Category Archives: Off Topic

Woodworking: Coffee Table Workbench Project

I don’t have a dedicated workbench or permanent shop.

That makes things difficult when I have pretty much any project.

I had picked up a discarded round coffee table years ago that I’d more recently attached my vise to, as featured in a prior post.

But since I knew I would have to turn the table back into a table after using the vise, I put anchors into the table so I could make the process easy and stable.

This proved to be reliable, and I had used this setup since May of this year, but the table was just too unstable, and the roundness and rockiness of table were making for a difficult surface for other projects.

As luck would have it, I found another abandoned table a couple weeks ago. It just screamed, “I’m a balcony workbench!”

At least to me.

Under the street lights, it looked like solid wood.

Issues with it were the flaking polyurethane, the horrid design, and the aphorisms.

Clearly someone had put in a lot of effort, but yikes.

Armed with my new Vacmaster 6 gallon, 3 HP shop vacuum, I was ready to do stuff with less concern for making everything dusty.

My dad commended me for having R2D2 help me out.

Also instead of the 2AH batteries I’d been using for my sander, I now have 5AH batteries!

The designs were going pretty quickly with even pressure on the random orbital sander with the 80+ grit cubitron sandpaper.

I started to realize that it wasn’t solid wood but veneer. But that’s not so bad.

I also didn’t need to get all the design off.

Protecting the surface was imperative. This is the time of year I see a lot of termites around, and I’m not interested in giving them free meals.

I let the table dry before moving on to the anchors!

Penciling in where the holes should be would make for a reduced chance of error.

And then for the anchors themselves.

It looks in this photo a little more crooked than it is.

OK the vise is done.

Moving on to the tabletop belt sander-disc sander combo.

I did the same penciling in.

Anchors installed and ready to rock.

The sander and vise on opposite ends of the table means that both can be up at the same time.

But there was one more thing I had to install.

My benchtop table saw!

Pencil first again and then drilling out the holes.

I had to use smaller diameter anchors because the inside allows only for smaller bolts.

And they fit into place.

I chose that space for maximal outfeed area.

I expect to have lots of projects with this setup.

And my new shop vacuum did an amazing job. Full cleanup took almost no effort.

Woodworking: Step-Up End Table Pair Project (Part 10/10)

We’ve arrived at the final part of this series.

I left off last week with Table 1 complete (other than the legs) and Table 2 yet to assemble.

Based on the darkness of the stain, the number and depth of the water rings, and then the warping of the wood, I was thrilled at how clear I got the wood to be.

All the pieces other than the sides with teak oil applied.

When I dry fit the pieces together, I was happy at the coloration and the fit of the drawer with the dangly knobs cut off.

And remember how I made my own wood filler? Many people do it wrong, but I thought I’d done it right. And when I applied teak oil, this is what I got:

Yeah, I’m stoked at the result. It’s noticeable if you know where to look, but it’s not calling attention to itself.

So for the last component: The legs!

Now, I had gotten legs for the first step-up end table from a distributor in the south. After delays for the maple legs for that table, I ended up with walnut legs, but the bolts were too long and attached at wrong angles. I had to add a block of wood to make the bolts fit.

Now, this was before I got anything that could grind down the bolt, but still, I ordered legs to get legs, and I got things that had been manufactured poorly.

I contacted different hardwood suppliers and furniture manufacturers in the Los Angeles area to see if they had legs or could recommend a place for hardwood legs.

I really didn’t want rubberwood legs.

What I heard from many sources was, “We don’t do that.”

But others told me to go to tablelegs.com.

I saw the prices for legs and started sweating pretty good. But for me not to have to delay and to get it right the first time, I figured it was worth it.

I ordered the legs, and they arrived looking pretty good!

The mounting plates for the legs were the Waddell ones that I had received for the prior set that included some mismanufactured ones. But maybe the place I’d ordered from opted to get the cheapest items or just dumped them on me because I order at tiny quantities.

I tried to fit the legs to the mounting plates and found that…

Once again the legs and the mounting plates didn’t fit flush.

The culprit?

Both the legs and the mounts! The bolts for the legs frequently were not centered. But this is tablelegs.com! They should be perfect at table legs. And they came highly recommended!

And the Waddell mounting plates just seem to be crap at a high rate.

I wrote to tablelegs.com because I’d spent way too many hundreds of dollars to get things I couldn’t use.

To the credit of tablelegs.com they replaced the legs and the mount plates.

The legs I received the second time around still weren’t perfect, but they were better. As for the mounting plates, I got mostly more garbage.

I was able to cobble together eight matching-ish pairs from the first and second shipments from tablelegs.com. They weren’t perfect, though, and it wasn’t tablelegs.com’s fault.

