Systainer upgrades

Back in March, I finally upgraded my air tool systainer to make things more organized and easier to find. With a fantastic Christmas gift and a great deal, it was time to get a couple more upgraded as well.

For Christmas, my wife bought me something that was on my wishlist for quite some time, the Bosch FlexiClick set. This is a 12v driver that has four attachments – right angle, compact bit driver, drill, and offset. This set joined my other three Bosch 12v drill/drivers, and it also brought my battery total up to five. I needed to have all these things together and easy to find. The prior situation was throwing the Bosch drivers in with my Ryobi 18v drivers in a systainer and letting things bounce around. I picked up a sheet of thick kaizen foam to see how easy it was to manipulate.

The idea is all over the internet, keeping things neat and separated. I decided to make one systainer for the Bosch 12v tools and batteries, and another would be for the Ryobi 18v tools. The systainers really only required one layer of the thick kaizen, so installation was pretty easy. I used the template I made of the systainer for the air tools, and it lined up pretty closely for the foam. Only I didn’t need to quite follow it because the indentations that exist at the very bottom of the systainer weren’t there at the level of the foam top.

The foam is pretty easy to work with, easily cutting with a breakable razor blade. There is a bit of a learning curve to shape the indentations and holes to fit your needs, and you can tell I started with the driver on the left that has the battery installed because the hole is too big. The reason for this partially is because I tried to stand it up and it was a bit too tall without adjusting. Otherwise, things went as expected. All my drivers, attachments, and batteries fit without issue in the Bosch systainer. I even used the special edition one to closely match the Bosch colors.

The Ryobi one has room to take a bunch of batteries if I absolutely have to.

The reason for this is because Home Depot was running a deal where I could get four batteries and a charger for $80. The last time I bought batteries was a few years ago, so it was time for a refresh. I have some other 18v tools that I use for yard work and etc, so they are handy to have around.

While systainers are by no means the most space efficient means of storing things, there is that just pleasurable feeling with everything having a place and finding it easily. I’m hoping that I can use some more kaizen in some drawers to better find things in the future.

Future Fairly Fine Furniture

The decision-making process I used over the fall to decide to get back into woodworking was fairly simple: get better or get out. By that measure, I upgraded tools as I could over Black Friday to meet the “get better” side of the equation. That process isn’t complete, but major steps were made. Now I need to produce something that is worthy of running a shop.

The render above is hopefully the first step. I am a huge fan of early-20th century furniture design, and Prairie School architectural design. What I tried to do was to conceptualize my take on these designs in a functional early-21st century usage. The final design might change slightly, but I want to keep the Harvey Ellis-inspired overhangs, and the Marion Mahony-inspired stained glass design on the doors. The overall dimensions shouldn’t change, unless they are material related.

The first build is a printer sideboard. The current thing holding the printer now is an Ikea cabinet that is only slightly functional. What I would like to do is replace it and let it hold a bunch of retro video game consoles that are currently sitting on my desk and another Ikea cabinet. The design would allow for it to become another bookcase inside, or for whatever purpose. The insides are regular adjustable shelves. I don’t yet know how to make stained/lead glass, so the inserts may be temporarily wood or faux glass.

The desk will have a tower space on the right, which can later be converted to drawers if so needed. The left side will have a spot for files at the bottom. There will be ventilation and cord management slots in the right base and underneath the top. I don’t plan on having any other accommodations for ports or cables, as I want this to be more of a classic desk that can serve as a computer or office/library desk. Any future needs can be addressed by adding on and securing to the top underneath at the back, as the monitor stand will.

I have also designed a TV console, and a basis for tall bookcases. I designed the TV console to hold as many consoles as I can think of at the moment. The width will fit into a future office space should we remain in our current house, but will also work in our current living room and is around a standard size, if not a touch tall. There will be an attempt at cable management in the form of back panels, plus heat management via thermostat-controlled AV fans. Any future consoles will require putting them on top or making other changes, but the entire interior of the cabinet except for the vertical partitions are removable. This is a pretty standard build and design. The drawers will be dovetailed if I can refine my methods. Most likely push to open drawers and door, so that the design stays clean.

The tall bookcase can be duplicated and adapted for any room. Here, it is holding drawers of games, but the goal will be to have them on adjustable shelves. If that turns out true, then no adaptation is really necessary – just add as many adjustable shelves (besides the one fixed at door height) as necessary. I haven’t planned on making full doors or four doors, but I may change my mind here.

I had to choose between quartersawn white oak and walnut, and I decided to go with walnut. As I stated, this is my take on period pieces and I really enjoy the sight of walnut get freshly finished. That, and it’s cheaper, and I like the darker wood.

