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Carpentry

New Video: Making Built-In Cabinets

Posted by on October 20th, 2014

In today’s post, you’ll learn:

- How to make built-in cabinets

- How to make a beaded face frame

- What the build process for a cabinet looks like

built-in-cabinets

After spending the better part of a week and a half painting our home office, I’m finally down to the last couple of detail jobs.  Although the office isn’t officially finished quite yet, it’s done enough to take our video camera in there and film some shots of the new furniture.  I also managed to film all of the important aspects of the cabinet build, so you get to see both the (mostly) finished project and the how-to’s that go along with it.

Here’s the video:

If you don’t see the video window, you can click this link to be redirected to YouTube.

Just to be clear, this isn’t a “reveal” post.  Once the room is totally finished with all the bells and whistles, we’ll share a ton of photos with you.

There’s a lot to talk about after building these cabinets, but I realize the video is pretty long (~19 minutes), so I’d rather circle back with you in a follow-up post to discuss more lessons learned.  For now, just check out the video.  If you make it to the end, you can catch my wife and I goofing off.

Here are the router bits (affiliate links) I used in the video:

1.  The 1/8″ beading bit

2.  The 1-1/2″ notching bit

If you don’t have a router table, you can download our free router table plans and if you don’t have a router, you can check out my tool recommendation page for suggestions.

If you have any questions about anything you see in the video, or if you think I’ve totally botched it up, please fire away in the comments!

 

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects,Videos. Tagged in ,, , ,

How to Build Shaker Cabinet Doors with a Router

Posted by on October 9th, 2014

In this post, you’ll learn

- How to build shaker cabinet doors with a router

- How to inset the doors into a face frame for a high end look

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, then you’ve probably seen me write about building shaker cabinet doors before.  I’ve built them for both my large built-in cabinet, the TV stand and they were the same style doors I built for our first home.  Last year, I filmed one of my first how-to videos on how to make them.  To date, that video has over 140,000 views and is by far my most popular.  In that video, which you can see here, I primarily used a table saw to cut the tongue and groove joints for the doors.   Even the center panel was machined using a table saw.

In this new version, I’m only using a router table for the tongue and groove joints and the center panel.  I thought it would be worth trying something new and see what works better.  I’ll probably put together a third video at some point to illustrate what combination of tools and techniques are easiest and provide the best results.

Since these doors are also inset into the face frame, I also used this opportunity to try a new technique for setting the inset gap.  In the first video, I just built the doors to the finished dimensions, which was a challenge.  In this new version, I built the doors a bit larger and shaved them down to the final size.  It ended up being much easier than I thought.

So here’s the video.  Let me know if you have any comments or questions!

Oh and by the way, if you don’t want the doors inset and instead you just want them to be full overlay, that’s much easier.  Just build the doors 1-1/2″ wider and longer than the door opening.  You also won’t need to trim them once you’re done.

If you can’t see the video window, you can click this link to take you right to YouTube.

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects,Videos. Tagged in ,, , , , , ,

Office Countertops

Posted by on October 5th, 2014

In this post, you’ll learn:

- How to configure a cabinet for installation and counters

- How do get a deep, rich stain

Well, we’re down to the wire in our home office project.  Officially, all I have left to do is add some trim beneath the crown molding, install the baseboard trim and do some painting.  Keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll be done everything by the end of next week.  Then it’s just setup and decorating.  So thrilled to wrapping this room up.

I’ve got a bunch of new videos coming your way soon.  Hopefully later this week I’ll be publishing my second video on Inset Cabinet Doors.  May actually put together a third door film at some point.  I’m going to release a video on building the built-in cabinets, so you get a more continuous perspective on the work.  I also owe you more videos on my workshop tools, including the miter saw and the jointer.  Thanks for your patience on those!

Now let’s talk about some features I added to my cabinets to both make them easier to install AND easier to top with counters.

Here’s a top view of the inside of the base cabinets.

top brace

Couple things worth pointing out.  There is a plywood brace on top that spans from one side of the box to the other.  It’s secured in place with a couple of pocket screws.  There’s also a second brace along the back.  That’s also a plywood piece that supports the drawer slides and gives me something to secure the cabinet to wall.

