Category Archives: Projects

Woodworking: First-ever cushions project (Part 3)

I left off last week in my seat cushion project having purchased the plywood boards I wanted but without a way to cut them to size. In a complete nonadventure, I purchased the jigsaw blades from amazon.

I had done a lot of research into which blades I needed because jigsaw blades come in many teeth arrangements. I learned that a 10 TPI (teeth per inch) blade is good for plywood, so that’s what I used. I got a multipack, so now I have ample supply. Also I guess there is no immediate need to expand my DeWalt set to include a cordless jigsaw because I have all these U-shank blades. Longtime readers of this blog know how my DeWalt set continues to expand.

Finally equipped with the tools I needed to cut the boards to size, it became a matter of tracing and actually cutting.

Rather than measuring, I used the perfect stencil: the prior seat board! And, lined up, it looked pretty good to me. And I did the same with the other chair so I could knock out

I clamped the board to my table, which is a super important step when cutting so it doesn’t chatter away or get grabbed and stuck in the teeth of the saw and just go out of control.

Then to the cutting. Now, I hadn’t used a jigsaw in I don’t know how long, so I was hopeful that I wouldn’t screw things up. I checked that the blade was firmly in place because, as I mentioned, this is a U-shank blade. A T-shank blade is supposed to snap into place without such concerns. Like how my impact driver bits snap into place for a quick change without having to tighten a chuck. I’ve not used a T-shank jigsaw, but this is my understanding of it.

That went well. Apparently, I have no pictures of the first cuts, but I do for the second board.

Things were looking up. The jigsaw was very easy to use.

I had spent all that time researching how to get pre-cut boards, and all it took to get some in this shape was a few quick cuts.

I was well on my way, sure, but the edges were rough. I had to find a way to chamfer them. But with all my tools, I didn’t have any planes. And I’d long learned my lesson that trying to sand a corner is a tedious process that makes lots of dust and is unreliable for a uniform surface.

I began to research planes. More on that next week.

Woodworking: First-ever cushions project (Part 2)

A cushion is made of three basic parts: the cover we all see, the padded part we know is there, and the board that is the structural foundation.

I had figured that cushions are somewhat standardized, so I should probably just be able to buy new cushions instead of making my own. I spent hours trying to find sites that sold seat cushions. I found one that sells to churches, but the reviews were mixed at best, and the cushions weren’t the proper size.

I tried to find just the boards that had been precut to the proper size.

But there was no luck.

Finally I watched enough YouTube videos to be convince that I needed to cut my own boards.

Luckily for me, Calah has a jigsaw. Unfortunately, she didn’t have blades for the jigsaw.

But that was OK because I didn’t have any wood to cut.

The boards that had been used for the old cushions were 3/8″-thick crap plywood. Just three plies, and there were gaps all over the place. Knots in the wood added further inconsistencies and gaps.

Cushions don’t have to be pretty all the way through, but since the old boards had lost integrity, I wanted to start off with something better. It’s possible that the crap boards had only recently started to sag, but there was no guarantee of that being the case. Though, of course, I had wandered around to see if there was any abandoned plywood that had been used to board up windows in the area before deciding the best move was to buy new plywood.

After some research, I decided to go with 1/2″, 7-ply plywood from lowe’s. I ordered it online for curbside pickup along with jigsaw blades.

This jigsaw is designed for U-shank blades, but quicker-change, T-shank blades are the new standard. No matter, there were many packs of U-shank shown as in stock at the local Lowe’s, so I was fine ordering those.

But when I went to pick up my order, they informed me that they didn’t have the U-shank blades after all.

I left Lowe’s with the wood I needed but nothing to cut with.

More on this next week.

Woodworking: First-ever cushions project (Part 1)

This cushions series is related to the chairs series. Last week I shared that the frames turned out pretty nicely, but my college roommate’s reaction to a picture of them was that they “looked like a torture device from [2006 James Bond film] Casino Royale.” No link or picture. You can look that up.

My initial idea was to wrap the original cushions in a fabric. There are many YouTube videos that explain how easy it is to reupholster cushions simply by rewrapping them.

Given the work it seemed like it would be to entirely redo the cushions, that sounded ideal.

The cushions couldn’t be used as they were. The one in better condition looked like it had been stabbed a bunch of times with a paring knife.

The one that was in worse condition looked like it had been sliced open by Doug from Scrubs.

Wrapping the stabby one seemed like it could work! And I have fabrics galore for that to be a valid approach.

But first I decided to see if there was any significance to the markings on the cushions.

3101?

Tyson 23 x 20?

21 x 25?

What I didn’t want to do was destroy something that would be Antiques Roadshow-worthy.

Mind you, the chairs had been painted orange, and I had refinished them, including tearing through some veneer, but maybe there was something to these chairs after all.

I went to reddit with these questions. If anyone would know, it would be various reddit communities. The woodworking ones certainly are eager to o-pine.

