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.
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.
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!
Usually my projects start with the Free Stuff section of craigslist. This one does not. This started with the purchase of a pair of tables–tables that were in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
I have never been to New Mexico. I’ve been to regular Mexico, but that’s a different story.
My friend Winston recently moved to Albuquerque, and he looks to see what people post for sale on facebook. He sent me pictures of this pair:
So $50 for the pair plus about as much for shipping. Normally I’m still at $0 when I bring a piece home, but by the time I got these, I was already in more than $100.
I saved a little bit of money on shipping by gifting the legs to Winston. I believe he then threw them away because he and I have a lot of things in common, and not wanting those legs is one of them.
Since this is a pair of tables rather than a single one, I decided to do an experiment to compare tools. In past projects, I’d used my Makita corded 1/4-sheet finishing sander. I then got a cordless DeWalt 1/4-sheet variable speed palm sander, which I decided to use for one of the two tables. For the other, I got a DeWalt random orbital sander. I hadn’t had one of these sanders before, but what better time to learn than to put it head-to-head with the other?
While I worked on these tables in sequence and not in tandem, I will be approaching this series as a comparison of the two processes, as they were extremely different. I made some mistakes, and I learned a lot. I had to modify my setup, get some new tools, and attempt many techniques for the first time. I’m glad I did this project, and, as of the posting of this first installment, the project isn’t finished. By the final post, it will be.
Keep coming back every Tuesday at 10am for new installments.
HELLO! This is the last installment of my cushion adventure.
Step 4: This week I’m going to show you how I secured these two beautiful cushions to two beautiful chairs that Matt beautifully refinished. You can see that journey here.
I had successfully made two fitted cushions for two chairs at this point. This is how I wanted them to sit on the chairs:
I wanted to use the secondary fabric to secure the cushions because 1) the seconday fabric is super strong and does not stretch, 2) it made sense to use the same fabric that covers the back of the cushions for continuity purposes, and 3) it was a benign color that I felt would blend in and be less visible. You’ll notice that the cushion is a bit wrinkled as I placed it up against the chair? Yeah, that’s expected. The back of the chair is a bit curved, and my cushion is very much not curved, so it’ll wrinkle a bit. I didn’t mind.
So now comes the part where I attach the darned thing. I wanted the method of attachment to be functional, reliable, and look decent. Sounds reasonable, right?
I mocked up how that should look with scratch paper:
The zig zag design was my first idea… but that turned out to be much harder to make each “v” precise, and I got frustrated.
I still went ahead and made the straps out of the secondary fabric because I knew that they were going to be incorporated no matter what. Turns out that I measured them too small and so when it came time to turning these little tubes inside out, I darned near lost my mind (I also lost a chopstick in the process). It was not a pretty scene.
Ok, so now what? My tubes are TINY and impossible to turn inside out to hide the seam. I set out to make the same length tubes (11″) and a new width. I think I just added 0.5″ to the original measurements?
Here are those new and improved tubes!
I had given up on the zig-zag design for the straps to the cushion so I tried a cross-cross pattern:
Pretty intriguing, right? I kept my annotations on a scratch piece of paper that I slipped between the straps and the chair. Once I was happy with how each strap was placed, I needed to pin them on the cushion.
I put pins on the top edge of the cushion where the straps would line up with the criss-cross pattern. Then, by some miracle, I was able to preserve the spacing and criss-cross pattern after I had pinned the straps to the secondary fabric on the cushion. This step took a while and some creativity (and MANY reattempts).
I almost forgot the strip of secondary fabric where these straps would attach to! In my head I would add a long strip of fabric at the bottom edge of the cushion to house the velcro that would grab onto the tips of the straps when securing to the chair.
These pictures are of me adding those two strips:
Now, maybe you’re already ahead of me on this… did you wonder how the heck I was going to sew all of these things onto the cushion? Well once everything was neatly in place, pinned to the cushion itself, it was only THEN that I realized I still needed to SEW things down!
Great. *slow clap*
Ok don’t panic…
… this is me thinking…
With a flash of brilliance I decided to sew my straps all onto a second-secondary fabric panel and then just hand stitch that panel onto the cushion. Smooth finish, sufficiently secured straps with the sewing machine, and that’s that. Here’s what that looked like:
I prefer this finished clean look.
Let’s check to see that I haven’t messed this up too badly:
Wait. Where’s the criss-cross? What am I missing here? Why is there that icky situation where the straps are not flat against the top of the chair??
My guess is that somewhere between the point at which I meticulously measured out the spacing and placement of my straps against the scratch paper and the moment when I moved the straps onto the second-secondary fabric panel, things went awry.
Here’s what it looks like from the front.
