More Workshop Time

What a beautiful day. The morning started out with a spring snow. The temperature was just above freezing and the snowflakes huge. This afternoon the sun found its way out from behind the clouds and the temperatures soared into the mid-40s.

My Stanley No. 45 combination plane after making a 1/4" rabbet on a piece of scrap pine.
My Stanley No. 45 combination plane after making a 1/4″ rabbet on a piece of scrap pine.

The yard is still covered with nearly 2-feet of snow, but with warm temperatures I am able to keep the workshop comfortable with just a small electric heater. The kerosene heater puts out a lot of warmth, but at a cost. It is loud.

I put Pandora radio on the computer and spent the day cleaning the workshop. And throwing things away. I have way too much stuff in the shop. I didn’t get the font half of the shop cleaned, but I got the back half looking pretty good (for me). I even dug out an antique Stanley No. 45 plane and got it working – though the blade needs to be sharpened.

A reasonably clean workshop. I even vacuumed the floor. I still have more stuff than I need, but it is heading in the right direction.
A reasonably clean workshop. I even vacuumed the floor. I still have more stuff than I need, but it is heading in the right direction.

Snow day and working on the workshop

I decided to reorganize the “office” corner of the workshop. It is too cold to get too much woodworking done, but it is nice to reorganize things.

One of the biggest additions is a computer. Ben and I had picked up a handful of $20 small desktop computes for the boys Minecraft party in March. It is pretty slow, but it works. I set it up and added it to the wireless network. Now I can stream Pandora, write in my blog, and even play Minecraft with the boys. Though the computer can really only handle one thing at a time.

Now back to cleaning!

The office space in progress.
The office space in progress.

Workshop time with Ben

Ben sawing the legs of his shaker shop stool
Ben sawing the legs of his shaker shop stool

Ben is working on building a shaker shop stool. We watched the videos from 360 Woodworking and he decided that it was a project he could build (with a little help).

A week ago, Ben and I drove up to the J. Gibson McIlvain Lumber outlet in Danielson, CT to pick up a lumber for the project. I have lots of rough lumber here, but it is mostly Cherry and Oak, both of which are a little hard for him to use. Pine is soft enough that he doesn’t have too much trouble working it with hand tools. He picked up a nice clear 12″ wide piece of white pine for the project. Yes, for the same price as lumber at the box store, you get a much nicer piece wood from the lumber yard.

Last week we milled the pieces for the project. The board was flat enough from the lumber yard that we didn’t need to joint it, so it was a quick job on the planer and table saw.  Ben even used the table saw (with close supervision) to cut the pieces to length.

This weekend we cut the braces on the table saw, and Ben started hand cutting the dadoes on the legs and top. He did most of the work himself – though he did find the angled cuts a little hard. He chopped out the waste material with a chisel without any assistance, and the fit was pretty good.

Only three dadoes left to cut and he will be able to assemble the bench.  Now to source some more pine for the boys to use in the workshop…


The electronics charging station completed.
The electronics charging station completed.  Currently holding three iPads and a couple of phones.

I put the last coat of wiping varnish on the charging station last night. This morning I hung it in mud/laundry room.

I think I should have made it a little bigger, but it works. I think I’ll also add a power strip in the top section and try to hide the wires a little better. But a new power strip will have to wait until another day.  I’ll also need to order a couple of shorter (maybe 12″ long) lightning charging cables to keep it a little less cluttered.

This week is a good woodworking week. I finished a quick home project and have a toy box sitting in the workshop waiting for nice weather for delivery to Susanna’s school.  Two projects finished and it isn’t even February. Not a bad start to the year!

A couple of evenings in the workshop…

Nearly complete charging station.
Nearly complete charging station.

After a couple of evenings in the shop, I have the charging station nearly complete. The glue-up is finished and the piece is mostly sanded. I do have to decide if I am going to add a piece on the top to hide where the power strip will go.

I also have to route two groves in the back to allow wires to run up and down the box when it is hung on the wall. Which leads me to the final decision I’ll have to make. How to hang this on the wall… But I don’t have to make that decision today.

I added short wood pegs on the front edge of the bottom shelves to keep tablets from slipping out. The third shelf will hold phones, and the top is for the power strip.

I’ll finish the piece with a coat of shellac topped with a couple of coats of wiping varnish.  I should be able to hang it early next week.

I’m not 100% sure on how it looks, but I’ll have to wait to see how it looks hanging on the wall. I tapered the sides, but think maybe a larger taper would look better. And the shelf spacing isn’t perfect. I think the top shelf could be maybe an inch higher. Though maybe I could just clip the top inch off of the sides to make it look right. Thoughts?