And the amount of work I had to put into something I’d paid a bunch of money for in order not to do more work bugged me to the point of contacting the Waddell brand.

My first email was on March 18.

No reply.

I tried again on March 30. Still nil.

Third time’s the charm because my April 5 email received a response.

I didn’t care much for how this was going. It made no sense.

Clearly, they were not interested in helping me.

Prior to applying the teak oil to the legs

Finally, the two side by side:

I like the one without the dangly knobs better.

At some point, I may cut off the dangly knobs of the other table.

A new project starts next week!

What we found in our Finish Powerball Max in 1 Dishwasher Detergent Tabs

The other day, Calah (my wife) found a Finish dishwasher tab that had been taped up. It was unusual because normally they’re sealed and good.

So I wrote to the Finish folks to tell them what we’d found and to ask how it happened and whether it’s safe to continue to use the items in the container.

They responded by asking for pictures that included the tab and the lot information on the package.

I sent those and asked what had happened and whether or not it was safe to continue to use the items in the box.

They responded by asking for my address so they could send me something.

I gave my address but still wanted to know what had occurred and if it was safe to continue to use the product that was in the box.

They said I’d get something in the mail.

So what did I get in the mail?

A $5 coupon for a Finish product.

Like, OK, but the product at Costco is like $17. And can I even still use the stuff I have?

I’m starting to doubt that they’ll tell me what happened.

Woodworking: Step-Up End Table Pair Project (Part 9)

The time had come for finishing the tables.

As usual, I had resolved to go with teak oil.

I have posted about this decision with prior projects, but it bears mentioning again why.

Teak oil is a finish that penetrates the wood itself rather than resting atop it. Polyurethane can chip, flake off, finish dull, be uneven. And once that happens, poly is hard to spot-patch. If something such as a spoon drops on a table finished with poly, there’s a dent and a breach of the finish. If the same thing happens to a table finished with teak oil, there’s a dent, but the table still is protected. Rarely do you want to dent your stuff, but if someone else does, the hope is that the culprit is someone whose good qualities far outweigh the damage caused by once-airborne utensils.

Teak oil wears away and has to be reapplied from time to time, but that means it can be reapplied from time to time without issue. (Speaking of which, I need to do that on a lot of my stuff.) Teak oil also brings out the grain in a reflective or shimmering way that I haven’t seen in other finishes.

For this post, I’ll focus on Table 1 (1/4-sheet palm sander) with some comparisons to Table 2 that had not yet been started.

With a completely prepped board and my trusty Jo-Ann (nee Fabrics) cardboard box, teak oil would stay where I wanted it to.

And the crazy before-and-after-by-way-of-two-tables:

Craaazy, right?

And for the top:

The back:

The sides:

The drawer:

And then dry assembled:

If only I could compare it to how it looked before.

Oh, wait!

I love this photo.

Still to go: Table 2 and the legs!

A quick note about upcoming woodworking posts

My weekly woodworking blog drops Tuesdays at 10am PT.

My posts mainly have been about refinishing pieces of furniture made by other people.

I now have a workbench table saw. The blade only extends to 3/4″, and that isn’t a lot, but if I set everything up right, I think I can cut up to 1-1/2″, which should be plenty for many projects.

I asked reddit today about how to make a crosscut sled for a table saw with a 3/4″ blade and got mixed responses.

There will be tons of opportunity for more woodworking projects going forward.

I can’t wait to share them with you!

Woodworking: Step-Up End Table Pair Project (Part 8)

Last week I’d finally gotten the always-challenging Table 2 at about the same level as I had gotten Table 1: The split was patched, and everything was sanded.

The issue of the knob design element remained.

I worked and worked sanding the knob design to remove all the old finish.

I tried to avoid flat spots, and i used my vise this time instead of going freehand.

I had long done this with Table 1, but I still didn’t like the knob design elements and was considering cutting them off altogether.

So after hours and hours and hours of sanding by hand and using a dremel, I’d actually reduced the size of the knobs to something that looked uneven and goofy. My decision was made for me.

But how to cut them? I didn’t have a table saw.

Jigsaw! It worked with the chair seats. It should work with this.

And after the scoring, there was no going back.

Slow and steady for the cuts, and they weren’t looking so bad!

A little rough and a little curved, but overall, pretty happy.

The roughness of the edge and slight difference in height should be easily rectified by sanding.

By the time I’d done this, Table 1 had been long completed, but at some point I’ll make that one match.

Finishing starts next week.

Woodworking: Step-Up End Table Pair Project (Part 7)

I left off last week having sanded the side pieces for the first table. All was well there. Now I get to share how the same pieces for Table 2 posed more challenges.

The challenges: Warped wood with a crack.

I had expected the solution to be easy! I have wood glue. I have clamps. I have time.