Let’s take a look at how I install the cabinet to the wall using the back brace.

First I use a studfinder and mark the walls.  Since my brace is set back into the cabinet by a 1/4″, I use a couple of shims and pre-drill my hole.  Then I drive a 2-1/2″ long drywall screw through both the shims and the brace until snug.  I make sure to use a finish washer for both a better look and it also prevents the screw from digging into the brace.

back brace

 

Once the screw is tight, I’ll score the shims with a box cutter and just snap them off.

scored shims

The uppers will install the same way, except their back braces are exposed and painted.

The brace that spans the top of the cabinet is for attaching the countertop.  I can just drive a couple screws from below and the counter will be snug.

Office Countertops

Now for the counters.  I used 3/4″ thick oak plywood and the edges are wrapped with oak hardwood to hide the plywood edge.  Since the walls aren’t perfectly square, I used a technique that granite installers often employ.  I took some cardboard strips (granite guys use luan, which is stiffer) and hot glued them to trace out the footprint of the tops.  I then dropped the cardboard outlines onto the plywood sheet and just cut along the lines.  After the plywood parts were cut out, I used a brad nailer and some wood glue to attach the oak strips to the plywood.

Our home office also features a center desk section.  This is just a large piece of plywood with the same edge banding.  Since it’s not sitting on top of a cabinet, it’s actually lower than the built-in counters, it needs to be supported in a different manner.  In this case, I’ve attached a few strips of oak hardwood to the cabinets and the wall it butts up against.  In the front, to reduce flexing, I’ve screwed in a piece of angle iron that rests on the oak strips.  It’s also screwed into the plywood from below.

desk top brace

Here’s a shot of the completed counters.

stained desk top

It took me a few days to get that deep, rich color.  Here’s how I did it.

I used three different stain colors.  I started out with Varathane’s Black Cherry.  I applied it with a sponge applicator and let it set it overnight.  I never wiped it off at any point.  In fact, I never wiped off any of the stains.  Next up I applied a coat of Minwax’s Cherry stain.  After letting that set all day, I finished with a coat of Minwax Red Oak.  After around 12 hours of drying time, I sprayed on three coats of satin polyurethane using a regular spray can.  In between coats of poly, I sanded with 600 grit sandpaper.

I went with the three different stains method to get a more complex look.  I’ve never liked the results I get from applying one color and then wiping.  I also much prefer spraying on the poly as opposed to brushing or sponging it on since the sponge tends to drag the stain around with it.  If you spray the poly, it just layers on without causing much of a mess.  Although you do have to watch out for overspray.

So, that’s a sneak peek of our office counters.  If you’re interested in the latest photos, you can check them out on our Instagram account.

Any questions?

 

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects,Staining and Painting. Tagged in ,, ,

How to Scribe a Cabinet

Posted by on September 25th, 2014

In today’s post you’ll learn:

- How to Scribe a Cabinet

In an ideal world, all walls and floors would be square and true (and all mortgages paid off).  Since that never seems to be the case, you need to know how to modify your cabinets or built-ins to account for uneven walls.  If you want a professional look to your work, this is a must read.  Luckily, this process is fairly simple and only requires a circular saw and one of those compasses you used in grade school art class.  Whoever thought you’d need one of those again?

Let’s start with reality.  Here’s one of our home office cabinets pushed tight into the corner.

cabinet gap

You can see it’s tight against the bottom of the cabinet, but open along the top.  No bueno.  Could you caulk that seam?  Sure you could.  I actually plan on caulking it.  However, you shouldn’t caulk anything wider than 1/4″ or it will look sloppy.  That opening at the top is around 5/16″ wide so it’s much too wide for caulk.

Here’s what we’ll do to fix it.

First, we’ll take a look at the top of the cabinet to see what kind of overhang I have on the face frame.

overhang

In this photo you can see that the face frame overhangs the side of the cabinet by about 1/4″.  If I was smart and better prepared, I would’ve designed in a larger overhang, say 3/8″, to allow for scribing as-is.  Alas, I only gave myself around 1/4″ (probably closer to 3/16″).

Since I don’t have enough “meat” overhanging the side, I’ll just add some more wood and make it work.