Charging station (and other workshop progress)

Susanna putting a varnish finish on the second toy box for her preschool.
Susanna putting a varnish finish on the second toy box for her preschool.

Today was a good workshop day. Normally workshop time is alone time, but sometimes it is nice to have company. While, I did get most of the day alone in the shop, Susanna joined me after she came home from work. I had put the first coat of varnish on the toy box last night, and she sanded and put the second coat on this afternoon (while I glued up the charging station).

I took the morning to get started on the charging station for the new mud/laundry room. Our kitchen counter is a tangled mess most of the time (and all the time when the boys are here), so I’m constructing a simple wall mounted charging station.

The design is pretty basic. It is just a couple of shelves to hold iPads and phones. No hand cut dovetails or drawers. No back. About as simple as you can get.

The first step was to pull out a piece of cherry. The board I pulled out of the loft was about twice as much wood as I needed, but I didn’t feel like digging for a smaller board. Anyway, I have lots and lots of cherry, so no need to stress.

Rough cherry board for today's project.
Rough cherry board for today’s project.

I milled (half of) the board into two sides that are 5″ wide and 30″ long. I milled the lumber to a little less than 3/4″ thick – I think it will look nicer just a little lighter than the normal 3/4″. The sides taper from 5″ wide at the bottom to 4″ wide at the top. I milled four shelves at the same time, varying from 4 1/2″ to 3 1/2″ in width and about 12″ long.

I clamped the sides together (back to back) and cut four stopped dadoes for the shelves. The dadoes are 3/8″ wide – I picked it because 1/4″ seemed too small, and 1/2″ seemed to wide and I happened to have a 3/8″ router bit.

I set up the router table to cut the tenons to go into the dadoes. I was wanting to use the table saw, but my dado blades had a carbide tooth fall off (so I’m stuck having to get the blade repaired or order a new dado stack). Anyway, the router table worked fine.

Finally, I cleaned up the tenon cheek with a hand plane and chisels. I cut off the front of the tenon (for the stopped portion of the dado) with a hand saw and glued up the sides and the top and bottom shelf. I’ll add the two middle shelves tomorrow. I can’t do much work in the shop while the varnish dries on the toy boxes.

This is the first real project I’ve made from cherry (I made a bookshelf from cherry veneered plywood but that doesn’t count). I can see why everyone likes cherry – it is an easy wood to work with. My hand tools love cherry. It isn’t as soft as pine, but it is much easier on the tools (and me) than oak.

Charging station glue up. The middle shelves will be fit into the case tomorrow.
Charging station glue up. The middle shelves will be fit into the case tomorrow.

Jumping Back into the Workshop

Workbench moved away from the back wall and rotated.
Workbench moved away from the back wall and rotated.

Yes, yes, I know what you are thinking. What about the mud room? Of course you must have done that last little push to completion before diving back into the workshop.  Or, will the mud room fall to the bin of ADHD unfinished projects?

Well, no, the mud room isn’t finished. And yes, I know, all of us with ADHD have basements/workshops/houses filled with great intentions and unfinished projects. Heck, come to think of it, there is probably still a sixth-grade science fair project sitting in my lifelong unfinished projects bin. But I promise, the mud room won’t be put in that bin. Of course, saying I’ll finish a project and actually finishing it are two different things.

It is always easy to make an excuse for an unfinished project – so I’ll make one now – I’m waiting on the paint to dry on the last two window sashes. They should be dry by tomorrow, so hopefully by this weekend I’ll be able to finish that window (and for the most part, the mud room) and post that to the blog.

But back to the workshop. I recently added a thermostat for the kerosene heater, and have started adding insulation so the heater would actually head the space to a usable temperature. I spent several evenings over the past week working on odds and ends projects in the workshop and the house.

In the shop I cleaned up most of the mess that had accumulated through a fall house renovation project. I also decided to move the workbench away from the wall – I think it may be useful to be able to access the back side of the bench while I’m working on a project. I’ll have to see how it works.

More progress in the workshop.
More progress in the workshop.

I also moved the dust collector back to the center of the shop, and moved the tablesaw and jointer over a little bit (to accommodate the dust collector). The bandsaw was moved to the corner where the dust collector had been, but it isn’t a great place for the bandsaw. I’ll still have to find a better home for that tool.

In addition to cleaning and improving insulation in the shop, I was able to get back to the toy box construction. The second box is nearly complete. I attached the top this week and glued up the door panels today. If the weather/heating supports finishing, I should be done with the second box by the end of this week.

