Arch Trellis

I’ve gotten numerous compliments on our moon-gate at the entrance to our front yard. I love the rounded design and wanted to add more rounded design elements to our front yard. Last Spring, I decided to throw some tomatoes and melons into our front garden, since the bushes (azaleas and blueberries) that we planted there would need a few years before they filled the space out. I didn’t want to waste all that good sun. The plants did really well, this was prime solar real-estate after all. Unfortunately, the tomatoes and melons, as they do, grew all over the place. It was hard to keep them to the crude mini-trellises I had threw together for them.

I decided I wanted a permanent trellis to grow vine flowers and vine vegetables in the front yard. I sketched out some ideas, and like usual, scanned the internet for ideas. I then had a radical idea. I could build a massive arch trellis that matched the moon-gate and extended over our walk to the house. I made some measurements and decided this would work well. It also could be used to grow some roses up front, something my wife really wanted.

I was a little worried, since one line of the posts was right over my water lines. However, we live in Minnesota, so our water pipes are typically 6-7 feet below the ground at street level. Since my house was on a little hill, I was already 2-3 feet above street level. I made some measurements where the lines came into the floor of my basement and realized I had plenty of clearance for those pipes. So, I began to dig some posts deep into our front yard right along the walk.

I cut the posts down to ensure the same height for all six of them. The posts were then cemented in using some quick-dry post mix and let to rest for a couple days.

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The next goal was to cut out the arch templates using the measurements I had made between the posts. I used the same method I had for the moon-gate (check that out HERE). There was going to be three arches, so I had three different templates for the slight differences in distance between posts.

The arches were attached to the posts using a series of pocket-holes and waterproof ceramic-coated pocket-screws. The posts were made of ground-treated wood, while everything else was composed of western red cedar (matching our front fence and moon-gate). Soon I had all three arches installed.

This already created a beautiful symmetry with a columnated path to the house and gate. I knew I had gotten the heights just right.

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The next phase was adding the horizontal strips that would provide scaffolding for the plants to climb. These were 1″ thick cedar board strips cut on my bandsaw from the same 5/8″ thick western red-cedar boards we had used for the front fence.

The upper portion of the strips were quite hard to install, I spent far more time on top of the ladder than I would have liked. The strips were screwed into place on each end, with two strips lining up on the center posts. The holes had to all by predrilled to ensure the ends wouldn’t split. I cut the excess off with a Japanese cross-cut saw.

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After cutting all the strips and smoothing out the ends, it looked gorgeous. The long lines focus your attention to the center of the moon-gate from one end…

…or the door of the house from the other end.

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Now, all it needed was a garden bed on the southern side for vines to grow within. Since we have a dog, I knew I’d need clear boundaries and decided to build a raised box.

It is quite a welcome addition to our front yard and I cannot wait to start growing vines up and along its curving structure.

Hooks for a Champion

With Spring around the corner, my wife was gearing up for upcoming races. Running has long been a passion of hers and she has participated in numerous races over the years, which means a large collection of medals. I was recently tasked with creating a storage implement for these medals.

The project was simple, another poplar board cut to width and all edges slightly rounded with a sander. Five 3/4″ holes cut half-way through the board with a Forstner bit, then 3/4″ dowels inserted with glue into the round mortise like a tenon. I had predrilled screw-holes in the backs of the dowels and board, so that I could reinforce them with a screw in the back of the board. I used the same set-up for my shed’s bike-rack system, so I was certain these would be strong enough to hold a row of medals.

The board was the attached to the studs in my wife’s room, allowing the glory of her accomplishments glitter on the wall.

Kitchen Additions

Utensil Holder

This was a simple project to create a perfectly-sized utensil holder for our odd-sized drawer. I never liked how our current one bounced around in the drawer. I wanted something that had a tighter fit and was better organized than our current mess.

The sides were thin slices of poplar (leftover from the kitchen cabinet project). I cut them with my bandsaw then smoothed them out with the sander. I cut out notches to create a tight fight with the crossbar. The ends I left as simple butt-joints to not overcomplicate the fit. I also expect the drawer itself to help support the edges.

