2019 Outlook

This is always an interesting post to do at the beginning of the year, as I can’t always follow through with all of my stated goals. I always try to also follow up on the post from the year previous, but I didn’t do one for 2018.

There will be a couple stage projects to do in the first half of the year, but the big build should be done with via the front porch project. Second half of the year obviously is unknown at this point. The theatre group operates on a public school schedule, and the year goes from September to May. There will be a flower cart, a talk show set, and a couple other minor things.

One of the main things I want to accomplish is “finishing” the shop. What that entails is completing the insulation in the loft, switching out the one light in the loft to the ones I had in the old shop, installing trim on the outside, and trimming up the windows and ceiling inside. I plan on getting the insulation done first before it gets too warm, as it will also free up floor space up there and I can toss the rest. I will also be fencing off the underside of my shop, as my dogs (and perhaps other things) are trying to eat away at the insulation.

I will be improving my air nailer storage by making a custom systainer insert. This will keep the inside from being a mess, hopefully. That’s the plan, as I think it’s a better one than dedicating wall space to hang them. I can fit the three trim nailers, the wrench, the nails, and the oil in one systainer, so I think that’s valuable storage usage.

I will be improving the dust collection in the shop. The table saw that I have is very nice with that exception, and it’s only gotten worse. I will be closing in the base and creating a port where more dust can be evacuated. I will also finally be closing in the router table and creating a dust solution there as well. That in and of itself will solve 90% of the dust problems in my shop, but at some point I also hope to swap out the router top with one that will allow for the Incra Cleansweep rings. I just wish I could get it locally and save shipping charges. At some point I may make other upgrades, but I will see how these two changes get me through.

I’m going to work to make things more mobile, in case I need to build on-site. I don’t like to disrupt what I have going on in the shop, so I need to make it very easy to grab anything that I might need for a set build. I’m still sorting how I’m going to do this. I’d like to make a mobile cart that will hold some systainers and be a work area, but I have so much that I would have to bring. I also don’t really have anywhere to store it.

I don’t really know what might be in store for tool upgrades or additions. I will likely look to start filling out my new tool cabinet, but that is rather pricey. I have my eye on a new bandsaw and some jobsite things, but again those are expensive. I would rather put money into trip funds that I will need to work on very soon. Those are more important.

I will attempt to fix the door situation, which is that it has gaps around the perimeter and sometimes sticks to the other door. There is also some minor water entry at the door which I need to investigate.

I don’t have any set expectations for projects, although I hope I finish the hanging tool cabinet. I’d like to tweak some storage and layout if ideas come to me, but nothing concrete. I would like to continue to refine my techniques, learn new things, and enhance the quality of my home and the sets at the theatre group.

Odds and Ends – Wrapping up 2018

There were a few things that I got accomplished towards the end of the year that I either didn’t have time to write about, or they weren’t worth dedicating a post to. Here we go.

I built an outdoor table to help with breaking down sheet goods and large assemblies. It is just a skeleton at the moment while I decide how best to do a top for it. I also may add other features, like a shelf at the bottom, a hook for the cord reel, etc. I built it out of pressure treated lumber, did pocket hole screws throughout, and it should hold up much better than the previous one. I also built it so that it is level on the uneven terrain.

Instead of building a mirror cabinet for the master bath, I went with an Ikea unit. Made much more sense based on cost and time. The old mirror will be reused in the other bath, and I will be making a frame for it. I’m just procrastinating or it would already be done by now. Perhaps that can be the first project of the new year.

I did some general cleaning up of the shop the other day, and it finally feels like an actual shop again, one where I can come in and do work. I moved a couple of things around to help better organize, but it’s something that will continue to be addressed in the new year.

I used thread locker on the MFT’s hose arm, as to stop it from flopping over at just about every opportunity. I think I may drill into the arm and put in something that I can wrap the end of the hose back to to keep it out of the way.

I tried making wooden rings. It didn’t go half bad, but I don’t know if it is something I will try to keep doing.

I bought some new tools, sold or gave away some old ones. I went on some adventures, and resolve to go on bigger ones next year. Thanks for reading.


The Fine Woodworking Hanging Tool Cabinet – Part I

This is a project I have had my eye on for ages. In fact, I’ve had the DVD on how to do this for a few years, but I can’t exactly remember when or where I purchased. It predates all my Festool gear, I believe. Well, I finally got started on it, but it is taking quite a while.

