Tag Archives: woodworking

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.

Woodworking: First-ever chairs project (Part 3)

After a two-week diversion, I’m back to the chairs blog. An update overall is that it had been looking pretty grim, but work I did yesterday brought decent hope back to the situation. There’s still a real chance of public failure here, and that’s one of the things that makes this fun.

I left off the prior post with snapped DeWalt bits. It was a real bummer. High hopes for those bits, but they weren’t up to the task.

I worked really hard to get the extractor bits to bite, and while that worked for some, I had to try just drilling out the screws for other.

I found out that I didn’t yet have a full handle on how to drill out a screw successfully or these screws are extra stubborn. Either is possible.

Once I got the screws out of the way, it was time to start sanding.

I used the Makita sander I’ve had for decades. It has a cable, and that severely limits the maneuverability and range. But it’s generally effective.

I took the arms off and started going at it with 60-grit sandpaper. The paint was so thick that it was going to take some heavy duty stuff to get it off. And the initial attempt with 3M synthetic steel wool finish stripper had done any good.

You can see the orange on the ground.

The orange was coming off, and the wood underneath was looking pretty good. There was hope for this for the grain to be pulled out by a natural finish.

Bumpy and thick.

The thickness of the paint was chewing through my sandpaper. The Makita 1/4 sheet sander has clamps that hold the sandpaper in place, and those clams are frustrating to use for sandpaper of grit lower than 100. You might say that I should instead use a random orbiting sander. I don’t necessarily disagree but I don’t have one of those, and I don’t particularly want to stock up on sanding discs.

As I continued to sand more, I ran into things I hadn’t expected. Those things included unusual repairs, the existence of veneer, and what I believe to be a different kind of veneer.

Out of appreciation for the feet of snow in New York and the sunshine in Los Angeles, I’m now heading outside for a little bit to do some more sanding.

More next week.

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

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)

As the focus this week mainly is on whatever pardons Trump is going to dole out today and the preparation for tomorrow’s inauguration, and the focus of next week is Biden’s first week in office, I’m saving the chairs update for a couple weeks and am bringing you a story of an IKEA table project I am not soon to repeat.


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: First-ever chairs project (Part 2)

I left off last week with the first part of the project of where I could go one way with one chair and another with the other: extracting the screws pre- or post-sanding.

The first chair was pre-sanding.

I used a scratch awl from a $20 driver set to clear out the slots of many of the screws. This was my realization of just how much paint had been used on the chairs. And it wasn’t just paint. Whoever had done this work had used primer under the paint.

In concept, this is a smart approach.

Whatever was underneath likely was not ready for paint, and the primer helps create a good surface for paint to adhere to. Also the white primer makes it easier to have uniform color by covering the old surface with solid white.

Unfortunately for me, the sheer amount of primer and paint was… a lot. Like, a lot, a lot. That meant that it was possible that the screws were actually stuck in place by the primer and paint. It would be hard enough to try to get a good channel for a flathead driver bit, but even if I did, what were the chances I wouldn’t strip the heads?

It was a good thing that I had my extractor bit set, even though the cheap bits were showing considerable wear after heavy usage.

I used a flathead driver bit with my DeWalt impact driver set on low and with a very light squeeze of the trigger. I needed to encourage the screws to come out while trying to avoid stripping the heads and without slipping off and taking a bite out of the wood.

The slip-out and bite is a huge issue with flathead screws. I had experienced that decades ago and had to patch over that in the last series I wrote about.

My DeWalt impact driver has more than 100x human torque. It was a slow and steady process to get the screws I could out of the chair.

I couldn’t get all of them, though, and that meant trying to drill them out so I could use my extractor set.

To make my work faster and easier, I decided to pick up some DeWalt bits that boasted longer life for use with metal. Almost immediately, one 1/16″ bit snapped. The other didn’t last too much longer.

More on adventures in bit breaking next week!

Woodworking: First-ever chairs project (Part 1)

Toward the end of last year but well before the indefinite stay-at-home orders, I drove across the city to pick up some chairs that were listed in the free stuff section of craigslist. I drive a coupe, and I didn’t realize how hard it would be to get the chairs into my car. I had thought I might be able to disassemble them before taking them home, but wasn’t happening.

The chairs looked to have a lot of potential, and that’s the main draw for me for a project.

Since this is the first time I’m taking on a chairs project, I knew when I set out that there was a real chance I would not be successful. As this is an ongoing project that is not yet complete, this series will have many updates, and there have been numerous challenges along the way. I’ve also learned a lot along the way so far, and there’s more to go.

My plan was to get all the paint off the chair and give them a natural finish. I’d have to figure out how to redo the cushions or just buy new ones that fit.

On first glance, the chairs looked fine structurally. But it’s hard to really get the old finish off and repair damage without taking the item apart. Doable, sure, but this is my first foray into chairs.

Since I had two chairs, I knew I had the flexibility to take different approaches.

