Saturday, May 13, 2017

Workshop Makeover, part 20 - Dust Collector Closet - Dust Collector

I had a little bit of time Friday night before having to cook dinner and and play Mass Effect 3 for the evening so I cleaned up construction debris and moved my dust collector into the closet. There was just one complication - so far - which is that the bag supports are taller than the ceiling in the closet.


This wasn't a surprise, I'd been planning on it. Step one is to remove the supports from the collector. Fortunately the arm is segmented and the upper arm can be removed. I unhooked one top bag and checked how the bolts are connected on the inside. I was afraid there'd be nuts on the inside and if I just unscrewed the bolt the nut would be lost in the sawdust bag. Turns out there's no nuts, the plenum has threaded holes.

I started by loosening both bolts and then removing the top one.


This allowed me to spin the arm to the side, reinstall the top bolt, remove and replace the bottom bolt and voila! Bob's your uncle!



Then I was able to move the entire collector into the closet and best of all, it fit. It's a little tight but that's okay. I'm pretty sure the dust collector isn't claustrophobic.



The bags shouldn't be allowed to collapse entirely because they might bind up or snap when inflating. That's what those support arms I removed were doing. I was originally thinking of using eye bolts and carabiners but then decided it would be easier to just run a string the length of the closet.


In the picture I'm using some paracord I had lying around. I didn't like the way the bags hung on it so today I replaced it with some heavier rope (not pictured here). I still need to rotate the bags so the bags hang straight but I'm not too worried about it for now.

I put the garbage can cyclone into the back corner.


The picture doesn't have the cyclone cover or hoses. I still need to trim one of the hoses shorter so that it fits better. I'll get to it eventually; however, since I haven't run any of the duct work yet there is no rush.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Workshop Makeover, part 19 - Dust Collector Closet - Ceiling

As you saw in my last post I made pretty good progress putting up the blue board. I want to get all the blue board up this week so I can start using the closet. The last big piece is the ceiling; however, I made no plans for how to support drywall. Typically there'd be joists sitting on top of the walls that ran the length but I didn't leave room for them. I also have minimum head clearances already and so didn't want to drop the ceiling more than I had to.

Since it isn't a very big room I don't have to worry about a lot of weight hanging from the joists. What I did was after adding the last couple pieces of drywall near the ceiling I hung two 2x4s flat by toe nailing them into the top plate in the back and the header above the door. To get support next to the walls I screwed 2x2 cleats to the wall. Since I hadn't been planning on doing this I didn't have spare new 2x4s so I reclaimed some of the wall studs that I'd ripped out of the previously existing wall. They are garbage and the ceiling is probably going to look bad as a result but hey...  It is a closet in the basement meant to hold a dust collector.


To get my drywall home in one piece in the back of a short bed pickup I purchased a random piece of plywood. It wasn't a very good piece of plywood but I was in too much of a hurry to dig through the stack for a less bowed piece. I ended up using a chunk of it across the back of the closet. Since I screwed it into the joists it's going to give them a fair bit more support. It'll also keep things from whacking the back side of the ceiling drywall.

I suppose I could have come up with some braces to hold the drywall to the ceiling while I screwed it in place...  or ... I could get my friend to stop over on the way home from work and give me  hand. John stopped over this afternoon and we cut out the drywall for the ceiling and put it in place. It was quick and easy.


I've still got to put some small pieces around the inside of the door but otherwise it is all done or at least the blue board/drywall is done enough for now. I think the next steps for me are:

  • Move the dust collector into the closet
  • Move my table saw outlet
  • Ducting
  • Doors
  • Venting

I'm going to leave the closet without joint compound and paint for a while. I'm going to see how the noise works out. If the noise carries through the central air duct work and is significantly louder I'll take the top down and add some insulation to try and dampen the noise.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Workshop Makeover, part 18 - Dust Collector Closet - Drywall

I had a couple of hours tonight so I figured I'd get started on putting up the blue board.

Before I get any further let me say that I am horrible at drywall. I've done a little patching around the house and it all ended up looking okay but my technique is to make the patch, add mud, sand, ad more mud, sand, add more mud, sand, ad even more mud, sand... It all looks okay when I'm done but I'm no professional. Heck, I think when it comes to drywall I'm not even an amateur. Just keep that in mind...

My walls are 76" high, the side walls are about 60" long and the back wall is 48-1/2" wide. I took a couple of minutes to figure out how to most efficiently use 4 sheets to cover the walls.

The pros tend to put drywall on horizontally, probably partly because they are covering longer walls and they can use 12' sheets that way. Unfortunately I didn't come up with a way to make that work out without having to cut a lot of niggling little pieces so I decided to put my sheets in vertically.

