Category Archives: Projects

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.

Woodworking: Step-Up End Table Pair Project (Part 5)

First, a note:

I don’t know how this happened, but the prior post missed schedule. That is to say that it was all set for automatic posting at 10am, but WordPress didn’t do it. I posted it Friday of last week when I realized it hadn’t gone out.


I left off last week having sanded both tables. I had gotten rid of the rings on each one. But I’d noticed something that took Table 2 (the one with the random orbital sander) off the rails.

Rather than being smooth and flat, the surface of table was uneven like rolling hills. That was no good. It was not up to my standard.

Also I noticed that the upper board was cupped.

This was bad news.

And it would have to change.

I mean, at least Table 1 (1/4-sheet palm sander) was fine. But how do I smooth out Table 2?

Rather than go back to Angel City Woodshop–a place I respect thoroughly to do amazing work–I decided to hand plane.

I had last used a real plane (not the tiny one I’d used for the seat cushions) back in Mr. Bartkowski’s woodshop class in middle school. I turned to YouTube to guide me.

This was the best video of all I’d watched.

So I went out and got two Stanley planes: a 9-3/4″ inch bench plane and a 14″ bench plane. I was determined to get these boards flat.

From McMaster Carr.

But I’d also read that I should make sure to sharpen the blades to make cutting super easy.

I bought a jig to make sure that the angle was set up right for consistent sharpening. It was worth it.

From Amazon.

I sharpened the blades and got to work.

Welllll, I sharpened a blade and looked away and nicked my finger on a blade while looking away to grab a paper towel. I knew my sharpening was done, but I had to grab the Krazy glue before continuing. Gotta love the Krazy glue skin repairs.

Since I don’t have a proper workbench yet, I set up a folding table and clamped pieces of wood to it to use as a backstop for the planing. It wasn’t ideal, but it worked! I used cinderblocks to keep the table in place.

This was not a single-day activity. Not even close. This took many days, and I tore up my hands because I didn’t have the right callouses yet.

Ouch!

But when I finished, the boards were flat again. They were ready for sanding. I mean sanding again. This time it wouldn’t be so much work because I didn’t need to focus on any single area.

More next week.

Woodworking: Step-Up End Table Pair Project (Part 4)

It’s been a number weeks since Part 3 of this series, but I’m back with the new installment!

I had left off with the gluing up of the top of the second table.

Each table was ready to sand: The first table with the DeWalt 1/4-sheet palm sander and the second table with the DeWalt random orbital sander.

The potted plant rings were not limited to the lower part of the table and would be a chore to remove. I started with 3M 60-grit sandpaper and turned the the speed wheel to 7 (max).

In just two minutes of steady sanding, I had made progress and suffered the setback of seeing a ring I hadn’t known was there. So I would have to remove not two but three rings.

Three in, and things were already shaping up. Could this be easier than I’d expected?

At the five-minute mark, I started to notice some stripes in the lower-right quadrant. I didn’t know if those were spills or what, but it didn’t make me comfortable.

At 15 minutes the large ring was not giving up, and the ring in the upper-right corner remained stubborn. But those lines looked to be part of the wood! If the teak oil were to make it glow, that could be amazing.

Grit changes from 60 to 100 to 150 to 220 got me here. I could see the rings faintly, but I had stopped making progress. I felt there was little more I could do if it had gotten that deep.

I also didn’t want to run the risk of uneven sanding.

Total time from the first picture to the last for table 1: 71 minutes.

On to table 2 with the random orbital sander.

A reminder: This was done about six weeks after table 1 and with a slightly different setup.

I started with the 3M Pro Grade purple 80+ grit Cubitron II disc. What a name, right?

Two minutes in and wow. Really, wow.

The seam from the gluing would go away as I continued to sand, but that was a lot of material gone in such a short time.

I decided to see if I could use my tiny plane to make my work easier. Tiny but mighty. Also at the time, my only plane. It didn’t do much, and I figured I’d only gouge stuff out. I went back to sanding.

At the 15-minute mark, things were looking up. Now, not all of those 15 minutes were spent on sanding. I had taken the plane out, goofed around with it. Put it back. But timestamp-wise, this is 15 minutes in.

I was having trouble determining if the wood was just darker or if there was stain that wouldn’t go away. The seam was softening, and the 80+ grit sandpaper was holding up well.

Then I made my first big goof: I forgot that the sander is dangerous.

I picked up the board to sand along a side rather than using my vise to hold it in place. That was dumb. And the sandpaper sliced into my left index finger.

