September 24, 2010

September Odds and Ends

I pulled a load of pictures off the camera today and figured since I haven't posted in awhile I thought I might as well put up some of the highlights.

I haven't been working on any major projects but have a few interesting odds and ends from the last month or so.

First of all, Laura and I decided to go skydiving for her birthday. Free falling from 10,000 feet is an amazing experience and I would recommend that if you've ever thought about it, just go for it. We jumped with Green Bay Skydivers and all in all they were great. My only complaint was that their plane was too small and after being cramped in there for 20 minutes strapped to another guy I was ready to jump with or without a parachute.

Here is the view of the landing zone from the plane.

Compared to jumping out of a plane the rest of this seems a bit boring...

Awhile back the grocery store had a huge sale on pork shoulders so I picked one up. The freezer was getting a bit crowded so I thawed it out and decided to take a shot at smoking it on the weber grill.

Since the goal is to smoke the meat at about 225-250 degrees for about 10-12 hours I started out by building a "fuse" of charcoal around the outside of the grill. I then lit some charcoal in the chimney starter and got one end going. I placed a few hunks of soaked oak on the coals to keep the smoke going for the first 3 or 4 hours.

Above is the before shot of the pork shoulder. Since I used lump charcoal rather than briquettes I ended up having to adjust the grill vents quite a bit to correct for the random sized pieces and keep the temp within a reasonable range. I think I would probably use standard briquettes next time.

After about 7 hours on the grill this is what it looked like. At this point the charcoal was finally dying down so I pulled it off the grill and finished it in the oven for another 4 or 5 hours until it hit 190 degrees. At that point I shredded the whole thing and served it over texas toast with a bit of BBQ sauce and it turned out to be worth the wait.

On different note, I decided to take my first steps into the world of working wood with hand tools buy purchasing a set of chisels and a dovetail saw. I was curious how difficult it would be to hand cut some dovetail joints so I grabbed a few scraps of oak and started hacking away. While the results were not picture worthy the joint wasn't half bad. Before starting anything else I had to sharpen the chisels so I picked up some sharpening supplies and went to it. I'm cheap but wanted sharp tools so after a bit of research I settled on a combination of wet/dry sandpaper and a granite slab for the lower grits and a 1000/8000 grit combo waterstone for the final polish.

Here you can see slab/sandpaper setup and the waterstone soaking as I flatten the back of the first chisel. I'm still not a pro at honing the bevels free hand but I think it went fairly well and was amazed at how sharp these chisels could get.

I wanted to give the freshly sharpened chisels a try so I took a piece of 5/4 cherry and resawed and planed it down thin pieces just under a half inch thick to make a small box. The dovetail joints improved with each corner and ended up holding the box together fairly well. I glued up a small panel for the bottom and ran a grove in two of the sides to hold it in place. I finished it with 4 or 5 coats of wipe on poly and am really happy with the natural look of the cherry.

Laura liked the way the cherry turned out as well and since she was asking for something to hang her necklaces from I threw this together a small rack to hang on the wall.

Since I still had a few areas in the garage that weren't already packed with tools or lumber I couldn't help myself and picked up this pile of white oak from a listing on craigslist. There are 9 2"x12" planks at 8' long which comes out to about 140 bdft. Being 2" thick I'll have to do some resawing for most projects but it will be nice to have plenty of thick stock for table legs and other large components. There are some major cracks and a few knots and other defects but for less than $0.50/bdft it was a steal. I'm curious to see how the white oak finishes compared to the red oak I used for the coffee table. It should be fun turning this into end tables at some point.

The garage is now full. I promise I will not purchase any more lumber until a significant portion of what I already have turns into furniture and moves into the house.

August 17, 2010

Craigslist Find: Cherry Lumber

I mentioned in my last post that I was running a bit low on lumber so I've been keeping an eye on craigslist for the last month or so watching for good deals. Last night I picked up about 180 board-feet of air dried cherry from a guy in Plymouth. Its not as good of a deal as the pile of red oak I missed out on a few weeks ago but I'm excited to work with a nicer wood and I got it for a really decent price. The guy also had a few piles of black walnut and some oak so I might be heading back there the next time I need some lumber.

Here is the cherry stacked in the rafters of the garage.
The boards were all 16' long and range from 12" wide on down. In order to transport and store them I cut them down to 10' and 6' lengths.

Here is one of the smaller boards I sent through the planer so I could see what it really looks like.
I'm not sure exactly what this will all turn into but I'm thinking it might make a nice nightstand to start with.