A quick workshop project (hip photo clipboards)

I was looking for a quick project to build with the boys in the workshop. I needed a project that they could do most of the work on – they were planned to be gifts.  I saw an idea earlier in on Matt’s Basement Workshop – and it seemed like a pretty simple quick project. Our lives this fall have been pretty crazy, and I didn’t think that I could get them to put enough work into a much more complicated project to finish in time.

The clipboards only took a couple of nights to finish in the workshop.  We built a total of 4 clipboards, they took one each and left two here.

The project required picking out some scrap – we found a piece of yellowheart in the wood pile. The lumber was milled and glued up into panels.  We then cut out 4 boards from the panel – in hindsight I think we should have made the boards a little smaller (though it is never too late to remove wood)- a 5×7 picture seems a little small on the clipboard.  The keyhole hanger was inserted in the back (we removed the waste using a drill and chisel). The boards were finished with a coat of varnish and the hardware was installed.

A completed clipboard with a picture added.
A completed clipboard with a picture added.
A simple keyhole hanger flush mounted on the back.
A simple keyhole hanger flush mounted on the back.

Project Delivery

Toy box delivered to the customer.
Toy box delivered to the customer.

At the beginning of the summer, Susanna asked me to make three outdoor toy boxes for the her preschool (her classroom shares the three playgrounds). The school paid for 9-sheets of plywood and some wood varnish. I donated my time, some additional lumber, hinges, and screws as needed to finish the project. This is my first commission project – even though I’m not getting paid, there is a customer involved.

The plan was to finish all three and deliver them at one time.  However, the summer was busy, and I don’t have that much space in the workshop, so I am working on one at a time. I finished the first one last week and delivered it today.

I learned some lessons on the delivery:

  • Next time make sure to bring some tools to tighten up any fasteners that loosen up on the drive.
  • I should have removed the doors for the drive, the doors are heavy and it is a pretty bouncy drive down to New London.
  • The magnets are too weak.  I’ve ordered new magnets to hold the door shut.
  • I should bring some equipment (rakes, etc.) to level the area where the boxes are to be placed.

I’ll have to head back next week and tighten fasteners and change out the magnet holding the door shut with a stronger magnet. Despite all that, it feels good to get a project out the door.

The boxes are 5-feet wide, 3-feet deep and almost 3-feet tall and are constructed from hardwood plywood (from the box store) with a mix of red and white oak for edging. The hinges allow the doors to swing all the way open and are held open by magnets on the sides of the boxes – hopefully having the doors out-of-the-way will keep the kids from hanging on them. I think these boxes would hold up longer if they were constructed from MDO – but the materials could cost twice as much, and I think I would have to paint the MDO.

Now onto the next box.  Maybe I’ll change it up a bit and use maple for the edging. Or sapele. No wait that I’m saving that for the boat.  I’ll be pretty tired of building boxes when I’m finished… but heck, Susanna wants one for up on the patio.  Anyone else interested in outdoor boxes? Considering a sheet of good (i.e. non-box store) plywood costs over $100, it would certainly be much cheaper to get plastic boxes from the box store, but the wood boxes look much nicer.

Workshop Day!

The 4th of July (or “Colonial Insubordination Day” as my friends in the Royal Navy like to call it) calls for hot weather, barbecue, beer and fireworks. However, this year, thanks to Hurricane Arthur, we get cold and rain, though as I write this, it sounds like someone is trying fireworks in the distance. Not sure what there is to see in the rain tonight.  And don’t worry; even cold, rainy nights can support beer.

Study storage shelves (plywood with red oak face-frame)
Study storage shelves (plywood with red oak face-frame)

Today I got an escape from my chores to spend the day in the workshop. I’m building outdoor toy boxes for Susanna’s preschool. Three boxes from 10 sheets of plywood, so I have lots of left over plywood scraps and decided to build a small (16″ wide x 12″ deep) storage shelf for the office. It is also a good chance to test out the finish that I plan for the toy boxes. The shelf was a quick, taking less than a day in the middle of another (larger) project and was a good reminder to prep surfaces as much as possible prior to assembly.  I finished the shelves with a coat of shellac followed by a coat of spar varnish. I’ll probably be lazy and only apply one coat of varnish to the shelves (unless they look like crap tomorrow after the varnish dries).

I’ll post pictures of the boxes when I get them done. I have one box (sides, top and bottom) glued up. Tomorrow I’ll sand the interior and put in the shelf. I need to mill more red oak for the face frame and door edging.  And when I’m done with the boxes, I’ll need to get back to finishing the dinghy build. At least the barn swallows are enjoying the half-finished dinghy in the garage as a place to hang out.