I don’t have pictures of that because I was too busy running to the sink to wash it out and apply pressure and then alcohol and then krazy glue. It got me pretty good and shook me up, but it could have been a lot worse.

I realized that using leather work gloves was not a bad idea after all. I put those on and changed my approach. Why risk holding things in the air?

I swapped in 100-grit regular 3M Pro Grade and followed that up with 120+, 150+, and 180+ of the Pro Grade Cubitron.

Total time from the first picture to the last for table 2: 78 minutes.

It seemed to be going well, but then I noticed something, and the table 2 process had gone off the rails.

More next week!

Woodworking: One-off IKEA table project (part 2) Revisited

The instructions for the table saw I got has the following section:

9. Dust suction

At the back of the housing of your FSK [table saw] you will find a connecting piece for dust suction, see fig. 9: a vacuum cleaner is connected here.
This should always be operational while working! Not only because it guarantees a clean working environment, but also because this prevents the interior of the saw from becoming contaminated with sawdust.

Well, I got a vacuum that is rated for this type of use, and I can’t wait to try it out and make a real table to use. But for now, the project concluded below has been working fine.


When I had first partially disassembled the IKEA table, I saw that the plastic veneer had been applied to both sides of the tabletop. I thought that this was unnecessary, but I was appreciative because I gave me an idea: flip the table top over and use the underside at the topside.

I began fully breaking down the table.

Now, I’ve taken apart IKEA furniture before. It hasn’t been pleasant, but it also hasn’t been difficult.

This was difficult.

Sometimes the things that catch the bolts aren’t aligned correctly. I turned them. I jiggled. I jiggled the panels. Nothing was working.

Then it dawned on me that it might have been glued together.

Who glues IKEA stuff together? The whole point is that you just use the allen wrench the thing comes with.

When I saw some give, I decided to use arm strength. I’m no bodybuilder, but I have some arm strength at my disposal.

I found that the table had indeed been glued together. Ridiculous.

The table–like much IKEA furniture–is normally held together by the dowels/pegs and by the bolts. The bolts are what keep the parts from being disconnected, but the dowels/pegs keep the thing intact. Of course, unless they’re glued in place. When they are, they keep the thing together, too.

The holes for the dowels/pegs and the bolts are drilled only on one side. If my idea were to work, I’d have to drill through the other side.

I have a drill and drill bits, so that was no tall order.

Rather than drill from the other side, I just drilled the holes all the way through. That way there would be no misalignment.

Once drilled through, I installed the bolts.

It was looking like my plan could work.

I reassembled the table with the old top hidden directly above the drawers.

But there were now holes in the top of the table!

Now it was my turn to use glue on a piece of IKEA furniture.

I was prepared with glue gun and plastic screw cap covers that I had around.

I’d fill the holes with glue gun and then cap them off before the glue cooled down.

I’m happy with the result.

Woodworking: One-off IKEA table project (part 1) Revisited

I will have updates from the side tables coming soon, but this was a project I recently talked about with some friends and felt that it’s worth resharing this week.

Now that I have a small table saw that I haven’t yet used, I may make one of these (but a lot nicer) out of solid wood.


Months ago I saw an IKEA table in the free stuff section of craigslist. I like mid-century modern furniture, and from the pictures, this table looked an awful lot like one of those made from solid wood.

I reached out to the person who posted it and headed out to pick it up. She told me she’d put the legs and mounts into one of the drawers so it was ready to go.

When I got there, I grabbed the table and wiped it down before putting it into my car.

A few blocks into my drive home, I realized I’d made a huge mistake. The table reeked of weed. Just so strong. But it also smelled like someone had tried to get rid of the odor. So it smelled like weed and urinal cake. So foul.

I resolved to disassemble the table and leave it in the garage for weeks, and I prayed I wouldn’t get pulled over.

I noticed a few things when I went to take the table apart: First, it was standard IKEA stuff. That is to say that it was not solid wood. Second, while all four legs were in the drawers, there was only one mount of the four. Third, the plastic wood veneer had bubbled and looked super gross. In my rush to get out of there, I had mistaken the plastic veneer for messed-up wood. Nope!

The sane thing to do would be to throw it away. That was an option I felt was valid. And likely.

I decided that in order for me to attempt anything with this table, all of the following criteria had to be met:

  1. The table would air out fine. I’m not stinking up my home.
  2. I would be able to figure out a way to make the surface look nice.
  3. I could find mounts that would work.
  4. Total resource spend would be kept under $5.

Since there’s a part 2 of this, you know that all four were met. The way I did it is worth reading about next week.

This was for certain the jankiest project I’ve done so far.

Woodworking: Side table side project revisited

I’m happy to document as I go with my projects because I can look at things with a fresh perspective.

