Posted by John 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.
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…
Or the cap on our wainscoting…
OR the grooves in our custom TV stand…
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 ,intro, router, router table, tools, video
Posted by John 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ,table saw, table saw station, workbench
Posted by John 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.
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.
Now for the legs. Just a couple of plywood boards with pocket screws.
I topped them off with a couple of small plywood pieces for the wheels.
Flipping it back over, I threw on some cross braces, which is where the table saw will ultimately be located.
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.
Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects. Tagged in ,table saw, table saw station, tools, workbench
Posted by John on July 13th, 2014
If you’ve been following along lately, you know that we’re knee deep in our home office renovation. In our last post, we discussed the work we’ve done to date and what work was coming soon. We’re starting the second half our office project today by upgrading my main workshop power tool, the table saw. For what it’s worth, you can expect a lot of workshop posts and videos in the coming weeks.
Here’s my current table saw, a Hitachi.
What I like about it… It’s a great table saw. It’s powerful, it’s lightweight, portable and it’s perfect for most DIY projects. (By the way, on our Tool Recommendations Page, I recommend the Bosch model instead since it permits dado blades, whereas the Hitachi does not. So, if you are in the market for your first table saw, consider the Bosch over the Hitachi.)
Now for what I don’t like about this saw and frankly, contractor saws in general. It’s not such a great cabinet saw, which means it’s not ideal for cutting big plywood sheets. It’s a bit undersized, so larger pieces of plywood tend to be more of a challenge than I’d like. The table will move or wobble slightly when I place a larger sheet of wood down on it and it doesn’t have much of an outfeed setup. For long pieces of wood I have to walk around the back of the saw and pull the piece through once it starts hanging off the back. I’m sure that’s pretty common for people who use these types of saws, but it’s not ideal nor is it very safe, folks. It also only allows cuts up to around 24″ or so, which also isn’t great for wide cabinet parts.
While I’d love to buy a full blown cabinet saw, those are pretty pricey and would really only be worth my investment if I opened up a cabinet shop (not interested). Here’s an example of what a cabinet saw looks like:
This is a Grizzly brand table saw (affiliate link). Now THIS is a cabinet saw. You can click the link to see how much it costs, but it’s close to $2k. My hitachi was around $300. Yeah. Not interest in spending that sorta dough. Eventually, I plan on buying one way down the road, but I’m not in any hurry. These saws have powerful motors and huge table tops. They are VERY heavy and don’t move a lick when you slap a board down on them.
So what to do? Well, I’ve decided to make a sort of hybrid table saw station similar to something I saw on New Yankee Workshop years ago. I’m building a 2×4 framed work table that will feature a melamine top and a more professional Biesemeyer fence. My Hitachi table saw will then sit inside this workstation and have access to a larger work surface. I’m going to build this new table to the same height as my workbench, which will be able to act as either an outfeed or infeed table.
Here’s how it’s coming together so far.
Table Saw Upgrade #1
I started the build by measuring the dimensions of my Hitachi taking into account that the mobile base it’s attached to will be removed. I then took those dimensions, drew some rough sketches on paper and added in some length and width for the fence system. I start construction on the top frame, since that’s probably the most critical piece.
The sides are 2x4s and the front and back are 2x3s. A lot of this wood I had left over from our coffered ceiling framing. I joined the pieces together using pocket screws and liquid nail, but regular wood screws through the sides would work just fine too.
I then flipped the frame over and started adding the internal frame boards.
The large open space is where the table saw will be located. The rest of the table top will be melamine. While I haven’t finished cutting out all of the melamine, you can get an idea of what it will look like with the last piece. I want the melamine to be recessed into the framing, which will make more sense later.
I’m hoping to finish the legs and sub framing later this week. This quick project will hopefully make the cabinet project much easier.
So what’s your table saw situation? Do have have a contractor’s saw? Know anyone with a cabinet saw?
Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects,Garage and Tools. Tagged in ,table saw, tools, workbench
Posted by John on July 7th, 2014
Happy Monday, folks. We hope all of our American readers enjoyed their 4th of July weekend! Lisa and I took the kids over to the USS New Jersey on Saturday afternoon. It’s the closest Battleship to our home in South Jersey. I’m a HUGE fan of the Iowa Class Battleships.
Gotta tell you… I was not disappointed. Tremendous history there. If you ever get the chance to go on one of the Iowa’s, I suggest you take it. The USS Iowa is in LA, the USS New Jersey is in Camden, the USS Missouri is in Pearl Harbor and the USS Wisconsin is in Norfolk. I’ve been on the Wisconsin before, but if I recall correctly, the tour was limited. The New Jersey tour is impressive, although the teak deck is in rough shape in some areas.
