[Lego Table]: Part 18

Fixing the boxes with the table saw proved to be a simple matter—which is good, since I didn’t have much time in the shop today thanks to early pick-up at my son’s school.

[You’re probably curious as to how this thing arrived in my shop. Well, that’s a story for another day. I’ll do a full write up on the table saw and explain it’s purchase after Christmas. At the time of writing, it was just the beginning of December. However, it takes a while to edit and post and I was trying to work more than write on this project. Fyi, today is December 23, 2015]

I set the saw up (I love how smooth this thing is!) and set my rip fence so I was going to remove about 1/4” of material from the top edge of the drawers. That put me just a hair outside the line I drew to establish the correct height.


Then I removed the blade guard and riving knife (which made me instantly wary—that blade looks awful big and sharp sticking up like that on its own) and lowered it so in effect I would be making a tiny dado cut. I only sliced a little over halfway through the thickness of the drawer sides.


With those cuts made, I still had to remove the waste, now hanging on tenaciously by a few millimeters of wood. The pull saw made short work of that without nary a stutter.


All that was left was to clean them up with the block plane (a few swipes per side, per drawer). The drawers were—at last—ready to have their faces notched in prep for the face plate installation.

It also left me out of time. It’s amazing how fast time goes in the shop. It’s like it’s some sort of time vortex or something. sigh

Ah well, of to go get the kiddos and plan tomorrow’s adventure!

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[Lego Table]: Part 17

Well, the snow arrived, as promised. It started last night around 7:30pm and continue all night and all day until about 3:45pm today. All said, we got about 8” on the ground (though only a few inches stuck to the roads which I guess were just not yet cool enough to allow the snow to accumulate).

The temperature in the garage hovered around 45 so I took a chance and sanded down the top’s previous (first) coat of primer. Once it was nice and smooth (love that 800 grit wet/dry sandpaper!) I applied a nice even coat of paint (and then a second coat about 30 minutes later).



And with that, I closed up shop for the next few days. The temperatures continued to drop and the kids wanted to play in the snow. I have to admit, it made quite the pretty scene…


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[Lego Table]: Part 16

Today saw an abbreviated shop time due to visiting family and falling temperatures outside. That said, I still got a lot done and one step closer to completion!

First up, I decided to cut the wings in half. As it was, the single piece “endzones” were a bit big for my kids to lift and the middle divider for the tray underneath made a strange look, visible directly under the cut out. So under advisement from my lovely wife, I decided to cut them in half, create another finger hole on each (making 4 panels total), and then paint. That will have to wait until I can get them to fit right.

The right wing is just a hair off (about 1/16”). The wing therefore tilts up toward the end of the table. Not good. So, instead of trying to chop down the little rail support the wing rests on (idea #1) I ended up routing a rabbet in the wing, just wide enough to rest on the lip.


I think it turned out pretty good for my first attempt at this (routing a rabbet).


And now it fits much nicer!


Once that was complete, the weather really started to turn. I think it dropped about 10 degrees over the course of a half hour or so as the storm long rumored to be dropping early season snow on our area, began to approach.

With that motivation and while watching the shop thermometer drop from 65 down to 50 or so, I broke out the primer and put on a good coat on the top of the table.


I left the garage open as long as possible to allow the fumes to escape but the wind started picking up and I figured my shop time was done. According to the weather forecasts, I might be done for the next few days. Temps are predicted to drop down into the teens.

The last few things I need to do involve spraying another layer of paint on the top, then clear coating—all of which needs temps above 50 or so. Then I need to finalize and repair the drawers. After I paint the drawer fronts, it’s assembly time! Getting close!

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[Lego Table]: Part 15

Ah, back out in the shop. I can see in the long range forecasts that I’m starting to run out of days filled with relative warmth. Maybe another week or so. The clock is ticking on getting the top ready for priming and painting. I need it to stay above 50 degrees outside just a little longer.

Feeling the pressure, I jumped right in today. To make a nice smooth lip for the bottom to ride on in the bin, I thought using putty might make a nice smooth beveled lip.

Here’s what it looked like after application—remember, this is before sanding. Yes, it’s ugly.


