Friday, December 23, 2005

Vanity Progress

Slow. That one word sums up my progress on building the vanity. The problem is that it takes quite awhile join the wood together given that I don't have enough clamps and the glue takes awhile to set when it is cold out. So basically I was only able to assemble one 2"x2" board a day.

The final cabinet will be 21"x48"x36" with 2"x2" for the outer frame, six drawers and one door. So, this is what I thought I needed was 3 2"x2"x8' boards and one 2"x2"x6' board. So, after 4 days of mainly waiting I was ready to cut and I discovered an error as I tried to figure out how to cut the boards to have the least amount of wastage; I was 10" short. What I should have made was 4 2"x"2"x8' boards. So I joined up another pair of 1"x2"x6' boards and had to wait another day.

Before continuing, I'll explain the process I used to join the boards.

Joining Boards
Tools Needed:
  • Joiner
  • Hand plane
  • Lots of yellow glue
  • As many clamps as you can get a hold of
  • Hearing and eye protection
  1. Choose two boards that are strait, or that match each other's curve as closely as possible. Straighter is obviously better.
  2. Identify the least attractive side of each board. These are the sides that will be joined. Look for knots, defects, gouges, etc.
  3. Using the joiner, true up the side to be joined. This will help to insure that there is no gaps or noticeable seam where the boards come together. I usually run the board through until the blades hit over the whole board.
  4. Once both boards are square, apply the glue to both boards. Make sure the entire surface is covered.
  5. Place the two boards on top of each other with the glued surfaces together. Line the boards up as well as possible.
  6. Starting at one end, apply a clamp to the boards to squeeze the join together tightly. Move a little further down the board and apply another clamp. Keep applying clamps until you get to the end. Do your best to get the boards to line up before adding each clamp.
  7. Clean up as much of the glue as possible using a damp sponge. Carpenter's glue is water soluble and a little water won't hurt the wood. Let the glue set up as long as long as is needed. On a temperate day it should only take four hours or so. On a hot or cold day it can take all day. It is better to be certain the glue is set then to mess it up. I leave mine to set all day.
  8. Remove the clamps and use the hand plane to scrape off any remaining hardened glue and to level the boards. No matter how careful you are, there will be spots where one board is higher then the other. The hand plane will make quick work of these spots. I continue to plane until it takes shavings from both boards. Don't set the plan to be too aggressive or you can take more then you need.
  9. Finally, true up all four sides of the board in the joiner.
Using this process, I ended up with boards roughly 1 7/16"x 1 7/16" square, just short of the expected 1 1/2" x 1 1/2". All but one of the boards ended up being very very strait as well. Only the first one is a little curved.

Alright, I can start in earnest at last! I trued up one of the ends and made the first cut, a 32" board for one of the legs. Hmmm, that seems a little short. I went into the house to measure the vanity in the hall bath, and yes, 32" is right. But then I notice that the hall bath is really uncomfortably short. So I measured the kitchen cabinets and they were 36" tall. I did a Google search and vanities for sale were 36" as well. Grrrrr, another mistake, but I may have just enough wood.

Now I cut a board at 36" (much better). Now I'm a firm believer in templates and, since I'm also cheap, I quickly threw together a template to make sure all the legs are exactly the same length. Basically I attached a long board to the miter gage and clamped a block so that each board I cut is the same length. I set it up based on the first board I cut and cut the other three. I now have the four leg posts.

The next stage is to cut the rails for the sides of the cabinet. I want the outside dimension of the cabinet to be exactly 21" wide. Therefore I measured the exact dimensions of the legs and cut the rails so the final dimensions are exactly 21" (for the curious, that is 18 1/16" on the left and 18 1/8" on the right). Once again I find that I am short on joined wood, just two inches short at that. Oh well, I cut and joined up a couple more pieces for the last of the side rails and will have to wait until tomorrow to continue.

lessons Learned
  • Measure measure measure
  • Plan out how you will cut the boards
  • Write this stuff down! My problem is that I figured it all out but didn't write it down. If I had I probably would have had enough joined wood to start with.
  • Label everything (in pencil so you can sand it off later if need be)
  • Be careful of how you set the hand plane, it is easy to be too aggressive and take more wood then you intend.
Hopefully I'll have more post in the next posting in a couple of days.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The New Vanity Project Begins

Ever since I moved into this house (has it been 3 years already?) I have been remodeling one room to the next. I started in the master closet then moved into the master bathroom where the remodeling stalled.