I start by measuring the gap between the edge of face frame and the wall.  It’s about 5/16″.  I then cut a strip of wood 5/16″ wide and I glue and nail it to the side of the cabinet.

cabinet scribe strip

Now I have plenty of overhang on that side of the cabinet.

Next, I shove the cabinet back in the corner.  The gap will be identical before I tacked on the wood strip, since the wall is still curving away from the cabinet.

Now I take my compass and I set the distance between the needle and the pencil to the same distance as the gap between the cabinet and the wall.

how to scribe a cabinet

Then I just run the compass down the curve of the wall with the pencil on the cabinet.  The compass will mark out a line on the cabinet that matches the curvature of the wall.

strip marked

 

The last part is easy.  Just take your circular saw and cut along the line.  You’ll be removing material from the strip so it will then match the wall.

After the cut has been made, the cabinet gets shoved back into the corner and we can see that the gap is pretty much gone.  Any open seam can be filled in with a much smaller amount of painter’s caulk.

scribe cabinet

 

To finish the project, I’ll just make sure I fill in any gap between the wood strip and the cabinet with wood putty and I’ll sand and paint it.

I’ll have to repeat this process for the top cabinet that sits above this lower unit.

If you can’t tell, I’m intentionally trying to keep the reveal of this project as hush hush as possible.  Thus, the lack of pictures of all the cabinets.

Now that you know how to scribe, do you think you’ll use this trick?

P. S. I also had to use this technique for my raised panel wainscoting.

 

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects. Tagged in ,, , , ,

Cabinet Painting 101

Posted by on September 21st, 2014

Happy Monday!

In today’s post you’ll learn:

- The best way to paint cabinets

- The approach I’m taking to paint my cabinets

Before I get started with today’s post, I want to remind you that we are running a survey to collect your feedback regarding our blog.  I’m going to keep it open until the end of this week and then I’ll discuss the results in a follow up post.  Overall, the feedback so far has been positive and supremely helpful.  I’ve gotten a few comments that recommend I make some changes to the way we operate and I’ll address those suggestions as well.  All the comments have been respectful and for that I’m grateful.  I’m very happy to have you all as readers and I’d like to keep you engaged and reading, but I realize I have to continue earning that privilege.  Changes are a’comin and I think you’ll be happy with the direction we’ll be taking.  Before I implement any of those changes however, I need to finish our home office and prep another room (details to follow).

Here’s a link to the survey if you haven’t taken it yet:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/6JB56NM

Now let’s get back to home stuff…

Cabinet Painting 101

Cabinet Painting 101

In the past week or so, I’ve made a lot of progress with our office cabinets.  I’m in the middle of painting them and pretty soon I’ll be installing them, working on the countertops, drawers and room trim.  I’m intentionally withholding a lot of details so as to make a comprehensive 30-40 minute long video where I demonstrate the entire build process.  While waiting for that video may be a little annoying for you, I think you’ll have a better understanding of the entire process from start to finish.  It’s either that or I give you a dozen posts on cabinet building, which I’ve already done with our TV stand and large built-in project.  The general approach I’m taking to building these cabinets is similar to those two projects, so if you’re itching to read about cabinet building and you can’t wait for the video, check out those two series.  I’m trying hard not to be repetitive.

In this post I want to go over the approach I take to painting cabinets.  My process is always evolving and improving so every time I attempt a new cabinet build, I’m switching something up and this project is no different.  But before I get into the specifics, here’s my philosophy on painting cabinets and furniture in general.

The Absolute Best Method.  The best way to paint cabinets involves spraying two coats of primer followed by spraying two coats of a high quality acrylic paint or lacquer using an HVLP system.  If you spray the paint, you won’t get brush marks.  You should get an even, smooth finish.  It’s how almost all professional furniture is finished.  Multiple coats of lacquer will give you that candy coating like finish similar to something you’d see at Ikea.  Your car is probably painted with some sort of two part lacquer paint.  Acrylic paint is sort of like nail polish.  It’s smelly, but gives you a smooth durable finish that will hold up really well over time.  You should probably avoid using a latex based paint or primer since they are not designed for furniture, they’re designed for your plaster or drywall.