I’d need the wood glue really to get all in that crack so there would be good adhesion when clamped. I didn’t want to remove material to make a fresh surface because I didn’t expect the surface not to be ready for wood glue.

Plastic knives ftw.

And with my bar clamps, it was sure to dry properly.

Letting it dry for days would make the rest of the job go without any issue. Right? RIGHT????

But with the warping, it returned to its split state. And now there was glue that was messing with the surface! Yayyyyyyy!

So I used an Xacto knife to cut off all the glue that I could to prepare the surface for another attempt. This time I decided to dilute the glue some because maybe the plastic knife didn’t really get all the glue where I wanted it. The depth of this crack was no joke.

Well, the slightly diluted glue definitely made its way in, and I went through the clamping and waiting process again.

Based on where we are in this post, you know already that it didn’t work. But it only was a few days of waiting with anticipation only for it not to work, so it wasn’t like I lost too, too much time.

I learned that gluing was not the answer.

I made the decision to sand down the pieces and go from there.

Just like I’d done with the top of the table, I made my own wood filler out of dust from sanding and wood glue.

Back on track!

The knob design element issue makes a return next week.

I’m getting married tomorrow

It’s so crazy that it’s finally upon us, but Calah and I are tying the knot tomorrow morning.

It’s been a long time coming, but to make our relationship official in the eyes of the law is something that’s long past due.

Covid has required us to delay, and our reception and our honeymoon are delayed still, but it’s nice to resolve one key step of the process.

I’m so lucky that Calah has agreed to married me–and continued to agree as she’s gotten to know me more and more through our 517 days of engagement.

Calah is special in a way that gives me faith in the future. Sounds dopey and extreme, I know, but I mean it.

Calah is a person who sees the world and acts on her desire to make it better.

She’s been a registered nurse for years, but she decided to go back to school for nurse practitioner. But rather than go for a masters, she is doing the doctorate of nursing practice. She has to do a study on a topic of her choice.

Covid took away her original subject: Dental hygiene in oldtimers. I probably got it wrong, but I think that’s what it had been.

She saw the healthcare system get overwhelmed and thought there had to be a better way. One day she said to me, “Wow, it’s been a long month today” or something to that effect.

What she’d meant is that the day she had had felt like a month. From there, she and I talked about how some hours feel longer than others and that the stressors and demands aren’t equal each hour of a day or in every work condition.

From there, her topic of addressing nursing stress in the workplace grew and grew.

I could go on and on about her project, but that’s not the point of this post. What I’m saying is that she saw a thing that is broken and didn’t just say what a shame it was took action and is taking action to resolve it at a systemic level. And she’s not discouraged by people who say it can never happen.

That’s the thing about Calah: She does cross-discipline impressive stuff because she doesn’t seem to know that it’s hard.

I’m lucky that she said yes when I asked her out in July of 2019.

Readers of this blog can thank her for my current 312-day posting streak because when I was feeling really down 300+ days ago and couldn’t even bring myself to post about the crossword, she told me to put something down after she got fed up with me being inconsolable. And that got me out of my funk.

I’m frazzled right now in anticipation of the wedding. I feel like there’s a lot left to do that I’ve forgotten but can’t figure out exactly what that is.

And with Calah spending the time up to the wedding away from me, I can only rely on her notes to make sure I don’t royally screw stuff up.

I’ll have more to share after the wedding, but I can’t wait till Sunday morning.

Woodworking: Step-Up End Table Pair Project (Part 6)

I left off last week with Table 2’s boards planed and ready to go. I haven’t been focusing as much on the first table because the 1/4-sheet palm sander took off way less material per pass. The crazy-good sandpaper that never clogged might be part of the random orbital sander’s effectiveness, so that’s something I’ve learned to watch out for.

That would be important for the remaining pieces of the table.

These tables are far more complicated than that first step-up end table project I’d done. Rather than just two side pieces, these had a back piece and a drawer. They also came with a knoblike design element that I didn’t care much for and was debating whether or not to amputate.

Table 1: 1/4-sheet palm sander

The outside part of the right side of the table:

The inside part of the right side of the table:

The outside part of the left side of the table:

The inside part of the left side of the table:

The back portion:

I noticed that with the back part, an edge veered away from being straight. The alignment didn’t allow for the board to be cut down to be straightened out, and since it would not be in an exposed area, I decided not to do anything about it. I figured that was the manufacturer’s thought process, too.

The grain that was exposed on all the boards made me eager to get to the finishing stage. It had been hidden for so long under the dark stain but was sure to glow.

For this table, I decided I’d keep the knob design elements. So I sanded and sanded with folded sandpaper.

Just some of the pieces I used

I don’t know how this happened with so many elements of Table 2, but the preparation of that one would not be nearly as simple. More on that next week.