I put the first sheet on the left hand wall from the perspective of the doorway. It was a little tricky getting the sheet in but with a little effort and twisting I managed to get it into place. I also needed to cut a hole for the power outlet which I did after I mostly had it in place. To start the hole I used a spade bit and finished it with my drywall saw.


That went relatively smoothly so I figured I could get another one done before having to make dinner. Unfortunately I'd just barely managed to get the first piece of drywall into the closet and had to use the opening between studs that was now covered up. I fussed with it for a bit then decided it would be easier to just take the back wall off.

I think I forgot to mention this earlier but the entire closet is screwed rather than nailed. I have nails, I have hammers; however, I also have a sore elbow and tendinitis in both wrists. I figured it was a small enough project that using deck screws wouldn't add significantly to the project costs. It worked out in my favor when I needed to remove the back. Six screws, three per side...  zip-zip and the back came off.



Then I remembered that I needed to trim the next piece to 46-1/2" wide rather than use the standard 48". The right hand wall doesn't  have a stud in exactly the right place. When John laid it out he didn't anticipate the post shifting the leading edge of the drywall back. No worries, I left that piece in place to use on the back wall and went and cut another to fit the side wall.

With the last two large pieces of drywall in I reattached the back wall and fastened the two pieces in place.



That's as far as I got before it was time to eat dinner. Tomorrow night I'll use the off-cuts to patch the remaining gaps and cut the piece for the ceiling. If I get lucky I'll have time to add the framing for the ceiling as well. We shall see.

Workshop Makeover, part 17 - Dust Collector Closet - New Walls

It's the end of the weekend and while I didn't make quite as much progress as I'd hoped I did pretty good.

I spent Saturday prepping the work area. This entailed

  • Removing the last of the drywall that would have ended up inside the closet
  • Moving the last of the shelf debris into the garage to go out to the curb with the garbage
  • Widened the opening where the closet was going in
  • Swept the floor clean of sawdust and drywall dust
  • Moved cabinets to back corners of the shop to get them out of the way
  • Cleared the tops of my table saw and workbench so they could be used for wall building
  • Moved the lumber for the walls from my garage to my workshop
  • Did final measurements and made plans for how to lay out the walls

That's a lot of bullets but it only took me four hours or so to get all that done. It left me in a good spot to hit the ground running when my friend came over to help raise walls Sunday morning.

Let me say that working with 'John' was great. We got done in three hours what would probably have taken me a couple of days. Having someone who knows what needs to be done who can work independently is awesome. While I was cutting the sole and top plate to length he'd be bringing over more 2x4 studs. While I was cutting  the studs to length he'd be laying out the locations of the studs on the floor and ceiling plate. I know John knows how to use all the tools in my shop properly and safely.

We started the day by going over my plans and getting John's approval. Okay...  I didn't really need his approval but since he's worked in construction previously and has a lot of experience I'd be a fool not to seek his opinion. And while my 'fool' status may be debatable, I do believe strongly in relying on other people who have more experience than I do. The basic plan was to:
  1. Cut the existing wall top and bottom plate to length
  2. Double check the closet depth
  3. Build the short side wall
  4. Build the long side wall
  5. Build the back wall to fit
  6. Build a door frame
John approved of my plan so the first thing we did was cut out the existing top and sole plates where the closet was going. I learned something new: using a circular saw over your head is annoying. All the sawdust falls in your face. Next time I'll use my sawzall.

With the sole plate out of the way we were able to pull my dust collector into the opening and double check my measurements. And, it is a good thing we did. I'd based my measurements off the base - partly because it was easier - but the dust collector is a bit wider in the middle than it is at the bottom. Simple enough to add a few inches to make sure it'll fit.

We started the construction by building the short wall extending the existing wall. It was a great place to start because it was small and quick to do and we were able to get used to working with each other again. Since the existing wall didn't end with a stud we had to add a couple scabs to fill the gap and give us something to screw to.

The longer wall has some complications. Mostly that pesky post needed to be worked around. Fortunately with some careful measuring and thinking we decided we could just notch the bottom and top plates and surround the post with studs. I made the notches with my jigsaw The rest of the wall was pretty standard.

After getting the two side walls built we built the back wall to fit between then added some framing around where I am going to build a door.



The doorway header is a pair of 2x4s with some 1/2" plywood to make it 3.5" wide. It's wedged between the existing wall and the post pretty tightly but I added 2x4 trimmers to make sure it stayed up. Yes it is a pretty lightweight header but it isn't supporting anything so it should be fine. Mostly it is just going to hold up some plywood to cover the I-beam..

There are a couple of pieces of plywood holding the rightmost trimmer in place. I'll probably toenail a couple of screws later but the T1-11 plywood I'll add around the doorway should be sufficient to hold everything in place.



