The Carpenter's Story...

I came across this story on another forum and it seemed quite appropriate for my blog, so I'm reposting it here.

An elderly carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer-contractor of his plans to leave the house building business and live a more leisurely life with his wife enjoying his extended family.

He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to retire. They could get by. The contractor was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favor. The carpenter said yes, but in time it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end his career.

When the carpenter finished his work and the builder came to inspect the house, the contractor handed the front-door key to the carpenter. "This is your house," he said, "It is my gift to you."

What a shock! What a shame!

If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently. Now he had to live in the home he had built none too well.

So it is with us. We build our lives in a distracted way, reacting rather than acting, willing to put up less than the best. At important points we do not give the job our best effort. Then with a shock we look at the situation we have created and find that we are now living in the house we have built. If we had realized that we would have done it differently.

Think of yourself as the carpenter. Think about your house. Each day you hammer a nail, place a board, or erect a wall. Build wisely. It is the only life you will ever build. Even if you live it for only one day more, that day deserves to be lived graciously and with dignity.

The plaque on the wall says, "Life is a do-it-yourself project."

— Author Unknown


Display stand project complete!


After my encounter with the table saw mishap, I took my time trimming the MDF for the display stand project using my bandsaw.  This provided a degree better in precision cutting that I needed.  It didn't take long for me to finish the center and immediate side pieces of the display stands.  In fact, it went by so quickly that I forgot to take photos until I was on the third section.  Fortunately, the construction of all three levels is identical, so this third tier display stand will serve as a good model of how the other parts were assembled.

First I cut all the sides ¼" shorter than the sides they mate with.  That way all the corners line up correctly when I go to glue the sections together.

Side boards

Here are the supports for each side section.  They're ½" MDF board cut in strips and cut to length for the side sections' length and height.

Support wood sections

The ½" MDF strips are glued to the sides using regular wood glue as shown here.  Then they're set aside to dry for an hour.

Side boards with supports affixed

Then I took each completed side section and paired it with the display stand lid.  From there, I glued the sections to the lid using the wood glue.

Display top with sides ready to be glued on

And here's the semi-finished display stand (inverted).  This will be truly finished after the wife covers it in the fabric of her choice.  But for now, my work here is done!

Completed display stand (inverted)


A Word on Safety...


In all the time that I've maintained this blog, I haven't made any posts regarding workshop safety...especially around power tools.  Well, that's going to change right now.

Today I had a serious mishap in the workshop.  Fortunately, I am fine...but I believe this is largely due to the emphasis I place on safety at every step of the construction process.  I wear eye protection every time I fire up any power tool and I make it a point to consciously respect the terrible damage these tools can inflict.  But even with this conscientious approach, mishaps do happen.  The good news is that, when using these tools safely, they don't get the opportunity to harm life or limb.

To get to the point, I had a fragment of material come off a piece of MDF board I was cutting and it caught on the circular saw which drew it into the saw housing.  Near as I can tell, the piece struck the blade housing in such a way that it became unstable and warped into the rotating blade.  What happened after that was complete housing destruction, warping of the feeder plate and impact deformation of the blade itself.  All of this happened within a fraction of a second.

The red-colored bent plate you see here is the feeder plate.  This was originally flat by design, but now it is clearly bent. The damage was apparently caused by the force of impact from the blade housing fragmentation and from what appears to be glancing impact from the saw blade.

Deformed, damaged feeder plate

What you see here is all that remains of the saw housing.  As can be seen here, it was completely destroyed in the mishap.

Remnants of saw blade housing

This is where the feeder plate (shown above) used to be mounted next to where the saw blade spun.  This is why I always have the eye shield lowered over the blade when it's in operation.  It's certain that parts must have flown out the top opening.  Fortunately, my eyes were double shielded by the blade cover and the eye protection I was wearing.

Area where the feeder plate was damaged

This is a view of the underside of the table saw.  The blade housing is completely gone.  Near the bottom edge of the blade you can see the remnants of the housing.  That's all that is left.

Destroyed saw blade housing

This is where the saw blade housing was.  Just to the left of the blade you can see the mount bolts for the housing.  They were both severely bent by the force of the rotating blade destroying the housing.  It was rather unsettling to see this kind of destruction occuring in such close physical proximity not only to my face, but also near my legs.

Saw blade housing damage and bent mounting bolts

So the moral of the story is, always utilize strict safety practices in the shop!  You never know when failure of a component will occur and sometimes the only way you can prevent injury is by constantly giving these tools the respect they demand.  Taking safety for granted at any point can have disastrous results.  While I'm none too happy that my table saw is out of commission, I am just glad that the only thing that suffered for the mishap was the machine itself.  This incident was just too close for comfort.

