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.

Matching Nightstand

Although this was the third nightstand I built, it was the second type of nightstand. This Reclaimed Wood Look Bedside Table was another Ana White plan. It had a few firsts for me, including making side panels and installing drawer slides. I learned a lot while building this, though I learn a lot with every build.

Here is a view of the side panel, boards are attached to each other with pocket hole screws. I opted for one coat of stain prior to assembly because it is hard to get all the nooks and crannies once it is together.

Here you can see the pocket holes on the inside. Fargo is inspecting the assembly of the two sides. I was very proud and excited that it was all square!

Also square, were my drawer boxes.

First time installing drawer slides.

I had seen several people use a deck of cards to center drawer faces. Unfortunately, these cards were so slippery, that it made the process extra challenging. Centering drawer faces well is something I think I’ll be working on for a while.

For the top, I laid all the boards out and lined them up, then clamped one board in place to use as a guide for the rest.

Added the knobs and here it is!!

I again used Weatherwash Rusted Stain and Satin Varnish, as those are what I used on the headboard. I ordered the drawer slides from Rocklers, and the knobs are from Home Depot.

My next few posts will focus on the table I built for The Builders Challenge, which took place on Instagram. My current build is a dresser to match the headboard and nightstand. Stay tuned!

Shop/Garage

Well, the weather today is ugly. It’s 40 degrees and rain rain rainy. We actually had a few days of dry weather and I was enjoying the respite from MUD season and not having to wipe Fargo’s paws.

I was even able to start on replacing the rotted wooden raised bed border I tore out last Fall.

But now it’s raining and muddy and cold and it will stay this way for the next few days. Sigh. I was able to get about an hour of sanding done early, before it began. I have a new build in the works, yay for that!

It’s been pretty much GARAGE GARAGE GARAGE/SHOP around here. We insulated the ceiling, walls and garage door. We not only put up drywall, but we did mudding, taping, sanding, priming and painting. Tim had to re-do the old drywall mud/tape, which was crumbling and falling off.

That was a chore! We had to constantly shift all of our crap around to be able to access walls and ceiling, etc.


Tim hung a heater from the ceiling, which works amazingly well (our electric bill is going to be terrible since we had to run it 24/7 for the dry wall mud to set). AND...we even put up trim. Granted, it is construction grade 1x3s, unsanded and wonky in spots, but trim nonetheless.

Let’s go back to reflect on where we began with this project (when the car fit).

car garage

Worth an additional mention, that this was a huge project! I really can’t thank Tim enough for the hours and hours he put into making the garage a shop,where I can be comfortable while woodworking/building. Hopefully, he’ll be more comfortable while working on his projects too.

Here is more where we’re at now, moving everything to where it belongs…until we change our minds. It is so so much brighter!!

Fargo continued to be a motivational supervisor.

The next stressful step is figuring out the best way to organize the “shop.” As you know, the workbench and the saw and the drill press are all on wheels. I want to make good use of the wall space with the idea that the mobile units can be rolled away to the center of the shop or to the driveway. I have so many saved links and images to organizational ideas, it’s pretty ridiculous. Wish us luck!