The Better Method.  If you aren’t equipped to spray on four coats of paint or primer, then an alternative method you could attempt is maybe spraying on just the primer or just the finish coats.  If you don’t have a professional spray system like an HVLP gun, you can use spray cans.  You can spray paint the primer using spray cans and then brush on an acrylic finish paint.  Lacquer isn’t typically applied with a brush, so you should probably just skip that stuff.  Avoid brushing on all four coats of primer and paint.  If your goal is to avoid brush marks, then brush on as few as possible.

Keep in mind that I’m just talking about the paint here, not the prep work on the in-between work.  Also, I’m working with unfinished or bare wood, not wood or cabinets that have already been painted or poly’d.

So now that we’ve talked about the possible approaches, let me tell you how I’m finishing my cabinets.

Here’s a shot of the cabinets after the primer.

cabinet painting

 

1.  Prep work.  After the cabinets were built, I filled in any small brad nail holes with white wood filler.  I then sanded each cabinet with a 120 grit sandpaper using my random orbital sander.  I avoided rounding over any corners or edges with the sander.  I want all of my edges to be fairly crisp at this point.  Once every piece had been sanded at 120 grit, I switched to 220 and repeated the same process.  Afterwards I used a compressed air nozzle to blow off any sawdust.  Some people absolutely avoid using compressed air to do this, but I think it works fine.

2.  Staging.  Since I’m going to be spraying on the primer, I moved all of the cabinets, doors and shelves into the garage.  I used plastic painters tarp and covered the entire floor with plastic.  I also draped plastic over our shoe rack and our daughters strollers and toys.

3.  Corners.  I used a block of wood with some 220 grit sand paper and knocked down all of the corners on every piece.  I apply very little force as I run the sandpaper block across all the edges.  Again, not looking to round over the edges, just slightly dull them.  A corner that gets knocked down will hold the paint better than a sharp edge.

4.  More air.  I use my compressed air hose that I have piped into my garage and blow off any additional dust that may have built up from moving the cabinets up and rounding over the edges.

5.  Raising the grain.  Since I’ll be using a waterborne primer, I’ll need to raise the grain.  When wood grain absorbs water after it’s been sanded, the wood grains will rise and cause the finish to feel rough.  So to make the process easier, you intentionally raise them by getting them wet and then you sand them back down by hand.  After they’ve been knocked back down, they won’t rise again.  Sounds crazy, but that’s just how it is.  To raise the grain, I fill up my HVLP gun with warm water and blast all the cabinets with a light coating of water mist.  After an hour of drying time, I lightly sand the cabinets with some 220 grit sandpaper by hand and then blew off any dust with the compressed air.

6.  Primer.  I used Benjamin Moore’s Fresh Start latex primer.  I used it because it’s low-odor, low-VOC and is sprayable.  As I mentioned, latex isn’t ideal and it came out just okay.  It sprayed a bit chunky from the HVLP system I use, but ended up leveling out ok and seemed to get the job done.  In the past, I’ve used a shellac based primer from Zinsser, specifically the BIN primer, which sprayed absolutely perfectly.  Thought I’d try something different this time.  I’ll probably go back to the BIN for my next project.

7.  Sand.  After the primer dried, I went back and sanded all the cabinets again using a 220 grit sandpaper by hand.  Using a power tool for this may remove too much paint.

8.  Finish Paint.  For the finish coat, I’m using two coats of Sherwin Williams Pro Classic in Ultra White.  It’s the same color as the rest of the trim in the office so it will match the baseboard and crown molding.  I bought it in satin instead of semi-gloss though, since I don’t want the cabinets to be too shiny.  The crown and baseboard molding WILL be semi-gloss, however.  The Pro Classic is an acrylic enamel that it designed for cabinet and trim work.  Since it’s an enamel, it will harden and will resist pulling off if I set a book or computer down on it for example (a characteristic referred to as “blocking”).  Instead of spraying it, I’m brushing it on.  This is also intentional.  First off, it’s much easier then spraying.  Secondly, it will have a more built-in look if it isn’t perfectly smooth.  If this were a stand alone kitchen cabinet set, then I would probably try spraying all the coats.  This high quality paint levels very well so you are much less likely to see brush marks.  I believe it’s equivalent to Benjamin Moore’s Satin Impervo, which I used on my first house and also loved.