Back then, I had my Makita finishing sander. The Makita palm sander has two speeds: off and 14,000 OPM. Since then, my purchase of a DeWalt 1/4-sheet palm sander has allowed me modify my approach with an adjustment wheel from 8000 OPM to 14,000 OPM.

Would I have avoided sanding through the veneer if I’d been able to adjust the speed of the sander? Maybe!

More importantly, I would have looked for evidence of a veneer and found it just about immediately.

But even if I had known that it was a veneer, the rings on the table had gotten so bad that I don’t know what choice I had but to keep going.

The takeaway: Now equipped with tools that can adjust, I can be sensitive to thin veneer while trying to remove damage completely.

The table has been working wonderfully.

Here’s the original post:

As I await the arrival of what I hope will be the last piece I need for the end table project, here’s a standalone post about a side table project.

I found a listing for an end table on the free stuff section of craigslist, which you know by now is where I go almost exclusively for things to refinish. Of course not everything worth redoing is limited to the free stuff section (more on that in a future post), but that’s the page that receives most of my focus.

Salvageable for sure!

The person who listed the table set it outside for me to pick up at night, and about 50 minutes later, I was home with it. But with everything these days, outside it stayed at first.

Daylight gave me comfort this table with its solid wood top just had water damage that could be sanded off easily. The white paint was in pretty good shape, and I figured that the paint was thick enough that light sanding would be the way to make it bright again.

I cannot overstate the benefits of getting solid wood furniture.

As expected, the more I took off, the more the water damage went away. It was shaping up very nicely.

And the satisfaction of knowing that you can keep going without issue to make it perfect is such a comfort!

As I kept going, I got to see how the tabletop was looking so much nicer than I had expected.

Hang on. I miscalculated.

I was marveling at how the top was made with a single, wide piece of wood and with no knots. How did I come across such a gem? And then I realized my mistake. The top wasn’t one solid piece of wood like I’d thought. Rather, a wood veneer had been applied to some other hardwood underneath it. That’s why the grain didn’t line up where it should have.

That grain should be consistent the whole way!

It seemed like I couldn’t go much further without running out of veneer, so even though there were parts that showed discoloration, it was time to stop.

In my first woodworking post I mentioned that I had decided against refinishing the coffee table with teak oil because it had that weird yellow river, and I was concerned that it would stand out without stain. Faced with a similar situation, I decided to go for it. I’d learn a lot from it. And what kind of guest (remember guests?) is going to be looking at my bedside table?

Hey! That’s no so bad!

I found I had not stopped sanding too soon. The teak oil make it obvious where I’d gone through the veneer. But the discoloration of the veneer itself seemed to be hidden well.

While this isn’t normally my style of furniture, it fit well physically in the room and was a very quick turnaround.

As happy as the current owner is, I expect the next one to be at least as pleased.

I learned a lot from this project.

  1. Wood veneers can look very good but require much more caution for a flawless refinishing.
  2. Teak oil doesn’t absolutely require a surface that is free of all discolorations for the result to look good.
  3. It’s kinda nice to have some projects that don’t take forever.

Woodworking: My first post, revisited

When I posted this back in October of last year, I threw in a picture of the folding chairs I’d refinished. That came up in conversation Monday night, and I decided to push the next installment of the end tables project to next week and share more pictures of the folding chairs.

Here’s the original post:

When I was 11, I took woodshop in summer school at Horace Mann Elementary school in Beverly Hills. It was the first of three woodshop summers. Two decades later it seems crazy to let someone of that age deal with all kinds of tools that can lead to permanent damage, but at the time, I just made sure to be careful.

I made a chessboard and a side table/stool. They’re still going strong, but they do need some attention. I tried to turn chess pieces at 13 when my summer woodshop class was at Beverly Hills High School, but those came out poorly. The Horace Mann shop didn’t have a lathe. Beverly’s did.

I’ve made things over the years, and the lessons from woodshop class and Mr. Bartkoski have stuck with me.

(Sidenote: I just now found out that Mr. Bartkoski passed away in January 2007. My day is now a little sadder.)

In the past decade, my woodworking activities have mainly been focused on refinishing things other people have made and people afterward have made worse, either because they actively didn’t care or because they didn’t know what to do.

For example, I was given my coffee table by a friend who was moving. After years of parties and little attention to cleanup by the people who lived in that house, the table looked pretty gross. But I saw potential.

Yeah, I know.

When I sanded it down, I found a stain that wended its way around part of the table. I don’t know what had spilled, but it’s many, many layers deep.

The stain remains!

