Friday, April 29, 2016

Our First Jackson Pollock!

You can see the fifth door I was blathering about on the left shutting in what I refer to as the closet unit of the dresser, nightstand, closet combo that I made. Inside there is a retractable hook that can hold about a dozen shirts of any guest needing to use it.

The main purpose of this post is to show the new artwork we obtained for above our Murphy bed. Since we are too cheap to actually afford a real Jackson Pollock painting, we did the next best thing. I glued together some scraps of oak from this project and made a box frame over which I stretched some canvas that we had left over from a previous project. After tarping a large area and pouring some different colors of acrylic paint into various holes of an empty egg carton, I said go and turned the girls (age 9 and 3) loose. After 40 minutes of painting and an occasional rotation of the frame by me to allow for even access, this is what they came up with. I couldn't be more pleased.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Hanging Five of Them

Finishing is always tough mentally for me to get through. When I'm working in the garage making sawdust, gluing and clamping things together, there always seems to be progress at the end of the day. With finishing, I have to sand one side of the door, stain them and let that dry. Then I have to apply a coat of poly and let that dry. Then I need to repeat that operation two more times and let the door full cure for a day. Then I flip the door over and repeat all steps again. It takes a long time and at the end of the day, little is visible of my effort except for a few microscopically thin layers of invisible finish.

To make matters worse mentally, I don't really have room to do all the doors at once so I had to break them into two batches. I finally got the first batch of five doors done and hung, the four you see here and the lone door that goes to the closet until next to the murphy bed.

Things went well but I did have one problem. I made my face frame out of two inch wide material. A dimension I pulled out of the air as looking pleasing. At the time, I had no idea what kind of doors I would build but when it came time to build them, I calculated the door widths with an overlap 1/2" on all sides, a number that seemed solid and pleasing. What I didn't calculate was that it only left me an inch between sets of doors where the hinges were to go. The hinges I bought turned out to be slightly over 1/2" in width meaning that everything couldn't go together without interference. In the end, I pushed things together as tightly as possible and centered the four center doors seen above as well as possible. The two sets of doors that will go on either side won't lap the face frame evenly all the way around. It will be close to about 1/8" overlap on the hinge side closest to the center and 7/8" on the other side where because those hinges will be only next to a wall, they can eat up more of my two inch face frame space. It's hard to describe but it all makes sense NOW, after I have the doors nearly done.

As I write this, I will be applying the last coats of poly onto side one of the remaining doors so that perhaps later tomorrow, I can flip them and repeat all the steps again. Once those are hung, all the desk and murphy bed walls will have the woodwork complete. I can then turn my attention to more mundane details like trim, making some organizing units for desktop junk and turning my sights onto decorations. I have always had a dream that I've wanted to fulfill and I think I will write a post on that coming up soliciting your help.

The Doors

More planing, ripping, cutting and then tablesaw work brought more rough lumber into what you see above. I'm just making plain shaker style doors for my upper cabinets but I might put an edge detail on the door with a router. I'm going to wait until they are out of the clamps to decide. I made the joinery simple so it could all be done on the tablesaw.

Again, as you can see below, it is nice to have a lot of clamps. Most of the doors went together easily and were square but a couple I had to put some diagonal pressure on them to square them up. I had two doors where a piece of wood on the rails split outward when I was clamping things together. I should be able to split the wood off completely when the glue has dried, glue the split piece back into place and sand in smooth so nobody would ever know it was there. It happens when working with wood and grains that aren't always true.

Next up will be finishing both sides of the doors. That will take awhile and will have to be done in batches but after the first batch is done, I should be able to start hanging the doors while doing subsequent batches of finish work. I can't wait to get them on.

Monday, April 25, 2016

BMW Convertible... Not a Little Red Corvette

I never was a Prince fan by any means though I know quite a few of his songs. His much too young passing though made me reflect on a memory of when I met the man in person... well sort of... and I thought I would share that time on here.

Old readers will know that I used to live and work for a period of six years up in the frozen tundra called Minnesota. I lived in a smallish town about an hours drive west of the Twin Cities so I made it there more often than I cared for one reason or another. On one such trip, I was driving back with a few of my friends in my car and I was in the slow lane of a four lane road.

A BMW convertible appeared behind me going slightly faster and as it passed us by, two of my friends almost at the same time made comments on the gold hubcaps. I on the other hand noticed the driver wearing a stocking hat in the middle of July and who had olive skin and a more than a five-o'clock shadow of a beard going on. I said in the form of a question, "isn't that Prince?"

My friends immediately affirmed that it was and said that he lived just down the road from where we were, a factoid that was new to me. At their encouragement, I sped up and was soon cruising side by side with Prince and his wife at the time in their BMW convertible. A few seconds passed but it seemed much longer, Prince looked over at us and gave a bemused smile at the four faces staring back and gave a slight wave before mashing the accelerator and leaving me behind in the dust. Perhaps a mile later, he turned off down the road that leads to his recording studio/house and that was the last time I ever saw the man.