While the putty dried (it needed 15 minutes before I could sand), I continued adding the running strips for the false bottoms in the other bin. Here’s my clamping process for the last bin, since I used all my clamps for the other bins:


I had to to get creative and use two scrap blocks as wedges to keep the thin little strip in place while the glue set up. Even had to use tape on this side:


It looked pretty nasty, but it got the job done. While that set up, I went back and applied putty to the pocket holes and all the other loose joints in the top.

Soon enough it was time for sanding. I smoothed out all the putty spots and discovered two things—I didn’t get it quite things quite smooth enough, so they needed another coat of putty and (2) I ran out of putty. Off to the store for some more—and they didn’t have the one I used (DAP), so I had to get Emlers. This went on in a gray-green paste, not the nice white of the DAP. Ah well, it’ll all be covered up by primer and paint, hopefully.

After all the tedious hand sanding of the little nooks and crannies in the bins, I broke out the orbital sander and hit top, rounding over the sharp edges of the corners.

I had an 80 grit disk installed so it really attacked the poplar. Then I went back with a block wrapped in 220 grit paper to get things buttery smooth. It took a long, long time, but I got everything smooth (even the second layer of putty in the bins!).

The last step for today (I was quickly running out of time—that sanding took forever) was to install the oak tops for the plywood bin dividers.


These little things are sliced and shaped at the band saw to fit the notches made by the sides and the backing coming together.
It hides the ugly striped end grain on the plywood and makes everything look more solid. It’ll all be covered by paint in the end, but will be a lot smoother now, I think.

Finally, I just wanted to add a little cap piece on the edging at the bottom to help secure the sliding piece. To fit it tight against the front wall, I used the miter gauge on the band saw (which, oddly enough, now that I have the Olson blade installed, the drift has been eliminated…the miter gauge is useful again! Strange…) with a block of scrap to get the piece a little closer at the right angle (about 40 degrees).


It worked, here’s the finished piece on one side:


I repeated this all the way around and had everything ready for priming. None too soon, since it looks like snow is on the way in a few days!

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[Lego Table]: Part 14

I had a eureka moment last night. How to get the false bottoms on the bins to slide in and out? I had envisioned two pieces of thin plywood or hardboard, sliding out through the sides, which allow all the collected Legos to fall out through the open bottom.

I had devised a few different ways to achieve this goal, but all of them included little guide rails sandwiching the moving part. It was all very complicated and involved tiny pieces.

Then it came to me: why not just cut the bottom off the sides, cut a notch and glue the bottom back on? Instant support! Like this:


Then I notched the middle pieces to allow free movement of the false bottom and installed it. I used glue and my brad nailer, but for some reason, completely forgot to get a picture of the actual fun part. Instead, you have a picture of the middle glued up and clamped, ready for nailing.


You can see part of the blue playing area there on the right. It will be installed much closer to the bin. Right now I just have it sitting there for storage. When the paint fully cures, I’ll move it to the basement for safe keeping until assembly time.

In the meantime, here’s a shot of the installed side pieces and the back (that line next to the right edge of the tubafore). I had to make the front piece next, a 27” long, 4” wide piece of that MDF core 1/4” ply. Because of the angle of the sides, though, I needed to bevel the edge of the front piece. My only option was a block plane:


Which worked like a charm. Then I had to install a small strip of wood for the false bottom to ride on as it’s pulled out. This was simply glued on to the bottom of the backer piece. It was a tricky position to clamp, so I used all my smallest clamps…


But the result was what I wanted! Not the straightest cut, but it’s going to be sanded and will be hidden 99% of the time.


Next time, I’ll have to tackle the inside front edge of the bin—I test fit a false bottom and while it slid out nicely, riding on the bottom rail, it wanted to go all cock-eyed because there was nothing holding it from the front. Easy enough.

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[Lego Table]: Part 13

After a quick check on the wounded drawer to see how things were drying, I came to the conclusion that my repair work accomplished it’s goal. The drawer is nice and sturdy again after the glue. However, I’m a little concerned about the depth of the router cut. I may have to redo this one.


I decided to shelve the drawers and move on with the other trickery needed to finish the top. I need to make the little bins on the wings that will collect Legos the kids scoop off the main play surface. So! Here we go.

The Bins

I started by making a template out of scrap hardboard laying around. Here’s the shape I want for the side pieces—just enough of an angle to get the Legos to fall to the bottom but nothing to terribly steep. About 45 degrees.