I decided that I was ok with the parallel design instead of the criss-cross. *sigh* Honestly, I didn’t want to do the whole thing all over again, especially after I hand stitched that secondary panel down.
Seeing how things went to heck on the first cushion, I intentionally spaced the straps on the second cushion so that they WERE lined up to be parallel. That looked like this:
Yeah… that’s pretty… different…
BUT no puckering! Just nice and flat. I didn’t want to go back and fix the first one. Maybe one day, when I’m REALLY bored I will. For now, it works.
LAST STEP: VELCROOOO
Pro tip: Don’t sew with the velcro that has adhesive on the back. It’s impossible to get any needle through (even on a powerful sewing machine). Plus, things get all gunky-sticky and messy. Get yourself some non-adesive velcro and be done with it.
And now, for the final reveal…
And it’s comfortable too!
Thank you for adventuring with me through this experience! Stay tuned for Matt’s weekly woodworking blog every Tuesday at 10 am. You can also check out his entertaining daily Spelling Bee blog here.
Step 3: Somehow put the foam into the cover I just made. Sounds pretty simple… right?… anyone?… hello out there?
My plan was to use the sewing machine as much as possible to secure those seams before I had to hand-stitch anything because I knew that whatever the machine did, it would be 10,000,000 times stronger than whatever my two hands could do… and especially since the cushions will face a future life of constant sitting, leaning, shearing, and other inevitable forces, I wanted them to have the best chance of surviving at LEAST 10 individual buttocks interactions before I had to fix them/replace them. So that’s what you will see in the first picture below. I kept the two ends open for hand stitching, thinking that those areas would experience the least amount of stress (Is that factual? I haven’t the slightest clue. But it sounds good, right? If you do actually know the answer, comment below and set me straight.). As we speak, they are still intact and holding their own! Time will tell, but I have a good feeling about their longevity.
Once I adjusted the foam to be exaclty lined up with the corners and edges, I folded the two open edges and began to hand stitch them closed. It was here where I learned the value of thimbles. I had never used them before, though, I was aware of their existence. I had to hand stitching the thick bulk of secondary and fancy fabrics all rolled up on the ends of the cushion. This can get to be pretty tough to push through with just your bare fingers. And even though there was a decent amount of swelling at my J&J injection site (I’m like the Hulk now, but just in one arm because J&J is a one shot deal so I list), my rippling bicep didn’t stand a chance. Trust me, get yourself a thimble… your fingers will thank you.
The wrinkling you saw in the previous photo bothered me a lot. All of my other corners were smooth and lovely, but that one darned corner would just not do. Honestly, I am not 100% certain where I went wrong, but I suspect that I didn’t fold and close the ends as nicely as I could have when I was hand stitching.
Just to be sure, I performed a cesarian on the cushion, freed the foam from the wrinkled case, and made a brand new cover that fit JUST RIGHT.
Pretty darned cool, right? I thought so too.
And here are both cushions!
And then to see if I actually made something worthwhile…
I placed the cushion against the back of the chair to see how it looked, and man… it looked pretty sweet. At that point, I was pretty darned pleased that what I had envisoned in my head ACTUALLY looked like what I had made in reality. That doesn’t happen often for me. So after my victory lap around our one bedroom apartment, I started to brainstorm ideas on how to make my beautiful (and comfy) cushions stay put on the chair.
Join me next week for part 4!
Lessons learned: Thimbles are very helpful, and needles are still pretty sharp.
Last week I talked about HOW the idea came about to make cushions for the top panel of the chairs that Matt brought back to life.
Now I need to show you exactly how I tried to do that.
Step 2: Making the actual cushion.
Matt cut the actual foam with a Turkey-carving-knife-tool according to my measurements with the added 0.50″. You’ll see one of two cut foams in the picture above.
Now I’m thinking, great! I have the foam…now I just need to cover them and… BAM! Cushion made! It’s that easy, right? So, I went about cutting, sewing, and stitching a cover to wrap them: in the front with the fancy fabric, and around the back with the secondary fabric. See below:
This is my machine. I have had it since I was a little girl. My mom and I used to go to the art and craft expos and bask in the DIY glow. One year, while walking around the vendor tents, mom and I decided that we wanted to learn how to sew. So, mom bought this machine and we signed up for sewing classes at Michaels (or Jo-Anne Fabrics(?)–it’s been so long). Since then, we have made pillows, skirts, pajamas, curtains and more. We used to go to the annual bird expo too… but that’s for another time. At one point in my childhood, we had over 50 birds.
Ok enough chit chat. Here is how I went about making the cushions:
This is the secondary fabric that will be up against the panel and hopefully not too visible once the cushion is attached. In this picture, I’m just making sure that I have enough fancy fabric to reach the secondary fabric. I probably should have done that before I went and cut up the fancy fabric… but it looks like I have enough! *high five*
Check out that gorgeous corner! I sewed the cover inside out so that my seams were nicely tucked inside the cushion. All of the seams were 0.25″.
