Wednesday, September 14, 2016

DIY Corner Desk

I recently finished building a desk for my wife using construction 2x6 and 2x4.

4x 2x6 KD "whitewood"
2x 2x4 KD "whitewood"
4x 3/8 5" bolts
8x 3/8 washer
4x 3/8 nuts
1x Dark Walnut stain

The first thing I did was rip the rounded edges and plane all of the lumber to a consistent thickness.  Then I laid everything out and made sure it fit snugly, using a hand plane to clean up areas where everything didn't fit together snug, and proceeded to glue.  I only had 36" bar clamps (total width is 42) so I glued the large piece and then the short piece  (which will make the curve) separately and then glued them together last.

Once the glue dried I ripped the ends with a circular saw so that everything was perfectly flush, cut a notch from the back corner at 45' (to give a good place to mount the monitor arm) and then when we (friend pictured) drew an arc using a pencil taped to a dowel.
After cutting along the line with a Jig Saw and using a roundover bit on the router to clean up the edges:

Now it's time to build the legs.  The wife ordered Xs so I figured out the width and height, marked out a "grid" on my scrap plywood work surface and simply laid out the boards.  I then lines on the borards where they overlapped so I could cut out the channel for the half-lap joint.  I used the miter saw to cut out the half-lap, intentionally going a little less than half way through so that the boards would be a bit raised.

Repeat for the other leg, and then it was time to figure out how to attach the legs to the table top.  I decided to use cleats, which were tricky to install.  Becuase of my offset half-lap I assembled the legs and the cleats, THEN glued and screwed the cleats the table.  once the screws were down I removed the legs (this ensured I had perfect spacing for my legs), and then clamped everything down.

Once the glue dried I test fit everything and put it on the ground to make sure everything set square.  Unfortunately two legs were 1/8" too long so I flipped the table over, marked off the 1/8th" and used a belt sander to get the legs the right length.  Fortunately this desk is going on carpet so the bottom doesn't have to be absolutely perfect to sit on the floor.

To stain it I used a dark walnut stain.  I removed the legs from the top, stained them first, followed by stained the bottom, avoiding standing too close to the edges so that when I stained the top I wouldn't end up applying stain to a visible face twice.  Once it was dry I flipped the top and stained the top and edges, as well as the 1" of the bottom I left unstained previously.

Finally I applied 3 coats of polyurethane and brought it in the house.

I'd take an after picture but... she buried it in crap and I'm too lazy to clear it off.

The desk is a bit wobbly length wise, but very sturdy the other direction.  The mounting mechanism for the legs isn't very strong, I'd recommend coming up with a better solution.

DIY Wall Mount Projector Projection Screen

Earlier this year I bought a new projector and needed a screen for it.  I knew the length of my TV stand was 96" and I wanted my frame to be a tiny bit wider than that so using the 16:9 aspect ratio I knew my height would be 54", by using the Pythagorean theorem I would have an approximately 110" screen (before adding the border).  I found blackout cloth that was the right size and ordered it.

1x 66"x110" projector screen material 
1x roll of felt for the border
1x 1x6 (it was what I had in the garage) which I ripped in to pieces.

I started out by building the frame, a simple square.  I attached the corners and middle "stile" using a Kreg pocket hole kit.

In order to mount the frame to the wall and keep it snug I:
1) Using a router and a 3/8" rabbet bit and cut a lip on the front side of the top of the mount.
2) Because I didn't want a visible cleat on the bottom and I wanted the screen to be snug against the wall I attached a cleat near the bottom corners using pocket screws
3) To hold the top against the wall I cut and attached two long cleats to the wall, routing a matching rabbet, this time on the wall side of the cleat.  This makes sure it's nice and snug to the wall all the way across the top.
4) Then I cut two small cleats to put at the bottom of the screen, keeping the whole thing snug against the wall.

I test fit everything like this to make sure I was happy with the set up.

Once I had my dry-fit done it was time to stretch the material.  I don't remember whose process I followed but the gist of it was to start from the middle and work your way out, keeping tension on the screen with each staple like explained on this page.  It took me about an hour to work my way around.

Once I had the material stretched I cut the felt to length and stuck it to the screen, and hung it. 

Since I love Top Gun I always use it to test audio / video upgrades.  Here's the final product.  We've been using it for 6 months now and haven't had any issues.  Today I took it down and hung a 60 mile OTA antenna behind it  (you might notice the black cord coming out the bottom right corner of the screen).  I'll hit the exposed piece of cord with some house paint in a few weeks and it will blend right in. 


Sunday, February 7, 2016

DIY Bar Stools

We needed new bar stools for our new kitchen and in typical "I can build that" fashion I said I could make bar stools like the Pottery Barn Tibetan bar stool seen here:

2x 96" 2x4 per stool (really about 1.5)

My Cut list:
3x 19" pieces (final seat pan = 18", we will trim them after glue-up to get down to that)
2x 26" pieces (cut these in to 4x 1.5x1.5x24" legs wit a 5 degree miter and bevel)
1x 16" piece (cut in to 2x .75x1.5x16.25" and 2x .75x1.5x9.25" for the rails)

I started out with the seat pan because I knew it would be a challenge.  I read a bit and people mentioned making jigs for their router.  To make the jig I used a string on a pivot point a few feet away to draw an arc I liked on the sides of the jig (1x6).  Then I cut it with a jig saw and sanded it down with a belt sander.  I used some scrap 4x4 to connect the sides and then that became the platform the seat pans would rest on (I used scrap/shims to hold the seat pan snug).  Then I made a quick sled for the router and attached rails on the underside so that the sled only slid on one axis.  A friend operating the jig:

This worked pretty well, it was built on a whim without much of a plan, but it worked out pretty well.

