Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Lingering projects finally wrapped up

Two other projects that I wrapped up over the holiday break were a drawer unit and mitre saw stand. I needed to finish the drawer unit before working on the workbench so that I determine the proper height to set the workbench; I wanted the drawer unit to be able to slide underneath the workbench.

For both of these projects I had a a design constraint to only use wood that I already had on hand. I had a bunch of scraps and miscellaneous wood that had been in my wood pile for quite a while. The wood was actually very usable too; my buddy who owns Eaton Designs had given me a bunch of excess wood and I thought these would be good projects to use wood.

Here's the finished drawer unit.

For the drawer unit, I started by buying a base unit from Home Depot. The drawer unit had 4 drawers initially. I wanted to put an additional tabletop on the top of the unit and intended to put the drawer on wheels. Knowing that this would make the unit very high, I decided to lower the unit by removing one of the drawers. Using a circular saw I basically chopped off about 8 inches from the top ... and the 4 drawer unit magically became a 3 drawer unit.

I added the tabletop from some scrap wood and rounded the corners to prevent future injuries; I had plan to move this unit around from under the workbench on a regular basis. The wheels were secured with bolts to the bottom of the unit. I added an extra piece of wood below the bottom of the unit so that there would be a nice, secure base to fasten the bolts through - instead of going through one flimsy piece of chipboard that was the bottom of the unit, I was also now also going through 3/4" MDF.

The drawer unit I purchased from Home Depot wasn't really intended for workshop use, it was meant for use in a storage closet or laundry room. This was most evident in that the back of the unit being just a cardboard backing. It needed further structural reinforcement since I would be wheeling the unit around quite a bit. I took some extra pieces of MDF and attached them to the back of the unit.

Between the backing, the wood added at the bottom, and an extra piece at the top, the unit feels fairly strong at this point.

I had started the mitre saw unit over a year ago. I got the idea to have foldable side supports ("wings") from a "Shop Ideas" magazine I purchased a couple of years ago. I bought a base drawer/cabinet unit from Home Depot, reinforced using a similar technique as described with the drawer unit above and placed on wheels.

I made the side wings and mounted them to the side of the unit using extra wood pieces and standard door hinges to provide the pivot mechanism. The edges of the support and wings had to be routed so that the hinges fit flatly along the wood.

And there the project sat for the better part of the year. I never had the time to spend to precisely build the supports so that the wings would be even with the surface of the table saw. I had some elaborate ideas for having fold out legs with special locking mechanisms, etc., etc. but in the end thought that a simple support would be best (and would ensure that I actually would finish the project). I therefore took a couple of remainder 2x4s from the workbench project, made a couple of 45-degree cuts and had the supports that I needed.

I wrapped up the project by mounting the cabinet doors and drawer unit front.

It's good to have both the side-projects finally wrapped up.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Well here is the first blog entry. I thought that this would be a good way to document various projects underway. Since I'm titling this blog "On the Workbench" I thought there would be no better first project to show than the building of a new workbench.

There was an old counter surface in the garage that was already in the garage when we moved into the house many years ago. The counter was nice and long, however there was a lip along the outer edge that made clamping or any other sort of operation where I needed a good, straight edge hard to accomplish the task at hand.

Additionally it was not quite deep enough for a lot pf projects and it given the space it was in, it the bench could have been about a foot longer.

A little before Thanksgiving I removed the old workbench (and some old wooden shelving above the workbench) to have a clean slate to start with. I spent a while drawing out some design concepts ...

... and made a trip to the hardware store and IKEA. At IKEA I found a really good, solid table surface that would serve as the top of the bench. For those of you who know me, you know that I really like a lot of table surface. I decided that I would purchase 2 of these tabletops to give me a total worksurface of 29.5 inches deep and 122 inches (little over 10 feet) long.

I then had to figure a good underlying support system for the tops to give the bench a good, solid feel. The drawing board helped to firm up the plans and over the weekend a I made a trip to Home Depot to buy bunch of 2x4s and a sheet of plywood.

I started by installing 2x4s along the edge of the walls.

I installed some cleats to help hold the plywood underlay as I was positioning the sheet of plywood. Note the picture was taken after the bench-top was installed.

The next day I started working on the tabletop support frame. I had intended to build the support on the ground outside of the garage and then lift it on the 2x4's that had been installed, however there was a rare day of rain here in Southern California and I had to work in the garage. I didn't have a space large enough in the garage to build on the floor, so I figured I'd just build it "in place." This also made it easier in that I wouldn't have to worry above lifting the friggin' heavy support into place after.

I started by adding the plywood sheet. Since I needed the length to be 10 feet, I needed to extend the plywood sheet by a couple of feet. I bought a 4x8 sheet of wood and had it cut to 29.5 (the depth of the tabletop) by the run of the wood (8 feet). I had to add 2 feet to get the proper total length of 10 feet. I cut and 18" and a 9" (both 29.5 inches deep) and used some metal straps to hold them together. The plywood was then screwed into the 2x4 braces installed the prior day.

On top the plywood base, I next built a frame of 2x4s. This helped to tie the underlying base and add thickness and rigidity to the entire table. You'll notice across the far right-side an extra 2x4 was added to add additional support for the underlying plywood patch pieces added before. I added some temporary legs to help support the weight of the structure.

Another little quirk with the front edge. I had bought a 10 foot long 2x4 for the front edge, however the wood was so wet from the rains I didn't want to use it for the table. I had set it out the day before to dry, but it seemed so wet that there was no chance of it drying anytime soon. I therefore spliced a roughly 2 foot long 2x4 to an 8 foot 2x4 to get the 10 foot length that was needed. These were joined together with a metal strap plate and then screwed into the plywood.

Once the 2x frame layer was finished, I added the IKEA table top. It was starting to look like a real workbench.

I next shifted focus to the legs. I wanted to keep the construction simple, so I basically just sandwiched 2 2x4s together with 2-1/2 inch screws. The legs were secured to the top with 90-degree metal angles and 2x4 braces were added from the studs of the garage to the legs. I set the legs back roughly 4 inches from the front edge of the top so that I would have a clean area for setting clamps when working on projects.

I finished by securing the table to the base with a series of 3 inch screws. And here is the final result:

Overall the project took about 2.5 days of "calendar time" once construction started. Taking some time off for the holidays helped this project to actually get completed, meaning that I was able to devote the better part of the 2 days actually getting to work on the project. The cost was fairly cheap since all I had to buy was a a bunch of 2x4s and a sheet of plywood. I did splurge a bit on the table-tops from IKEA, I could have used MDF as a table surface, but I really like the solid feel of the birch top and the overall finish.

Now all I have to do is start working on some projects ...