Builders Challenge: Part IV

Here we are, Part IV, which was delayed due to my FIRST DRESSER BUILD. I will certainly be posting about the dresser in the near future, but now we return to the Builders Challenge. A quick reminder that participants had three weeks to complete their build, and I was so stressed about that timeline that I spent quite a few early mornings and “late” (this is a relative term when bedtime is by 9 pm) evenings working on mine. Fargo (and Tim when he was around) were very supportive and kept me company.

Blooper

After completing the table top and attaching the legs, I then went on to the drawer and drawer box. I opted to use pine for the drawer box and cedar for the drawer so that when opened, the drawer would coordinate with the cedar from the table top.

I had opted not to line the side panels up with the inside of the legs, which came back to haunt me a bit at drawer time. There was enough wiggle room that the drawer could easily get hung up on the front legs as it was pulled out. I’m proud to show you my solution, which no one will ever see again unless they remove the drawer. I made drawer guides.

Next step was adding the drawer face, which I find to be a really tricky process. I’m sure I used a very unconventional method which included very short brad nails to temporarily attach and test the positioning of the face that could be removed before the final fastening with screws. I found the drawer pull at Home Depot early on, saw it and knew it was what I wanted.

The original plans did not include a lower shelf.I loved the cedar so much, I wanted to use more of it and decided a shelf would be a perfect way to do just that. The few times I’ve done shelves previously, the slats were always sitting on top of rails. In order to keep with the theme of challenging myself, I decided I wanted the slats to be flush with the rails. You can actually see a bit of the channel I made in the back rail in the picture above.

One way to make such a channel, called a rabbet, is with the table saw. I was not ready to try that. Another way, is with a router/router table. I was not ready to try that either (we have since purchased a router table and I’m building a stand). Remember the hand held router tool I used in the very beginning? I decided that was the way to go…

It was not pretty. I somehow managed to salvage that mess with lots of sanding, but when I started the next one, it was worse. At that point, I was ready to give up. I have no idea how I came up with “I’m going to do this with a hammer and chisel even though I’ve only ever used them together once before, for one minute, at the start of this build,” but I did.

This one actually turned out better than the one I did with the router tool, but also required a mega amount of sanding. It was all worth it though, when I did the test layout.

And the actual shelf install. Fargo was beside himself with excitement at my triumph.

And that is the story of my Builders Challenge experience and table build. I literally cannot wait for Season 8!!! I hope to have added at least a few new skills to my repertoire by then.

Builders Challenge: Part III

Working with dowels was yet another new skill for me to attempt. I’m still somewhat challenged when it comes to drilling straight, so I knew there was NO WAY I was going to attempt to drill dowel holes freehand, especially 1/2″ in size. I did some research online and saw a few dowel jigs that people made and decided to try it.

Using an ancient drill press didn’t make it easy and my hole was slightly off center, but straight up and down. I wasn’t going to try and wrestle the clamps and drill press again and decided I would try to compensate later. I used a 2×2 cutoff since I would be drilling the holes in the 2×2 legs. I then glued that to a piece of thin mdf board.

I was pretty excited after using my jig on the table legs! I then moved on to the lap joints of the table top frame.

The first hole I drilled ended up with a chunk of wood chipping out on the bottom. Luckily Tim showed up after that and suggested putting an old 2×4 underneath to drill into which solved the problem. I was able to glue the chipped piece back into place.

The next step was to dry/test fit the legs and hold my breath with the hope that, between the dowel holes in the legs and the ones in the table top, the alignment wouldn’t be too far off. Thank goodness that although only one was really amazing, none of the rest were off enough to draw attention.

I stained the legs and then glued the dowels into the base. WOOOOOT!! This was a pretty exciting moment for me. Okay, really, the whole thing was filled with exciting moments, but I did hold my breath a TON.

Next step is to cut off the extra dowel. I purchased a flush trim saw for another new skill attempt. I watched a few youtube videos and saw someone use a plastic card to protect the surface and thought that was a good idea, especially for a first timer. I put my AAA card to good use.

Again, holding my breath, I went for it. I was thrilled that I managed to saw off 8 dowels without gouging the table top! The only problem I discovered with this method, however, is that it leaves a good bit to sand. It took me forever to sand the rest of the dowels down and I did end up leaving some light sand marks on the top. Maybe no one would notice, but I saw it. Fargo wasn’t super impressed with the amount of sanding I was doing.