Progress on the Display Stands...


I was finally able to break away from my hectic schedule of studying and cramming for exams to do some work in the garage on the display stand project.  After about four hours worth of running boards over the circular saw, I was rewarded with the sight of all the boards cut to size and ready to assemble.  A good afternoon well spent.  Later this week I'll spend some time assembling these items when I have a couple of free hours.

Boards cut to size

Oh yes...happy Labor Day!


Designing Display Stands


The wife, who makes handmade jewelry, came to me the other day complaining about the prices for jewelry display stands for her booth.  I was astounded to learn that display stand manufacturers were asking for $200.00 for a set of display stands made from styrofoam and cardboard.  Styrofoam and cardboard for cryin' out loud!

I wasn't about to sit idly by and see good money thrown into disposable product, so I asked the wife what sort of specifications she had for display stands and immediately set to work designing a set of stands for her.  After doing some test modeling using our young son's Lego blocks (they're not just for playtime...whoda thunk it?), we came up with the following design.

Display stand design

I've picked up a half dozen 2' x 4' sheets of ¼" MDF boards and will start work on the project this weekend.  I figure an evening to cut up the boards, an evening to test fit, and an evening to do final assembly.


Shelf Project Completed.


After applying a couple of coats of polyurethane and letting it set for a couple of days, the shelf is now complete and ready for installation.  The shelf went in very easily and looks pretty good.

Shelf mounted to the wall

At the wife's request, I mounted a 14" mini fluorescent light on the underside of the shelf.  The installation was pretty easy, and the fit was practically perfect.  Then I secured the electrical cord to the wall using ¼" nylon cable clamps.

Shelf with fluorescent light attached

And here's the shelf with the light turned on.  This should provide more than ample illumination for the wife's craftwork projects.  Now it's time to fire up the barbeque and cook up some dinner for the family!

Shelf with fluorescent light illuminated


Putting the shelf together...


Now that all of the wood sections to the shelves are stained, I did a test fit with all the dowels in place.  Everything went together well, as shown below, so I went ahead and glued everything together.  Next I'll be putting on a couple of layers of polyurethane.  After that, I'll install the shelf in the wife's craftwork area.

Shelf parts glued together


Adding a Shelf to the Craftwork Area...


After completing the craft area for the wife, I added a fluorescent light under the wall-mounted cabinet.  She liked it so much, she asked me to make a mini-shelf to accommodate both her thread spools and another under-cabinet fluorescent light.  So I drew up a quick design.  Nothing too fancy; just enough to do the job she needed.

Mini shelf design

For this project, I chose to use up the remaining scrap wood from when I made the oak windowsill.

Scrap wood from an earlier project

It didn't take too long for me to cut the wood on the table saw. Then I ran the outer board edges over a 3/8" rounded router bit and sanded it down with my power sander.

Wood cut and sanded

Then I got out the Golden Oak stain and stained the top side of the prepped wood. I'll resume this project tomorrow afternoon and then put on a few coats of polyurethane to keep the wood looking nice. I should be done with this in a couple of days.

Wood with the first stain treatment applied


The Garage Storage Cabinet Project is Finally Done!


Geez!  It's hard to believe it was almost a month ago that I started this project, but it's finally done!  Today I finished installing the last of the door catches and making the last of the adjustments to the cabinet doors.  This long project is finally over.  And not a moment too soon.

Finished storage cabinet with doors closed

Looking back on this project, I can honestly say that this is perhaps the most poorly-engineered but best built project I've undertaken in years.  The original plans were completely inadequate, but the course corrections I made as I went along made for a very strong and resilient structure that should hold up for a decade or more.

Finished storage cabinet with doors open

Oh yeah...Happy Fourth of July!


A Small Side Project...


I've been working on the garage storage cabinet for so long, I just had to take a break and do something else for a day.  So I drew up some quick plans to make a brick liner around an Ash tree we recently had planted in the yard.

Brick liner design

I picked up a set (18 each) of different colored 3" x 6" bricks: plum, red and yellow, as shown here.  I picked these colors to approximately match the pavers we already have.  The colors worked well, so I started work immediately.

Comparing bricks for color match

I tied a length of string to the trunk of the tree and measured 23" from the edge of the 2" trunk.  I laid the bricks along the edge of where I measured to make sure I was making something remotely approximating a circle.  Then I used a spade to make cuts in the grass and lifted the earth out with a garden trowel.  From there it was a task of making sure I had enough dirt dug out to accommodate the next brick.