I took the 1/2” plywood stock over to the monster 9” bandsaw and cut out the shapes. I swear, since changing the blades to an Olson 6 TPI, this things cuts great! Really makes the bandsaw into a very usable part of my workshop. I’m not looking for ways to use it…


Before long I had all the pieces cut out (including the middle pieces).


Then it was back to the bandsaw to rip the 27” long front pieces for the bins.


These came out a little wobbly, despite my best efforts (the stock was too wide to use my shop made ripping fence) at hand feeding. I just stayed a little past the layout line and trimmed it up with the hand planes.

Back to the sides. To allow the backing (1.4” maple—MDF core—plywood) to sit flush, I wanted to rout a rabbet in the side pieces.


It came out pretty good for my first time doing it this way!


Time for a dry fit! Now you can see a little better what I’m planning…


The backing slid in just perfect! Really getting excited—I’ve never attempted this before.


Now it’s time to sit back and think some more about how I’m going to rig up a sliding bottom for this thing. I’ve got a few options floating around but they all include lots of Little support blocks glued into inconvenient places.

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[Lego Table]: Part 12

Well, as I sit here icing my hand, I can sit back and say once more with authority that I need a table saw. Why, you ask?–other than the convenience factor? Because I could’ve used it to fix a costly mistake I discovered today…

I started off making the open space in the front of the drawer to remove stock so the false front can fit and look nice. Pulled out the coping saw and my bird’s mouth jig and started cutting.  The result (after some sanding) was a nice smooth curve. I used a paint can to trace the line.



Then I put the false front on it to see what it looked like and that’s when I discovered the great mistake:


The Mistake

So what is this mistake I’m referencing? Well, first thing I did when I got out into the shop today was to line up the false faceplates for the drawers—of which I’m pretty proud—with the rest of the drawer and then do a little test fit under the main top to see how everything lines up. That’s when I noticed my horrifying mistake, made when I did my initial measurements for this beast. I wanted to use a 3.5” wide false front for the door for the drawers—since 3.5” stock was what I already had on hand after building the base and the top in the legs. All fine and good. Except when I went to make the drawers out of .25” thick stock, I selected the 3.5” wide variety. I have no idea why.

I’m sure you can guess what comes next: the faceplate was exactly the same size as the drawer, which was even made worse by the fact that I nailed the bottoms on to the drawers and they’re 1/8” thick hardboard. So now the entire drawer sticks out 1/8” under the faceplate.

To make matters worse, when I routed the edges and made these nice smooth corners for the faceplates, it took off just that much wood, so that when I put the false front up against the completed drawer, everything sticks out a little less than a quarter of an inch.


Ideas ran through my head as to how to fix this problem. I could remove the bottoms, bust out all the nails, and then trim the base of the drawers by about a quarter inch, exposing fresh wood and then re-nailing the bottoms on. It sounds like a lot of work and it is, or would be. The nails from that brad gun hold the bottoms on so tight I doubt I could get them off without destroying the drawers in the process. And I didn’t even use glue…

Another option was to cut from the top. I check it out and on all four drawers, only one of them had any nails that would’ve caused any problems (and at that, only two). It looked like my best option was to take the Japanese pull saw and slice off a quarter-inch from every side…of every drawer.

See where I’m going with the table saw thing? If I had one, I could line up the base against the fence and then just cut each side 1/4” short (I’ve seen videos of guys making boxes, then using the table saw to rip the top free, leaving a perfect joint). Turn the box on its side, rep another quarter-inch off, turn again and again and before you know it you’ve got a drawer that’s a 1/4” shorter. Obviously I would’ve had to remove the two nails from the offending box, but other than that I think it would’ve gone in about a half hour or so. I think.

The Solution

So, back to reality! What can I use besides the Japanese pull saw that would go faster? Coping saw? No—just no. A regular Western push saw? Definitely not, plus the kerf would be sloppier. The jigsaw? Hell no, my jigsaw’s a piece of junk. It works—after a fashion—but it leaves a ragged line and the base plate can’t stay perpendicular to the blade to save its life.

The band saw’s out—the throat is nowhere near big enough to be able to handle this 13.5” box sliding through. Although that would’ve been a cool solution.