There were various interpretations. None of them was correct. Also none of them indicated that the chairs and cushions had any value. I was free to do what I wanted.

I had fabric, Calah’s staple gun, cushions to reupholster.

But then I realized that the boards for the seats were sagging.

If I couldn’t trust the integrity of the seats themselves — and now clearly I couldn’t — simple reupholstery would not suffice.

I had to start anew.

More next week!

Woodworking: First-ever chairs project (Part 10 frame finale)

I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. The chairs were physically coming together nicely. I cannot overstate the level of relief because it looked so unlikely partway through.

My favorite finish is teak oil. I’ve written before about how I like that it protects the wood from within rather than a layer that rests on top like polyurethane. I also like how it pulls out the grain of the wood rather hiding it under a stain.

Yeah, it’s very clear where I sanded right through the veneer, but based on where I stared, I kinda like it. You know, in the way that I’ll be more careful next time.

Despite the darkness of the wood, I intentionally used the Minwax stainable filler so it would stand out. For future projects, I’m considering venturing into making my own wood filler, but that wasn’t something I wanted to do for these. The wood exposed that had been hidden by the veneer played a part in this decision.

The arm that had the tear-outs couldn’t stay that way.

I repaired the damaged arm with contrasting wood filler and sanded it smooth to be flush with the arm.

The light color serves as an accent there, too, and an intentional exposure of the flaws.

Ultimately, the chairs came out pretty nicely. I learned that this type of chair is called a ladder-back chair. I’m uncertain if this is more deco than it is modern or the reverse. I feel like it’s a good fit with a modern furniture style.

Additionally exciting was that this is what I’d expected upon breaking through the orange paint.

The rich, deep color of the wood and the accompanying glowing reflection in sunlight is just what I hope for whenever I use teak oil, and I was not disappointed here at all.

But there was something very obviously missing from these.

My venture into cushions starts next week.

Woodworking: First-ever chairs project (Part 9)

I decided to go with torx deck screws to replace the flathead ones I’d removed earlier.

While it seems unnecessary screws to hold the legs on if the dowels are glued properly, my expectation is that the manufacturer decided that it’s easier to mass produce chairs if you use glue and screws instead of glue and clamps.

I decided to mostly take that approach, too. I needed to use clamps to make sure things sat properly, but I used screws to hold everything in place and under pressure.

I didn’t expect to be able to rely fully on the screws to exert the same pressure as the Irwin clamps I got that exert over 300 lbs of pressure. The dowels would certainly sit properly as a result of the clamps, and the screws could take over holding them in place.

So I could switch focus to the cross pieces that have no screws to hold them in place. They’d have to dry with the clamps like normal.

With flathead/slotted screws, there’s major concern about slip-outs and head stripping. There’s nothing to keep the driver in place at high speed. With the torx deck screws, there’s no such concern.

Also it’s a good way to get rid of some dust.

With everything screwed in place, I reached for the wood filler.

And with every necessary thing patched, the next step would be light sanding and then teak oil.

More next week.

Woodworking: First-ever chairs project (Part 8)

The downside of using the chisel to strip the paint is that it wasn’t always perfect.

I ran into issues where I went in at the wrong angle and gouged out wood where I wish I hadn’t and where the wood just kinda gave up on me. Since I’d have to patch the wood, I decided I’d use the same Minwax filler from a prior project. I knew that it’s not the same color as the wood of the chair, but I wanted it not to match because I expected to like the contrast.

As for the holes in my hands and splinters buried in them, filler wouldn’t have the effect I’d desire. (Gloves? Why?)

Oh! I upgraded from my old Makita corded sander, too. I now have a DeWalt battery-operated sander. Wow is it easier to use. It’s less cumbersome because there’s no cable. It has variable speeds. It’s way easier to change sheets of sandpaper. It doesn’t make my hands numb for days and days after sanding a lot.

I used the new DeWalt sander to get rid of the non-gouge roughness.

But before patching everything up, reassembly!

Everything had dry-fit together. It ought to work with glue, too.

New dowels looking clean.

Still fits!

Wood glue cleans up easily with a wet rag. As long as the glue hasn’t dried yet.

With each piece that fit together properly, it was excitement anew for me.

More next week on further reassembly, patching, and other challenges.

Woodworking: First-ever chairs project (Part 7)

To this point, I had been concerned that the chairs project was doomed. As of the writing of this post, the chairs still are not completely done, and as I’ve established before, I prefer for my projects to work out fully, but I don’t know at the start if they will. And I don’t wait till I know to start writing about them. This looked… bad.

So when the chair fit together, I was stunned. And invigorated.

And that got me to start thinking in new ways.

At the outset of this project, I had spent a lot of time sanding the orange paint and white primer off the chairs instead of using a liquid or gel paint stripper. It was tedious work and difficult to get into the corners.