There are a lot of reasons I stalled on the bathroom. The first is that I have a hard time making up my mind. I often spend more time planning and choosing between option then I do actually doing the work. Case in point: I've been trying to decide how I would finish the walls for over a year. Once I decided how I wanted to paint it, it took 2 hours to complete (pics will be posted to my Flickr account.

One major decision that has been holding me back somewhat is the vanity. I was not happy with any of the commercial vanity designs I found. They all looked to conventional, too ugly, or they would not go with the rest of the room. So I decided to design my own vanity.

First I modeled it in Carrara Studio, to get a feel for the construction, and the amount of materials involved. Next I built a prototype using knotty pine and cheap plywood. I needed a new workbench anyway so this would be a way to kill two birds with one stone.

Then I stalled out again trying to decide what kind of top I wanted to put on it. In the end I decided on a speckled gray granite top with an under mounted sink. Now the construction is ready to start. I've purchased all the wood I think I need (if I did the calculations correctly) and the pocket screws I need.

The design is basically to build a frame out of 2"x2" boards upon which the framing for the drawers and door hung. The frame is held together using glue and pocket screws. I know I could use a more involved and more traditional joint, such as a mortise and tendon, but pocket screws are strong enough and much easier to use. The drawers use a halfblind dove tail on the front and a rabbit on the back. I also use drawer slides on the drawers, even though doing so forces a smaller drawer.

For the real vanity, I decided to use clear pine for the frame and the front, knotty pine for the internal framing, 1/4" birch plywood for the side panels, and 1/2 pine for the drawers (I'll use 1/2" birch for the front). I really like the contrast the two woods make on the prototype. MY choice of clear pine does have a problem. I've been all over and I can not get clear pine 2"x2" boards that are long enough. So I'm going to have to join two 1"x2" boards together for the main frame.

The vanity I'm building is 48"x21"x32" and my goal is to put this vanity together for under $600 (excluding the faucet). The list of materials thus far:

One granite vanity top: $300.00
One box 1 1/4" course thread pocket screws: $3.48
One box 1" course thread pocket screws: $3.48
Ten 1"x2"x8' clear pine: $29.50
Four 1"x2"x8' knotty pine: $6.32
Eight 1"x2"x6' clear pine: $18.24
Two 1/4"x4'x4' birch plywood: $26.58
Two 15/32"x4'x4' pine plywood: $27.98

I've already got wood glue and enough 1/2" birch plywood for the drawer fronts.

Total so far: $426

I will be posting me progress with pictures as the vanity building progresses.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Predator 2, the Novel

OK, so a few months back a group of friends and I went to a local LAN Party place to play some games before heading out to First Saturday. Usually we play Unreal Tournament for awhile before moving on to Call of Duty. Once everyone is good and motion sick we head down town for the sale. This time was different. Instead we decided to play Alien Verses Predator 2. I know, its an old game but it still holds up quite well. From that point, I ended up on an Alien and Predator kick. I went to and bought all the Predator books, and the first few Alien books. My plan is to read through them all, Predator, Alien and Predator vrs. Alien.

Before starting this blog, I had read all but the last of the Predator books. The following is a one line opinion of each:

Predator: Don't bother, the movie is much better
Predator Concrete Jungle: Pretty good read, though not top tier fiction by any measure
Predator Cold War: Better then Concrete Jungle, but still leaving me wanting.
Predator Big Game: Just slightly better then the first book. This is probably because it is a novelization of a graphic novel. I bet the graphic novel kicks butt though.

That brings me to Predator 2. This book is a novelization of the second movie. It is actually very hard to find and sells for a premium. If you find it in a used book store for less then $20, snatch that puppy up and resell it on or eBay. Of the books I've read thus far, it is by far the best. It is the first one that gets inside the head of the Predator itself. Not that there are any surprises there, but it added to the story. It tracks with the movie very closely but the extra detail you can only get from text is worth the read.