That leaves the trim router. My main router table would work unless I went straight down over a very wide bit and I don’t think I have the skill or the bit necessary to do this. So I decided to use a straight edge, mark my measurements on all four sides of the drawers, then clamp the drawer to the straight edge using it as a template.

The idea is to put the trim router inside the drawer, then route away the waste to the template, using a flush trim bit. Sounds simple?


I realize because of the size of the router and it’s base plate I wouldn’t be able to go from corner to corner, but I figured the couple inches on each corner would be nothing for the Japanese pull saw take care of compared to ripping the entire length of the drawer. On each side.

So I tried it out. On the first drawer, I quickly went through two sides and it seemed to be pretty good. Smooth sailing. Loud, dusty, messy, yes, but it got the job done pretty quick. Just like I planned! Maybe this will take so long to fix after all.

I moved on to the third side. Here is where I encountered my first problem. The router bit caught a wild grain in the wood and the thing took off for about half-inch. No big deal, I was never in any danger and I had a good grip on the router itself. However, it did pull itself up off the template and took a nice chunk out of the drawer side. Worse than that, the grain in the wood decided to split from where the router stopped when I yanked it out—it cracked the side of the drawer almost in half. At the same time, the opposite side of the drawer popped loose from the nails.


At first glance, it looks like the drawer is ready for the fire pit. I uttered a few colorful metaphors, then realized that all of the damage could be fixed with simple glue. The split in the wood caused by the router was so clean and followed the grain so nicely, that when I squeezed it together with my fingers, it disappeared. So I broke out the glue, filled in the cracks, put three clamps on that sucker, and took it inside to dry. I’m confident that once I figure out a process to do this a little bit better, I’ll be able to salvage it.

So, I turned back to the other three drawers as they stared in fright at the router. I decided not to risk that tear-out again. I got lucky this time, the damage done by the router seems to be easily fixable—we’ll see after the glue dries—so for drawer number two, I decided to just do the pull saw. There were no nails in danger of being hit, so I figured it should be pretty quick, considering this thing cuts like a hot knife through butter

I used some clamps to set the drawer up on its side and after making my marks about a quarter inch from the top edge all the way around I started to make my initial cuts. Couple things I noticed was it was easier to use the crosscut side of the side to get the kerf going then switch to the rip cut. The other thing I noticed was that the saw chattered enough no matter what angle I used that I was worried I’d rip the drawer apart before I could make any cuts. Somehow I soldiered on and was able to use a few relief cuts to break away the pieces as I cut down the length of each side. It was a messy affair and the saw wanted to constantly wonder off of the line I wanted to pull it on, so the cut in the end was a ragged affair.


So, I rotated the drawer re-clamped everything and started the next cut. And cut and cut and cut, then relief cut then start over again. Rotate and repeat for the last two sides. In all it took me about 20 minutes to cut the drawer.

I should say at this point I started getting worried I wouldn’t be able to do much more than this during today’s session, as my hand was cramping up. Just before I came outside into the garage to work today, I happened to walk by the kitchen table and swung my hand awkwardly. I clipped the middle of my hand right on the corner of the table. It hurt like the dickens, but I figured it would just pass. Well it didn’t. The middle finger started growing numb about the time I was halfway through cutting drawer number two. By the time I finished my sloppy cuts, my hand had grown stiff enough that it was getting hard to grip the saw. Rather than taking a chance and injuring myself further—or even worse the saw—or destroying the drawer, I decided to stop cutting for the day.

I wasn’t quite willing to quit for the day, however. So I clamped the drawer down to the bench, brought out the block plane and started to smooth the rough saw cuts. In short order, I had nice smooth, clean edges again. Most of the saw marks were gone and I was able to bring the kerf back in line with my original cut line. It was minimal work, but it was hard enough to grip the block plane with an injured dominant hand. I got the drawer half done when my wife convinced me to hang it up for the day and get inside to ice my hand.

The entire time I kept telling myself if I had a table saw, I could’ve ripped these things off and be done and moved on to the next step. Instead, I’m looking at possibly another two or even three sessions out here just to fix the drawers.

Anyway, that pretty much sums it up for the day. A disappointment to be sure, but a glimmer of hope for next time as well. If I can refine my process of cutting and using the block plane, I might be able to get these drawers done in a reasonable amount of time.