Decades later when social media was everywhere, I heard that every so often Prince would send out a tweet saying there was a party at his house and hundreds if not thousands of strangers would show up to party with him. Had I still lived in that smallish town down the road and followed him on Twitter, I would be telling you right now about that party.

"But it was Saturday night, I guess that makes it all right." - Prince Rogers Nelson

Friday, April 22, 2016


As you can see in the above photograph, the office continues to be an office despite me fixing it up but with the drawers now completed and installed, almost all the dirty work is done. I still have to make and install the upper doors on the cabinets and that will involve pre-drilling pilot holes but with a vacuum cleaner in hand the debris should be minimal.

I have made my share of drawers over the years but always struggle with installing the fronts onto the drawer bodies. The process of holding it up to the drawer body, getting all the gaps looking good, clamping (if I am able to) and then drilling and screwing from the inside takes about six hands and I only have two. I thought this time I would just measure up from the drawer body to the opening and then just repeat those measurements on the floor but when you are desiring small but even gaps between drawers, there is and was a lot that could go wrong.

In the end, I went back to my old standby method which works but isn't elegant. I stick a few pieces of double sided tape onto the drawer body and then hold the drawer front up and eyeball it into place. Since my tape can't support the entire weight of the drawer front, I have to apply some pressure with one hand while I gently ease the drawer out enough that I can apply my longest throated lightest clamp. All my light clamps had short throats and can't reach deep enough to hold the drawer front in place to the body. All my clamps with deep throats are heavy and the weight of the clamp can pull the drawer front down out of position unless clamped tight enough to mark up the face of the cabinet. Also, because I am down to one hand at this point, I only have one hand to work the clamp. Sometimes it took me a few attempts but eventually I got the drawer front clamped in place and quickly screwed to the drawer body.

I made a jig for the drawer handles that registers off two sides of the drawers so the holes for the handles end up perfectly where I want them to be every time. It is one of those things where it takes 15 minutes of work to make the jig and another ten to drill all the holes versus 30 minutes to mark and drill them all by hand. The time savings isn't much the quality of the hole location makes up for it.

Another drawback I always have with drawers is that I have yet to buy any drawer handles that come with long enough screws to go through the drawer box and drawer front. They are designed to work with prefab stuff that is supper thin and which the drawer front is just laminate on the face of the drawer box. I made the trip down to the hardware store looking for replacements. Ideally, I needed 1-3/8" fasteners but could only find 1-1/4" or 1-1/2" in the size I needed. 1-1/2" would be too long and there weren't enough threads in the drawer handle to accommodate the extra length. 1-1/4" would only give me 1/8" of thread engagement, or so I thought. When I got home, the handle design had the threads about 1/8" inset from the face that seats against the drawer front meaning I had exactly 0" of thread engagement. So I ended up counterboring the holes 1/4" on the inside to give me the ideal amount of thread engagement and as a bonus, his the screw heads so they aren't visible inside the drawer.

So to cut this long boring math story short, the drawers are now done and functional. I can start moving things into them and start building the doors for the upper cabinets above the desk and the upper cabinet of the dresser/nightstand/closet combo to the left of the Murphy bed. Those should go fairly quickly and then it will be down to all the little details that come with every project.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Let's Talk Turkey

When I was young, seeing a turkey, a deer or a fox were rare things that mostly happened to avid hunters who spent lots of time outdoors. For those of us who didn't hunt much, we felt very fortunate to see one of these creatures. Three decades later, turkeys aren't so rare to see anymore, I have a fox that lives in the woods behind my house that I see a handful of times during a year and the deer are almost as common as house flies. Still, this is the first place I have lived where I have had a front row seat to the life cycle of the turkey.

Last year, two or three hens gave birth to about two dozen chicks and would parade them on the edge of our lawn heading west in the morning and east in the evening. We watched them grow up to be fine young jennies and jakes but as winter approached, they moved on or perhaps due to the late morning and early evening darkness, they passed unnoticed. This spring however, we have certainly gotten a show as two of the surviving jakes are now full fledged toms and have really been flaunting their stuff as they pass by.

I have strived to get a great shot of them flaunting their stuff but it has proven challenging despite having two opportunities a day. They don't run a tight schedule nor do they make any noise and by the time I spot them, they are almost already across my lawn. By the time I grab the camera and get outside, it is always too late. Other times I make it outside but the toms aren't around and I have a thousand photos of the hens and really don't desire anymore. Still other times the weather is such that the pictures don't turn out or I don't want to go out. Yet other times everything aligns but I scare them away as I sneak in for the (photo) shot. The two best pictures I have in all my attempts are these slightly out of focus ones that I have taken through my dining room windows using a telephoto lens. The woven wire structure encloses a tree sprout that I planted early last fall to try to repopulate all the trees I have lost in the last four years. The same trail that the turkeys use is also used by a whole herd of deer at least twice a day and thus the only way trees can survive in that zone is if they remain fenced until they are too big to be molested by the deer. I have a friend who has permits to bow hunt deer within city limits who I may let thin out the herd behind my house a bit this coming fall. But for now, the turkeys I just love to watch and try to snap that perfect photo of a tom strutting his stuff.