Woodworking

Refinishing is Better Than Restarting

I’ve been busy with projects lately, but most of them are just cleaning up furniture that my wife Christina found at garage sales. Here’s a summary of all of my refinishings over the last few months.

Christina found this rolling wooden cart at a garage sale, and I refreshed the finish on the top and bottom shelves.

This cradle was given to us by the previous owners of our home. They used it when their children were born ~35 years ago, and we plan to use it for very young foster children. I replaced some of the mismatched hardware and the insert for the bed, and I painted it a glossy white.

This desk came from a garage sale and was in rough shape. Christina wanted it to look like it was in rough shape, but in a slightly different color.

My son found this machete in our yard, so we cleaned up the blade, sharpened it, and made a wooden handle for it.

For this phone chair from the 1960s (also known as a gossip chair), I repainted it, reupholstered the seat, and then weathered the edges.  Underneath the coral-colored fabric shown in the photo, there was another layer of seafoam green fabric.

We bought this playset on Craigslist and moved it across town. Before reassembling, I powerwashed and restained it.

I coated this rocking chair with enamel paint to match another enameled rocking chair we already have.

I don’t have a before picture of this, but it looked basically the same but in a dark brown finish. I painted and weathered it to match the other painted and weathered furniture my wife has asked for.

I repainted this bookshelf for a friend but not before adding a flat solid top in place of the moulding that probably used to hold up some sort of granite or decorative top.

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3D Printing, CNC, Maker, Woodworking

I Built a Set of Cabinets with CNC-Carved Doors

The area above our washer and dryer (not pictured) was mostly wasted space, so my wife asked me to build some custom cabinets. (Actually, she said, “Can you just buy some cabinets for above the washer and dryer? You really don’t have to build custom ones. I just want something better than this shelf. Anything. “) I designed some cabinets that would use up all of the available space, resulting in a rectangular box about 57″ long, 37″ tall, and 18” deep.

I originally built a single MDF box, but when I realized how heavy it would be, I split it into two boxes so that we could lift it into place without a crane.  Pro-tip: Don’t build something that will weigh a hundred pounds if you’ll have to hold it above your head while you’re screwing it to the wall.

I added boards to the top and bottom of the back of each box to increase stability as well as provide a place to screw the cabinet to the wall.

I saw a tip online about covering the edges of MDF with drywall joint compound to achieve a smoother edge after painting, so I tried that. It seemed to work ok, but it was kind of a hassle.

After painting, I drilled a series of quarter-inch holes two inches apart to allow for adjustable shelves. I originally meant to cut all of these with my CNC router to ensure that they were precisely spaced, but I forgot until after I had assembled the boxes.

We hung the cabinets without any trouble. There would have been trouble if we had had to lift the entire thing up there all at once.

I built the face frame out of thin MDF strips and pocket screws and attached them to the cabinet boxes with wood glue and a brad nailer.

In order to make the doors, I wrote a program that reads a cross-section profile of a cabinet rail and panel, like this:

and tells my CNC router to carve that style of cabinet door in 3D (more on that in a future post). Unfortunately, my wife only wants Shaker-style cabinet doors.  I still carved them on the X-Carve as a proof of concept for more complicated future doors.

The doors are 35″ tall, which meant that I couldn’t cut the recessed panel in a single session, so I had to carve out the bottom half, carefully move the door without losing the x-axis alignment, and then carve the rest.  It worked out pretty well:

FYI, if you’re going to be pulverizing five liters of MDF, empty your ShopVac regularly.

I chose hidden European-style hinges with a half-inch offset. These require drilling 35mm holes in very specific locations, so I 3D-printed a jig to guide my drill press…

…and then promptly drilled all the way through one of the doors. Thank you Bondo for sponsoring this portion of my build:

After I finished repainting, you couldn’t tell at all, and as long as I don’t tell anyone else, no one will ever know. It will be our little secret!

Now that the cabinets and doors are in place, the useable space above our washer and dryer has increased by 480%. Buying finished cabinets with this much storage space from Home Depot would cost about $430; I spent $100 in materials and 11.5 hours of my time (mostly painting, since my paint sprayer was acting up).

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Maker

Repainting a Razor Powerwing Scooter

My wife found a pair of Razor Powerwing scooters at a garage sale for $11 each and picked them up to give to our sons on their birthdays in a couple months. Both were in good condition, but one was black and one was pink.   I decided to repaint the pink scooter to avoid the inevitable fight over who has to ride the “girl” scooter.

Disassembly was straightforward; everything was held together by bolts that accepted a 5mm hex key (plus a few Phillips screws underneath the foot platform inserts). Dissassembly took about 15 minutes; the hardest part was sliding the handlebar grips off.