Here’s a sneak peak of a horizontal divider after the first coat.  Can you see any brush marks?  No?  Me neither!

painted cabinet

So that’s where I’m at with the cabinets.  I’m hoping to wrap them up SOON!  Second coat of finish paint is going on tomorrow.

Now I’d love to hear about your experience painting cabinets.  Have any tips or experience you’d like to share?  

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects,Staining and Painting. Tagged in ,, , , ,

6 Cabinet Building Challenges

Posted by on September 11th, 2014

If you’ve been following along with out blog lately, you know that we’re knee deep into our home office renovation.  This project has taken us the better part of nine months and we’re finally a couple weeks away from putting it to bed.  I’m in the middle of assembling our new built-in cabinets that we are making from scratch and while I definitely enjoy the process, I’m already looking forward to installing them and being finished with this part of the project.

In this post, I wanted to discuss cabinet building challenges.  It’s not all gumdrops, folks.

cabinet-building

It seems as though every time I take on a new project, all I tend to think about are the positive outcomes that lay before us.  With this project for example, I’m looking forward to having a professional, custom looking home office that we can decorate and organize.  I never really think too much about how many evenings I’ll be spending in the basement toiling away on my table saw and router.   I always underestimate how many trips to Lowes or Home Depot I’ll have logged by the time we call the project complete.  Consequently, I tend to write wrap-up or recap posts when I’m basking in the after glow of a completed project and I rarely write posts when I’m in the thick of it.  In my mind, the net outcome always outweighs the time and monetary investment of doing it yourself.

I feel very empowered by being capable of taking raw lumber and plywood and building something substantial out of it.  This is my ‘thing.’  I’m not good at sports, I don’t have any other real hobbies.  This is IT.  One of the main reasons I blog is to teach what I’ve learned so you can do these same things for you and yours.  It’s nice to have a deep home improvement skill set.  This constant-positive thinking however, can cause you to forget the bumps on the road.  It can cause you to overload your plate with home improvement projects.  It can get you in over your head and it can lead to you getting sick of it.

That’s what brings me around to the reason for this post.  I’ve spend the better part of ten hours in the shop the last couple of days and I’m full of a different kind of insight.  One that doesn’t point out all the net gains and the sunshine.  This is the kind of insight that will remind you to stock up on bandaids.  The kind that if I wait another day or two to write, I’ll probably forget.  Building your own furniture, while rewarding in numerous ways is a mixed bag.  It’s up to you to determine if it’s worth your effort.  I’ve built well over a dozen cabinets for my first house and for our current home and I’ll probably build a couple dozen more.  These aggravations won’t stop me, but they will entice me to improve my build process for the next go around so I don’t repeat them.

Here are 6 Cabinet Building Challenges that I’m Working Through Right Now

1.  This work is dirty and dusty.  I always seem to forget what a half an inch of sawdust looks like on the shop floor.  It gets into EVERYTHING!  #SawdustInAllThePlaces and it’s not nearly as funny as “David Tennant in places he shouldn’t be.”  I don’t have a proper dust collection system right now, so I typically end up cleaning up the entire space once I’ve completely wrapped up.  So it’s dirty?  So what?  It’s really not that big of a deal except for the fact that I need to shower after every time I work in the shop.  Not a major pain, but a pain nonetheless.

2.  Splinters.  You can tell when I’m working on a new cabinet build by the number of bandaids on my fingers.  Right now there are two.  For some reason, my hands are magnets for splinters.  I mostly get them from plywood.  Word of advice: try not to let the plywood slide through your hands while you’re moving it.  Doesn’t end well for your digits.  When I built the cabinets for my first house, I had a splinter in my finger for weeks and didn’t know it.

3.  All the parts.  Cabinets have face frames, plywood boxes, braces, drawer fronts, drawers, doors, door hinges, door stops, drawer slides, counters, edging, knobs, pulls, etc.  Simple stuff, but it ends up being a lot of parts to cut out and track.  If you don’t buy them all up front then you end up purchasing them incrementally, which is what I usually do.  I recommend you buy absolutely everything you need for each job before you get started, otherwise you end up just wasting time making those separate trips.