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Utensil Shelf

This additional was simply a board made into a shelf, but it added a nice addition to our kitchen. The board was poplar stained with a couple coats of amber shellac. Combined with some cast iron holders and utensil hooks from IKEA and the project was finished.

Kitchen Cabinet Remodel

My wife and I love our house, but there are definitely some things we love more than others. One thing in particular was the kitchen cabinets. The doors had a cheap, flimsy feel to them, they made a racket opening and closing them. The drawers are cheaply made and get stuck as the wood slides on bloated wood rails. It was in need of an upgrade.

I’ve been wanting to redo the cabinets for quite some time, but I knew I had to get better at woodworking before I would be able to do the doors myself. For the style that we wanted, I also needed a reliable set of rail and stile router bits and panel cutters. To use those, I’d need a reliable router table. Thankfully, I finished my router table in May (see it here).

The process of putting together the cabinet doors was a long one. It took weeks to ensure all the measurements were exact and figure out how I was going to lay out the design. Even more time to glue each piece up, shape them, then painting, then the arduous task of fitting each piece in place.

Design

First, I made the measurements of the existing cabinets and drawers as best I could. The new doors would be overhang doors (rather than the half-overlay ones), so they didn’t have to be quite as precise. I laid out all the measurements into SketchUp and labeled each piece to help me map the progress.

I then calculated from the measurements the appropriate dimensions of each insert panel, rail, and stile for the cabinet doors along with the drawer fronts.

Shaping

I ordered some beautiful poplar wood from a local hardwood dealer. I was quite excited, as I had never worked with poplar. From my first test cuts with the wood, I found its tight grain structure to be much more satisfying to work and shape than the heavy grain of red oak.

I cut out each rail and stile using my fancy router table. The poplar wood cut quite smooth and I ended up with a nice, neat stack for each door, labelled appropriately.

Next, I moved to the panels. I had to glue up a bunch of segments to make the panel sizes I required. This took some time, as each panel needed most of my clamps, so I was only able to do one or two panels a day and let the glue dry overnight.

I then cut the panels with my very wide panel-cutting router bit. I love the stepped sides of the panels.

The panels needed quite a bit of sanding and smoothing, but I decided I’d do that after I glued them up. The next process of gluing up the full doors also took quite some time. Like with the panels themselves, I could only do one or two each day.

Painting

The painting process was a lot more work than I anticipated. I had a bought a HVLP sprayer earlier in the year and was excited to use it. It did speed up the painting time itself, and ensured a more even coat. However, I had to use about three coats, with plenty of sanding in between to ensure a perfect smooth final texture.

It helped to dilute the paint with about 20% water. This allowed it to spray better. Especially since this was a high-enamel cabinet paint. This of course, means I needed more coats, three seemed to do the trick. I sanded lightly with 220 grit sandpaper between each coat.

Given the size of my shop and limited outdoor space, the painting process took a couple weeks to get both sides of each piece. I then let the pieces sit and cure for at least a week to ensure that there was no tackiness left on the surfaces.

Fitting

I thought that once I attached the hardware I was done. Mission accomplished. It turns out that fitting the pieces so they look nice and square on the frames is quite a process. I spent quite a few days just trying to get them to sit right, making micro-adjustments. In many cases, I had to add strips of wood to the side of the frames to avoid in glaring gaps. Two of the doors required shaving off a 1/16th of an inch from each side so that they’d fit nicely together. After all this, I have a new appreciation for cabinet work, and why it can cost thousands to have it professionally done.

My wife then painted the frames after I sanded them down. This was a bit stressful, as it felt like we had just moved in. We let the paint cure for at least a week, so our kitchen items were scattered all over.

I then added the hardware to the doors and voila! The kitchen cabinets were completed.

