[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.

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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).

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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).

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!):

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

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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…

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

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

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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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[Lego Table]: Part 8

Had a blast up at the Great Wolf Lodge this past weekend—as proof of our never-say-die, got to keep playing as long as we can attitude at the indoor water park hotel/resort, I offer a picture of my youngest the next day passed out in my recliner.

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This is as quiet as he as ever been outside of his crib in his entire life! The kids are, needless to say, pooped. I am too, but the clock is ticking—we’re well into November now and Christmas is looming on the horizon. I have plenty of time to finish, but no time to screw around…so here we go.

First order of business was to clear-coat the legs and base now that everything is painted and dry and cured. I put on three thin coats for each, letting them dry a good 10 minutes or so between coats. It went on smooth and uniform, just like the primer and paint—I’m pretty impressed with the quality of these Rustoleum products.

While everything dried (that stuff stinks, by the way), I switched gears and took a deep breath. It was time for some serious joinery.

Making drawers

I’ve been thinking about these drawers for a while now. I marked out my tails and pulled out the mini-Moxon bench. Time to finally break in my little Veritas dovetail saw (I picked this up last year with a Woodcraft gift card at Christmas and never used it yet!):

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After I cut the first set of tails (buttery smooth by the way, this saw is great!) I came to a dreadful realization: The wood I’m using (1/4” Aspen) is just too jittery and thin for my rudimentary dovetailing skills. After layout and cutting one side, I realized I still had 15 more to go—and this took almost 40 minutes. That’s too long, and likely going to be too sloppy. As much as I’d like to have dovetailed drawers on this thing, I’d also like to get it finished by December 25th.

Solution? Rabbets!

That was much faster—I used the pull saw (man, I love that little saw) and my Bailey chisels and made short work of the cut and paring. In less than 5 minutes, one side was ready (compared to the 40 minutes for dovetailing).

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It looked a lot cleaner too. I shrugged and carried on, cutting the next three sides and making rabbets in the front and back. With everything cut, I added glue and started to put it all together, hammering in nails as I went. I used a piece of painter’s tape to hold the frame together while I added the last piece. It kept things nice and square for me.

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The only thing I had left to do was cut free a piece of 1/8” hardboard to serve as a base and nail it on. This, however, was an exercise in frustration—I don’t know how many times I had nails blow out through the sides as I tried to get this stupid piece of hardboard tacked on. Finally, after much swearing and plier pulling, I persuaded enough nails to stay in place and the base was nice and solid. Whew.

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That’s when it hit me—I spent my entire shop time today on one drawer. And it’s not even done—I need to smooth out the sides and then fashion the false front and attach that before I can think about adding the rails…I need to rethink my method…the drawer I finished had three rabbeted corners and one half-dovetailed corner. It has about 10 nail holes from blowouts and because my saw cuts were not exactly true (when I cut the pieces to length—the rabbets are nice and sharp) the thing looks…rough.

Time to go think on how I can improve my cuts and make the next drawer look sharper. I may just chalk this one up to practice…

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[Lego Table]: Part 7

Very productive nap time session today!

First order of business was to take advantage of the 65 degree weather and paint the play surface for the top. We chose a primary blue to cover the MDF. The kids have plenty of the green Lego baseplate’s, so blue should compliment what they already have. The MDF took the paint in three thin coats that ate the entire can. The coverage looks good—when it dries, we’ll see if I need another can.

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Since I had everything already set up, I went ahead and painted the legs as well after a light sanding with 800 grit wet/dry paper to get the primer nice and slick. The paint went on in light coats, 15 minutes apart (just like the primer) and gave me a nice, solid, even coverage. Looking good!

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While everything dried, I decided to lay out the draw slide locations on the center divider and add my shop-made slides (1/4” by 1/2” oak strip).

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And here’s the other side:

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With everything glued and nailed in place, I went ahead and attached the divider in it’s home, amidships on the top. It fit nice and snug just like before, and the pocket screws are holding it down so tight it’s not even funny.

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I shifted gears and added little support chocks to the “wings” (the area of MDF on either side of the play area in the center of the top that will be removable, revealing little bins for the kids to sweep their Legos into). I made sure they were on level with the tubafore supports, so everything will be flush once the MDF is installed. You can see the extra support strip on the right side of the picture below:

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Then it was time to drill a hole (using my second largest Forstner bit) in the center of the MDF. I made it 1.5” in diameter so the kids could get a couple fingers through, making it easier for them to remove the “wing” (no idea what to call these things…). MDF is a pain to clean up when you’re working (that fine dust is crazy, not to mention nasty) but man it cuts clean and smooth:

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Next I dusted off my little trim router and set it up over the hole:

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I chocked in one of my father-in-law’s bits (thanks Jim!) and rounded over the edges of the hole for a ridiculously smooth finish:

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It’s a little hard to tell, but that thing is extra nice. My wife cam out to check on me and whistled. If she’s impressed, I’m pleased. Here’s a parting shot of the “wing” in place, nice and level on it’s support.

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With the weekend coming up and a family trip north planned, I packed up the shop and stuck the painted and primed pieces aside to let the dry and cure. Come next week, I’ll be getting serious about the drawers.

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[Lego Table]: Part 6

Accomplished a fair amount today. Before I got to work, I dusted off the base and the legs one final time and then primed the legs

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…and painted the base.

