Organizing the Dog Pen (or Reorganizing the Lumber Pile)

The lumber pile/junk storage/dog pen prior to reorganization.
The lumber pile/junk storage/dog pen prior to reorganization.

The last bay of the garage/carriage house is a large, unpaved area. For a long time it just served as an overflow storage area and nesting place for a large group of house sparrows. I had added a gate to the  opening so it doubled as a dog pen (in the summer). In the back of the bay I stacked a nice pile of red oak, hickory and maple to air dry. The wood pile wound up being a nice place for Tucker to sit when he got bored staring out the gate and a real pain in the a$$ when I wanted to get a board that was at the bottom of the pile.

A friend of mine is cutting up a large maple tree into slabs and needs a place to air-dry the wood for a couple of months before turning it over to a kiln. We have lots of room, if I just reorganized our stuff a bit. And I just really needed an excuse to build a lumber rack.

I had picked up boards cut from a single oak tree in Ledyard a couple of years ago, and they have been drying in the pile since then. All the other lumber was older and dry. So I could build a proper lumber rack and not worry about keeping the stickers between the rows of boards. Saturday night I headed to the home center and picked up a bunch of construction lumber to build a storage rack.

The lumber rack with most of the wood from the pile stacked on. I have lots of room for additional shelves (to be added one of these days).
The lumber rack with most of the wood from the pile stacked on. I have lots of room for additional shelves (to be added one of these days).

Sunday I emptied the barn and started building the rack. Of course, I found one of the posts for the barn had rotted, so I had a little project detour to replace that. But it wouldn’t be a good project without a few detours.  I had the rack mostly finished by that afternoon.

Yesterday I added the second row of shelving and stacked the remaining lumber from the pile on the shelf. The boys helped me clean and organize the rest of the space.  The next step will be to double up some of the 2x4s on the supports and add an additional shelf or two to help keep the lumber organized.

Today the boys helped carry up a few boards that didn’t fit on the lumber rack under the workshop and were just stacked down there. Okay, I have two lumber racks. I have a problem. I know. I have too much lumber. Of course, if you have a good deal… I’m always looking for more. I wouldn’t want to run out in the middle of a project.

But of course I have plans for the lumber. Though I’m sure I’ll never get around to it all:

  • Hickory: I have a bunch of heavy 8/4 boards that would make a nice workbench even though hickory is a pain to work with and the beams are heavy and a pain to move around. And I already have a functioning antique workbench. But it seems that making a workbench is sort of rite of passage.
  • Red Oak: I have a matched set of boards from a single tree. I was going to make bedroom furniture from it until Susanna said she likes cherry better than oak. So it will be used to make the boys furniture (and I already made night stands for them from some of it). I also have some random non-matched boards floating around. Red oak is way too common here and is usually used just for firewood (it is like it grows on trees almost).
  • Cherry: I have a bunch of cherry that Susanna and I picked up on a road trip to Western Massachusetts a couple of years ago. The cherry is for furniture for us and the house. Anyway, cherry is nicer to work with than oak.
  • Maple: I have maybe 8 boards left that a friend had gotten cheap on Craigslist before he decided that he had too many hobbies to continue making furniture. It is pretty nice spalted maple. I think the boys are going to claim a couple of boards to make Japanese toolboxes this month.
  • White Oak: A bunch of 8/4 and thicker boards. Okay, I don’t really know what I’m going to do with it. But white oak is strong and rot resistant, so it may go to outdoor projects.
  • Sapele: A few remaining boards from a stack that had gone to smaller projects and trim on the sailboat.
  • Cedar: A bunch of smaller boards that I really have no idea what to do with.
  • Some random other species: Mahogany (though the plank I have isn’t really mine, I just store it and look at it), Yellowheart, Fir, and I’m sure a few more. The boys keep taking the smaller pieces of wood and re-purposing them into swords and leaving the swords outside until they are no longer usable and become firewood and they need to make new swords.

A weekend of house projects

A three-day weekend! Every weekend should be a three-day weekend!

We had time to enjoy a date night on Friday (Comix Comedy Club at Foxwoods), get lots of house projects done, and even relax a little bit in the evenings.

Instead of starting a big project this weekend, we decided to focus on getting smaller projects finished.

I added a better bird waterer to the coop. The ducks had made a mess of the chicken waterers, so I took a piece of PVC gutter and a cheap float valve and made a new water trough for the birds. I plan on improving it in the future to make it easier to clean out, but for now it is an improvement over the old one.

The new duck/chicken water trough.
The new duck/chicken water trough. The trough is fed from a 5-gal bucket in the garage, so I don’t have to go in the cage to refill the water (though I do to clean it out for now).

We also decided to add a shelf and laundry sink to the mud room. Susanna and I worked on the shelf together on Saturday, and I installed the sink today.

Susanna working on the finishing touches of the upper shelf. We plan on adding a lower shelf above the sink later this week.
Susanna working on the finishing touches of the upper shelf. We plan on adding a lower shelf above the sink later this week.
Laundry sink installed. We picked up a kit from Home Depot. It took about an hour to assemble and install.
Laundry sink installed. We picked up a kit from Home Depot. It took about an hour to assemble and install.

I even got time to work on the third toy box for Susanna’s school. The box construction is complete, leaving only a couple of coats of varnish to put on the doors. Hopefully the weather will support delivering it on Thursday evening.

Third toy box nearly complete.
Third toy box nearly complete.

The entire household enjoyed the beautiful spring weather. Perfect for finishing projects, hanging out, or foraging for food (if you are a chicken or duck).

The chickens and ducks enjoying their time out of the coop on a beautiful spring day.
The chickens and ducks enjoying their time out of the coop on a beautiful spring day.



Second Toy Box Delieverd

Last Sunday I delivered the second toy box to Susanna’s preschool. The third box is in the shop mostly completed – hopefully I’ll get it out the door in a week or two.

Second outdoor toybox delivered.
Second outdoor toybox delivered.

The roof on the first box is in pretty rough shape after being exposed to the weather for the winter (as I had expected). I finally got the preschool to agree that a better roof is needed (than just cheap plywood). I’m going to put a corrugated PVC roof on the third box, and will retrofit the PVC roof to the first two boxes.

It is nice to start reclaiming my workshop from the piles of plywood that have been taking up space for the past 6+ months.


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.

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.

Finally, a boat shape is starting to form

The rough shape of the boat begins to form with all the major pieces stitched in place.
The rough shape of the boat begins to form with all the major pieces stitched in place.

This afternoon I installed the starboard side and the middle frame piece. The boat shape is starting to show – though it looks a bit skewed in the picture – I think that is the angle of the camera. I need to add all the wire stitches and make sure that the shape is even before gluing.

But, I think I’m finished for the night. I’ve been fighting a cold all weekend and want to take it easy tonight.