I might have been a little teary when I rubbed on some Weatherwash Clear Maintenance Oil and saw how beautiful the cedar and the dowels came out.

I’ll leave it here for now. I may be able to wrap it up in one more post, but I’m not making any promises.

Builders Challenge: Part II

The Season 7 plans were for a cell phone charging table/nightstand. I was very happy when I saw someone asked my question as to whether the charger was necessary and that the answer was no. I don’t see us ever using something like that, and I knew I wanted an entryway table and there is no plug anywhere nearby.

As a bonus, the plans arrived a day early, so I took that first day to inventory my supplies, figure out what wood I wanted to use, and make a quick trip to gather a few items. We’ve had 1×4 cedar boards laying around for a while and I thought this would be a great opportunity to use them. I really only needed the 2x2s, a 1×6, drawer pull and a dowel (first dowel purchase).

The next morning, at 4:30am, I was pouring over the plans, trying to figure out how to put some of me in them, and HERRINGBONE flashed before my eyes. The middle piece of the table top was designated as plywood in the plans and that is where the charger would have gone (underneath), but I was seeing the center section as herringbone.

Lap joints were recommended for the table top frame. I’d never tried lap joints, which can apparently be created via several methods. I watched Lazy Guy DIY’s video to learn more. One option, the best option, is the table saw. I hadn’t yet used the table saw, and frankly, I have an overly healthy fear of it.

So, I tried the hand held router tool, and chiseled out the rest.

Circular saw and chisel.

Neither of which ended with an acceptable result.

Granted, these are two different thicknesses of wood, but oy! It’s a lap joint, but an ugly one.

I posted about my lap joint trials and tribulations on Instagram with The Builders Challenge hashtags and I was amazed that one of the organizers reached out and offered to help. She sent me the link to a video of how she makes lap joints on the table saw. Her way didn’t look as scary because the blade is covered by the wood at all times since you’re only removing half. LOOOOOK!!!!!!! Thank you 3×3 Custom!!!

I didn’t originally realize that the cedar boards had a rough side and a smooth side. After sanding, I loved them both, so beautiful. I decided to make the table top frame with two smooth sides and two rough sides.

Originally, I was going to use pine 1x2s for the herringbone to tie into the rest of the pine I was using. When I did a mock up, it just wasn’t doing it for me.

I loved the cedar, so I cut a few pieces and knew it was right. Again I opted for a combination of smooth side and rough side.

I’ll get back to the dowels later. One thing I learned from doing my second herringbone with the puzzle method was that I like doing it the way I did the first one better. In the future, if possible, I will be doing the herringbone layout and glue up, I will zip off the excess and build the frame around it. Trying to fit teeny tiny pieces into the corners was a lot of sanding and very little fun. And, spoiler for later, this picture shows a dry fit. I took all of those pieces out in order to glue them to a backer board and they did not want to go back together as well the second time.

One other detail I’ll point out here is that I originally intended the lighter side of each long board to line the middle (see lap joint frame picture). In the picture above, you can see a light streak on the left inside of the left board. The light streak on the right board is on the outside and should be on the inside. I was so focused on the next step, the dowels, that I didn’t pay attention when I was laying the frame boards down. I’m sure not many people would notice, and I still love it, but it does bother me a tiny bit. Woodworking is about being present in the moment and paying attention to the details. This is something I need to really work on because my mind is always racing ahead.

That’s probably enough babble for now. I’m thinking there may be a Part IV at this rate. Next up will be dowels and legs and maybe the drawer. Thanks for continuing along with me on this journey!

Builders Challenge Table: Part I

This post has a lot more text than usual…fair warning. If you’ve followed along with my Empty Nest journey at all, you’ll know that it’s been hard for me. It is especially hard because our kiddos are far away and we only see them twice, maybe three times per year. In an attempt to fill my time in a productive and positive manner, I tried a number of hobbies. Some were hobbies I had done in the past, and some were new. Woodworking was definitely new, and not only did I enjoy, I LOVED it. I have mostly used the tools Tim has gathered over the past 30 years, though we’ve added a few. The entire impetus behind insulating the garage was to have more comfortable woodworking space because I’m hooked!