Brick liner partially completed

It took me a few hours to dig and arrange the bricks, but the job was pretty straightforward.  I'll spend the next week weeding out the grass and adding a little mulch to the dirt area to make things look tidy.

Brick liner completed


Getting close to completion...


Lately it's seemed to me that this project is taking an inordinately large amount of time.  And as it goes, it looks like I've got a few more days to go before I can call this one done.  All the same, I managed to add nine doors to the cabinet today and have only three doors left to go.  Each of the door sets needs a bit of tweaking to improve their fit.

I'll resume this project tomorrow and hopefully have it completed by the end of this week.

Cabinet with more doors installed


Progress on the Garage Storage Cabinet...


I had a lot of odd jobs to do around the house today, so I wasn't able to devote much time to the storage cabinet, but I did manage to fashion a couple more doors and affix the requisite hardware to them and get them mounted to the frame.

Second set of cabinet doors

The fit was a little tight, but I'll be fixing that later this week.  Everything works fine, though.

Second set of cabinet doors open

And here's a close-up of the door catches that I've installed.  They're cheap.  They work.  That's all I need.

Door catches


Still More Progress on the Storage Cabinet...


I spent a lot of time today just ripping boards for the door mounts and door panels.  Because I work alone in the garage and often use only pieces of scrap lumber to push wood past the spinning table saw blade, I figured it was time I made a permanent tool for this job.

What you see here is the product of two ½" MDF boards glued together and then cut out with a jig saw.  The forward lip allows me to both push and stabilize the board I'm cutting as it moves past the blade.  Best of all, it keeps my fingers out of harm's way in the event of kickback.  This tool may look crufty, but it is elegant in its function and simplicity.

Home-made tool for moving boards on the table saw

Anyway, after a whole lot of prep work, I finally managed to mount the first pair of cabinet doors to the frame.  The fit is a little tight where the door edges meet, and I'll be fixing that tomorrow.  That said, the overall installation went very well and I think progress will pick up speed as I install the remaining 14 cabinet doors.

The first set of cabinet doors installed


Today's Progress on the Garage Storage Cabinet...


Work continues on the storage cabinet.  Today I finished cutting the door openings on the front panels.  Then I reattached the panels and secured them to the frame.  The sections went on well and now the next step is to prep the panels for the door hinges.  Meanwhile I'll measure the ½" MDF boards for the doors and see about finding some outside corners to tidy up the edges of the storage cabinet.

I figure I'll be working on this project for a few more days before I'm convinced that it's done.

Front panels with door openings cut out


Test Fitting the Storage Cabinet Front Panels...


Today I finished cutting the front panels and test fit them to the frame.  Everything fit pretty much as expected, and I'm pleased with the results.  After fitting the fourth front panel to the frame, I drew up the cabinet door openings and drew the lines using my 2' level.  This assures that the door openings and mounted doors will all line up fine after I take the panels down and cut out the cabinet openings.

I figure I'll spend the next few days taking down the front panels, cutting out the eight openings and cutting the sixteen cabinet doors.  With luck, I'll be able to affix all the cabinetry hardware (hinges, knobs, door catches) this week and finish up by this weekend.

Test fit of front face to frame


Continuing Work on the Garage Storage Cabinet...


After dealing with a nasty summer cold, I resumed work on the storage cabinet. Work's resuming slowly, but steadily. Today I affixed the ¼" MDF board to the side as shown here.

Left end of the cabinet with siding

Then I secured the ¼" MDF to the opposite side as shown here. Then I got to work on affixing the MDF on the top.

Right end of the cabinet with siding

All MDF sections were affixed using 1¼" screws. Next I'll be making the face of the storage cabinet. This will be comprised of four 36½" x 90" panels; each having two openings.

MDF panel affixed to side and top

Oh yeah...Happy Father's Day!


Garage Storage Cabinet Framework Complete...


I'm coming down with a nasty summer cold, but it's not severe enough to keep me from working on this project...at least today. So I start out by test fitting the remaining shelves.

Test fitting the remaining shelves

Everything went just fine, so I proceeded with the cutting and mounting of the horizontal supports. About an hour and a half later, the storage cabinet frame was complete.

As can be seen here, the storage cabinet is essentially eight open-back 36"W x 45"H x 18"D boxes. This affords the structure a fair amount of strength and sturdiness with a minimal amount of framing. With the shelves individually rated for up to 200 pounds load each, this structure could conceivably store nearly 2.5 tons of material.