I had planed to put T1-11 siding on the walls but John suggested using drywall as it will slow the spread of fire if somehow I get a fire started in my dust collector. I didn't want to use drywall but mold resistant blue-board will work. I didn't want drywall in my shop because I'm hard on the walls but the closet will be protected from dings. John helped me out again by helping me pick up some blue-board before heading home for the day.

I still need to figure out how to put the ceiling in since I didn't really leave room for joists. I'm sure I'll come up with something.


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Workshop Makeover, part 16 - Dust Collector Closet - Wall Demolition

I had an hour this evening so I figured I'd get a head start on this weekend's work and decided to remove the cabinets and start the wall demolition.

I removed the counter top in two pieces. It didn't require any cutting, the counter was already two pieces that had been stuck together with caulk. I got one small corner and one length. After the counter I started pulling the base cabinets.

The base cabinets came out pretty easy. Just a few screws and then muscling them out. One of the cabinets was pretty beat. I'll have to take a closer look at it to decide if it is worth repairing or if I should just throw it out. With a very cursory inspection the wide cabinet and the narrow cabinet seemed to be in okay condition.

After the bottom cabinets there were just the two top cabinets left. They came out pretty easy as well. I removed all the screws but one from the top of the cabinets and then carefully removed the last screw while holding the cabinet up with one arm. Then I lowered the cabinet to the ground.

On the gross factor, there was mouse feces on the top of the cabinets.

When we moved into the house there was a drop ceiling in the room that became my workshop. It was apparently a race track for mice. When I removed the ceiling it was covered in mouse droppings. The top of these cabinets were apparently part of the track. We've had cats since we've moved in so I know we don't have mice now and haven't for the seventeen years we've lived here.

Anyhoo, I didn't get pictures of the space after the cabinets were removed but it looked good. I'd get pictures now but I cannot. I got all excited and ripped off the drywall and pulled the 2x4 studs.

View from workshop to back storage area

View from back storage area into workshop

Not bad for an hour of work.

Yesterday I didn't get into the shop but I did get some more accurate measurements and made up another set of plans.

BETA plans
I've labeled these plans as 'BETA' because the final construction almost certainly wont match. First off, that 49" back wall is a little awkward. The T1-11 siding is about 48 1/4" so I might narrow the closet to 48" wide. If I move the inside wall (left from this perspective) over an inch that makes the last shelving unit a little awkward (It will have to stretch 49" then). The\ awkwardness with the outside wall (right hand from this perspective) is that half of that wall already exists. To have a flat wall I'd have to shim it.

Either way, my friend "John" who is a woodworker and has worked in construction might come over this weekend. I'll definitely seek his advice. There's four perfectly viable solutions, I just need to pick one and adjust to make things work.

Hopefully by the end of this weekend I'll have the dust collector closet walls raised and paneled. If I'm really lucky we'll fashion some kind of door for the front and have a way to install furnace filters for venting.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Workshop Makeover, part 15 - Dust Collector Closet - Removing Cabinets

It's raining... Nearby towns are flooding; however, I live on top of a hill. Since it was nasty out I had a little bit of time this afternoon so I figured I'd start tackling the cabinets. I know I'd started looking at them last weekend but I hadn't checked inside the cabinets. Turns out the middle two doors of four are part of a single cabinet. The new wall will be going right through the middle.

This isn't too big of a deal. I was going to pull all the cabinets anyway. I'll just have to do more reconfiguration than I was planning. Or perhaps I'll build something custom in their place.

I started by emptying the cabinets. Prior to condensing my shop the cabinets hadn't seen much use; however, after cleaning out the small shop I pretty much filled them up. The upper cabinets held pieces of unfinished - uh, in progress - projects. The lower cabinets had scrap hardwood that I'd thought to be worth keeping. I didn't get rid of anything in this move. I mostly just moved the contents to other cabinets or piled on top of my workbench.

Since I want to reuse the cabinets I wanted to take them apart gently. No sawzall or sledge hammer!

I crawled around inside the cabinets to figure out how the previous home owner had put them together. It took me a couple of minute but I finally spotted where he'd put screws through the frame into the top. In some cases the screws were hidden inside, sometimes they were just straight through the front upper rail. I got all the screws I could find but there was still something still holding the front down.

Turns out there was one sneaky screw I hadn't found. Unfortunately the screw was in a drawer opening where my table saw impinged the drawer preventing it from opening fully. The table saw weighs 600 lbs so moving it isn't really an option. I briefly thought about using a sledge hammer and smashing the drawer out. They're pretty cheap drawers and I wouldn't mind rebuilding them if I reuse the cabinets; but instead, I pulled out the sawzall and cut the screw off with a metal cutting blade. There are other ways I could have accomplished this tasks but this was pretty quick and easy. I love my sawzall. It is probably one of the least used tools in my shop but when it comes to tasks like these it's invaluable.