I removed all the stickers and scuffed up the paint with some 150 grit sandpaper.

Then, I taped off anything I didn’t want painted. The trickiest part was the braking mechanism; it’s riveted into the front fork, so I didn’t want to remove it entirely, which meant I had to do extensive masking.

The wheels were actually pretty easy to tape. I just layered tape all over them and then cut off the tape covering the spokes with a utility knife.

This project was my first chance to use my newly-constructed spray booth. It’s made out of 1″ PVC pipe and a roll of 3-mil plastic sheeting.

I added a crossbar across the top so I’d have a place to hang things that I’m painting with a sprayer. To avoid having to cut very short pieces of PVC (and also to make the crossbar movable and removable), I modified some T-joints to allow them to click into place anywhere along a solid piece of PVC.

I hung the main parts of the body and gave them a coat of paint from a can of Red Pearl Duplicolor that I had left over from touching up our car’s bumper. (In this photo, only the handlebars have been painted.)  The color isn’t drastically different from the original pink, so any scuffing or scratches that eventually happen shouldn’t be too noticeable.

For the inserts from the foot platforms, I happened to have a can of a rubberized spray sealant that was just perfect. The black looks really nice against the red, and it provides traction for the rider’s feet.

I gave everything two coats of red and added an enamel clearcoat on the metal pieces. (This was left over from my satellite dish shield project.)

Reassembly was straightforward since there were so few pieces, and the assembly instructions are available online as well. The only problem I have now is that this scooter looks so much better than the one that I didn’t paint, so I might end up painting both of them.

The time from when I removed the first bolt during disassembly to when I tightened the last bolt during reassembly was 38 hours, and the cost was $0.00.

P.S. My sons’ birthdays aren’t for a couple of months, so don’t tell them about this post. :-)

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OpenSCAD, Programming, Woodworking

Generating Dovetails in OpenSCAD

I’ve written an OpenSCAD library for generating dovetail pins and tails. No longer will beautiful dovetail joints be solely in the domain of skilled woodworkers; now, anyone with a 3-D printer or CNC router can participate too.

Include it in your OpenSCAD script like so:

use <dovetails.scad>;

dovetail_pins() will generate just the pins of a dovetail joint. dovetail_tails() will generate just the tails of a dovetail joint.

board_with_dovetail_tails() and board_with_dovetail_pins() are much more useful; they will generate boards with pins or tails cut into each end.

If you render dovetails.scad on its own, it will output a pair of example boards with pins and tails.

There’s a second file in the repository called dovetail-box.scad. This file is an example of how to generate all of the boards needed to create a dovetailed box, and it shows how they’re oriented when fit together.  It’s also an example of generating pins and tails of different thicknesses.

The library is available on GitHub.

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CNC, Maker, OpenSCAD, Woodworking, X-Carve

Today’s CNC Carving: Doll Bunk Bed Insert

My wife and I decided that we were spending far too much money on factory-carved objects, so we bought our own CNC router — a 1000mm X-Carve from Inventables.

I finished setting it up today, and the first carving on the agenda was a replacement insert for my daughter’s doll bunk bed:

The bed broke when someone stood on the bed to reach a shelf they weren’t supposed to reach. It would be a simple matter to cut out a new insert with a jigsaw, but where’s the fun and repeatable automation in that?

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Christmas, Programming

Improve your Christmas gift opening with Randomizer

My wife and I wanted to find a way to do an orderly one-at-a-time Christmas gift opening this year rather than the usual everyone-at-once free-for-all, but while also still keeping all the kids mentally present, rather than having them zone out until it was their turn.

We decided to randomly choose the next person to open a gift each time so that the kids would always have a chance to be next, keeping them on their toes. My wife suggested the sensible idea of picking names out of a hat. While she ran some errands, instead of writing down eight names on slips of paper, I wrote a one-page web app to run on our living room TV that would randomly choose who got to open a gift next. It worked perfectly, creating a mini-contest every time someone finished opening their gift, causing all of the kids to fall silent and then yell out the “winner’s” name.

The web app is called Randomizer. Give it a list of choices, and it will flip through them game-show-style (with sound effects) until finally settling on a winner. It kept the attention of eight kids between the ages of 3 and 10, quieting everyone down as soon as the beeping started after each gift was opened.

Try a demo here (be sure to un-mute your speakers), or watch this GIF screencast:

Screencast of the Randomizer in action

You can add as many options as you want, and you can weight some options more heavily by including them multiple times. The options are stored in the URL fragment, so you can bookmark Randomizer for frequent decisions. Try #Yes,No, #Heads,Tails, or #Rock,Paper,Scissors.

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