4.  It’s still not cheap.  When all is said and done I’ll have saved a fair amount of money over purchasing comparable cabinets and having them installed professionally.  Can I find cabinets that look similar?  Maybe.  Can I find inexpensive cabinets?  Sure.  Can I find inexpensive, perfectly sized for my room, custom looking, beaded face frame and inset door cabinets for less than I’m paying in materials?  No freaking way.  If I were to hand over my cabinet specs over to a cabinet shop and ask them to build me the exact same thing I’m building now, I’d be paying over $2000 easy.  Probably closer to $3k or $4k.   That doesn’t mean by building these cabinets myself I’m not spending anything.  I’ll probably end up spending close to $800 on lumber and plywood.  That’s not zero.  Plus, I always end up trying out new tools or investing in upgrades.  For this build, I bought three new router bits.  That’s just the material cost.  There IS some value to spending time in the basement two or three nights a week.  That’s time away from my family and time I could be doing other productive work or just relaxing.  Plus, I already own almost all of the tools I need for the job, but if you don’t, those startup costs ain’t cheap.  So you need to consider all the “costs” associated with every job you undertake.

5.  It ALWAYS takes longer.  Much, much longer.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told my wife that I’ve only got a couple more hours and I’ll be all done.  You can imagine how well that goes after the 2nd or 3rd time.  Getting an accurate feel for how long a cabinet will last takes experience and even then it’s hard to gauge when life gets in the way.  Plan on it taking some time and then add another couple weeks.

6.  Material Sourcing.  This is my latest aggravation and I am swearing that this time I’ll learn from it.  I’m am DONE with buying S4S lumber from Home Depot and Lowes (at least for big projects).  I’m SO sick of standing there in the lumber aisle and picking out board after board that is warped, curved or cupped.  From now on I’m buying rough cut hardwood from a lumber yard and planing and jointing it myself.  Just a couple of days ago I was looking for some 1/2″ thick maple for the drawers.  Couldn’t find it anywhere.  I should’ve sourced all my lumber up front and then I wouldn’t be sitting pretty.  Instead, I’m using some 1/2″ thick Birch plywood and I’ll use some edge veneer.

So those are some of the aggravations of building your own cabinets.  It’s still TOTALLY worth it, people.  Totally.  Pretty soon I’ll be sitting in my new office with my feet up on the desk basking in the warm glow of custom cabinetry.  My splinters will all be healed and I’ll be thinking about my next project… Yep.  Couple more hours and I’ll be done.  ;)

Now I want to hear from you.  What is the ABSOLUTE WORST part of your DIY life?  It’s OK to complain once in a while.

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects. Tagged in ,, ,

Introduction to the Thickness Planer

Posted by on August 26th, 2014

In this post you’ll learn:

- How to use a thickness planer
– Why you should consider using one
– The difference between rough cut lumber and S4S

Back in 2005 when I was building my first set of kitchen cabinets, I made an impulsive purchase and bought a used thickness planer I found on Craigslist.  I had heard from numerous carpenters in online forums that by purchasing rough stock instead of the ready-to-use wood from the big hardware store, I would save a lot of money.  It ended up working out in my favor.  When the cabinets were finally completed and installed, I estimated I probably spent around $2k-$3k for all of the lumber and hardware for the kitchen cabinets.  That number may have been a few hundred dollars higher if I bought all of my lumber from Lowes or Home Depot.

The key to saving that money was the thickness planer.  Without it, I would’ve had to purchase more expensive and often lower quality lumber.

Here’s a video I just put together where I explain the basics of using a thickness planer. If you’ve never used one or frankly, have never even heard of a thickness planer, then it’s worth a quick watch. It could potentially save you money on your next carpentry project.

An Introduction to the Thickness Planer

Link to the video is also here.