So okay, maybe a little sawzall.

My blade may have gotten  little hot...  perhaps there was smoke involved... It was new to start.

After getting the last screw it was just  matter of noticing that there was caulk along the back edge and scoring it so the top could be pulled off.



That's where I left it as I had to finish cooking dinner.

Of interesting note I found a couple of cellar spiders in the cabinet. I think they're dead since they didn't move when disturbed but I left them alone anyway. At least I think they're cellar spiders.



In any case, unless there are surprises it'll just a couple more screws holding the cabinets to the wall and I can finish pulling them out.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Workshop Makeover, part 14 - Dust Collector Closet - Removing Shelves

It's been a couple of weeks with little progress. I wish it was because of all the awesome outdoor stuff I've been doing but alas it is something much more prosaic. My elbow has been paining me since sometime during the basement clean up in January. Stupid weak software engineer physique. Anyhow, after two weeks of rest and some really good anti-inflammatory medications I'm back to working on my dust collector.

I didn't get much time this weekend as I did have other things to do; however, I got a couple of hours of knocking apart the old shelves.


The top row of 2x3s were added by me when I needed auxiliary wood storage. They came down pretty easy since I'd just screwed them in place with deck screws. Zip-zip and they became a pile on the floor.

Unfortunately the person who put up the shelves originally really liked nails. That meant hammer swinging and nail pulling. I did seriously consider pulling out my sawzall and just cutting them out but decided it would be better to knock them apart. It did let me know that my elbow isn't completely healed yet but now I have a nice pile of 2x2s, 2x4s and particle board ready to be taken out to the curb on the next garbage day.


Much better. I'm probably going to discard the 2x2s and some or all of the short 2x4s. There's some utility left in them but not a heck of a lot and they'll take up storage space. Maybe I'll find something to do with them; however, all that particle board and probably the flake board is going to the curb.

I had a little bit of time left so I took a closer look at where exactly the next set of shelves would end. This is important because I'm going to support one side of the next set of shelves with the closet wall. I'll go into more detail on the shelf construction in the next post but figuring out where the inside wall of the closet was going to land allowed me to take a closer look at the space inside the workshop.



The wall is going to come out just to the right of the steel post. That post is also pretty much in line with the wall to the left. Framing around it will be a little tricky maybe but probably not too bad. My woodworking friend who helps me pick up lumber on occasion is was worked construction before so he'll be able to give me tips and suggestions.

I'm definitely pulling the two upper cabinets and the lower cabinets. I think I'll move the lower cabinets back to where my laundry machines are. That'll give me storage for laundry supplies and other household chemicals I don't want just sitting out. It'll also give me a counter top for folding laundry. The upper cabinets pose a bigger question.

I have some shorter upper cabinets to the right of the post that I could replace with the taller ones.


There is a vent there that might make things more complicated but I might just prefer to close it off to help keep dust out of the rest of the house. With the taller cabinets I'd have to readjust my pegboard but that was really just a short term storage solution for the things I pulled off my old peg board. In fact that is a piece of my old peg board that I cut down so no great loss.

Whatever extra upper cabinets I have - short or tall - will probably get moved to the garage.

Next steps:

  • Empty and remove the cabinets
  • Demo the wall
  • Build the closet
  • Finish the shelves


Monday, April 17, 2017

Workshop Makeover, part 13 - Dust Collector Closet

My next project in my workshop makeover series is to build a closet for my dust collector.

Why a closet you ask? Well, my dust collector has regular bags that collector dust sized down to a few microns; however, that still means that some very fine dust still gets through. Basically the very fine dust gets sucked from the tool and then gets sprayed into the workshop air. I wear a dual canister respirator made by 3M AO Safety - I feel those paper masks are worthless - but since I have a beard it doesn't seal perfectly. By putting the dust collector in its own little room I can keep the dust a little further away from my lungs.

It sounds like a great plan. huh?

Well, there are a couple of complications. The first problem is where to put the closet. I don't really want to take any useful space away from my workshop so sinceI haven't solved how to access extra-dimensional space that means bumping out a wall. Wherever the closet goes I need to be able to get into the closet to empty the bags. I also need to take into account where my ducting will run. As a minor consideration I need to make sure the room is vented. It will be sucking in huge amounts of air into the closet and I need to give it a way out.

This last consideration is the easiest to solve. I'll leave a hole in the closet wall or door the size of a HEPA furnace filter. As a bonus, if I can route the air into an area outside my shop I'll be able to put my workshop in negative pressure so air will tend to flow in rather than out carrying dust. Also I think I have an idea of where to put the closet.




There are cabinets there now but that can be fixed. Now I'm hearing the hew and cry, "But that's storage!" Well yes, you are correct; however, it isn't very good storage. The cabinets really aren't sized appropriately for most of my tools and to get to them today I need to walk around the table saw and climb over the dust collection hoses on the floor.