I don’t think I planned on this starting at the beginning of a month, but on September first I drove to my nearest Woodcraft and found some big Ash boards that would fit my needs. This cost a tad over $100 for all three boards. I also figured out for perhaps the second time in the 16 years we have had this car that the back seats slightly recline if needed.

I decided that I would take this project as an opportunity to work on my hand tool skills, a decision I actually made all that time ago. Which probably explains why it took years to try and do. The first step was to mark all the pieces out for the case, and mill them up. This is just after that process. I tried to select the straightest grains and I matched where the doors and cabinet match up.

Next it was time to start working on the dovetails which hold everything together. I bought a set of dovetail markers to lay them out, but after that it was all manual work. (also had a bit of a bow in one of the door pieces that I was trying to get out)

This was done with my Veritas dovetail saw, and chisels. Next it was time to work on the pins, and I used my small router to take care of most of the waste. This unfortunately had some errors. It also made a right mess, which I saved a lot of for the inevitable filling I would need to do.

The fit was pretty decent, just a bit of finessing to get those in. The square tenons for the shelf were a different story. Or should I say the error manifested on the mortises. I blew out the back sides a bit, which unfortunately were on the show faces.

I got one end it to make it look like this and it sat this way for about a month while I worked on the set project and other things. I recently got the other side mortised out, and was able to get the cabinet together for a dry fit. There was a bit of racking that I had to get out with a couple of clamps when I was fitting the panel.

The back panel is two pieces of 1/2″ plywood, cut on an angle to form a French cleat. I was able to glue everything together and use a bit of the scrap/dust to get the dovetails and through tenons looking better. First two pics are before/after. I might can still do a bit better on the tenons.

Where I’m at now is that I’ve gotten the cabinet hung on the wall, and I’m starting to get the inside sorted out to begin with. I will also still have to make the doors, which will wait until my next trip to Rockler to get more quality plywood.

I’ve done some moving around since I don’t need the old plane till anymore, it is now going to be used for general storage and the finish cabinet that was above the miter saw traded places.

To be continued. I will have to sort out how all these chisels are going to fit as well.


From Screen to Stage

One of the most stressful things I do these days is design and build stage sets. I have gone from a minor hobby to something people depend on to create an alternate reality for a period of time. If I can’t come through, I don’t just fail myself, but hundreds of others. When I succeed, however, it becomes pretty special. This was one of those times.

As with everything, it starts with an idea. This set needed to function in two different locations, and then after that for a completely different play. All I was told was that this to be a front entrance, and I already had an idea in my head.

Ultimate version of initial sketch

There were a couple of wrinkles as I alluded to. Since this particular play was being performed in two locations, it needed to be more mobile than most. I decided to build the entire thing with no bigger section than 4×8 feet. We also had a bit of a problem last year with our wall set being a bit wobbly and having to brace behind. The beauty of this design is that it is freestanding, as it was going to be located near the front of the stage.

Most of this is standard wall construction with 2×4 studs, set 16″ on center. The tricky bit was to figure out how to have the door set in the middle of an eight foot section that had to be broken down to two four foot sections. The solution was to set the door in the middle of a four foot section, and make two two foot sections to either side. These could be combined down the road to make a full four foot section if needed. With that design hurdle sorted, construction could begin.

I also decided to spend a few more bucks for a prehung door vs a slab, to make installation easier. I made the exterior frame of the panel, then placed the door in the middle, and inserted studs to fit. No header necessary because it didn’t need to support a roof. All of this was dead simple. With the door panel done, i proceeded to make the other two panels. The porch floor was standard, and the wall wings had two extra studs where I would need to then split it.

I decided to use the same panels on my shop to cover the walls, turned horizontal. These are redwood-look panels that are exclusive to Home Depot IIRC. These soak up less paint than T1-11 siding, and are slightly cheaper. With the TSC 55, it was super simple to make all the cuts needed, including cutting out a “U” to fit around the door and under the door trim. I also did one on the leading side stud, so it seemed to wrap around the side.

The side porch supports were fairly simple. A 2×4 to attach to the wall, a 4×4 as the front post, and a few 2x4s made up to look like the ends of the porch. I used Sketchup and the HKC to accurately cut cross supports. It was absolutely brilliant to do, and super accurate.