Though I have such a huge learning curve to deal with, I participated in Season 7 of The Builders Challenge on Instagram. If you have an Instagram account, but you don’t yet follow me, I am @taughtthemtofly. I learned about it when I saw people posting pictures from Season 6 and, once I found out there would be a Novice category, decided to commit. This event has three categories, Novice, Intermediate and Finest Craftsman and you self selected what level to enter. Given that I’ve only been at this for a short time, and I had no joinery experience beyond pocket holes (not that there’s anything wrong with pocket holes!), it was easy to determine I was a Novice.

Let me take a moment here to thank Tim, Fargo (who hung out with me), our kiddos, family and friends. I was obsessed with this project, talked about it nonstop, worked on it for hours, sent SO MANY pictures asking for feedback, etc. Tim learned some stuff along with me, was my moral support, and cheerleader. He even tried lap joints on the table saw first (neither of us had used a table saw), so I could feel at least a bit less intimidated. Many of you sent messages of support and I appreciate you all!

I filled out the registration form, and on May 4 I received the build plan for Novice, which had been a secret up until that point. Participants would have 3 weeks to complete the build and were encouraged to personalize the plan and post progress pictures with specific hashtags so that we could follow each other’s progress. I am really proud of myself for committing to this as it was a huge stretch of my comfort zone to put myself out there in front of so many AMAZING woodworkers. WHAT A WONDERFUL EXPERIENCE!!!

The organizers and participants made this so incredibly positive by reaching out to answer questions, or share tutorials, or give moral support. I learned so many new things by trying what was suggested in the plan, versus sticking with what little I know. I had some ups and downs, and there are definitely things I would approach differently from the hindsight perspective. I also did not judge my timing well and finished early. I could have taken more time to think it through and refine my ideas, but I was too worried about finishing on time. Hopefully, as I continue to learn and grow, I’ll be able to better judge planning and process time.

I took a lot of pictures throughout this build, close to 40 will make it into the blog. Many of them are on Instagram. Results were announced yesterday and I didn’t win the amazing prize package, but I still won in many other ways. In Part II, I will take you along with me for the first steps of building my table.

Catching Up and a Headboard and Nightstand Pair

The months fly by, seemingly faster as I get older. When I started this post, it was a March round up and I was asking, “where did March go?” I’m wondering the same about April! Now that yard/garden work is in the mix, I’ve been keeping ridiculously busy. I’ve actually started posting a few times and just haven’t finished. Today is the day though!

I do want to share one of the highlights of March, which was seeing the eldest, who was on the East Coast for work and was able to hop a bus to spend two days with us.

Another highlight was the youngest having her artwork selected for a second gallery show in Pasadena. It’s bitter-sweet for us as we are super duper proud and would so love to be able to attend these events. We are grateful the kiddos are nearby-ish to each other and can be supportive in person.

Tim and I bought new wedding bands from Groove Life and I posted about them on Instagram. We’ve been wearing them for a few weeks now and we are both really pleased.

I’ve been logging a few miles 3-4 times/week since January. I ran outside a few weeks ago for the first time in WAY TOO long. I’m slower than the slow I already was before, but I’m proud of myself for getting back into the swing of some weekly miles.

Fargo has really taken to his role as driveway workshop dog. He doesn’t always opt for the bed, but he enjoys being outside with me when it’s sunny. It’s hard to see in this picture, but I’m getting quite the silver streaks going on both sides of my hair. I started using a new hashtag on Instagram: #silverhairandsawdust.

Okay, now on to the headboard and nightstand. A friend asked me to build these for her son’s room, with the understanding that I would be learning through the process. I learned a TON through both of these, as they each had elements (such as drawer slides) that I had never done before. I will show some end result pictures here, and hopefully do a more in depth post about the builds.

Both were Ana White plans. Both are finished with two coats of Weatherwash Rusted Stain and Satin Varnish. I know I need to expand beyond Weatherwash at some point, but I really love their results.

We’ve also done so much in the shop (garage) and I will get a post up with all of those pictures/descriptions as well. Hope Spring is treating you all well!

Backyard Birds March ’19 Edition

I’ve taken way too many pictures of the birds visiting our feeders in between working on the never ending garage project. Pretty sure I’ve seen more variety of visitors this year than in previous years. Grabbed the fancy camera multiple times the last few days and here are just a few of the (MANY) pictures I’ve snapped. Apologies to those of you on Instagram, who will have seen most of these already.

