Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Done with Chibi's Cabinet

The woodworking for Chibi's cabinet went by fast. The finishing, however, took me a while longer. With the exception of my router table, this is the biggest finishing job I've had to do. There were a couple of things that didn't make it as easy:

  • This cabinet isn't on wheels, so it took a bit more effort to raise it up so I could stain and finish it. Not having an assembly/finishing table is a liability.
  • There were doors and stuff that required more flat area to work with. Using my outfeed table as a finishing table doesn't really work since it's too tall and there's always too much dust in the garage.
Overall, it took me a while longer, but I think that it came out nice. I used Rustoleum Ultimate Wood stain in Summer Oak. I wasn't counting on the color of the stain to match up well with the bamboo flooring in my room, but it was a nice surprise. I'm happy with how the wood stain works. I get the color I want in one coat, and the color seems fairly even on the birch plywood.

Considering I used cheapo plywood (relatively speaking), I'm surprised at how well the finish took. I thought I'd have to spend a lot more money to have a product that would be easy to work with. I'm not sure as to the durability of the product, but since I made my garage cabinets with this same stuff and it's still working out well, I'm pretty satisfied with the plywood.

Putting on the polyurethane turned out to be the adventurous part of this project. Once the stain dried, I wanted to try a wipe-on finish since it tends not to collect dust and I wouldn't have to worry about brush marks. Doing the research, I tried a 3:2:1 wipe-on mix of mineral spirits, poly, and linseed oil. I thought it added a nice depth to the stained wood, but it took forever to dry. It was basically on the order of apply a couple coats, wipe off the excess, and come back tomorrow. While I like the look, I'm not sure I'm going to use it much in the future. The wait time just kills me, but then again, I'm very impatient.

While doing some research into other wipe-on finishes, I saw an article that recommended a 3:2 mineral spirits and poly mix. Since it was basically the same thing without the oil, I gave it a shot, and I think I found a winner. It dried fast, was very easy to apply, and was predictable. I used a wet sanding process to knock down any dust nibs in between coats, and I was able to get the rest of the coats on quickly and without much issue. Since I don't have much in the way of a finishing area, I can't have all my projects that are being finished sitting around somewhere that's dusty, so the speed of the wipe-on finish is a huge help.

Of course, since there was some really bad weather, I wanted this cabinet in the house. I found out a couple of things the hard way when reassembling the cabinet. The first is that even though plywood is stable, it still does expand and contract a fair amount when exposed to the humidity that the weather brought. I almost couldn't get the drawer back into the case, and it's still really tight. I'm going to let it dry out a little in my room and see if the fit improves. If not, I might have to take the drawer out and plane down the sides slightly so the slides don't bind up. I'll have to be more careful about sizing the drawer boxes on my next build.

The second thing is that the cabinet required me to take off my closet doors because if they were there, the cabinet wouldn't work at all. I could have solved that with sliding doors, but I was going to change out the doors on my closet eventually anyway. I figured I can re-purpose the closet doors in some way. The wood on the doors is great considering how old it is, and if I strip the paint off, I might end up with some great lumber to use on something else.

Overall, I'm happy with this build, and I'm ready to start making the furniture for Nadine and getting the room furnished. I have a couple of night stands, a double dresser, and a bookcase in the works, so I'll have my hands full working on woodworking things. I hope that means I can keep this blog a little more active.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Cabinet for Chibi

After taking a fairly long hiatus from woodworking, I finally got my room finished up to the point where we could move back in. That meant I could start working on building furniture for the room. I figured that this is going to be the best way for me to really learn how to do things right and it also gives me a good chance to learn woodworking skills I don't have yet.

Of course, to start off with something successful, I decided that I would make a storage cabinet for Chibi. Well, it's not really for the cat -- he couldn't care less about furniture or anything like that. What he does need, however, is a place for us to keep his food, extra litter, and things like toys, grooming supplies, etc. I designed a fairly standard base cabinet that will house his things. It's basically standard width and height (24" across, 36" high), but it's only 21" deep since it has to fit comfortably in his little closet area. I figured that if I could design and build a cabinet like this, I can easily make the cabinets for my mom's kitchen when we get around to it (hopefully soon).

The cabinet is built out of birch plywood from the Orange Borg. Since this is for the cat, I decided I wasn't going to spend an arm and a leg on the materials. After all, it's going into the closet where it'll hardly be seen. I want it to be nice, but it doesn't have to be made out of mahogany plywood.

After taking time to clean off and re-lubricate the top on my table saw -- cast iron rusts instantaneously here in Hawaii -- I was off and running. Not having worked on cutting wood in a while left me trying to remember how to do a lot of things, but it did come back to me fairly quickly. Cutting rabbets and dadoes went fast, and assembly was much easier than I remember it being when I built my garage cabinets and my router table. I didn't even blow out any brads when I was toe-nailing the panels in place.

Drawer construction was next. I built the drawer using my normal locking rabbet joinery since it's easy for me to do with just the table saw.  Of course, we always need a place where stupid mistakes come, and with me, it's always on drawers. This time, I didn't account for the groove for the bottom and promptly wasted a good piece of 1/4" plywood when I cut the bottom to the wrong size. I figured I can use the sheet for some other project in the future, so I saved the cut piece and made another panel that did fit. Other than that, the drawer was fine, and the fit is a shade tight in the carcase, but the drawer works well.

I opted for two doors instead of one big door so I wouldn't run into any problems with the door being too heavy for the hinges. I did a standard Shaker-style frame and panel door made from plywood. Those went together nice and easy without incident.

The top is made just like the top on my router table -- two layers of 3/4" MDF with laminate for the top. I had an extra piece of laminate from my router table, so I used that to top the MDF. I edged the top with some maple I got from the Borg. I learned quick that I need to either get my blade sharpened, figure out the right feed rate, or get a rip blade (or all of the above). I was burning up the maple like crazy, but I was able to sand out the marks. I'm going to blame it on lack of experience more than anything -- my saw is tuned and aligned properly, so I'm confident the problem lies with me using plywood all the time, and my blade cuts through plywood like butter, even when the blade is dirty and all gummed up. The blade is over a year old and I've cut plywood, oak, MDF, laminate, and masonite on it. It's been cleaned a few times, but I'm pretty sure it's due for some sharpening. I guess I have to research blade sharpening services.

Overall, I'm happy with how this turned out. I'm definitely more confident with my woodworking skills when it comes to making Euro-style cabinets, and so I think that my next few attempts at things will be furniture with face frames.

All I have left on this project is to do final sanding, drill for the hardware, and put on the stain and polyurethane. I should be able to finish that up in the next couple of days, and so I'll be able to get this into the room over the weekend. Next up after this is to do some work on a double dresser for Nadine. She needs a place for her clothes and kimono things. I'm still trying to recover from the $130/sheet price I was quoted for some cherry plywood and carefully work it out so that I can try to make the entire cabinet from one sheet of plywood along with some hardwood trimming. The good news is that I still have a lot of 1/2" plywood from this project, so I can use that to build drawers for the dresser. I just need a sheet or two of 1/4" ply, and that's cheap.

I hope to get at least 2-3 more projects out before my birthday, so let's see if I can keep up the momentum.