I’m leading today off with this Navy reference for a good reason. If you haven’t yet subscribed to our free newsletter, now it the perfect time to GET ON BOARD! See what I did there?
So we’ve finished most of the work on our coffered ceiling and later this week I’ll be prepping to build the built-in cabinets for our big home office remodel. Part of the prep work will include setting up my basement workshop and I’m planning on filming a 30-40 minute long episode after it’s all done. I will also be filming some quick five minute long videos going over each of the power tools I’ll be using for the cabinet build. If you’ve never used a table saw or a router, this is right up your alley. I’m also in need of a larger table saw station and a more permanent miter saw stand before I get started.
That’s why this is the PERFECT time to get on board with our free newsletter and follow along with the project as it unfolds. Building cabinets is our bread and butter and if you’re interested in learning how to make your own, you’re going to enjoy this series.
What I’m going to cover:
1. The Table Saw
2. The Miter Saw
3. The Router
4. The Cordless Drill
5. The Kreg Jig
6. Cabinet Building Jigs
7. Design and Dimensioning
8. Face Frame
9. Cabinet Boxes
Sounds good? Have any questions on the cabinet build process that you’d like answered? Leave me a comment below and I’ll try to answer it. Big fan of big ships? Would love to hear what ships you’ve been on!
Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects. Tagged in ,built-ins, cabinets, home office
Posted by John on June 26th, 2014
I’m relieved to finally tell you that all of the crown molding has been installed in our home office. It was a bear. Granted, I still have to putty all the nail holes, caulk the joints and paint them. I’ll save that work for the weekend. That’s not the end of the molding in the office either. Once the built-ins are completed and installed, I still have to install a final piece of wall trim and all the baseboard molding. However, that type of trim work should be considerably easier to handle.
In today’s post, I’m sharing a video tutorial I made (with Lisa as camera lady) as well as some additional info below where I discuss some of the techniques I used to get better crown molding results.
Tips for Better Crown Molding Results
1. Pre-paint your Molding. While not hugely important, getting at least one good coat of paint on the molding BEFORE you install it will allow you to only have to paint it one more time after it’s installed. That’s less time on the ladder.
2. Use Backer Blocks. In the video, I use some simple plywood backer blocks. These little blocks can be cut from scrap wood and provide the crown molding a solid surface to lay against. It makes installation SO MUCH EASIER. After this list, I’ve shared a quick tutorial on making your own backer blocks.
3. Make a Cut Guide. Before measuring and cutting any intersecting crown molding pieces, make a cut guide with a piece of scrap crown molding. The guide can have a 45 degree cut on both ends and can be used to determine if any adjustments need to be made before the actual piece is cut. You’d rather find out that your molding needs a slight adjustment before you cut through it.
4. Use a Crown Molding Jig. While I do recommend using the Bench Dog Crown Molding Jig (affiliate link), you can just as easily make your own using some scrap lumber and a couple of clamps.
5. Be Strategic with your Boards. When you walk by the office or look inside, all of the crown molding pieces that face you don’t have any miter cuts. They all are straight pieces. That’s intentional. All of the cut boards are on the sides of the boxes. That way, even if the joints aren’t perfect, almost no one will notice if they stick their head in the room. Getting the joints done right is important, but any minor mistakes will be less visible this way.
How to Make Backer Blocks for Crown Molding
1. You’ll need a carpenter’s square, a small piece of the crown molding, a paper, and a pen.
2. Arrange the crown molding inside the carpenter’s square so that both the top and bottom flats of the molding are flat against the square. This is how the crown molding will look when installed.
3. Using a pen or a pencil, trace the inside triangle made by the molding and the square.
4. You can remove the square and the molding.
5. Measure the length of the top and the length of the side, marked here as “A” and “B,” respectively.
6. Now for some math. Using a scientific calculator or an online calculator take the inverse tangent (tan raised to the -1) of A over B (A/B). If you do that math, you get 38.7 degrees or roughly 39 degrees. Now you can set your table saw angle to that value. All you need to do now is make sure you cut the board to the length of “A,” which in this case is 1″.
To make things easier on you, you can also lay that drawing on your miter saw and use the miter saw’s gauge to determine the angle of the molding. OR you can just use a protractor.
For our home office, the larger molding had a block with an angle of 36 degrees and as mentioned above, the smaller molding was 39 degrees.
I hope you found this post helpful. Even if you’re not planning any crown molding work, keep this project in mind for when you do.
Now I’d like to hear from you. Do you have any crown molding installation tips or tricks?
Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects,Videos. Tagged in ,crown molding, home office, trim, video
Posted by John on June 22nd, 2014
Believe it or not, it’s been about seven months since we started our home office remodel and we still have a good amount of work left to do. While we never intended for it to take this long, life has a way of stretching some things out. Since we starting our office project back in December, we’ve since gained a good amount of new readers and newsletter subscribers, so I thought it would be helpful if I did a mid-way thru recap post so everyone can see what we’ve done to date and what we have left to accomplish.
2. Next we made a video on how to use Sketchup for designing basic room layouts and we showed you our future office layout.
3. We switched gears for a bit and discussed the coffered ceiling concept design and then settled on the final detailed design for both the ceiling and the built-in cabinets.
5. After the ceiling was primed and painted, I got around to installing the old work style recessed lights.
If you check out this list of posts, you’ll be all caught up on our home office remodel.
Right now I’m in the middle of installing the crown molding. It’s a giant pain in the rear. Each coffered ceiling box gets crown molding and then the entire perimeter of the room will get it too. This isn’t the first time I’ve installed crown molding and I have managed to learn a few tips and tricks along the way. In our next post, I plan on sharing a video where I’ll share what I’ve learned. There are a few things you can do to make the job much easier. It still stinks though, got to be honest with you.
So here’s what coming soon to a post near you:
1. Crown molding installation video with tips for better results
2. Cabinet construction. (I probably won’t go quite as in detail as our last cabinet series, but you can expect more videos)
3. Building a filing cabinet from scratch.
4. Building a simple desk. (I’ll share a trick I learned to make thin wood look super chunky)
5. Baseboard molding and finishing touches.
6. Dressing up the room. There will be Doctor Who themed decor items. Plan on it.
Thanks for reading! If there’s ANY part of this office remodel project you’d like more info on, please don’t hesitate to ask. I’m happy to share details or answer questions.
Have a great week!
Posted in DIY Projects. Tagged in ,home office, update
Posted by John on June 16th, 2014
Happy Monday folks.
Today I have just uploaded our latest set of free woodworking plans. The plans are for the sliding kitchen cabinet drawers.
The plans are free to our newsletter subscribers.
The plans feature a calculator that lets you enter two simple measurements to generate custom dimensions for each cabinet in your kitchen.
Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects. Tagged in ,carpentry, drawers, Kitchen, plans, woodworking
Posted by John on May 27th, 2014
If you ask me what I enjoy the ABSOLUTE MOST about blogging, my answer is always helping others with their home projects. Hands down the best part of this gig. I love getting comments or emails from readers expressing their gratitude for something they found on our site. Really makes my day. Just last week, one of our newsletter subscribers emailed me some pictures of her custom bathroom vanities she built from scratch. She told me that she was able to complete the task after reading our TV stand series. I was so impressed with her work that we’re featuring her vanities as our 4th installment of Your Home from Scratch.
You guys. Wait to you see these cabinets.
Andrea’s Custom Vanity
1. Your vanities are beautiful. Why did you decide to build them instead of buying them?
Thanks for inviting me to share in your blog! I decided to try to build these vanities after pricing ones that I really loved and found them over-the-top expensive for the value and quality of construction. For the double sink vanity prices were $1000 +, the single vanity $700+ – add on tax and shipping and that was the deal breaker. Also, I wanted my mirrors and vanities to match.
2. How much money do you think you saved by building them yourself?
Assuming I bought the two vanities mentioned above at $1800, minus my supplies $300 (?), I guess I saved about $1500.
It took me 1 month of on-and-off work while carpenters did complicated bath renovation including moving walls, plumbing and electric. My only other carpentry experience comes from building a step back cupboard a few years ago. I had a picture from an antique catalog, so I started by drawing a picture on the wall where I wanted it to be to get the starting dimensions and then drew up plans on graph paper. Oh, I am also building my 2nd canoe.
4. Give us a quick overview of how you built them. Did you use roughly the same build method as our TV stand? What material?
I built the first single vanity using your plans for the entertainment cabinet. I figured out the width dimensions first and built the face frame. I did want the cabinet to sit on Shaker legs to appear as a piece of furniture, so I extended the right and left vertical face frame pieces to extend about 3″ below the lower horizontal piece. I used poplar wood as you suggested, along with cabinet grade birch veneer plywood for sides, base and shelves. For the second, larger double sink vanity, I again determined the width first. I knew I wanted 3 doors so I evenly spaced them and repeated the same steps as the first vanity.