Key Takeaways

- Thickness planers can cut wood either on the face side or on an edge of a board
– S4S means Sanded Four Sides and is the finished wood available for purchase at most large home improvement stores
– Rough cut lumber is generally cheaper per board foot compared to S4S lumber
– S4S is more expensive and can also contain major imperfections like bows or curves
– Boards you plan on planing should initially be cut wider or thicker than the finished width or thickness desired
– Plan on running a board through the planer 3 or 4 times.
– You can adjust the amount of material being removed in each pass with an adjustment knob
– I use the DeWalt Model 734 (affiliate) and it’s on my Tool Recommendations page

Here’s a picture that illustrates the point further.

planed board

The board on the left has just been cut with a table saw and has a fair amount of imperfections including raised, uneven surfaces and saw marks. It would take a LOT of sanding or hand planing to clean that edge up OR a few passes through the thickness planer.  The board on the right has just finished a few passes through the thickness planer and it looks clean and perfect.

Here’s the bottom line. If you are seriously getting into wood working and have some larger projects coming up or plan on working with reclaimed wood, then consider purchasing a thickness planer.  If you are mainly into smaller projects and are just an occasional woodworker, then you’ll probably survive without one.

Any questions?

Posted in Carpentry,Garage and Tools. Tagged in ,, , , ,

An Intro to Routers and Router Tables

Posted by on July 31st, 2014

Whenever I get a new newsletter subscriber, one of the first emails I send to them asks a basic question.  “What would you like to see”?  Recently, I’ve gotten at least a dozen replies specifically asking for more information on routers.  Most express an interest in simply learning the basics about them.

So, I’ve finally gotten around to filming this brief intro to routers and router tables.

I’ll be using both my router AND my router table when we make the built-ins for our home office remodel.  The face frames on the cabinets will feature a bead, which will be done with the beading bit and the joints for the doors will be made on the router table instead of the table saw.

(link to video here)

Here’s what you’ll see in this video:

- An overview of routers, collets and router bits
– Discussion on router speeds and bit sizes
– Explanation of router bases: plunge vs. fixed
– Using the fixed base router
– My router table
– Using the router table (link to the free plans)

If you’ve never used a router yet and you’re not even sure what one does or where you’ll use one, I can tell you it’s a skill and a tool worth learning.  Around our home, we’ve used the router and the router table on a number of projects.

Like our window sills in the dining room…

make a window sill

Or the cap on our wainscoting

cap wainscoting

OR the grooves in our custom TV stand

groove with a router

 

After you’ve watched the video, I’d love to hear how you’ve used your router if you own one.  If you don’t yet own a router, what project do you would use it on?  If you have any questions or comments, please leave a comment below.

And how about that animation??  Just had it done!

 

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects,Garage and Tools. Tagged in ,, , , ,

Setting Up Shop: Table Saw Upgrade Part 3

Posted by on July 28th, 2014

This past week the family and I spent a few days vacation in Cape May, NJ.  Been going there since I was a kid.  Great family town.  Lots of beautiful Victorian style homes.  Made a visit to the Cape May Brewing Company while we were down there and tried some of their delicious beer.  Got me thinking about trying to brew my own beer someday soon.  I think I may need a whole other blog for that though!  Anyway, didn’t get too sunburned so that’s a relief.  I just turned 35 a few weeks ago and I’m at the age (and hair density) where I apparently need to apply a generous amount of sunscreen to the top of my head.  Womp womp.

Anyway, was able to get back into the workshop and finish up my table saw upgrade.  Let’s pickup where we left off after our first and second posts.

The frame was all built using some scrap plywood ripped down to 3.5″ in width.  Once I was out of plywood, I finished the rest of the minor framing using 2x4s.  They were in non-critical areas so I’m not too concerned about their imperfections causing and issues with the saw.

table saw work station 1

I then screwed down a piece of 1/2″ thick plywood right where the saw will be located.  Turns out I probably could have used a 3/4″ thick board because I needed to shim the saw up some to get it flush with the table top.

table saw bench 1

The saw has to be secured in place so it doesn’t move relative to the table or fence so I just went out and bought some longer hex bolts to keep the saw where it’s supposed to be.  I also cut out a hole for the dust to be removed.  At some point I’ll hook up a dust collection system and this hole will come in handy.

table saw work station 2

table saw saw installed

The tricky part was installing the Biesemeyer fence system.  This fence was a leftover from my previous table saw and has been collecting dust in my basement for several years now.  It simply bolts onto the front frame of the table.

completed table saw table

The fence system has a built-in tape measure that I calibrate by squeezing a 3/4″ thick board between the fence and the blade and then setting the indicator to 3/4″.  Later on I’ll adjust the fence to ensure it is square to the blade.  I’ll also show this table saw station in more detail in an upcoming video.

