Tag Archives: diy

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!

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!

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.

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.


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.