I forewent finishing it with teak oil in favor of staining it and applying a polyurethane topcoat.

Gotta hide that ugly stain with stain of my own!

Ultimately, I am happy with the end result.

Minor blems, but I don’t care right now.

Recently I refinished some folding chairs found in the alley, but there wasn’t nearly the same level of filth.

I did the first of the set of six by itself and then the other five at once. The refinished one on the left looks better, yeah?

As you can see, I like to take things people have given up on and make them look like they’re not garbage. Some projects are easier than others, and there’s no guarantee that a project won’t amount to a total waste of time.

So I picked up a step-up end table that was on craigslist’s free stuff. I wiped it off, brought it back with me, and then let it sit outside. This one is going to be the biggest challenge yet. Stay tuned.

https://bhweekly.com/issues/pdf/2007_385.pdf

Woodworking: Step-Up End Table Pair Project (Part 3)

The next part to address was the upper portion of the step-up end tables.

The starting point for the 1/4-sheet palm sander.

The top part of the 1/4-sheet palm sander with its own giant rings. I’m thinking more vases.

I had wanted to treat both tables equally and really test the sanders, but it became very apparent with the second table that I could not in every respect. And for that reason, I must focus this post on the second table.

See, the top part of the step-up table was cracked. I saw daylight through a seam. The glue had lost integrity.

Crack is wack.
Super wack.

So I did what I do in these situations: I broke the board in half. I feel like there’s a video somewhere of that, but I cannot find it.

All it takes a whack.

I know to get rid of the old glue before gluing up boards. In the past, I’ve used sandpaper. Then I switched to a sanding block. It never lines up properly. It’s annoying. I always worry about ending up with a rail when I start out with a table. And that was happening with this board.

Gotta get that glue off, but it’s gone awry.

So I stopped myself and tried to find out how I could just do it right. I figured there had to be a woodshop around here somewhere that has a jointer.

But I started with reddit to see what the folks there recommend.

Many people recommended getting a hand plane. So I researched hand planes. But what would I need a big plane for afterward? I already had a mini plane. I used the mini plane to chamfer the edges of the seat cushion boards. The mini plane had no hope of creating the edge I wanted.

So back it was to try to find woodshops in the area because I really didn’t want to mess around with this part of it.

House of Hardwood no longer offers use of their jointer as a service. That had been my go-to. But only in my mind, really. I remembered that someone who also had made a chessboard in my woodshop class the summer after 6th grade had taken his chessboard to House of Hardwood to run it through the planer so he didn’t have to do it by hand. I was proud to have hand planed my chessboard. I still am. But what with no plane and such a small job, I was OK with letting someone else handle it.

Finally I found Angel City Woodshop. They make amazing stuff. Truly remarkable.

Paul agreed to straighten out for me what I’d screwed up, and that saved me in this project.

He’s really nice, and the stuff I saw in progress in the shop was superlative. I recommend Angel City Woodshop for their kindness and craftsmanship. There’s no sacrifice in either quality.

When I got home, I glued up the board.

Back on track and glued up.
Clamping two.
Five clamps should do it.

Back on track with the two tables at the same stage. I would have had something a lot worse had I not stopped myself and gotten the help I needed.

More next week!

Woodworking: Step-Up End Table Pair Project (Part 2)

These two oak tables were going to be a challenge. The first challenge was to get to the oak.

Table 1: 1/4-sheet palm sander.

Definitely a rough time.

The main board of the table started out pretty gross. I mean it wasn’t the worst I’ve dealt with, but it was bad. Water damage was the main issue. It looked like a potted plant lived on it, and then either smaller flowers or tea.

After 18 minutes of sanding. I was making some considerable headway.

There was still clearly more to do.

I kept going, and almost 10 minutes later

I think this water stain is the worst I’d dealt with. The prior step-up end table project also had some crazy water stains, but those were manageable. I wasn’t sure what would happen with these.

Let’s switch over to the the other table.

Table 2: Random Orbital Sander

But first a little bit about the sander and the sandpaper.

I had waited for the DeWalt sander to go on sale on Amazon. When it did, I got it. But the sandpaper for a random orbital sander is different from the sandpaper for a 1/4 sheet palm sander.

After some research, I came across the 3M Pro Grade sandpaper that claimed not to clog. Also that it had grit of varying size and sharpness, so rather than 80-grit, there was 80+. I got a variety pack.

It says not for retail sale on the real box, too. I don’t understand. That’s amazon for you.

I expected the random orbital sander to be much more powerful at removing material. And it was.

Water stains not as bad. Could be easy!

Four minutes of progress with the 80+.