5. What sort of finish product did you use (Latex paint, acrylic, lacquer)?
As far as the finish, I again used your advice of applying 2 coats of latex primer and 2 coats of latex paint. I got the most perfect finish using a velour covered, small roller from Sherwin Williams. The finish is so perfect that it looks factory applied. I was very pleased with this roller finish. I did lightly sand between coats. Beautiful.
6. What was the hardest part of the project?
The hardest part of the project was becoming familiar and comfortable with using the radial arm saw, skill saw, table saw and biscuit jointer (affiliate) ( I don’t have a router set-up). I am a real safety freak, so I took this part very seriously. I am really alone on all these projects, so your quick response to my hardware questions, etc. was a big confidence builder – like, I had a big brother that was just a email away!
7. What are you planning on building next?
I am planning on building a second mirror/cabinet for above the first single vanity. I have gained so much satisfaction from this project that I know I can do just about anything just taking it one step at a time. Thanks again, John.
Thanks to Andrea for sharing this incredible home improvement project. If you have a home improvement project that you’d like to share with our readers, shoot me an email: John at Our Home from Scratch dot com.
Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects,Your Home from Scratch. Tagged in ,bathroom, cabinets, carpentry, vanity
Posted by John on May 21st, 2014
In today’s post I want to share a story with you from back in the days when I wasn’t very skilled in the ways of home improvement. I believe that you learn much more from failures than you do from successes, so I’m not in the least bit embarrassed to discuss this episode. I hope this story helps put your home improvement challenges in perspective. The only real failure is if you don’t learn anything from your mistakes.
In 2004, I was about six months into owning my first home. I had just learned how to wire a house and I was getting the hang of interior trim work. I was scrambling to get the place drywalled before a big work trip overseas. The day before my flight, my dad had come down to give me a hand with some other house work. Back then I hired out all my drywall work and I had a few guys hanging the sheetrock in another part of the house. It was a cold and rainy day, typical for that time of year in Philly.
Shortly before the sheetrock guys were to quit for the day, my dad and I noticed water had started to drip heavily from an archway just near one of the windows. My first reaction was to assume it was from the rain. The home was 100 years old and a bit of a money pit at the time, so of course that’s where my mind went. I opened up a window to see if I could identify where the rain was entering the house and instead noticed the rain had pretty much stopped, but the drip inside the house was getting worse.
At that moment, the drip started to appear more in the center of the archway and my father and I realized that one of the drywall screws probably punctured a copper pipe. Crap.
After turning off the water, we had the drywall folks rip down a small section of their work and we were able to quickly identify where the leak was located. Rather than call a plumber, we decided that we could easily handle this repair. All we had to do was cut through the puncture and solder on a coupling sleeve over the cut. We thought this would be simple.
Let me tell you something, 2014 John would have that leak fixed in about 15 minutes. 2004 John and his dad were in over their heads.
We headed over to the hardware store and picked up some propane, a pipe cutter, solder, flux, sandpaper, some flux brushes and a few couplings. We cut the pipe right on the puncture, sanded it, pulled one of the pipes out of the way to slide the sleeve on and then set out to heat the pipes. We had heard that you could use bread to keep the interior of the pipe dry while soldering and that seemed to work okay. Confident that we had totally nailed it, we turned the water pressure back on and promptly had multiple jets of water spraying into the room. Crap.
For the next two hours we essentially repeated that process four or five times. Once it got to about ten o’clock my dad had to leave and I called an emergency plumber. I couldn’t just leave the water off while I was away. I had two roommates at the time that in all likelihood would require use of the shower and toilet.
The emergency plumber showed up and fixed the leak in about the time it will take you to read this post. He was FAST. He also charged me $250. Oof. Here’s where I got my money’s worth though: I asked him what I was doing wrong and he taught me some tips that I’ve used countless times since. Instead of a $250 repair, it was a $250 one-on-one pipe repair training session. Money well spent.
Here’s what he did differently:
- He didn’t try to use one coupling over the punctured area, he cut out the entire section and soldered in a short section of pipe with two couplings. The punctured pipe had been too deformed to get a solid seal around it.
- He used MAPP gas instead of propane since it burns hotter and heats the pipe and coupling up faster.
- Immediately after the solder was sucked into the joint, he used his flux brush and brushed a light amount of flux on the outside of the joint, which appeared to further smooth and even out the solder. It looked much cleaner and more professional as a result.
These types of lessons aren’t limited to plumbing obviously and while I hope you find his tips helpful, that’s not the point of this post. Sometimes, we just need to step back when we get stuck and ask for help. It’s not a surrender or a defeat, although it sure can feel that way sometimes. It’s an opportunity to learn.
If you’ve had an expensive home improvement lesson, I’d love to hear about it. Please share your story by leaving a comment.