Fly Fishing Rod Tube Holder (Definitely): Part II

Well, it all fit together. It’s got a lot of “character” in the way it fit together, and in the wood itself, but it looks pretty fantastic for a first go. I’ll share the good, and the areas for improvement in this post. I probably have way too many pictures, but I’m okay with that.

As I mentioned in Part I, I used two different woods, I believe them to be pine and cherry, so we’ll assume that to be the case. I originally intended to just use more of the pine, but the cherry was too pretty to pass up once our neighbors dropped it off. All four pieces of cherry are from the same board and the board was a little more dry and wonky than I really realized until I was fairly far into the process, but just soooooo pretty.

After sanding each piece and cutting the holes with the hole saw bit, I used an ancient Dremel type tool from my mom with a round sanding bit. The hole saw, and our inexperience, left some pretty rough edges. The Dremel-ish tool did a reasonable job, especially smoothing the interior of the circles.

We have a router, and a router table, and once the garage is finished, I hope to be able to set it up and work with it. I think a router roundover on these circles might be a good plan.

I used the pine for the base, under the cherry and because I thought it would be a neat contrast in the bottom holes to hold the tubes. The cherry was too pretty for stain, so I used two coats of Weatherwash Clear Maintenance Oil to give it a little help on the dryness and bring out the grain. I then used the Weatherwash Satin Varnish to seal it. Here are some before oil and after oil pictures.

I waffle between finishing before or after assembly. I opted for before this time, and it did impact one decision we made. We pondered whether it might be a good idea to use dowels to put the pieces together, and though we concluded that the cherry was probably too thin for that, the fact that I had already oiled and varnished did come up.

First step in assembly was gluing the bottom three pieces together.

You may be able to see, on the top left of the bottom picture, that the holes do not line up exactly.This is another area I need to figure out how to make better. The hole saw was really tough to line up precisely, and it jumped when the teeth first bit into the wood. When a rod tube is in there, it doesn’t show, but I’m hoping to correct this if I make another one.

We went back and forth on how to attach the sides and the top, and ways to clamp and brace. We landed on using glue with fine thread drywall screws, and used a pilot bit to drill/countersink the screw holes. This was new for me. I was so freaking nervous that the wood would split, or that I would set the screw at an angle and it would poke out the side of a board. We took turns drilling to mediate my anxiety, and guess what? I did OK.

Tim had the brilliant idea to try and dry fit the top piece before attaching the other side, which is propped up by the box in the picture above. I say brilliant, because we did need to re-position the unattached side to facilitate a better fit for the top. Fortunately, the adjustment made all four pieces sit flush with each other on one side. We determined that this side would be the front, since the uneven edge won’t be as noticeable in the back. Another stressor in attaching the top was how much the wonky sides would need to pull in. We were ready for a pop or a crack along the way, but thankfully – silence.

My foot photo-bombed the last picture, but it gives a little size comparison, as does the picture where Fargo is inspecting our work. Don’t worry, Tim already has enough rods/tubes to fill all eight spots. I think he’s pleased with his belated holiday gift…that he helped build.

A February Day

It started with a beautiful morning, sun streaming through the trees, which I tried to capture. The birds were busy on the feeders. Fargo and Tim played in the snow as the sun began to set.

Sofa/Console Table: Part III

It’s finished!!!!! I built a sofa table and it’s finished and I’m ridiculously excited about it! Tim provided support and some guidance and suggestions, but this baby was 95% me. I’ll start with a finished picture because I wouldn’t want to make you wait til the end of the post (told you I’m excited) and then back-up for some in-progress pictures.

I’m not great with decorating, but here is my first go at it. May try a few different versions of table decorations over the next few weeks.

Okay, in the last post, I had made it as far as the assembling the table top. Took advantage of a nice day between polar vortex and snow/ice storm to get moving on next steps. Trimming it down to size was interesting and super stressful. I started with the table top upside down, so I could follow the plywood, but the circular saw blade was rubbing on the plywood and the track was catching on the nail heads. This is one of the times Tim had to really talk it through to help me figure it out. THANK YOU, TIM!!