That's a little bizarre to contemplate now that I think about it...

Completed storage cabinet frame

Not one to waste time or space, I quickly set to work loading up the shelves. This also served as a good test to make sure everything I wanted to store would fit properly. I'm happy to report that everything fit with much room to spare.

If I'm feeling well enough tomorrow, I'll start bolting on the ¼" paneling on the top and sides of the storage cabinet. Then I'll get down to the business of fashioning the front panels and doors.

Storage cabinet loaded with stuff


Further Progress on the Garage Storage Cabinet...


Got to work in the late afternoon on the project and finished the left frame box by adding two horizontal supports and the 2x4 vertical post.  This completed the left frame box, so I moved on to starting the right frame box.

Completed left section

Next I added three short horizontal frame stubs to support the left corner 2x4 vertical post.

Right side with horizontal support stubs

Once the three horizontal supports were in place, I levelled the 2x4 post against them and secured them with screws.  I also checked for level on three axes and made minor adjustments to keep everything true.  I then proceeded with the next column of horizontal supports and added the next vertical 2x4 post.

Right edge end frame

Once that part was completed, the shelves slid in for a nearly perfect fit.  Tomorrow I'll add two additional long horizontal supports in the right frame box to keep it sturdy, level and square at all corners.  All told, I was pleased to have accomplished this much in only two hours.

Nearly completed right section


More Progress on the Garage Storage Cabinet...


I got a late start this morning, but got things rolling quickly.  First I marked up all vertical boards for notch cutting, then I started checking the floor boards for level.

Vertical boards ready to go

I quickly figured out that the slope of the floor was not a perfect mathematical slope, but had slight imperfections along the length of the rise.  To accommodate for this, I put together a number of shims to have the concrete and wood slope edges match up.  This is a good lesson learned that I'll carry over to a project I plan to undertake early this autumn.

Floor boards with levelling shims

I used my table saw to cut out notches in the vertical boards.  First I sliced the notch areas as shown here.

Notch cuts in 2x4

The I used a slotted screwdriver and a hammer & chisel to clear out the notched areas of the vertical boards.

Hammer, chisel and screwdriver used to clear notches

Once all the boards had been notched, I began assembly of the cabinet frame. I got enough done to test fit the shelves into the frame end and horizontal support wedges. Though incomplete, the frame and shelves are remarkably sturdy. I'm looking forward to resuming work tomorrow afternoon and getting more done.

Test fit of corner shelves


Constructing the Garage Storage Cabinet...


It's always interesting starting a large project on an uneven surface.  The garage floor is sloped to accommodate quick water runoff with an appreciably significant rise over a 20' run.  The area I chose has a net rise of 2½" over a 12' run, but it also has a level beveled edge where the floor and wall meet that I also had to take into account.

Uneven and beveled corner

To get accurate measurements, I engineered a temporary tool which allowed me to assess level and plumb at the same time.  I made this using a right angle protractor and a small level.  This helped me verify that the measurements I was taking were valid in spite of the uneven work area.

Temporary tool to assess level, plumb and measurements

Once I'd measured and cut the 2x4 to complement the floor's slope, I used the shelves to assure that my measurements would accommodate the space they required.  I made a ½" tweak and marked the floor for later reference.

Test fit of shelves to slope complement

Then I got to work cutting up eighteen 8" horizontal support wedges from a length of 2x4.  These wedges will be mounted to the wall to support the back corners of each shelf.

Horizontal support wedges

I drilled one pilot hole into each wedge and threaded a 2½" screw into it.

Horizontal support wedges with piloted screw holes

I spaced each wedge 36" apart horizontally and 15 & 3/8" vertically.  Each wedge had Liquid Nail applied to its wall-mated surface and was then secured to the wall with the screw.  Once secured, each wedge was individually checked for level, then collectively checked for level across the horizontal span.  Once I was satisfied with each row, I moved up to the next level.

Horizontal support wedges affixed to wall

Having finished the installation of the horizontal wedges, I applied Liquid Nail to the underside of the slope-countering boards and placed weights on the wood to ensure adhesion to the (freshly cleaned) garage floor.

Slope complement with weights to assure adhesion to garage floor

It's been a busy day and I got a lot done, so I took a few preliminary measurements on the vertical 2x4 supports and called it a day.  Now it's time for pizza and a movie!

Vertical supports measured and ready for resumption of project tomorrow