These two factors make them less than ideal. I'd rather trade the utility of storage cabinets for freeing up the floor space my dust collector is currently occupying. Also, with the addition of my new workbench I have plenty of storage in the shop.

The second concern with this space is that just taking the cabinets out will not be enough. I'll need to bump out into the space behind my workshop. This space today is currently occupied by some shelves that were build by a previous homeowner. They are pretty basic and utilitarian. They hold stuff off the ground but I've been wanting to upgrade them for a number of years now. I think I can store all the same stuff I have on them now by purging stuff that I don't need and better utilizing the space with more modular shelves.

Rough diagram of closet and collector

The back wall of the closet will be in a hallway and I can build in my vents there to get the air outside of my shop. Sure it will be venting right by my utilities but I'll have HEPA filters cleaning the air before it leaves.

The location will also be convenient for a direct run along the floor to my table saw and close enough to where it is now to be able to run a couple of drops to the ceiling and miter saw. I'd like to put some floor sweeps in too but I'll have to put some more thought in first. I haven't even decided whether I want to use metal or PVC pipe for the dust collection. (Yes, I know about PVC building a static charge making it possible to trigger a fuel-air explosion with the dust.)

The central beam is low; however, I'll still be able to put a doorway from my shop into the closet so when I need to clean the bags I can keep the dust in the shop an away from the rest of the house.

In actual fact, this blog post is a couple of weeks behind. I actually started the demo of the old shelves a couple of weeks ago and have started building the new shelves to hold all my stuff; however, that's all grist for another blog post later.

Old shelves and corner of sneak peek of new shelves (left side)


Sunday, April 16, 2017

It's Springtime in Upstate New York

Spring has finally arrived in upstate New York.

Flowers are starting to bloom, grass is starting to grow... heck the snow is melting. Okay, maybe that last might be a bit of hyperbole. We haven't seen snow for at least a few weeks now. The biggest signs that it is spring are that I have yard work I have to do, the local Brusters has reopened and it is warm enough I can drive my Miata without gloves and ear muffs.

However this spells the end of my primary woodworking season. It's really tough to spend time in my basement workshop when it's 80 and sunny outside.

I'll be updating my blog periodically until this coming winter when it is woodworking season again. My plans for the summer are principally to continue working on my workshop makeover. The last few weeks I've been working on building a closet for my dust collector. I should be able to get that finished by the end of the summer baring any crises. More about that soon.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

My Current Gaming Table


I showed you the pictures of the gaming table I helped my friend 'Mike' build. I showed you pictures of the game table I built and gave to my friend in Jersey. The natural next question is, "what am I using for a game table now? Must be something awesome, right?"



Yup, that's it...  I know, it looks like a kitchen table.

I mentioned my concerns with my first gaming table. It was an awkward height for playing board games or miniature games and it was too big to play board games at comfortably. Since I haven't played miniature games in years I wanted something that would be convenient to play board games at.

And why are the chairs red? We bought them from a garage sale and they were pretty beat. We gave them a quick sanding, painted them red and gave them a couple coats of polyurethane. But why red? I wanted our game room to have bright cheerful colors. Check out the bright green on the walls.

My new game table is made entirely from hard maple. The top is 3' x 5' x 3/4" and is a comfortable 30 inches off the ground. The legs are tapered and are probably a little chunkier than they needed to be. The skirt is attached to the legs using a mortise and tenon joint.

Test leg I just found still in my scrap bin
I cut the mortises using a jig I built from plans - maybe I'll talk about this in a different post - that uses a router which is why the corners are rounded. I rounded the corners on the skirt board tenons rather than trying to chop the mortises square.

The top is attached to the legs with 'buttons'.



This is a very simple table that was essentially my own design. When I made it it was a good stretch of my skills. I was and am pretty happy with it. It works well, is nicely sized and is very stable and solid. I've considered making a drop-leaf table that would also end up being 3' x 5' that would be the same height. That way if I wanted a larger gaming top I could just put the two together but otherwise I could drop the leaves and set the drop-leaf table to the side. But that's another day.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

My First Gaming Table

This is one of my first woodworking projects...  Well, okay not the first. There's the gun rack I made my grandfather in 5th grade, there's the book rack I made in 4H club when I was...  um... 12 maybe? By first I mean, of the stuff I made as an adult that wasn't just banging two boards together. When I made this table I had a very limited set of tools and much less experience than I do now.

All those caveats aside I'm still really happy with how this table came out.



The table is a sheet of 3/4" maple plywood mounted on 2x3 pine legs and frame. The table edging is 1x4 pine. The entire table is finished with a walnut stain and polyurethane.