The next thing to do was to mock it up so that I could see how it all turned out. This involved me setting the entire thing up myself, which was also useful: it validated my mobility concept. Here is a later picture of the mock after everything was painted. The sides of the porch are attached to the wings and the porch floor by long screws, and it made everything very sturdy. I did end up with some small gaps where the wings attached though.

I did have one more piece to build, a roof peak. It needed to be open to allow the stage lights to not create too many shadows, so I did something simple to create the effect. It is three 2x4s on an approximate 30° gable. These cuts were accomplished with the HKC, and secured with screws. I got a perfect connection on the miters. I designed it to sit on top of the porch sides, but the bottom piece to sit between. This allowed me to get the piece up onto the porch sides without assistance if needed, then pull everything together with screws. I also made some decorative 45° supports for the top of the porch. Unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to mock this up before it was to be delivered.

It all turned out well, as evidenced by the header image. We delivered the set Sunday night, and installed it Monday before the play. After the first showing, we took it to the other performance location and had it set up in ten minutes. It came down just as fast the final time.

The only issue came to be was the door expanded a bit due to humidity and I had to plane quite a bit for the door to close properly. If it didn’t have to work that night, it probably would have reduced down to proper operating width on it’s own, as it closed much better for the subsequent performances.

Also, for the first play performance, we had a gap at one end of the stage that could have been a safety hazard. Without the benefit of a tape measure, I had to guess what size the gap was. I came up with the idea within a few minutes, and by the next evening had the solution. These were simple boxes that I would cover with cutoffs from the paneling. The size wasn’t too bad.

All the World’s a Stage…except for the Storage

Theatre season started early this year, with a pre-Christmas play for the first time (that I can remember). In the next entry, I’ll discuss what went into building a mock front porch. First though, a step back to late summer and early fall. With a bit of a shakeup in the theatre company’s board, my wife and I became a bit more hands on with more behind the scenes functions. My wife took on revamping our storage options in the paid units, and they were a bit of a mess. She asked me to come up with an idea for making more/better storage options for our costume closet. As it stood, all costumes were hung on folding, portable racks and wasn’t very efficient. It also restricted the ability to then use those racks for transportation or at the venue.

The storage unit, previously

Since the storage unit is nearly ten feet tall, I saw that as an opportunity to create more space by taking advantage of that height. I settled on stackable racks, made of 2x4s, a design and material that would be easy to work with, stable, and inexpensive. In total, the project cost about $300, but should last forever.

SketchUp render

I wanted to build it in such a way that it would be super sturdy, holding as much weight as could be fit on the racks, plus any shifting or other movement that might happen during loading and unloading. I settled on frames at top and bottom of each unit connected by lengths of 2x4s. I made one set of racks that were four feet tall, and the other were six feet tall to better accommodate gowns and other long clothing. The frames would be joined together with glue and tenons, and the vertical supports would be screwed into the frames . The closet rod used would be mounted in additional 2x4s that had the byproduct of providing additional lateral rigidity

The frames were pretty simple. Butt joints, using Dominos to secure and hold while glue set making a strong connection. The only wrinkle to the design was that I cut out sections on the corners where the vertical supports would screw into. I figured this would provide better surface area for a connection, and not making the screws the weak portion in a butt connection. Insetting the vertical supports in the cutouts would provide some lateral resistance to racking as well. It made the construction a bit more tedious, but it was the right thing to do.

Detail of the cutouts

I purchased a new tool for this project, the Festool HKC 55. It is a cordless lumber saw, that can attach to a track, and is able to easily cut dimensional lumber at and angle between -45° to 60°. All I have to do is mark the cut line with a measuring tape, and put the track to that line. It doesn’t have the repeatability of a miter saw on a stand, but it does allow me to cut dimensional lumber without having to bring it into the shop – a must for anything over eight feet. Since I recently switched from the TS 55 to the TSC 55, using the 18v batteries that work for both was a no-brainer. I’ll talk more about my decision to be more mobile in another post.

So with the HSK, I was able to easily break down all the lumber I needed for this project. This particular project was only cross cuts, but the saw made it pretty easy. The saw even made it fairly easy to cut out the notches for the vertical supports. I couldn’t do the full cut with a round saw, naturally, so I finished with a jigsaw. I positioned the Domino locations so that they wouldn’t interfere with the cuts, either. With sixteen frames cut with modified corners, it was a simple task of cutting the vertical supports to make the four and six foot heights. I mean, look at the accuracy of this cut with a circular saw.