So, I had hoped to begin this project in late October, but that obviously didn’t happen. Since I knew I had to get my situation upgraded before I started, I have pushed it back to at least now. I have at least the initial amount of walnut on hand, but now I have to make a design consideration of what the final process will be since I’m only going to get about 7/8″ thick pieces out of this 8/4 stock. I will be cleaning up the shop a bit more and thinking on this, and hopefully starting to mill at the very least before Christmas.

The Fine Woodworking Hanging Tool Cabinet – Part II

The carcass of the cabinet is done, and hung on the wall. Now we need to work on making this space actually store stuff. On today’s program, I make the doors, make them start to be useful, and get some other milestones started.

First up is the upper carcass storage. I made a temporary plane till, because shedding the old one meant I didn’t have anywhere to them. I’ll go back and redo it at some later point when I either have more/better planes, or an accurate idea of the space they will take up. Above this area is a small cabinet with storage on and behind the doors. I’ll have a picture for this later, but you’ll notice a spot where I did a dado on the wrong side. No worries, this will be hidden by a door hinge piece. In the photo later on, the upper cabinet area has a shelf where the sharpening stones are sitting on right now.

The big part of this update are the doors. The biggest space usage on my wall is the massive amount of chisels I have, and getting the doors on will allow me to get moving on fixing this. First step was to make the rim pieces, which were more dovetails.

I of course am not perfect with my dovetail making, but I think I did well enough. The rim gets attached to the door frame/front, which was up next. I cut a tongue and groove on all the pieces necessary, including the new plywood I picked up for the purpose.

I will say that this step was fraught with problems. I don’t honestly know what the issue was with the first problem, but things didn’t line up. The second issue was caused by not properly doing the groove because I messed up the bit height and had to carry on.

This was not ideal. I had to do some trimming on the doors, just enough where I didn’t reduce the coverage of the doors. I used the track saw to square things up, and I also used the sander. A lot. Thankfully I was able to save what I made, and I didn’t think I’d be able to do that. I glued the fronts to the rims next.

Next up was checking to see how it would look, which is the featured pic at the top of this page. After that, it was time to install the hinges, which I bought from Rockler. These have a removable pin, and are very much cheaper than the decorative options I saw elsewhere. Everything got a sanding up to 180 grit while it was off the wall.

This picture right above shows that while my mortises and dovetails weren’t perfect, some glue and sanding really helps to hide things. With the hinges mounted and everything sanded, it was time to go back up on the wall.

Looking heroic. After a week off, it was time to tackle the chisels. It turned out that I could fit them eight across on the back of a door, and I had 23. I gave the widest two chisels a bit more room, and went to town. I ordered a 22mm bit to better help secure the chisels, since these would have to be canted about 5° to fit them all in.

I cut the holes on the drill press with the forstner bits, then cut the angle on the table saw. I got a perfect fit side to side, got a perfect fit sizing the holes to each individual chisel. Satisfied by the success, I made some more holes for the Narex rasps I also had, including leaving room for expansion.

And that’s where we leave things as of about a month ago. I decided it was time to take another break, along with it being time to work on another stage set. To be honest, the next bit gets difficult not having things on hand to size accurately, so I’m holding off for a bit. I also need to work on getting finish on what I’ve made thus far, plus putting in magnets to secure the doors. At the same time, I’m looking at the broader picture of the shop and seeing what other tweaks and improvements I can make.

That’s all for now.



Bench Shavings – 03/21/19

It’s been a long time since I had the opportunity to write, and I find myself making excuses when I do get the time. Most of my sharing now is on Instagram, and unfortunately I can’t get an automatic process to share the blog on IG to work. In fact, this post has taken me over a week to write.

I’ve been busy working on set design and building. We’ve had three performances thus far, although the materials for the first were borrowed from the second one. From Screen to Stage has more details on those two plays with the front door set. The third one just wrapped up, and was a fairly simple build, at least from a hard product standpoint. I reused the blocks I made in All the Workshop’s a Stage for a base for a few sheets of plywood.

The goal was to make an elevated stage on the stage for a panel to sit on with chairs and a desk. I painted the plywood and pinned them to the blocks. I made a simple desk frame out of 2x4s and loose tenons. I also made frames out of MDF molding for a cityscape that was mounted on rigid foam. I also made two short steps to get up onto the elevated stage, plus another full set of steps for the actual stage.

I also worked a bit more on the Hanging Tool Cabinet, and some systainer storage solutions, which I will post about at another time. It’s hard enough to finish this post without adding more.

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.