Eight minutes in, and I saw stains I hadn’t seen before. Including a familiar big circle! Another potted plant or flowerpot, I imagine.

At the 30-minute mark, the DeWalt random orbital sander with 3M Pro Grade 80+ sandpaper had blown away the DeWalt 1/4-sheet palm sander with 3M regular 60-grit.

And the amazing thing after an hour of use:

How is there no clogging? I’d swapped out the 60-girt numerous times at this point.

The other surprise: It was never oak. I’m working with maple!

I like maple better, anyway.

More next week!

Note: This post is a little lighter on text. I’ve been struggling with WordPress to get captions back on my photos. No luck just yet, but that has eaten up a lot of time. More cool stuff later.

Williams-Sonoma boosts my ego

I went to Williams-Sonoma this week and was very disappointed in what I saw. I went all the way out to Manhattan Beach because for some reason I believed the Manhattan Beach location to be a very large store. But it is a very small store. It’s nothing like the Beverly Hills location was before it closed permanently years ago.

Now, Calah and I had gone to Crate & Barrel to see their stuff as we’re continuing to finalize our registry, but there were some items that were too expensive for too poor quality.

I had expected Williams-Sonoma to be better. And some things were slightly better quality. But all things were higher prices.

There were some wooden salad tongs on clearance for $15 reduced from $25. I would have paid maybe $5?

Then there were things that were worse quality. Like an olivewood salad bowl–a salad bowl priced at $150. For comparison, that is $150 more than the amount of salad I want to eat.

Hmm, if were were to buy it, we might not have money for salad. Oh, wait, this would be for wedding registry, so we would still have money for salad. Damn.

I

The salad bowl was splitting before ever being sold. Right on the shelf. Split.

I asked a clerk what happens with this type of item if it’s purchased off the registry and then cracks after a single use.

“You have 30 days to return it,” she said.
“Is that in new condition with the labels still on and everything?”
“Yes.”
“But you see it’s cracked just on the shelf.”
“Yes, but they would consider cracking like this normal wear and tear.”
“That’s weird. This is broken already.”
“Oh, I have the bigger [$200(!)] one, and the cracks are much larger. And that happened very quickly. I just don’t let the salad dressing go so high so it doesn’t get stuck in the cracks because then I wouldn’t be able to clean it out.”
“That doesn’t sound very good.”
“I went to a woodworker who told me to take epoxy and squirt it into the cracks to seal it up. But how am I supposed to get a needle that small?”
“So I guess I won’t be putting this on the registry.”
“That’s your decision, but these bowls crack. That’s part of what they do. Maybe it’s the type of wood they use.”
“Yeah, not putting this on the registry.”
“That one is too small, anyway. The one I have at home is larger. And that one fits enough salad just for me.”
“I mean I guess it would hold more if you could fill it all the way, but since the cracking…”
“I suppose so.”
“I guess I’ll go ahead and put this back.”

So it’s back on the shelf. Cracked. But out there for sale.

Now, I’ve encountered many issues in my woodworking projects, but I’ve not tried to sell broken things for hundreds of dollars. Scruples or something. Annoying.

And not everyone is happy about buying broken things or things that break quickly. They make that known in reviews!

But the reviews don’t start off bad.

Will last a lifetime (*****)
This is a large, beautiful olive wood salad bowl that is made by hand. As such there are minor imperfections which are typical with artisan works and (for me anyway) add to the value of the design. For this however, I would recommend that you go to a WS store so that you can choose the one that suits you—As each one is different. Beautiful piece and highly recommend.

Wow! Sounds amazing! Hey, wait a second!

Seems a little premature to have Will last a lifetime as the title. You know, unless someone is coming to kill him.

Wood putty filler too visible (***)
We recently received the largest of these bowls. I was a little reluctant to spend that much for a bowl but based on the previous review of lasting beauty I went for it. I understand that this is pieces of wood glued together to form the bowl. I didn’t however expect the putty that is used as a filler to be so visible. Especially around the top rim of the bowl. It is a very light color and doesn’t look even. I echo the previous review to go in and look at them before buying. That being said no one wants a bowl they would serve at a party to show this much putty right on top. I’m trying to be balanced with a three star rating. It’s hard to find a large salad bowl. I could live with imperfections inside the bowl. The one I received just doesn’t look finished. We’ll return and see if there is a better one. Too much money for this type of imperfection.

Cracked (*)
“First bowl cracked 3 weeks in. Got a replacement. This bowl also cracked about 1 week in. Have not washed it, have not used it. Save your time and get a different bowl.”

Welp! Looks like that’s not the salad bowl for us!