I noticed while I was using the block plane that if the blade caught the opposite side, it tended to want to separate and pull the nail head right through the wood. So when I’m done using the plane, I intend to go back and put glue in all the corners.



I don’t know if it would’ve been better to have glued everything up to begin with rather than just using nails, because the stress that the drawers have been under so far from cutting and planning may have actually broken the wood worse than just the seams. Either way, I’m confident that when I’m all done I will have finished the repair work and no one will be the wiser when everything is put together assembled. Except you people reading…this…post…oops.

All in all it’s been a hell of a learning experience and I think I’ve learned a lot today. Nobody got hurt (well, not by woodworking), no tools were harmed, and the workpiece has been saved. I hope.

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[Lego Table]: Part 11

I had a simple goal today—get the drawer fronts all cut out and shaped.

Drawer Fronts

I started on the drawer fronts today. First I made a template of the shape I wanted to cut out for a finger pull. I used 1/4” plywood I had laying around.


Then I clamped the template to my 3 1/2” poplar planks and traced the same cutout pattern.


Using my drill press, I punched out the waste in the cutout.



Then it was off to the band saw and remove the rest of the waste.


Then I clamped the template again to the plank and hooked the whole thing to the bench where I used my trim router and a flush-trim bit to get everything nice looking.



Finally, I moved to my router table and smoothed over all the edges, rounding everything to make it nice and gentle on my kids’ hands.


Now I’ve got four drawer fronts, rounded and smooth.


I had just enough time left today to pack up my tools and move the router table, band saw, and shop vac back into their homes so my wife could pull her car in the garage.

Tomorrow, I can put the drawers together!

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[Lego Table]: Part 10

Back in the shop and back on track after yesterday’s detour to make the shooting board. I put together the remaining 3 drawers and repainted the play area (the big blue thing). Here’s how it went down…

The Drawers

First up, I cut the side and front/back pieces from a length of poplar stock (1/4” x 3 1/2” x 36”), slapped ‘em on the shooting board and trued up every cut edge (and one factory edge that was off).


It worked like a charm and within a few minutes, I had all the pieces for the first drawer of the day ready for the next step.

Once everything was milled, I turned my attention to the front and back pieces. I cut out the rabbets just like the drawer from last time. I scribed a line the thickness of the side board from the edge (1/4”) of the back/front board , then used the pull saw to cut 1/8” through the back/front board (half the original thickness). Then I propped it up in the mini-Moxon bench vise and used my chisels to chip away at the waste. Instant rabbet. The first drawer took me about 10 minutes to make the rabbets. The subsequent drawers went faster. The last drawer only took about half the time as the first one today, which took way less than half the time of the one from last time.

Once I had my rabbets cut, it was time to assemble! Taking a lesson from yesterday (ie, don’t use a a hammer and cheap easily bendable nails), I hooked up the compressor (thanks again, Dad!) and broke out the brad nailer. bam bam bam that thing is sweet. Lickety-split I had the first drawer assembled and thanks to the shooting board and careful chisel work, the box was already square!

I flipped it over on to a piece of 1/4” maple plywood (MDF interior) and traced out the drawer. The pull saw made short work of the plywood (I know it’s terrible for the blade, but it’s a few years old and already has some kinks in it—made before I knew how to use it properly).


With nice—fairly straight cuts—I fitted the plywood to the box and nailed away!


I used my Groz block plane to trim off the excess plywood (really not much more than a few swipes per side) and then chamfered and rounded the edging so the kids won’t find sharp corners. There were 2 nails that popped through the sides, but my file made short work of the points and the problem was solved. One drawer done, in about 30 minutes!


I then noticed a cold front coming in—the wind outside was picking up and the sun disappeared. We were under a severe thunderstorm watch for tonight so I figured it was time to paint or I’d have to wait till tomorrow. I stepped aside to repaint the play area with a fresh can of blue paint (after I sanded it with a brown paper bag). It should be nice and smooth and evenly covered now.


While the play area dried, I turned my attention back to the drawers. I repeated the process above with less mistakes and by the time the shortened shop session ended today (my son gets out of school early on Wednesdays, so I lose about 30 minutes of nap time/free time/shop time/writing time) I had all four drawers complete and ready for the next step.


