you back more than $50, I'd recommend you get one. But when I put it into my saw, I found out that the kerf isn't exactly the same as the Diablo blade I had in there. As a result, the cutout in my ZCI is now not quite right for either blade. The gap has widened to a little over 1/32" on either side, and for something that should be "zero clearance", it's not quite what I want.

My main issue with the aftermarket insert is that it costs about $30 with shipping. I decided that I should just make one of my own. I searched around my garage and found a piece of scrap MDF that must have been a remnant from making my router table. I ripped a 4" piece off the end of it and started working on making my own insert.

The nice thing is that there were a lot of instructions online from other owners of my R4512 saw. Several of them have posted their experiences making inserts along with photos. Using those as a starting point, I was able to put one together with some minor tweaking here and there.

The best thing about making these inserts is that I got to practice a few things that will make my woodworking better. The first is that it requires use of the router table. There were a few blind cuts and some flush trimming to do, and there was no way I was going to try and do that with a handheld router.

Threw on a coat of spar urethane to help protect it from moisture.
It took me a little over an hour to fit everything and make sure that it would work okay in my saw. It worked great, and now I have a proper insert for my Marples blade. I just got my Diablo blade back from sharpening (it's better than frightening), and so tonight I built another insert for that. I haven't cut out the slot in that one yet, but I'll get to that when I have to use that blade again.

The nice thing is that I can make about 15 inserts out of a quarter sheet of MDF. Considering that a quarter sheet of MDF costs under $20, I can make 15 inserts for a little more than a dollar each out of that quarter sheet. That's a heck of a lot better than almost $30 for one insert. I have to make a few for my stacked dado set so I can have a variety of inserts for different width dadoes and rabbets.

Now that I have these done, I know that I can get accurate, tearout-free cuts and I won't have to worry about thin strips falling in between the blade and the insert and getting thrown at my face at 150 miles an hour. I have to pick up the plywood and solid stock for the dresser I'm going to build, so I'll probably try to take care of that tomorrow after work.

Now I have a true ZCI for my Marples Blade.

Red insert for $30...MDF one for basically free...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The unintentional project

Since a dresser is up next on the docket for my bedroom, I want to design one that will work for what I need. Most of the plans I found online aren't quite right for my room because I want to have a certain amount of free space in the room, and many of the plans are either too big or too small. I found a couple that were close, but I don't want to buy a plan then have to make all sorts of modifications to the plan just to fit my needs. Of course the pseudo-engineer in my brain that I must have inherited from my dad said, "Just design one yourself." So, off to work I went.

I drew up a plan that I think will work, but just to get a general sense of scale for the piece, I decided to make a scale model. Looking at the easiest size proportion, it looked like 1/4 size would be the best. I found a couple pieces of 1/2" plywood scraps in my garage that were left over from building Chibi's cabinet and got to work. I tried to replicate the building techniques as closely as I could, and I ended up making a small two drawer mini dresser.

Not wanting leave it plain, I cut up a spare piece of maple I had lying around and made some veneer to cover the plywood edges. As I worked on it, it dawned on me that I should finish it all the way and see what it'll look like finished. I had to go out and buy a piece of poplar to make the drawers, but I figured that for $7, it wouldn't break the bank and I could make something useful of it.

I learned a few things while making this. The first is that end grain on maple is like rock and it's very difficult to rout. I could partially blame that on the fact that I probably was taking off too much material at once, but it's also because I was using a 1/4" shank bit and I didn't want that thing breaking off on me. After slowly building my 1/2" shank bit collection, I need more of those for edge forming. Those just feel more secure in the machine.

I also learned that I need to take some time to tune up my saw so it cuts straight and true again. It's pretty close, but I know that I have to make some small adjustments to the rip fence. I'm sure that because it's one of those that comes off and on and isn't built out of angle steel, all of the use I've been giving it has been slowly drawing it out of square, etc. As a result, some of my cuts didn't seem as precise as I wanted them.

The last thing I learned is that small projects are difficult to make and the tolerances have to be really exact. When you build a bigger project, if it's out of square by a little, it's okay and you can generally hide the errors. When you're working on something that's tiny, that 1/32" that it's out can really mess with things.

I am glad that I built this little mini-dresser. I think that Nadine can find some small things to put in it, and I know that when I get around to building the larger one, I will have a design that should work properly. I'm probably going to beef up the front edging to possibly make a full-fledged face frame and it will have 6 drawers total. I'd kind of like to dovetail the drawers together, but I think a locking rabbet may work just as well. Not having a dovetail jig also kind of helps make that decision...

I guess that I'll probably build the real dresser out of red oak plywood and solid edging. It's easily obtainable, and I won't run into the problem of having birch plywood sides with some other kind of wood as the solid wood that might become ugly as the piece ages. Since I don't have a surface planer either, buying other kinds of hardwood is not really an option since I can't plane it down to the right size and they don't sell S4S cherry at Home Depot or Lowe's.

I think I'll try something different with finishing and see if I can go with a two-toned look. Since most of the thing is maple, I think I'll stain all of that one color and pick a contrasting color for the poplar.

This was a real quickie of a project and it was fairly simple to put together, but I was able to get something useful out of it, and I think I might have the beginnings of a jewelry box design with the scale model.

Sometimes the best stuff happens unintentionally. I just wanted a scale model to work with, but I scored a nice piece of miniature furniture as a result.

Friday, August 16, 2013

All done..what's next?