Perfect cuts with the HKC 55

Assembly wasn’t too terrible, until it came to installing the second frame on each rack. The vertical supports wanted to drift, and set up the possibility of tearing out. I had to be careful. Each corner has at least four 3″ screws to secure the two supports. That’s right, I doubled the supports for each rack to further support the weight and prevent racking. It added a bit more expense, but the goal here was to make these bulletproof and last a long time.

Different heights detailed

The cross supports for the closet rod were cut in the same manner, and a stopped hole was drilled to secure the closet rod, which was cut to length. The racks were then complete.

It did take a bit to get them stacked, with some clearance issues in the storage unit, plus the heft of the racks. However it did get done between the two of us, and more than doubled the amount of storage in less room. This was a very worthwhile project and it turned out great.

Trashy Doors

This wasn’t a hugely taxing endeavor, but it did take quite a lot of time from when the trash console was done to when the doors were made – several years. Adopting a second dog who really likes the smell of my sous vide steak bags was the impetus.

I went really lazy and used these select pine boards from Home Depot, which are pretty good quality actually. Pretty straight grains, the boards are straight, basically they were ready made for this project, so it didn’t make sense not to use them.

Basic construction here, cut to length, use the Domino, run a rebate for the panel.

I needed some hinges compatible with a face frame, so I went with some cheap Amazon branded ones. I will say they were okay, but you do get what you pay for.

I used the Festool 35mm hinge cup bit in a drill, and I did get some walking on it. I either need to use a bit made for a drill, or use it in the drill press or router.

The result is a functional one, and it’s actually pretty decent. The doors and cabinet will at some point be painted white.


The Feeding Station

I’m taking a risk starting this, when it isn’t 100% done yet. The reason why is due to the long road it took to get here. This has been one of my most frustrating and mistake-prone projects, but it may just turn out okay.

Our cats had been eating at the floor since we got them, but nine months ago we adopted a dog. A beagle. A beagle that can’t ignore her nose, and likes to eat pretty much anything. Particularly pizza and wet cat food. So, we had to put the food bowls up on the kitchen table. Not ideal when we were also eating dinner. The food bowls needed to be elevated, but not to the kitchen table, but high enough where the dog couldn’t pull them down. So I had the idea of building a little cabinet where the food could be stored out of the way when needed.

It wasn’t a particularly difficult design at first. There would be a drawer, two doors, and a pull out section for the dog bowls.

I had some leftover drawer slides from a dresser, and otherwise I could make the carcass from one sheet of plywood. I figured I could do this for pretty cheap. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was already making mistakes before I had started.

This was the perfect project to attempt to test out cutting on site, so I packed up the cordless track saw, measuring tools, and rigid foam and picked up cheap ply from Lowe’s. This is noticeably cheaper than buying from the lumber yard, who seem to think their’s is made from unobtanium. The pieces fit fine in the back of my CRV, so that was a win.

I cut the pieces down to the exact size, cut mortises, and did a dry fit to make sure it would work in the space and with the food containers.

Next up was installing the hardwood edge on the plywood panels and getting them flush. The bandy clamps from Rockler are pretty good, and I enjoy using the OF1010 with edging attachment to get things flush.

Then it was time to cut and fit the pull out drawer for the bowls. Here is where it started to go wrong. I tried to install the drawer slide as below, but that didn’t give enough clearance for the drawer to fit in and out, and as such mounted it lower resulting in a noticeable gap.

That made me have to adjust several aspects to get the toe kick to line up, and the drawer slides to fit. Then it was time to stain, which brought other issues.

This isn’t bad plywood, but it’s not plywood that takes stain well except on the show side. On the opposite side, as on the back of the main panel in the second pic above, it blotches horribly. That, and I have come to hate staining plywood, and wish to really never do it again.

Next I added the top, which was a spare piece of ply bordered by spare pine. The stain again didn’t go that well, and had to heavily sand and re-stain, losing some of the top layer of veneer in the process. It will have to do.

I’d like to take a short break here to talk about just how much I hate staining, and I won’t be doing it again after this project if at all possible. I will use the correct wood, and I will use veneer, before I use stain again.