When I looked closely at the chairs, I saw that they had been painted thick with the orange paint. It looked like it was a fun project to do. As is appropriate for a final project before discard, there was no mind paid to removing screws or making any adjustment.

Screws were barely visible under the paint. Screws I’d have to remove.

And the screws that kept the chair together are the flat-head screws.

So I had to make a decision: Do I sand the the areas with the screws first and then try to remove the screws, or do I clear out the channel of the flat-head and try to remove them before sanding?

That’s the first bifurcation.

I got to try both ways because I have two chairs.

More next week.

Woodworking: Finally finishing a small table from woodshop class (Part 3)

NOTE: This is the final installment of this project. A new woodworking project series starts next week.

I left off last week with the plans in place to attempt to fix the split, install the new screws, cover gaps with wood filler, sand, and then use take oil.

I had the clamps from the old end table refinishing project, so I hoped that the split would be able to be fixed with glue and pressure. After a solid attempt, there wasn’t much movement, and I’d have to fill the crack with the wood filler.

The effort did leave some marks, but all part of the game. The first sanding step was next and then countersinking the new screws.

I knew I would have to sand after the wood filler, but sanding beforehand gave me a clean surface, a view of what I had to do, and a lot less to fix when the filler dried hard and could be sanded.

I drilled out enough to let the new screws grab hold and be deep enough for the filler to survive.

And the Robertson screws are great. I learned that I do not have a preference between Torx and Robertson. Both are easy to drive and stable. I felt no chance of slippage.

Filling the holes and then sanding was pretty fun. While I don’t seem to have pictures of the wood filler process, it was simple to apply and then smooth out with an old plastic card. A giftcard to a place Covid put out of business or a gym membership card work nicely.

There are many colors of wood filler available, and some people recommend using sanding dust from the piece of wood you want to fill to make a perfect color match. I have no problem even calling attention to it.

When I stripped the screw head decades ago, the driver bit slipped and dug into the wood. That gouge is now covered by the wood filler, as you can see in the lower of the two on the right side.

Next step: teak oil!

What a change from this:

I really like how this looks. I’m very proud of it, and I think that I would have been just as stoked with it if I’d finished it this way decades ago.

What I find even cooler is that the wood filler is darker on the left side and lighter on the right side.

Except it isn’t. It’s like the optical illusion we’ve all seen in some corporate training seminar:

Trippy, right? https://www.creativethinkinghub.com/optical-illusion-are-the-grey-blocks-really-the-same-colour/

While this project is now complete, I’ll have a new woodworking project next week. I’ve been working on a couple of chairs for a while, and they’re not done yet. I also don’t know if they will end up turning out. This may be my first complete failure project, but these are new territory for me, and I’m learning a lot. Join me in the new year, won’t you?

Woodworking: Finally finishing a small table from woodshop class (Part 2)

I left off last week with the thought that the stripped screw extractor bits I had purchased for the end table would work with this one. Well, I ran into some issues.

The end table had wood screws that were soft. Not a lot of convincing had to be done in order to remove those. It was fun to remove those screws. This had three main things working against my effort:

  1. The screw is made of hard steel. It’s amazing that the screwhead was stripped at all, but because it was, there it stayed for decades.
  2. The screw was there at all to keep pressure for glue that was drying. It was like using loctite.
  3. The screw was a slotted round head. This is massively different from a Phillips flat-head.
Phillips flat head.
Slotted round head.

The Phillips flat head is easier to extract. All you have to do is clear out the drive (i.e. where the screwdriver meets the screw) with a drill bit and use the extractor bit to grab the sides of the cone you’ve drilled out.

But a round head screw needs to be drilled out way more in order to turn the drive into a usable cone.

After significant time trying to drill out the screw with my old Craftsman bits, I started to wonder if it was a better idea just to drill away the head and leave the headless screw where it was. But I kept going because that wasn’t what I’d set out to do. I was going to remove this screw!

That upper screw on the right side was causing me so much pain.

And I kept on going.

Feeling defeated, I decided I’d give it one last go. Out it came. My initial thought of how happy I was to be rid of the screw right before giving up was replaced by the thought that it wasn’t the first last chance I had pledged. That gave way to a feeling of relief that had built up over 20 years.

There was so much work ahead of me. I had intended to countersink the screw heads and fill with wood putty. I also had the split at the top to try to glue back together without tearing apart the entire table. I didn’t see exactly how it was going to happen, but it certainly was worth a try.

I researched wood putty and wood filler. Based on reviews, I ended up buying Minwax Stainable Wood Filler. It comes in a squeeze tube, so application isn’t so cumbersome.

The screws that needed to be countersunk were already in my possession! I had researched screws for the other end table refinish project, and this was my chance to use the Robertson wood screws. It’d be the first time I’d use a square drive screw head.

https://www.fastenere.com/12-x-2-12-square-drive-bugle-head-deck-screws-stainless-steel-18-8-qty-50

After all that, I’d have to sand everything down to smooth it out and get rid of the stains that had accumulated over time. Then the teak oil.

More next week.