Quick background:

My college roommate, Darren, and I still exchange birthday presents. This summer we’ll be a full decade removed from living together at UCSB, and while he now lives in San Diego and I live in LA, we’re still great friends. The stuff we get each other range from gag gift to extremely useful and suddenly necessary.

For my most recent birthday, Darren got me a set of chisels. I didn’t know how I’d place them into service, but I was thankful that I had tools I wouldn’t have thought to purchase on my own.

Without the chisels, I’d probably still be sanding.

I realized that I could use the chisels to shave off what I needed to, get into the tight areas that are hard to reach with a sander, and possibly do this without affecting the wood underneath.

So I began to do that. And the results were crazy.

Of course, there would still have to be some sanding to get everything smooth.

More on that and additional challenges I faced next week.

Woodworking: First-ever chairs project (Part 6)

There’s no perfect replacement for having a proper workbench. A thick tabletop that can take all kinds of abuse, a vise permanently attached to one end, space that can accommodate that setup. It’s a dream environment. Unfortunately for me, that’s as accurate a description as any.

I have to use what I’ve got in the space I’ve got.

Now, the last post ended with me sawing off some legs and needing to replace the dowels that held the chair together.

For the dowels that had separated cleanly, it was more a matter of taking off the old glue to expose gluable surfaces.

However, the dowels I had cut right through required a different approach: drilling out the old ones and replacing them in the exact same locations so the chair would line up again.

The key to this process was to go slow and to stay on target. A misaligned pair of holes is absolute death for the chair. The old dowels were a good guide. The screw holes were a hazard I had to avoid.

While I could hold a leg down and go slowly, I couldn’t do the same with the end of the front panel.

This is where a workbench would have served me well. But I don’t have a workbench. After some thought, I realized that I could use a clamp I have. It’s heavy enough, I figured.

It was a painstaking process, but it worked.

I wanted to make sure that the chair fit back together before continuing to strip the chair of the orange paint and white primer. It was exciting to see everything align in a dry fit.

More next week!

Woodworking: First-ever chairs project (Part 5)

The goo was not the only significant problem with this project. I uncovered that a leg had been broken and repaired. The kind of repair that made more rather than less work for me.

I had dealt with a bad glue job when I did my first end table project. The pieces were poorly aligned, so I had to sand things back into shape.

But this is a leg. And the glue had no interest in giving up.

I looked up how to break wood glue, and the recommendation was vinegar.

So I tried it.

With the vinegar and some elbow grease, I was able to separate the leg from the rest of the chair. But as you see from the picture, I found that there were pegs that held the leg to the chair. The pegs were complemented by screws.

The new situation then was gross pegs and bad gluing surfaces and even a broken peg.

I saw (was forced to see?) a learning opportunity! What do I even do with pegs?

I researched how important they are. It turns out that they are very important. I looked to see how to get new ones and how to replace them.

If found that it certainly helps to have a drill press. However, I do not have a drill press.

I found which size pegs I needed and bought a bag of 100 on amazon.

At a dime apiece, it’s worth it.

Equipped with these dowels, and only slightly increased sanding access, I decided to try to remove the other leg. The thick paint made getting to the glue with the vinegar almost impossible, so I went with an approach that took me by surprise: saws!

I cut right through the dowels on the other leg. The screw holes are still there, but a source of guaranteed failure of the project had become proper installation of the new dowels.

More on this next week!

Woodworking: First-ever chairs project (Part 4)

I left off last week with the progress I’d made sanding off the paint and primer from what were looking like gorgeous chairs.

I was boasting to Calah about how I have X-ray vision through the computer screen. This, of course, was before I had found the MCM wood table that turned out to be cheap IKEA MDF with plastic veneer that was all bubbly and that smelled like weed. You know, the project I wrote about a few weeks ago. But my pride had not yet been so challenged and theretofore not by this project.

But that changed.

I encountered the first problem that looked like it could make this project fail. And that problem was gooey stuff and wood veneer. It’s good that I took pictures because I still don’t know what it is.

I was using my Makita palm sander that I’ve had for a couple decades with 60-grit sandpaper to get this off quickly. It’s been reliable if not cumbersome due its cord and annoying sandpaper clamps. It has a fixed speed of 14,000 RPMs. So for it to get stuck on this was new to me.

My experience was that the fast-moving sandpaper heated up a hardened glue that turned into goo. That goo then gummed up the sandpaper. Repeatedly.

But the good news was that the it looked like there was nice wood underneath.

I worked hard to get all this goo off, but that effort led to tearing through what turned out to be wood veneer. I had had a little experience with that the side table project I’d written about last year, so I wasn’t happy when I destroyed the veneer, but by then it was too late. So was I more careful with the other chair? Well, no. Getting the goo off was the priority.

But the good news was that I was able to save the majority of what looks like a pretty encouraging back.

More challenges next week.