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It’s hard to tell, because I used white primer and white paint, but trust me, it looks nice in person. I put on two thin coats and used up almost a whole can of spray paint, but it sure does look pretty and—smooth!

I continued to apply thin coats of primer (3 total) on the legs, letting it dry about 15 minutes each time.

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In between coats, I finally figured out how I’m going to attach the drawers. I will use a piece of leftover flooring (oak) and attach it across the width of the top. I plan to attach this piece slightly off-center, so I can use it to hang a strip of 3/4 plywood. This plywood will be the center support for the drawers. I’ll cut matching pieces of plywood to hang between the legs (anchored by pocket holes) for the side supports. It’s kind of bulky to explain, so we’ll just jump right in…

The first step was to get that piece going across the width of the top. The piece I found was about 2” too long. Easy enough. I broke out the pull saw and, determined to make this a good tight fit, got the little square out to make sure I made a perfect cut.

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It worked! Hot diggity, when I test fit the piece, it was so tight I had to use Krokskaft to persuade it into place—but not so tight that the end grain wood started to splinter. A jab to the center and it popped free. That’s about the nicest seam I’ve ever cut!

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That only left one problem—being flooring scrap, the oak is cut in tongue and groove from the factory (or whoever made it). I needed a solid surface to glue and screw the plywood too, not the gap the groove provided. That means I needed to get rid of the tongue.

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I fired up the band saw and made short work of that little strip of extra wood using my rip fence.

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Unfortunately, I’m not hate best at the band saw, so despite my best efforts, there was a bit of a rough edge. Not to worry, I have a jack plane! I planed the edge—it only took a few seconds to clear off the cluttered bench and set up the plank:

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And here’s the result! A nice, crisp planed edge!

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Nice. The next step—time was quickly slipping by—was to cut free the side supports. Cue my dreaming of a table saw again. The plywood scrap I had left was too awkward to safely attach to the sawhorses and still use the foam insulation. I had to place it all on the floor—which killed any thoughts of using the clamps to hold my straight edge. Sigh.

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Seeing as how these pieces will be hidden under the table, I just screwed a straight piece of scrap to the wood and ripped it free with the circular saw. A few minutes wasted later, I had two pieces cut, then unscrewed the guide, made my final measurements and screwed it back in place. Last cut made, I brought the pieces over the bench and drilled me some pocket holes:

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And the timer went off and I had to get the baby up to go pick up the kids from school. I was frustrated (as usual) that I had to quit just when I was getting into a groove, but the abbreviated sessions are allowing me to focus and really do a nice job on this project, so I guess it all works out in the end. Besides, that oak piece for the center support is about the best work I’ve ever done on prepping wood for installation. I am just tickled pink over how that came out.

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[Lego Table]: Part 5

Today I cut up the main play area surface (MDF). I knew I wanted to prime the base, so figured I’d cut the MDF first and get the fine dust mostly out of the air before priming.

I had to use the same layout methods (and again told myself I need a table saw) and spent precious time marking and clamping before making a few cuts, but in the end, got a perfectly cut plank of MDF that will fill almost all the space inside the upper box. On the left and right, I also cut out 4” wide “wings” that will be removable to reveal some bins so the kids can just scoop Legos straight off the table at clean up time. Drop the “wings” back in place and you’re ready to start over. More clamping, measuring and doubling checking and dreaming about a table saw, and I had two wings cut.

After I dusted my outer layer of MDF off, I cleaned up the shop with the vacuum and then set to priming. I had brushed on the primer with the last two big projects (Kylie’s castle bookcase and Keaton’s rocket bookcase) but this time I wanted—scratch that, needed to—move quicker. It’s November in Wisconsin and my shop is relegated to a wall along the garage. The unheated garage. That means I can expect temps to plummet soon and the paint/primer won’t be able to cure before Christmas (which kind of defeats the purpose of this project).

The solution? Spray primer and spray paint! It’s been years since I’ve used spray paint (I’m thinking the last time was when I renovated my old
Tasco telescope (a thread on Cloudy Nights, an astronomy forum I frequent)
back in 2008, almost 8 years ago!

Anyway, times have certainly changed—I had no idea there was such a vast array of colors and types of spray paint. I picked a Rustoleum product that has primer and paint in one can, then also picked up their primer, and some clear coat for a final gloss.

$60 and a few bags of spray paint later I was ready to tag some trains…I mean, prime a Lego table. The little pistol-grip adapter thing I bought helped out a lot with getting a nice even coat of primer on the base:

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I went to prime the legs and realized that even though they were smooth, there were numerous gaps where my glue job wasn’t a perfect, seamless operation. I had picked up some wood putty to fill in the pocket holes for the top and decided why not make the legs as smooth as possible?

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Well, as you can see in the above picture, I started getting carried away and filled in everything. Then I looked at the base again and noticed all kinds of small voids in the plywood edging. More putty! About 15 minutes later I was sanding again, but man what a difference! I touched up the primer and the base was ready for paint.

Unfortunately, all that priming and puttying and sanding ate up all my time so I ran out before I could prime the legs. But I did rig up a piece of insulation to serve as as priming station for the legs—I put finish nails in the insulation, point down (it was the only way OT get it to work) so I could lay the legs on that, then flip when the other side was ready to prime without leaving marks on the legs.

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Next time, I’ll hit the legs with primer and paint the base! You may have noticed that I haven’t worked on the top lately—that’s because I’m still puzzling out how to attach the drawers…

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