Don't worry Cory, I'll still take the Cherry you sawed up whenever you need to get rid of it :)

August 12, 2010

Adjustable Kitchen Shelf - Part Two

Over the last few days I've been working to finish up the adjustable shelf. I stained it with a natural oak stain to add just a bit of color and then put on about 5 coats of wipe on polyurethane. I mixed up the wipe on poly myself since it is just 50/50 normal polyurethane/mineral spirits and its much cheaper than buying the pre-diluted poly. I'd never used wipe on poly before but it went on really easy and overall I like the result. Its much thinner and natural looking than the full strength brush on poly I used on the coffee table and is much easier to apply, even if you do need more coats for equivalent protection. I wiped on the first 3 coats over a day and a half without sanding between coats. After the 3rd coat it was beginning to look finished so I rubbed it down with a grey scotchbrite pad before the 4th and 5th coats. After the 5th coat the finish was a bit shinier than I wanted so I rubbed it down again with the scotchbrite to take off the gloss.

Here is the result.

This finish is much more natural than the coffee table and I think it looks quite a bit better.

After adding a keyhole hanger to each upright it was done and ready to hang.

I ended up re-ordering the shelves from what I showed in the Sketchup model since it seemed to work better going smallest to largest from top to bottom.

Here is another picture where you can see how it fits in the kitchen on the wall next to the stove.

This was a fun little project and it went quicker than I expected. I'd like to knock out another small project before the kitchen remodel kicks off so I'll have to see if I can find a good deal on some more lumber and come up with another quick idea or two.

August 9, 2010

Adjustable Kitchen Shelf - Part One

I decided a while ago that my next woodworking project would be some sort of kitchen shelf or rack to hold spices and seasonings along with a few cook books. I don't want to build just any old spice rack so I've been searching around for inspiration or a unique design for awhile now. The last time I went to the library I picked up a book of storage projects and found a cool idea for a simple adjustable shelf that I think will work well in my kitchen. Below are the first few pages of that project that you can scroll through:

Since I was modifying the plans a bit to fit my application I modeled up the shelf in Sketchup to see how it looked and make sure everything fit.

Here is a close up showing how the adjustable shelves fit into the uprights.

Side Note: I mentioned in a previous post that I was having some issues with tear out from the planer and was hoping that a fresh set of knives would fix that. I bought a new set on the web from Global Tooling and set them up hoping my tear out issues would be solved. Nope. I'm not sure if it is just the wood, my planer, or if I am expecting too much but I still cannot plane a board with any significant change in grain direction without tear out.

I started this project by sorting through the red oak leftover from the coffee table and setting aside pieces for the uprights and various shelves. Since I was still having issues with tear out it took a lot longer than it should have to find clear pieces that would work for each component. I then planed the uprights down to 3/4" and cut them to size. I then took the blanks and nocked out the notches for the shelves with a 3/4" dado stack. I ran both sides through at the same time to ensure that the locations of the notches lined up perfectly.

Next I dropped down to a 5/16" dado stack and ran the groove in the backside of the uprights.

I then cut some stock for the splines to rough size and then planed it down to fit into the groove. When assembling the spline I inserted it halfway into the groove and then only applied glue to the back edge before press it in the rest of the way. This way I kept the front edges that show through the notches free from glue.

With the splines glued and in place I setup some scrap wood and clamps to hold everything in place until the glue dried.

While upright assemblies were drying I turned to the shelves. The Sketchup model shows 2 6" shelves on top and bottom and 2 4" shelves in the middle. In the model you can see that the 6" shelf is just a bit small for a large cookbook so I decided to make the top shelf a bit bigger. I also made one of the middle shelves a bit larger so they are all a different size. I planed the shelf stock down to just the right thickness to fit into the notches in the uprights. I then cut then to size and added a notch on either end to mate with the spline that sits in each notch. This is the feature that keeps the shelves from moving side to side when installed. Here are the shelves installed on the uprights.

After making sure that everything fit I sanded everything to 180 grit by hand and then applied two coats of "natural" stain which should match the new cabinets that will likely be installed when I redo the kitchen later this year.
Here is the shelf assembled after being stained.

This was a relatively short project that up to this point took a about 6 hours. I plan to finish it off with 5 or so coats of wipe on polyurethane which will take a week or so but compared to the coffee table this project is cruising :)

July 2, 2010

Craftsman Style Coffee Table - Done!

So back in February I decided that I would take a break from remodeling projects for a weekend or two and build a coffee table. Well I clearly underestimated how long it would take but 5 months later it is finally done. Take a look...

Being a larger surface I had a bit of trouble getting an even finish with the polyurethane on the top so I ended up sanding an re-coating a few extra times to get an even finish. All in all it took 3 coats of glossed thinned about 15% with mineral spirits followed by two thin coats of satin. After the final coat dried I attached the top to the frame with the button blocks and called it done.

Here it is side by side with the old table:

It is definitely and improvement and all in all I think it turned out great for my first piece of furniture. My only real regret is that I'm not entirely thrilled with the look of the full thickness polyurethane finish since it makes the wood look and feel a bit un-natural and plastic. I'll probably try out some alternative finishes next time to get a more natural look and feel. The other lesson I learned was to sort through the lumber and pull out the best pieces for the top and shelf panels first and then use the rest for the less visible frame. Lessons learned.

