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).


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. :-)

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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I made shields out of satellite dishes

I recently had occasion to remove four satellite dishes from my roof that will never be used again. My 7-year-old son asked what I was going to do with them; I said I’d probably throw them in the trash. He said, “Or you could make some shields…” So I made some shields.

It turns out that making shields from satellite dishes is not a new idea.  I mostly followed this popular Instructable for making a Captain America shield from a satellite dish, but with a few modifications that I’ll note below. I also made a brand-neutral copper variation.

First, I removed all of the reflectors, keeping the bust and bolts.  This particular reflector was dented from when I threw it off the roof, so I hammered it back into shape.  (Actually, all of the reflectors were dented from when I threw them off the roof, so the first step really should have been “Don’t throw the dishes off the roof.”)


The Captain America shield is round, but the dishes are ovoid.  I made this very accurate compass to help me draw a circle onto the dish.


Once I had drawn the largest possible circle, I cut slits into the bent edge so that it would peel away as I cut out the circle.




At this point, the Instructable author used a Dremel to grind down the edge, but I found that a handheld sander and 100-grit sandpaper were an acceptable replacement.

The next task was eliminating the bolt holes.


You can’t just hammer them flat, so the Instructable author filled the divots with JB Weld, ground off the protrusions, and then smoothed them out with Bondo.  This seemed excessive to me, and I don’t have an angle grinder, so I found an easier way.

I began by cutting about a dozen slits radiating out from the center of each hole with the same metal shears I used to cut out the shape of the shield.


Then I hammered the flaps down. They overlap a little, but the bump is gone at this point. I flipped over the dish and hammered them flat from the other side too.


I sanded off the protrusions…


…and I had four much-smaller holes that could be filled with Bondo alone, eliminating the JB Weld step.



I may have used too much Bondo, but it was my first time.  It sanded away easily enough.


Take the four bolts that originally attached the dish to the mount, and epoxy them to the inside of the dish. They’ll be used to attach the arm straps.


I made the arms straps out of a belt I bought from Goodwill. They’re adjustable by removing the nuts and fitting the bolts into different belt holds (which were enlarged on the drill press).


I attached my handles this way rather than how the Instructable author did in order to prevent having my (well, my kids’) arms rubbing against the exposed bolts.

Look ma, I’m ready to do battle in a post-apocalyptic future!


My son tested it out pre-paint, and it passed the test.


On the second shield, I decided to try for a “hammered copper” look. I cut out an oval shape and textured the entire thing with hammer blows.


This red metal handle had been floating around the shop for a few months. I don’t know where it came from, but it fit perfectly onto the inside of the shield. I affixed it with epoxy. (I’ve seen this type of shield referred to as both “center-grip” and “punch handle,” but I don’t know if either of those are technically the correct term.)


Here are both shields ready for paint.  This photo shows the texture difference the best; both dishes originally had the same texture as the dish on the right.


For Captain America, I started with a base coat of white enamel.


I taped off the center and then cut out the iconic Captain America star.


I made two mistakes here:

  1. I should not have cut out a circle exactly the size of the area that would be painted blue, because this meant that I would have to then tape exactly over the circle that I cut out here, which leaves no room for mistakes. I should have cut out a circle slightly larger than the star, even though I would have had to paint over a little bit of blue with the first red stripe.
  2. I made the star too small by 50%.  I originally had drawn it the correct size, but then convinced myself that I had gotten the math wrong. I had not gotten the math wrong.

Anyhow, I gave this layer a quick spray of white so that any paint that was going to bleed under the tape would be white and not give the star rough blue edges.


Then a coat of blue.


Perfect crisp lines on this (too-small) star.  We’ll pretend this shield comes from the Marvel Universe where Loki shrank the star on Cap’s shield because he felt emasculated by the First Avenger.


I cut out the red circles and re-taped the blue center circle and did two coats of cherry red paint. The result looked like this:


The shield isn’t standing up magically on its own. Here’s an alternate angle:


The oval shield got two coats of Rust-Oleum Metallic Copper spray paint, and then both shields were given three coats of a clear spray enamel.  Nerf battles around my house are about to get a lot more intense.


3D Printing, Maker, Programming

Today’s Functional Print: Twist-In Shelf Supports

In today’s “shake it up baby” news, I’ve printed some hard-to-find twist-in shelf supports.

The shelves in our new living room have vertical metal tracks that don’t just accept a push-in support clip; the support must be turned 90º in order to interlock with the track. These supports aren’t sold at any of the national hardware store chains, and the only place I could find them was on another frustrated homeowner’s Shapeways account. I recreated them (and beefed them up a bit) so that I could share the model here.



The SCAD script is available on GitHub, and the part can be customized and downloaded on Thingiverse.

3D Printing, Maker, Woodworking

This is a post. It’s a post about a post.

We just moved into a new house, and the 20-year-old signpost is showing its age. It had deteriorated at the bottom, so it was no longer set in a hole and was just leaning against a tree.  I decided to restore it and make use of a gift that the previous homeowners had left us.

Here it is on my workbench awaiting some TLC.


I planed the hanging board and the vertical post to clean up the faces. The horizontal post fell apart in my hands when I removed the bolts, so it went in the trash.

Here are the post and hanging board after being planed on each side.


I used the wood from the old vertical post to make the new horizontal post (since the bottom 18″ was unusable, it wasn’t long enough to be reused vertically). I found an abandoned 10′ post in the backyard, so I recycled it into the new vertical post for the sign.


I cut a lap joint in the post and sanded off all of the old paint. Here’s a before/after shot (taken with Reenact, of course).


Here’s a shot of the lap joint in the horizontal post after I added some spar urethane to both posts.


One last dry-fit before final construction:


I chamfered the edges of all of the posts on the miter saw to match the original; this should help prevent water from soaking into the top of the vertical post, and it looks nice too.


I removed all of the rust from the chain and eye bolts using a vinegar/salt solution followed by a water/baking soda solution. It worked way better than I expected.


If I had known how well the rust removal would go, I wouldn’t have bought new bolts to join the posts.


Chains attached.


The previous owners of the home had bought some ceramic house-number tiles in Italy but had never been able to put them up. Rather than just gluing them to the wood, I wanted a method that would be reversible if I didn’t like the result or if I made a mistake, so I designed and printed some hold-down clips to attached the tiles to the hanging board.


It was tight getting the tiny little galvanized nails tacked in without chipping the tiles, but half an hour with a nail set (actually a bolt with a concave point, since I couldn’t find my nail set) did the trick.  There is some space between the tiles and clips to allow for wood movement.


I hung the numbers up and trekked down the hill to plant the post.


Tada! Now the UPS driver will know where to bring our Amazon orders.


3D Printing, Maker, OpenSCAD, Programming

Create LEGO-compatible Angle Plates with LEGO.scad

LEGO Angle PlateIn response to a comment here, I wrote the first OpenSCAD module for generating complex brick shapes using my LEGO.scad project.

LEGO.scad is great for creating bricks and wings of all shapes and sizes, but it isn’t suitable for making complicated shapes like angle plates. LEGO sells 90º angle plates (pictured); the new module can generate plates with orientations between 0º and 100º.

This is the default output: a 90º plate with both sides 2×2.

Here’s one with an angle of 45º and different size sides:

Here’s the underside of one with an angle of 100º, a 2×3 base, and a 4×1 overhang:

To generate your own plates, check out the LEGO.scad repository and call the angle_plate() module in OpenSCAD. Feel free to share your creations in the comments below.