Now, onto the doors and drawer front, where it all started going wrong for real. I went for a simple shaker style, with maple rails and stiles with the leftover 5mm ceiling treatment becoming the panels. I planed the maple to 3/4″ thick, and ripped to 1.75″ wide. I joined everything together with dominos to make the frame outline.

Then I ran the inside edge through the router table with a rebate bit to house the panel. Not able to hit corners, I took care of those with a few chisels. With the panel space done, the panels themselves were cut on the table saw to fit.

After quite a bit of trial and error, the drawer front and door panels all lined up and it was time to install. That’s when I noticed the drawer front was too tall and not wide enough. The doors also were not wide enough, and did not meet in the middle. Time to make some changes. I also ran into issues with the last door cup hinge, as I blew through the inner stile. I had to patch with an offcut of thin material.

I completely redid the drawer front, as it was obvious trying to adjust it wouldn’t work. This time, I made the right size. For the doors, I didn’t want to remake those. I decided to put in a vertical post that would look and act like a face frame divider. So I installed that, then figured out that it was not not possible to remove the food containers. Fabulous.

I would insert pictures here, but I think I only put them on Instagram. Check there.

Next modification was to make it a fake post, and attach it to one of the doors. This was a viable solution. I added magnets in strategic places so the doors would stay closed. The final modification was to rout pulls on the backside of the panels, and again things went south. The drawer front went fine, but I accidentally swapped locations of the doors, and then I went too far with the routing when I tried a climb cut. Then the router rose up for some reason and the face is very thin. This entire project has been a disaster.

With all this sorted out, it was time for stain, which as I stated I hate. I again got poor results for a few reasons. I took down the door frame fronts before Arm-R-Seal was applied, and those came out better. The drawer front was fine until Arm-R-Seal was applied, as was the door backs. I have no idea what happened there.


Now, I don’t have a final picture that I put on the website, so here is a link to Instagram where I did: https://www.instagram.com/p/BnbYkaagSWX/


That’s it for this one. A few months later, we got a new dog, and they don’t share very well. So the kickplate bowl holder isn’t even used. Oh well. This was a learning experience.




Shop updates – Summer 2018

Since I moved into the new shop, it has really been about starting back on projects and also getting the little things done to get the shop finished. I took a couple afternoons one weekend and made a few adjustments that greatly increase usability.

First up is adding mobility to my drill press. I used four stem casters from Harbor Freight so that I could move the drill press around a bit better. Very useful upgrade, even if it isn’t the most stable thing. This comes from the casters not being double-locking, which I will address once I find a good sale on them from my usual source, Peachtree Woodworking.

Along with the mobility, I finally fixed the drill press table. I rounded the corners at the front, and more securely attached it to the factory table. This was something that was much needed as well.

Multiple years ago, I designed this router table as the final iteration. However, that doesn’t mean it is done. It still needs doors on the router cubby and lower portion. It also never got a miter slot, which I decided to address. I used the Festool OF1400 and a rail, and aligned the slot with the front edge of the plate. Going slowly, this worked great, and I inserted an Incra track to match the fence.

Another big upgrade I wanted to make was to allow the back of the Incra fence to slide under the miter saw. As it stood for awhile, it would make contact with the supports. So, I raised the router table up 3/4″ to better match the table saw, and also raised the miter saw up about 1″. Now, the fence can go all the way back so that I don’t have to do as much moving around for table saw cuts to clear. I then adjusted the miter saw back flush with the cabinets for proper support.

I also finally installed the wood rack upstairs and brought over all the wood on it.

That’s about it for this time out. Here are some fairly clean shop pics to round things out.


Video killed the blogger star

I am attempting to document projects on YouTube, and this is the first spoken video on the channel. I am currently filming progress on my next project, so feel free to subscribe for any videos I might finish.

Sooner than this project will be finished will be a shop tour.

Interruption in service

I’ve been dealing with an issue where pictures would not load to WordPress from Lightroom, and just now have resolved the problem. I also have been struggling with time and incentive to post, whereas I have been making much more use of Instagram. I am phasing out Twitter, as I don’t like the platform.

Hoping to get some new content up on the site soon, however just writing this has taken entirely too much time as it is. I am also considering video work to compliment the Instagram channel. Stay tuned.

I will now figure out where I left off and get some new content up shortly.