June 28, 2010

Craftsman Style Coffee Table - Top Glue-up

This past weekend was the first camping trip of the summer so woodworking time was a bit limited last week. Despite the limited time I was able to make some good progress on the table top. Before I get into that I'd like to share a picture of Echo passed out after a long day of hiking and playing fetch in the lake.

Yes that is my dog passed out in a Lex's camping chair and yes he is way too big for it...but really where else is a dog supposed to sleep...the ground is cold and hard.

Back to the table...

I finally settled on the boards that would make up the top and started to machine them square and flat. Two of the boards bowed quite a bit after the initial planing so I set them up on sawhorses for a few days hoping they would straighten out as the moisture content equalized. It seems it was just related to the humidity because sure enough after a few days they flattened back out. Once all the boards were planed to the same thickness I followed the same steps and the shelf panel and glued them up. I considered gluing up sections of 2 or 3 boards at a time but since the shelf panel went so well I decided to take a shot and glue them all at once. This time I did use some scraps of wood covered in plastic wrap for cauls to help get all the boards aligned and in the same plane.

After letting the glue dry the top came out pretty nice. I then used a straight edge and my circular saw to cut the top down to 48" long and then ripped it to 24" wide on the table saw.

Once the top was cut down to size I sanded it down from 40 through 120 grit with the random orbit and then finished it off with a final hand sanding at 120 grit.

I then stained it like the rest of the project.

There is some color variation between a few boards but all in all I'm happy with it. The first coat of polyurethane should go on tonight and I'm hoping to have the project wrapped up this weekend.

June 14, 2010

Craftsman Style Coffee Table - Frame Assembly

I finished up the base of the coffee table this weekend. Stained and poly'd the shelf panel and glued up the frame. Here are some pictures of the process.

The panel stained up nicely...

...and got shiny after the first two coats of gloss poly...

...looked really interesting after sanding...

...then got shiny again after the third coat of gloss...

...and finally looked pretty nice after another sanding and the final coat of satin poly.

As the shelf panel was drying between coats I worked on gluing up the end assemblies.

Everything fit nicely so nothing much to say here. Above you can see the two ends glued and clamped.

After the ends and shelf were all dry I glued up the entire base.

So far so good...

June 11, 2010

Craftsman Style Coffee Table - Shelf Glue-up

My progress on the coffee table was slightly derailed by a work trip to Reno last week however the vendor we met with took us up through the mountains to a really nice restaurant on Lake Tahoe so I can't complain too much :)

Here is a view of Lake Tahoe from an overlook on the way to the restaurant.

Back to the coffee table...

The next challenge was to glue up a bunch of the oak boards into a panel for the bottom shelf. As I planed down the boards and sorted them to find the nicer ones I ran into some issues with the planer tearing up the surface a bit around the swirly grain. I tried wetting the boards a bit and running them through at a slight angle but neither helped very much. My guess is that this a sign that my planer knives aren't as sharp as I thought they were and should probably be swapped out. Since that is a large task I decided to just use the jointer to clean up the "show" side of each board and then just plane down the back side to the correct thickness. After selecting all the boards for the shelf I ripped all the edges parallel and laid them out to look as nice as possible.

I then used a chalk triangle to mark the location of each board in the panel. Next I ran all the edges over the jointer to get a good flat edge for the glue joints. In case the jointer fence wasn't set perfectly to 90 degrees I made sure to alternate the orientation of each board so that if the angle was off a bit each board would be off by an equal and opposite amount and still fit together perfectly.

With the edges prepped I laid out the boards on the pipe clamps and made sure everything fit together and lined up correctly. I then applied glue to each joint and snugged up the pipe clamps being very careful to keep all the boards even and coplaner.

In order to minimize any bowing from the pipe clamps I alternated them top and bottom. I then removed the beads of glue squeeze-out from the top of the shelf with a damp rag and then everything sit overnight. The next day I removed the clamps and sanded everything down with the random orbit sander. In order to smooth out the slight ridges between boards I started with 40 grit and then worked up through 80 and 120 which left a nice smooth flat panel.

Since this piece is too big to cut to length on the table saw I used the circular saw and a straight edge to cut it down to length.

The masking tape helped prevent splintering and that along with the 140 tooth plywood blade actually left a pretty clean cut. The little bit of burning should sand off easily.

I was curious how strong the glue joints were so I took on of the end cutoffs and broke it and sure enough the wood failed with the glue joint intact so the glue joint is actually stronger than the wood itself.

Next I ripped the panel down to width on the table saw. I cut it a bit narrower than the distance between the legs so that the panel has some room to move with changes in humidity. Above you can see how the panel fits into the groove in the lower frame end. Then I decided to dry fit the frame together with the panel to make sure the length was correct.

It was really cool to finally see the finished frame together with the shelf in place.

After seeing this I'm pretty excited to get this wrapped up in the next week or two so hopefully I will be posting pictures of the completed table soon.