Me: Calah, you did good. Also me: I know right?!
I turned the cushion over to see if I was on the right track. It’s a bit baggy, but that should resolve once I sew on the secondary fabric because the fancy fabric will be pulled taut against the foam.
Checkpoint: So you can see that the fancy fabric was measured, cut, and sewn into shape to wrap around the foam. I intentionally left extra material on the fancy fabric’s edges JUST IN CASE. It’s always good to have some wiggle room.
The next part was to add the secondary fabric to the back part of the cushion. It was at this point where I needed to make a decision: Do I, essentially, sew the foam into this fabric cover or do I do something else that is different and likely nicer looking but a method that I also wasn’t sure would work?
So I got to work sewing the foam into the fabric cover like so:
The secondary fabric is pinned into place and ready to sew!
Check out that lovely seam.
Now I am at the step where I needed to actually close the cover and encase the foam. My brain told me to go like this: sew the top and bottom edges (parallel seams) so that I could then gracefully shove the foam into the cover from the smallest possible hole. Make sense, right? I thought so, too.
Lesson learned in this step: Pins are sharp.
I went ahead and did the same thing for the second cushion. Now that I had both covers, I just needed to get the foam into them and secure the finished cushion to the chair.
Hi! Calah here! I am going to be sharing how I made cushions for the first time ever… from scratch… like a boss.
First, let’s talk about WHY I took all of this time to make them (total time = 3 weeks).
Matt resurrected two previously really ugly and orangeCraigslist chairs (if you don’t know what I am referring to, check out the earlier posts in his weekly woodworking blog. They drop every Tuesday at 10 am PT.
Ok, so, Matt finished the chairs a few weeks ago and they are delightfully comfortable–EXCEPT for the top wooden part of the chair’s back–you know the place where your spine hits as your sitting in the chair? Maybe it’s because I slouch (my mom was always reminding me to stand up straight), but whatever the reason, if I could just have some cushion on that area I’d be able to sit in those chairs for forever. So Matt suggested that I make some cushions. I thought to myself, I never made cushions before, but how hard could it be?
Here’s that adventure divided into multiple blogs for your entertainment.
Step 1: How TF do I make a cushion??!
I had to decide what these cushions would look like–fabric, size, how they’ll attach to the chair, etc. For consistency, I wanted the cushions to be the same fabric as what Matt used for the seat of the chairs. To make things easy, we are going to call this particular fabric fancy. I will be using a second fabric, and we’ll call that one secondary (creative, I know). I didn’t need to have the entire cushion covered in this fancy fabric mostly because it is a bit too stretchy for my taste, and I was concerned that it might sag in the long-run after consistently being pulled taut (you’ll see what I mean)… and also, why have it up against the back of the chair where no one gets to see it?
Enter: the secondary fabric! Matt and I have a massive tub of our combined fabric remnants, scraps, and old clothes that might come in handy one day for patching and such. A deep dive into that tub produced the perfect fabric for this role! I don’t know what kind it actually is… feels like denim but isn’t… it’s durable… does not stretch… and it’s brown. Perfecto.
THEN, once I chose the fabric, I got measurements on scratch paper of every length, width, height, of that top board. I must have measured and remeasured those panels a million times to be sure that I had it right.
So, in case you can’t see the notes on the paper, the actual sizes of the panel are: bottom edge length = 17.5″, top edge length = 18.25″, height = 4.75″ (see top paper in this picture). But, according to this YouTube video by SailRite, I should add 0.25″ to all sides of the foam when I cut it (I assumed this allowed for foam compression). So, the foam’s measurements would have, essentially, 0.50″ added to the length and width (see middle paper in this picture) . We were working with 2″ deep piece of foam, so that part was not going to change.
I decided that since I had the measurements and the fabric, the next best step was to make the actual cushion. Premature? Likely. I still wasn’t sure how I was going to attach the darned things to the panel.
The search for the fabric I’d use started with what I had in my fabric bin already. There were all kinds of soft fabrics and denims. Calah wasn’t keen on those but recommended some fabrics of her own. Lauren got involved and sent me inspiration like:
Looks cool, but at a minimum of $174 because you have to buy at least a 56sqft, it’s a little outside the price range.
Interesting in concept, but it’s £95 per metre–whatever that even means!
At only $24.99 a yard, it’s certainly the most reasonable of suggestions, but there’s no guarantee it would look good in person. I also didn’t know how durable it would be. I was thinking that I’ll do all this work, spill something on the chair, and then there’s a big stain and I’m sad.
I kept looking and found a metric that I hadn’t thought of: butt durability!