Next up is to build the little collection boxes that will hang under the “wings” (or “end-zones”, as my beautiful wife calls them). I came up with a plan for these while bouncing along in the back of the car on the way home from our trip last weekend. The sides will be 1/2” plywood and the face will be 1/4” plywood with a false bottom so the kids and drop out the collected Legos. The sliding bottom may prove to be the most difficult thing on this project, but after finishing these drawers (well, except for the false fronts) I’m flush with confidence.

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[Lego Table]: Part 9

So I took some time to think about how to get better results from my drawers (well…that sure sounded better in my head then on the screen) and came up with the idea to make a shooting board. If I start with pieces that are milled properly, perhaps my drawer will look better than the first one…

I mulled this over today as I hit the freshly clear-coated legs and base with a piece of a brown paper bag. I discovered this trick on one of The Schwartz’s blogs from a few years ago when working with shellac. Sure enough, it worked for the clear coat too, to knock off the faint fuzz somehow pulled up through the painted surface—perhaps it was dust? Either way, after rubbing (lightly) withe scrap of paper bag, the base and legs are now glossy and smooth. Like, silky even. I impressed myself with this one.


With the base and legs now 100% complete, I was ready to devote today’s shop time to making a shooting board. This is something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time. If I had a table saw, I’d just make my cuts on that and be assured of nice and true surfaces. But I have a handsaw. So my cuts are never 100% accurate. The first drawer was proof of that.

I came across this website by an extremely talented woodworker named Derek from Perth, Australia, where he details how to make a shooting board and even goes into the principals of its design and use. Fascinated read. To sum up, you cut your stock and place it on the shooting board. Then you lay your plane (in my case, a beefy jack plane) on its side and snug it up to a bed and run it down (chute) the length of your stock. If everything is built nice and true, the plane will shave your stock into perfection. It works lengthwise and on endgrain (my bane!). In theory.

The shooting board

Here it is, in all its glory—my shooting board, made from cutoffs from the very project it will be created and used to complete.


I’m making the base out of 1/4” plywood, and the bed will be two 4” wide, 18” long planks of poplar. I first drew a pleasing shape for a handle/hanger and cut it out on the band saw (starting to have fun with this thing now!):


Once everything had been smoothed over with some sandpaper, I glued and screwed the two poplar planks in place.


And here’s what it looks like from the business end. Still rough, but getting there. You may notice that the running board (where the plane will slide) is on the wrong side—that’s not because I reversed the picture, it’s because I’m left handed. Most of the shooting board examples I found (okay, all) were set up for righties, so I had to reverse my plans. I ain’t playing their game.

I flipped it over and found a nice scrap piece of poplar the exact length of my board in the scrap bin from some other project last year—it was fate. I glued and screwed that bad boy in place to make a cleat so I can push this thing against the workbench.


The next step, according to Derek is to break in the board. I put my jack plane on its side and adjusted the blade to a depth I felt would be typically used to trim the edges of a piece of wood and started running it down the length of the bed, taking tiny little shavings of the poplar plank. I couldn’t get a close enough picture, but the wood looks just like the diagram on Derek’s page, with a tiny little ledge toward the base, mirroring the profile of the plane iron as it exits the sole of the plane. Very cool.


Now that the board was broken in, I was ready to attach a fence. I cut a piece of scrap 3” by 3/4” maple to a length about 7” or so. To place it on the board, I left the plane iron extended as if I was going to use it and put the maple up against the blade, taking pains to make sure it was square to the plane, not the shooting board (just in case the board was off—it wasn’t but I didn’t care).


Once it was lined up where I wanted it (at least, where I guessed it was supposed to be—I’ve never done this before), I glued and screwed it in place. As a finishing touch I drilled a 1” hole through the handle part (so I can hang it somewhere out of the way in my shop until needed) and sanded the edges smooth.


Now…for a test. I took one of the offcuts of the Aspen and examined my cut. I thought it was good, but on closer inspection, I somehow rounded it…


I quickly ran it through the shooting board and…hot sliced damn on rye, look at that!


I tested the end with my square and…lookie here, we are in business!


I’m really looking forward to the next drawer now! Too bad I’ll have to wait until tomorrow, because this side project took up all the time I had today…


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