I had a number of goals for this table:

  • Needed to be able to be moved room to room and from house to house
  • Wanted to play games standing and sitting
  • Needed to be big enough to play miniature games (4' x 4' play area)
  • Needed to be solid
I made the table movable by bolting it together with carriage bolts. The 2x3" leg assembly under the table will stand on its own. I can attest that this worked out just fine. I built it in my basement, took it apart and moved it to my game room, then five or ten years ago took it apart again and moved it to a friend's house in New Jersey.

There are several parts to the frame. There are:
  • End leg assemblies
  • Table length support rails
  • Mid-table brace
  • Two cross braces


The end leg assembly consists of the lower horizontal rail, the upper horizontal rails and the two legs. I added gussets to the legs for strength. The gussets go across the width and the length of the table. The upper rail has a half lap joint that the rails run the length of the table drop into. The entire end assembly is glued and screwed.

The mid-table brace is attached to the two long rails with hanger bolts nuts and washers. The two cross braces have a single long carriage bolt run through them and the mid-table brace secured with washers and nuts. They are attached to the leg assembly using a shorter carriage bolt and washers and nuts. The long rails are fastened to the leg assemblies with more carriage bolts and nuts through the gussets. The top just sits on top of the legs using gravity to keep it in place.

It isn't quick to move but it does come apart and go back together without wearing out screw holes. Portability accomplished!

The combination of the glued legs, the gussets and the angled cross braces make this table very solid. I never tested it to destruction; however, It's had large full-grown adults standing on it and it didn't so much as bend or wiggle. Strength accomplished!

The full 4x8 top gives plenty of room for miniature games. The extra large size gives plenty of room to put notes or stage units. Large size accomplished!

I forget exactly how tall I made the table. I do know I split the difference between a sitting table and a standing table. One of the problems with playing miniature games over a normal sitting table is that you can end up hunched over for hours. By the end of the game your back can be sore enough that you don't care if you win or lose. So table height accomplished?

Not really...

What I ended up with is a table that is uncomfortable to sit at and isn't quite tall enough to stand at comfortably. What I accomplished is a table that is equally uncomfortable to stand or sit at. I offered to adjust the height to make it better for one or both of those activities. He has so far declined all offers so it will stay as it is.

The only other big problem with the table is that the top isn't fastened to the legs. Oddly enough the weakest part of the table is when someone leans on the end of the table. If the person weighs anything at all the entire table will lever up. I've never seen the top come all the way off but I have seen games disrupted because the pieces went everywhere.

There is also a smallish problem in that the large size makes the table awkward to play four player board games. It's even a bit large for most any board game as someone (or everyone) has to reach to get to the center of the board and often stand to reach the far side.

If I were to make this table again the principal thing I would change is the height. I'd make it the correct height for sitting at and include some leg extensions that would raise the table to a better height for standing at. I'd also fasten the top to the legs, probably with some turn buttons to avoid the levering problem.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Toastmasters' Name Card Stands

While looking for old pictures of the gaming table I can across pictures of at least one other project that slipped through the cracks. This is one of them.

The company I was contracted to for the last two years was large enough to have a Toastmasters International Club that met at lunch twice a month. I have a fair bit of experience doing extemporaneous speaking but almost none writing, practicing and giving prepared talks. So I joined the club in the spring of 2015. It was a fabulous experience and I recommend it to everyone.

Our club had printed name cards on heavy card stock for everyone. It wasn't that we didn't know each other's names, we sometimes had guests and it was part of the formality of the meeting. My name card was new so it stood up fairly well; however, other people in the club had been there long enough that their cards wouldn't stay folded.

Woodworking to the rescue!

November 2015, I made these name card stands out of wood in my scrap bin. The best part was how easy they were to make.




Making them with wood from my scrap bin made them "free" but it did add a little complexity to the construction. I generally throw out anything too short to go through my planer so that wasn't an issue; however, most of the pieces were still pretty small. Small enough that I wasn't able to put the ogee on the end of a single wide board and then cut them to width. I had to put it on each piece individually. It was enough of a pain that most of the card stands got a bevel I could cut on the table saw.

To make assembly go a little bit quicker I made a jig I could use to glue them together. I think I clamped them, let them sit for 20 minutes while I did other projects in the workshop. Then it was rinse and repeat.


I built the stands upside down. I placed one of the slotted taller pieces in the bottom then the taller pieces to the sides and back would properly index the bottom. This took all the guesswork out of assembly which made it go very smoothly.

I used my small block plane to put a quick bevel on the bottom plates. Again I tried using a small bit in the router table but it was too slow and speed was one of my goals. After the glue dried on all of them I gave them all a quick couple of coats of wipe on polyurethane.

I think I made around twenty of them from padauk, cherry and white oak. It's possible I used a few different woods but I think this was pretty much it.