Think about it! You have a seat cushion, and that means people sit down. How many times can someone sit down and stand up before the fabric goes away altogether?
The industry has a different term for butt durability. That term is Double Rubs!
I found a fabric that is rated to 50,000 Double Rubs!
The color and durability rating seemed to be consistent with what I needed, so I bought it. It feels like mid-century fake leather, so that seemed good.
The next step was to cut the fabric and turn it into cushions.
After careful measuring and adding on some extra, I had my first piece.
I stretched the fabric around the board and used Calah’s electric staple gun to put the first staples in place, starting from the middle and going out from there. But with the first staples in, I wanted to see if it even could look good.
I kept going.
I then remembered that I needed to drill an air hole so the cushion could deflate and inflate properly. But I got it in time.
Every so often, I didn’t hold the staple gun firmly against the board as a pressed the trigger, and I got some squishes. Every time that happened was a new unpleasantness.
It took a while, but I learned to press the trigger with my index finger only and smoothly while keeping the rest of my hand stable.
It’s not like it really mattered because it was a first go, and I’d have to redo the whole thing anyway.
The corners are a real bear.
I reassessed and realized I had the opportunity to build in a way to keep the cushions in place while also being removable for cleaning!
I bought anchors.
and the corresponding screws
I also had to do a little more planing to get everything aligned just right.
I took the anchors out to staple the fabric in place. Once complete, I added a layer of thin fabric to the underside and replaced the anchors.
Ultimately, the result wasn’t perfect, but I’ll take it!
You might say, “Hey! That’s not the same chair as in the photos above!” You’re right! It’s a set of two, and this was a better photo.
I had to find foam and fabric for the cushions. Without foam and fabric, it’s just a wooden seat. Now, we’ve all sat in comfortable wooden seats. Some of the most comfortable seats are just wood–especially if you’ve only had the choice between wooden seats and stone seats. But the comfortable wooden seats are not flat boards. And I just had flat boards.
The old foam from the gross, original seats maxed out at two inches in thickness, so I figured that was the way to go. I looked around for dense foam, but I’d gotten upholstery foam at Jo-Ann before for another project, so I was just comparing everything to Jo-Ann. Also Jo-Ann coupons generally are pretty good, and there’s no real competition anymore on a budget, so that seemed to resolve itself.
There are many methods for cutting foam. There are fewer good methods for cutting foam. Some videos and blogs advise using a razor blade because it’s so easy! Those people live in a universe that isn’t mine. Other people say that using a bread knife or offset serrated knife will do it just fine. I, too, was surprised at how strong the serrated knife lobby is.
Everything I came across on the topic advised to trace the boards first.
The only real thing to use to cut upholstery foam is an electric cutting knife. I’d never used one before, but they’re pretty nifty. I was surprised.
The result looked to be pretty good, too!
The next thing I had to think about was batting. Batting is like mattress material?
Since batting is new to me, my mind kept wanting to call it bunting. But bunting is this:
Batting is supposed to add more cushion and complement the foam. It’s a nice touch. But it meant more to buy for such little benefit that the neither the original cushions nor the dining room chairs I recently discarded incorporated it. I passed.
Then there was the topic of fabric. More on that topic next week.
I had struggled to get a clean, chamfered edge with sandpaper. I learned that I really should have been using a plane all along.
I found some planes specifically for chamfering on Amazon. YOU PROBABLY DO NOT NEED THIS PLANE.
Buying the plane wasn’t necessarily a bad decision because it taught me why I should not have bought this plane. It also reinforced the idea that if there are a bunch of products that look identical and have the same spelling errors in the descriptions, go for the absolute cheapest one because there won’t be a different.
It was $9.99 when I bought it. Now it’s up to $17.99.
It’s not that the plane itself is bad or that the concept is bad, it’s that the plane itself is bad and the execution is bad.
It’s not nearly sharp enough, the bubble level feature is beyond useless because it accomplishes nothing and makes you wonder why it’s there. And since it won’t break easily, it gives no immediate reason throw it away.
What attracted me to it is that it’s got a consistent 45 degree angle for chamfering. No attention has to be paid to make sure you’ve got a consistent angle, and you can take off material consistently along the edge because the blade encroaches on the corner at a fixed depth relative to the corner guides.
The problem is that the edge guides rub against the rest of the wood. That both leaves a mark and creates resistance that is annoying.
This plane was a better purchase. The blade is sharper (and easier to sharpen when that becomes necessary), and it’s substantially more comfortable to hold.
I started off with what I’d managed to get out of the chamfer-specific plane.
I then took more material off pretty quickly.
And then more. Rotating it as I went to get all the sides.
I’m very happy with the small plane for this kind of work.
The rounded edges made me feel comfortable that I could wrap fabric around without causing tears.