I put on the last coat of poly yesterday, and I'm going to put the nightstand in the room today. Overall, I'm happy how it came out. I did learn that I should try to find better quality wood -- obviously wood from the Borg (orange or blue) isn't going to be what I'd like to work with on a regular basis, but since I don't have a planer, rough cut lumber isn't in my sights yet, so I just have to deal with that for now.

I am glad that I was able to make this nightstand quickly and without a lot of drama. I am finding that for every project I make, I almost always seem to acquire a new tool or parts for my existing tools. For this project, I got a couple new router bits.

I also am glad that with each project, I learn new skills. On this project, I learned how to layout and make mortise and tenon joinery and I also learned how to make tapered legs. I used locking rabbet joinery like I normally do when I make drawers, but this time I used a 3/4" front panel so I had to learn how to mill the locking grooves a little differently.

This project also got me to work on my finishing technique a little more, and I know that I have a way more to go on that. I have to be more diligent about my surface preparation by sanding enough and making sure I sand everything evenly. I also do need to work on my wipe-on finish technique. I do believe that these are all learning experiences, and that my future projects will come out better.

I think my next project will have to be a shop-related project. I have to make a dedicated table for assembly and finishing. Since I built Chibi's vanity, I realized that having a lower work surface would be a good idea. Even though this nightstand is just over 24" tall, I found that even that can be a little tall since my table saw sits about 37" high, so reaching around the top can be a chore.

I also need more storage for tools. I foolishly thought that my original set of cabinets would be enough. To be honest, they do hold everything pretty well, but over time, you can always make improvements. I'm finding that I want to keep my assembly and finishing tools in one place. That way I don't have to make trips around the garage to get things. I want it all in one place. Add on top of that the fact that pin nailer and stapler that I just got from Harbor Freight did not come with cases, and I now have a storage dilemma.

My goal for the assembly cabinet is pretty simple, I think. It has to be mobile, and it should have a good work surface I can use to assemble, sand, and finish my projects. I think that I'll build it in a similar fashion to my stationary bench, but I'll make it a few inches lower to give me some room to work so I don't put any pieces of wood through the lights in the ceiling of the garage. I want it to have a power strip so I can run my extension cord to it and run my compressor and sanders. It should also have some drawer and door storage for my nailers, compressor, and finishing supplies.

My next project for the room is going to be a dresser. I want to make sure that Nadine has enough storage for her kimono and all that. I think I've settled on a design, so I just need to start looking at the parts for it. I haven't decided yet what it's going to be made of, but since I researched and found that $130 for cherry plywood isn't a total rip-off, especially considering how much it must cost to ship it here, I might bite the bullet and use cherry plywood and solid cherry wood.

Always have to clean after the projects are done.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Staining and Finishing

I got the woodworking done with the nightstand on Monday when I finished up the drawer. I didn't get much done with it yesterday since I actually had a sub job, but I did manage to get it stained in the afternoon. I let the stain dry overnight, and so today I got to finishing it. I have to say that the wipe-on finishing method takes a bit longer, but it definitely is much easier than hoping dust doesn't settle on the drying finish or trying to sand out brush marks.

 The stain worked out pretty well on the poplar. I can't figure out if that's just because the stain is good or I got lucky, but it looks good, and that's all that matters to me. I think that I can probably get all the finish on today, and then I can let it cure and bring it into the room tomorrow.

This might be the only project I've ever finished within a week, and I'm glad that I did. I really want to have a good place to put the lamp and alarm clock, so this will go a long way for that.

I'm sure I'll take some better pictures of this when it's all done and in the room. I'm just glad I was able to put it together fairly easily.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

You really can't have too many clamps!

I did the glue up for the nightstand today, and I learned that humidity does some wacky things to wood. It's been raining the past day or so, and some of my previously very straight pieces of wood were swelling and starting to cup a little. I was shocked at how fast this happened, so I decided I better get everything together before I have to sacrifice pieces and start over. Fine tuning the tenons went easily, and I didn't have too much trouble except for one piece that didn't want to seat, but some gentle clamp pressure took care of that.

Looks good on the dry fit.
Whenever I watch Norm, he always mentions that you can never have too many clamps. Being that I've never really needed more than 2-3 at a time, I figured that running out of clamps wasn't something that I would be encountering as a problem until I try to do something more complex. Apparently today turned into that day.

This assembly wasn't difficult in the least, however, it did provide me with evidence that you can run out of clamps. Since I only have bar clamps, I learned that it doesn't distribute a lot of pressure over a wide surface. Along with the fact that I probably cut my tenons a little on the tight side, I needed some persuasion with the mallet and a few clamps.

Before I knew it, my glued assembly was done, and my clamp rack was totally empty except for my spring clamps, my 12" bar clamps, and my 5 foot long pipe clamps. I was shocked that it took that many clamps to get things together, but I think that in the future, I'll be better about getting the joinery more precise. That should alleviate the need for so many clamps. I will have to buy and make a few more. Since I'm going to have to make a second table later for my side of the bed, I want to make sure I have enough clamps. I think some of my future projects will need clamps as well, so making sure my clamp rack is filled up a bit more would be a great idea.

I can work on the top of the table and measure up for the drawer now, so I might actually be able to finish up the woodworking on this today. I am glad things came together smoothly, so I'll have to work on making sure it finishes up nicely.

All in all, this project isn't that difficult. I'm sure that when I make a second one, It'll turn out much better.