They were greatly appreciated and despite not actually being fine woodworking they look really nice.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Gaming Table

Just over a year ago when I rebooted this blog I mentioned making legs for a friend's table. Well, it took a year but I got pictures of it this week and figured I'd share.

To give you a little background on this table, my friend - who we are calling Mike - built a gaming table top over ten years ago. It isn't as fancy as some of the multi-tier roll playing gaming tables I've seen but it has a number of really cool elements baked into it.



The table is basically a sheet of plywood with the corners rounded trimmed with a combination of red oak and walnut. The top is covered with speed fabric over some closed cell - poker - foam. He created some padded rails around the edges to help keep dice from rolling off the table and to make the table more comfortable to rest your arms on.

To make sure I'm clear. Mike built this table top in my workshop. I provided help and guidance but the labor and skill was all his. Frankly, I think he did a spectacular job and the table is beautiful. It also shows how accessible woodworking can be with just a little help. I recently upgraded the legs with what you see in the above picture.

In my recent workshop cleanup I came across the plans we made.




Let's look a little more closely at the trim around the table. As I mentioned earlier the table top is built from a relatively sturdy plywood  base. We added the hardwood trim to cover the rough plywood edges rather than as a structural element. We didn't use any fancy joinery techniques, we basically just glued and tacked it in place with brad nails.



I think if I was going to do it again I'd just use glue and some clamps to hold everything in place. The nails don't look too bad but we could have done better. That one is all on me.

We debated on how to build the corners. We discussed bending plywood but in the end Mike chose the safer route which was to stack up plywood and cut it into a curve. I don't remember exactly how we made the curve; however, I suspect we cut the pieces out, glued them together on a form then used my stationary sander to make the curves true. Mike then cut some oak veneer and used wood glue to the curved form.

The top is the best part of the table. Mike researched poker table surfaces and came up with this combination. The foam underlayment has just enough give that when you want to pick up a card or chip you can gently press on one side and the other side pops up making it easy to get hold of. Have you ever had to damage the edge of a card because it was laying flat on a solid table top? Not on this one. Yet the top is firm enough that when we are playing games with tippy plastic bits there is no issue with them falling over.



The black vinyl arm rests around the table provide a couple of uses. First and foremost they are a comfortable place to rest your arms while sitting at the table. They also provide a nice transition between the foam and the wood skirt around the table. Mike didn't have to be super precise about trimming the foam or the speed felt.

Mike built these by wrapping plywood and foam with vinyl fabric which is stapled on the bottom. The corners are a bit ugly but that's because neither Mike nor I are upholsters - though I did watch all of The Furniture Guys episodes. Corners are hard, round corners are still hard.


Why am I going to talk about the underside of the table? Mostly because it is relevant to the whole leg situation.


Why yes, the top is quite heavy but that was purposeful. There's little that is worse than having a gaming table that flexes when someone leans on it. Much like with woodworking tools, mass helps dampen vibrations and strength reduces the flexibility. Games that have lightweight pieces can be disrupted if the surface moves too much so this is all good.

Normally when building furniture you'd have a good idea of what the entire thing will look like before you get started. In this case Mike hadn't decided what kind of legs to put on his table so we put temporary legs on the table. These were simple 2"x2" poplar legs that we created pockets for in the ends.



These legs were awesome. Awesome at keeping the top a few feet off the floor. Otherwise they were terrible. The table had a horrible wobble and whenever you'd lean against the table you'd get the feeling that if you leaned too hard the table might just collapse. This is on me too...

It was pretty clear that these legs needed to be very temporary. I'm not sure when I offered to make Mike new legs for the table but it couldn't have been too long after we'd first set it up. I think I'd renew the offer every few years, re-measure the underside of the table and then not follow through. A year and a half ago I finally followed through with my offers.

After some discussion with Mike we agreed that trestle table legs would work well, especially, since there are often people sitting around the corners of the table. Having a couple of people sitting at the ends we figured out how much to inset the legs so that people wouldn't be constantly banging their knees. To fit with the trim around the table and to keep the price down we went with red oak. To make sure the legs were sturdy we went with 8/4 stock.




The challenge was in how to attach the new legs to the table. Mike also wants to be able to get the table out of his house some day if he ever decides to move. This meant the table needs to be able to be disassembled and reassembled.

One of the thoughts I'd had was putting pegs on the top leg rails that would slip into the same pockets we were using for the 2x2 legs. The problem was that the holes were not a good distance from the ends of the table (i.e. the legs would be uncomfortably close to the ends). I thought about making plywood plates that I could mount the pegs on that would allow me to shift the legs inward. The challenge with that was the lack of space between the bottom of the skirt and the plywood bottom. If I added anything too thick it would stick out and be both unattractive and uncomfortable.