table saw fence

table saw workstation fence

The best part of this table saw setup is it’s the same exact height as my other work table and the router table.  That means they can all be in-feed or out-feed tables for each other.  That alone is going to make cutting large sheets of plywood MUCH MUCH easier.

outfeed table

So in a few hours worth of work I’ve managed to build myself a simple work bench that compliments the other tables in the shop, adds over seven inches of width to the amount I can cut and cost me around $50 worth of fasteners, wheels and wood.  Not too bad.  This project is perfect if you’re looking to improve your table saw situation.

If you don’t have a Biesemeyer fence, which I wouldn’t expect you to, you can check out these picks from Amazon (affiliates): the Vega PRO, the Delta 36-T30 and the Shop Fox.

In our next post, I’ll be featuring a video on the basics of routers and router tables.

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects,Garage and Tools. Tagged in ,, ,

Setting Up Shop: Table Saw Upgrade Part 2

Posted by on July 21st, 2014

“Let’s start over.”

That’s what I said to myself a couple of days ago.  In case you missed it, I built the top to my table saw work station out of 2x4s.  I was planning on building the rest of it out of 2x4s too and while I was reasonably satisfied with the results so far, I DID run into some warped and twisted boards.  That’s going to happen when you work with framing lumber.  It’s just the way it is.  It’s not intended for tight tolerances or fine furniture.  It’s for framing houses, which is why it’s called framing lumber.

The same day I published last week’s post I got an email from one of our awesome subscribers, Rick.  I could tell right away Rick knows his stuff.  Rick was honest, experienced and suggested I not use 2x4s for this project since my intention is to make a fairly accurate table saw station.  Accurate cuts are obviously important and having a table top made from 2x4s doesn’t help.  Rick suggested I use planed and cut hardwood boards instead.  Planed hardwood boards, like maple or oak, will be much more stable and less prone to warping or twisting and will therefore provide a much higher quality product.

As soon as I read Rick’s email, I knew he was right, but I dithered.  I was telling myself that I already spent around $20 on 2x4s and I’m sure it would turn out okay.  I was lying to myself.  I kindly replied to Rick that he was right, but I had already purchased a whopping $20 worth of wood and I didn’t want to invest in the hardwood upgrade.

I’m also stubborn.

After thinking about it for a few days, I realized that I MIGHT actually have enough leftover plywood from some previous projects that I could build the entire table over again.  After all, I had only built the top and it probably only took me an hour.  I checked my inventory (my giant pile of scraps on the basement floor) and sure enough, I had enough for maybe 80% of the table.  Okay.  I could do this.

Let’s start over.

If you’re not a regular woodworker or are just getting into this sort of  thing, plywood is actually more dimensionally stable then hardwood and MUCH more stable than 2x4s or framing lumber.  The reason is it’s a board made from thinner laminations of hardwood where the grain alternates directions from one layer to the next.  Consequently, it’s much less likely to suffer from twists, cups or any of those annoying features that is common in framing lumber.  Plywood is perfect for shelves, cabinets and all sorts of carpentry projects where stability is important (like my garage shoe organizer).   It’s also cheaper than hardwood.  Not quite as pretty, but cheaper.

So big thank you to Rick for reminding me that it was worth taking the time to do this project correctly.  I owe you a beer.

Anyway, I re-built the top out of plywood.  You probably can’t tell from the photo, but it’s a much better product.

table saw workbench 2

This is pretty much where we left off last time.  I then cut out the melamine for the work surface.  The open area is where the table saw will be located.  I didn’t permanently install the melamine yet since it would just get in the way during the rest of the build.

table saw workbench 1

Now for the legs.  Just a couple of plywood boards with pocket screws.

table saw work bench legs

I topped them off with a couple of small plywood pieces for the wheels.

table saw work table legs wheels

Flipping it back over, I threw on some cross braces, which is where the table saw will ultimately be located.

table saw workbench 3

That’s it for this post.  In our next post I’ll finish the build and setup the fence.

Ever start a project over after realizing you could’ve done better?  Leave a comment below and explain yourself.  

 

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