Flipped it over, marked the plywood edges on the sides of the herringbone pieces and lined up the track.

Once I was finished with the circular saw, which I’m slowly getting better at using, I cut/glued the remaining small pieces. Before I added the frame around the outside of the table top, and attached it to the base, I sanded it again and stained it first. I used the Oaked Stain from Weatherwash, and had planned to use the White Maintenance Oil, but loved the stain color so much I opted to go with the clear oil. Due to the crazy weather, and the state of the garage, I moved everything to the basement where the lighting is not optimal.

So pretty! I added the Clear Maintenance Oil, which deepened the colors. Oiled sections on the right in the picture below.

I will say, once again, that I’m not sure I understand assembly before staining. I realize it’s nice to know if it’s going to look good/correct once it’s all together, but it sure makes finishing a supreme pain. I used a teeny tiny brush to reach in between the bottom shelf slats. Pretty sure I’m going to go back to finishing all of the pieces first for the next project, even if it’s wrong.

The Shanty-2-Chic plans I followed for the base called for wheels on the bottom. Tim and I weren’t interested in wheels, so we did some internet searching and came up with an alternative. We love how these look as part of the finished piece (thank goodness).


Here is a picture from the other direction with a good view of the feet.

Well, that was probably more than you wanted to know about my first table build. Maybe it should have been a 4 part post. I learned so darn much through this process and I can’t wait to try it all out again, and to use what I’ve learned on new projects. Thanks for following along on this journey with me!

Oh, and something super fun happened when I posted on Instagram yesterday! I tagged Brandi at Eternal Harvest Decor in my comments to thank her for inspiring me to try a herringbone table top and for her youtube instructional video and she posted my table in her stories!

This is illustrative of the support I’ve seen in the Instagram woodworking community. On top of this, the amazing comments I’ve received from you all on Instagram and Facebook make me feel grateful and I appreciate it.

Sofa/Console Table: Part II

After a few days of Spring, the Winter weather has returned to Central PA. We made the most of the post-polar vortex reprieve and got much of the drywall up in the garage.I loved being able to get outside early enough that we could watch the tail end of the sunrise.

The whole back wall is now done and only a third of a sheet is left to do by the garage door.

The console/sofa table has been an experience. It will apparently take three parts to really share the experience of making it. Part II is focused on how much harder it was to get the pieces of wood lined up in the herringbone pattern than I anticipated. First, Fargo and I got the round 1 sanding done, and I didn’t even have a coat on!

Once the sanding was completed, I had some interesting hours. It was all fun and games when I was just laying the pieces of wood out to make sure I cut enough. Actually lining them up so that the centers didn’t travel off to one side of the plywood or the other was a different story.

I used clamps on two pieces in the middle. I then lined the rest of the boards in place above and below. It was so frustrating that I had to walk away for a bit and come back to it. It would definitely have been easier if I had just cut the angle on the center edges and lined them up on the middle line. This way, not only did I need to line it up even from both edges, but the tilt had to be correct as well.

Once I FINALLY got to the point where it was as centered as possible, I tightly clamped the two middle pieces in order to permanently affix them in place and use them as a guide. I actually flipped the board over, nailed those two pieces from the bottom, crossed my fingers and began the glue-up process.

As an extra measure to secure the herringbone pieces to the plywood, I nailed all of them to the board from the back. I honestly have no idea if that was a good idea, or not, but I was just too nervous they would fall off.

Now that all but the smallest pieces are attached, I’m hoping to use the circular saw today (once temps get into the 20s) to trim the herringbone pieces to the size of the plywood. I’ll then use the scraps for the remaining open spots. Hoping the circular saw and I get along well.

In between, I’m still doing yoga (and Fargo is still fighting me for the mat), and I’m still stopping to take some pictures (mostly from indoors). Had a pileated woodpecker stop by the back yard.

I’m ready to get the final sanding on the table done and start staining it. I submitted my table project to the Weatherwash Brand Ambassador program and it was accepted, which I’m pretty excited about. They sent me the Oaked Stain, White Maintenance Oil and Satin Varnish for free to use on the table in exchange for some social media postings and pictures to help with their company promotion. Given that I started using their products for the bed and nightstands and how much I love the results, it’s super cool to be working with them on the table.

Okay, wish me luck!