As you can see from the above picture the ends of the table are built up but there is a gap in the middle. After some careful measurement and thought and staring at the bottom of the table I decided to build a sub table - a table that would fit beneath and inside the table top. What I did was cut out a piece of plywood that fit the larger gap on the bottom and then added some hardwood cleats out of some scrap I had lying around to help stiffen the plywood a little bit.



My shop isn't in Mike's basement so I made the plywood under-top and cleats using some careful measurements and a story stick. I used some scrap to make a proto-type of the top. It was only one inch wide but it allowed me to triple check that the top was going to fit. It worked like a charm and fit like a glove on the first try. All the extra care and caution was worth it.



To attach the legs to the under-top I used four hanger bolts on each end. Technically, I used three on each end because my local DIY store only had six of the appropriate size. I drilled for four so if Mike ever feels like it he can just add the remaining two bolts - one on each end.


Onto the main attraction! The legs!

To make sure Mike would be happy with the layout I started by making a single set of legs from 2" thick foam. Unfortunately I don't think I have any pictures of them. They look essentially identical to the wood ones - or is it vice versa - but were made out of pink closed cell foam insulation. But they were effectively a full-sized mock up so Mike could get a better feel for how they'd look in relation to the table.

There's really not much to these legs. There's a foot, a post and a rail across the top. To make sure the feet came out consistent I made a template for the ends. I used a Forstner bit to make the radius and cut the long straight on the band saw. I used a straight edge and a pattern bit with my router to clean up the rough cut and then some sanding to make it all look good.



The leg posts are attached to the arm and foot using pretty beefy mortise and tenon joints. I made the tenons on my table saw using a dado blade and my fence. I unfortunately learned something new about my fence. The wood was pretty heavy and in the process of keeping a firm pressure against the fence my fence slipped. This fortunately didn't ruin the leg but it did make the tenons longer than I'd planned which made the top a little shorter than Mike wanted. I made the mortise in the foot and arm using my router and a template.

mortising jig

There is one long rail that attaches the two legs together. The picture on the legs gives a hint as to how everything is all attached. There are two threaded rods that run the length. Instead of buying a six foot drill bit I bought two 4/4 red oak boards, used my tablesaw to make two long grooves and then glued them together to make one long board. I could have used hanger bolts again; however, I really wanted to be able to crank these things tight and I didn't want to have any worries of stripping a hanger bolt out of the wood. By having a steel rod running the length all of the forces are on the rod and not the wood.



Yup, that's a lot of clamps. I could use a few more I think. Note: In the upper right you can see the legs with their tenons and a piece of the pink foam board I used for the prototype. I'd kept it around because it had key measurements written on it.

You can see the ends of the threaded rod sticking out. I went ahead and glued everything up with the rods in place so I could be sure that everything was aligned properly and that I didn't have glue squeeze out that might keep me from inserting the rods later. Since I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to get the rod out after the glue dried I cut the two boards to final length and then used some bolts and washers to make sure the ends were aligned. After the glue dried I used my sawzall to cut the rods to length and a new angle grinder to remove the burrs.

The next challenge to solve was getting holes spaced properly and consistently on the legs. I handled this with another jig - see I am learning, ten years ago I probably would have tried free-handing it.

In the picture of the rail glue up you can see on the right hand side how I glued up my off-cuts too. I was able to slice a little bit off the end and use it as a template for spacing the holes in the legs. To make sure they were positioned correctly I attached it to a piece of plywood the same size as the leg post. I could just clamp it in place and use my hand drill to make the holes.



The bolts are captured on each end using specialty hardware I sourced from Lee Valley. These Tension Rod Nuts have 1/4" holes that you can use to tighten them down. I got cheap at the last minute and decided to not buy the little pre-made rod they sell for $1.40. When we put it all together I tried using a screw driver which didn't have a 1/4" diameter and the holes weren't deep enough to really get a good purchase. I tried 1/4" oak dowel but it wasn't strong enough to really crank down on them.

While I love Lee Valley their shipping prices do not encourage making small purchases so instead of buying a $3 worth of steel rod and paying as much or more in shipping I went to my local DIY store and bought a length of 1/4" steel rod. I cut them to length with a hacksaw and used my grinder to remove any burrs. They worked spectacularly and really made the table solid. I also made Mike a little holder to screw to the bottom of the table so they wont get lost.



I'm really happy with how the legs came out. The mid rail is the perfect height to rest your feet on when no one is looking. The legs are in far enough from the ends that the table is comfortable to sit at anywhere. And best of all, once we used the metal rod to tighten the nuts on the ends the table is super solid. I'm not a small person and I can 'bump' the end of the table walking past and it doesn't wiggle at all. This is a great set of legs to compliment a spectacular gaming table top.