Once the jig was figured out I ripped and glued 3x 18" pieces of 2x4 together to make the seat pan, waited for the glue to dry and then ran it through the router sled.

Then it was time to make the legs.  I had never done a through tenon before so this was new to me, and my first few stools are not as good as the last one.  I figured out that I needed a 5 degree angle on my legs to get what I wanted so I set the miter saw to a 5 degree miter and a 5 degree bevel.  Then I drew out the locations for each tenon (using a board with a 5 degree angle cut on the end to figure out the "through") and drilled out the center with a forstner bit using a hand drill (during this project I acquired a drill press which made the last stool easier), and then chiseled out the rest.  A complete tenon:

Once I had everything put together I glued the legs together.  Once they were dry I set the seat pan on top, sanded the legs until the seat pan sat nicely proceeded to glue and nail (23ga pin nailer), and then set a bunch of weight on top to hold it down while the glue dried.

Legs attached to the seat pan:

For finishing I used the vinegar + steel wool method, and then applied 3 coats of polyurethane, sanding between coats.

The final product (each one is a little different, they are hand made after all :p):

Lessons learned:
* Glue the legs first, then attach the seat pan.  Don't try and do it all at once.
* Tenon's take a while.  It's also much easier if you have a drill press and sharp chisels
* Stools take a lot of time to make.  $100 from pottery barn is pretty cheap!
* I built each of the 3 stools from start to finish, one at a time.  I should have done it manufacturing line style building the stools in parallel rather than series.

Z-Wave Controlled Kitchen Cabinet LED Lighting

We recently remodeled our kitchen and as part of the process needed new under cabinet lighting.  Our house already has quite a bit of Z-Wave automation so I wanted it to be controllable from Z-Wave which also made it so I didn't need to figure out how to install a new light switch to control it.  Finally, the cabinet above the microwave has a power outlet in it where I could plug the lighting in.

What I used:
1x 12v waterproof LED Lighting Strip from Amazon
1x 12v DC Power Supply (15ft uses 2amp, so I got a 5amp) from Amazon
1x Fibaro RGBW LED Controller (I'm not going to use the RGB functionality) from Amazon
1x 10 pack of pigtails from Amazon
1x 66ft of electrical wire from Amazon

Note: I used waterproof strips because I wanted to be able to wipe them down if they got greasy, the non-waterproof strips wouldn't make that easy.

First, a picture of the complete kitchen w/ the undercabinet LED lights turned on:

The first thing I did was remove the microwave and verify that I could squeeze electrical wire in the gap between the cabinet and the microwave.  Then I proceeded to drill holes in the bottom of the cabinet above the microwave, and in the bottom of the cabinets where the lights would go, as well as the sides (to sneak behind the microwave) and fish the electrical wire from the lower cabinet up behind the microwave and in to the upper cabinet.  I soldered pigtails on to each end of the electrical wire making the cords the right length.

With the wire run (the piece of missing drywall was removed by a previous owner or the builder).

 Finally, I had to mount the LED lighting to the cabinetry.  The first time I relied on the double sided sticky tape on the lighting but that started falling off within a day.  I settled on using silicon caulk to attach the LED strips.  In the places the lighting was falling down I applied caulk to the bottom of the cabinet and then pressed the LED strips in to it, and finally used packing tape to hold it tight until the caulk dried.  It didn't all stick 100% but nothing has fallen in the last 3 months so I'd say it's probably good enough, but it's not perfect.  I'm not really sure what I would do different next time.  Probably use more tape while the caulk dries.  I didn't take any pictures while I was installing it, this is what it looks like today (several months later).

Wiring the lighting to the Fibaro was very simple.  I connected two pigtails to the W screw, 3 pigtails to the 12v screw, and one pigtail to the GND screw.  I did all of this directly to the terminals on the Fibaro so no soldering was required here.  Crude wiring diagram:

And what it looks like installed:

Then I got to the Z-Wave / SmartThings side of things.  Originally I wanted to control the lights by a remote so I purchased an Aeon Labs Minimote and set button 1 to 100%, 2 to 75%, 3 to 0%, and 4 to 40%.  This worked well but I quickly realized I could have them turn on/off automatically when the kitchen lights turn on/off (there's a 30-60 second delay which is manageable).   So I used the Smart Lighting app to set the cabinet lights to 100% when the kitchen lights turn on, and 40% when the lights are off because we've fond it's nice to have them on a low level as a "night light" so to speak, so we rarely turn them off.  This has worked very well and we no longer use the remote (we've yet to find the 30-60s delay a problem).