Before and After

Desk Adjustment

I spend a lot of time at my computer, both for work and recreation. For the past few years, I have used an IKEA table as a desk. I like it because it has a clean look and allows plenty of air-flow underneath (without bulky drawers). The downside was that the desk is way too high for proper ergonomic comforts, especially when sitting at it for many hours each day.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed some pretty bad back pain and shoulder/neck tightness. I started doing more yoga and stretching to address the issues, but it didn’t really target the cause of the problems. Eventually, I realized my sitting situation in my home office was just wrong. My chair was too low to my desk, and a number of other angles (elbows and legs) were too acute for comfort.

In order to fix my problem, I bought a new desk chair, one that went up higher. However, that wasn’t good enough. My arms will still reaching up to use the keyboard and mouse. I needed to lower my keyboard and mouse to a more comfortable level. Unfortunately, my desk didn’t have such an adjustment and I’ve never liked the slide-out keyboard trays that can attach to the bottom of desk/tables. I always felt too far from the desk.

So, naturally, I found a woodworking solution to my problem and hacked my IKEA desk. I cut a keyboard-tray sized chunk out of the desk with the intention of lowering it. However, I found that the desk was composed of very thin layers of MDF on the top and bottom, some particle board near the edges, and the rest is a torsion box of cardboard.

I had to add thin panels of wood to hide the cardboard and protect it. Thankfully, my new bandsaw gave me perfect strips of poplar to fill in the edges. Then I built an adjustable tray using the cut-out piece. Two sliding pieces of plywood worked perfect, with some screws set in a slot with wing-nuts for adjustability. I glued on the end of the adjustable sides and, voila! a keyboard tray for my desk. I’m not sure if I’ll paint the edges or not.

After hooking my computer back up, I was ready for work and play, without the back aches and pain.

Summer Begins! (2020)

The solstice has come and summer begins in the garden. I love watching the transition from the early Spring plants and flowers, with their vibrant greens and fresh new growth, over to the flowers and colors of Summer, brighter colors and yellow-green foliage.

Summer also brings the fruits and vegetables!

Spice Cabinet

This project has been a long time coming. I made the carcass for the cabinet back in April.

Everything came together nicely, but I was waiting on a new router table and router bits in order to make the fancy doors. So the carcass sat around my shop for over a month. When the router bits finally came, I cut the frame and panel of the doors in solid red oak.

They were a perfect fit. They looked wonderful. Unfortunately, I had to then wait for the hardware to arrive. So the cabinets sat again in my shop for a few weeks. Finally the soft-close hinges and the ceramic door pulls had arrived.

I used my new HVLP sprayer to paint the carcass and the doors. I then waited the required week before applying a protective outer layer of water-based polyurethane.

I attached the hinges and the doors looked great… unfortunately, I ran into a little snag. The hinges I had gotten are for framed cabinets (as part of the upcoming kitchen overhaul), therefore they didn’t sit quite right. If I had been paying better attention, I would have set the cup of the hinges a little deeper in the frame. Oh well…

It wasn’t anything a quick run down the tablesaw couldn’t fix. And Voila! doors that closed. I had to add another sanding and paint job to the new edges.

The cabinet looks great in the kitchen!

Closet Organizer and Sanding Station

Closet Organizer

Like many people, the bottom of my closet had slowly became a catch-all storage for various things I wasn’t ready to deal with at that moment. Over time, it had become a pile of junk. I decided to make a new closet organizer with shelves and bins.

The carcass was quite simple, made of some nice Baltic birch plywood. I added a toe-kick on the bottom to keep dust from working its way up into the cubbies. The back was 1/4″ cheap plywood sanded down and the top was another Baltic birch single bench top slab. I finished the piece with a couple coats of danish oil.

It was a very simple project, but quite necessary. It forced me to organize my closet and remove the clutter. Now each morning is brightened by the appealing lines of Baltic birch.

Sanding Station

Another small project was making quite a number of drawers for my sanding station. I added some red-oak trim that matches the simple handles. Now I finally have easy access to all my sanding equipment. The whole cart moves on casters out to the driveway, where all the excessive dust from the belt sander can blow out into the wind.