DIY Tatami Style Platform Bed with Downloadable Plans

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For the past several months my wife and I have been trying to decide on a good bed design for our eldest son, Vinny.  I could have made a racecar or a boat but who knows how long my son would like that sort of bed so I was looking for something a little more “timeless.”  Insomnia, or just plain eagerness, yielded a few late nights of searching the ether for ideas.  I happened across a site called tatamiroom.com and found the style of platform bed I wanted to build (here is the link to the page I used as a guide, and I have plans available here <—Click for a downloadable PDF plan).  Unfortunately, searches on woodworking forums and YouTube for plans or detailed builds were fruitless, thus my journey began with the simple photo from tatamiroom.com.  I knew there was going to be no bed hardware for this build so all the joints needed to be interlocking.  This meant all dimensions were to be taken individually to fit each part.  No big deal, just a little more time investment in getting the joints just right.

I needed some starting guidance so I surfed over to thewoodwhispererguild.com and reviewed Marc’s Dogon Platform Bed video series to see where he started with his project.  The footboard was the genesis and then the headboard, followed by the rails.  This was the extent of my “plans” for this build.  Everything else came from the dimensions of the mattress and how high off the floor I wanted the bed to be.

The Wood

I had several board feet of alder in thicknesses from 5/4 to 8/4 and widths up to 11″ on my rack so naturally this was my wood of choice, since it is what I had on hand.

The alder getting sorted.
The alder being sorted.

I laid out all my foot, headboard, and rail parts taking care to avoid all knots and defects as possible.  Then I used a jig saw to rough cut the foot parts to prepare for milling.  I started by cutting to rough width at the band saw, then jointed one face, planed the opposite face to final thickness (true flatness was not necessary for all parts), jointed one edge, and finally ripped to a final width of 1-5/8″.  I then set up a stop block on my crosscut sled for a repeatable cut for a final length of 8″ for twelve of the 1-5/8″ square pieces and 5-1/4″ for the other four 1-5/8″ square pieces.  These sixteen pieces make up the bulk of the feet.  Then I milled a piece of alder to 1-5/8″ wide, 7/8″ thick, and then cut eight 4″ long pieces at the table saw using the stop block and crosscut sled.  Lastly, I need four pieces that were 7/8″ thick, 4-1/8″ wide and 4-3/4″ long for the piece to hold the feet together.

Foot parts roughed out for picking out most pleasing grain.
All the foot parts milled.

Below is a view of how the feet go together.  I glued up the feet in two stages.  First, the grain was matched for the most pleasing view of the faces and the end grain.  Notice how the growth rings almost look like the foot is made from a solid piece of wood.  Next, thick square pieces were glued to the small “spacer” blocks ensuring that the “inside” faces were flat.  When the glue was dry I lightly sanded the inside faces to clean any squeeze out and then the two pieces were joined with the wider “spacer” block.  The wider spacer has a 3/4″ square by 3/4″ tall “key” in the middle.  This was made to lock the foot and side rails into the feet so they would not pull away when setting the bed up.  I could have made the height of that key much shorter in retrospect.

Looking into the foot.
A look at the foot construction.
The rough foot blanks arranged.
The feet all glued up.

Cutting the Rail Joints

When measuring the width and length of the bed rails, I made a mattress template out of 1/8″ hardboard.  Then I added some room, about 5/8″ on either side and end, for ease of making the bed and added the required length to accommodate the size of the feet.  Then I measured in 1-3/16″ from each end, to allow for final trimming, and made my joinery cuts at the table saw (see the photo below).  This was done for each joint individually.  Also, note that each rail end was milled to be a tight fit in it’s foot position and then block planed to about 1/32″ thinner.  This allows for easy test assembly but allows for finish build up to make it a nice slip fit when completed.

The foot, foot rail, and side rail joints.
The foot and side rail joints.

Notice how the top of the rail is proud of the foot and is bottomed out.

Foot rail is in place.
The foot rail in place.

Here is a view of the feet and rails all set up.  Also, the headboard stiles are in place.

The rails are all fit into the feet.
All rail joints are cut and fit to the feet.

Here you see the stile of the headboard inserted over the side rail and into the foot.

How the headboard stile fits into the foot and side rail.
The headboard stile locking in the side rail.

The Raised Panel

The next order of business was to build the headboard.  My original plan was to make a solid alder panel with some square hole details (similar to what is seen on tatamiroom.com).  I then realized I had an unused piece of bubinga that had been sitting in my shop for 2 years.  I measured and it turned out to be long enough and have a good width for a nice raised panel.

Headboard material laid out.
Headboard parts laid out.

Next I had to decide on a profile.  I purchased a raised panel bit from MLCS Woodworking only to find I was not satisfied with the particular outcome of the test board.  I placed the bit in my bit cabinet and moved on to practicing making a raised panel on the table saw.

MLCS Raised Panel Bit #8685 on left and table saw profiles on right.
MLCS Raised Panel Bit #8685 on left and table saw profiles on right.

I set the blade height to 3/8″ and put on my auxiliary fence (plan from Fine Woodworking Magazine issue #231 by Bob Van Dyke) and set the feather board to the distance for thickness of the bubinga panel.  Keeping in mind that the new fence throws off the measurement tape on the fence rail, I used a steel rule to set the fence 1/4″ to the right of the blade.  Then the first kerf cut was made all around the board referencing the back of the panel on the fence.

Tall fence and featherboard used to make the raised panel.
Tall fence and featherboard used to make the raised panel.

After the relief kerf was cut I then removed the auxiliary fence and feather board, set the blade angle to 45 degrees and positioned the fence and blade height such that the bevel would be cut and not engage the 1/4″ tongue that was made in the previous step.  This was done on each side several times adjusting the fence as needed to remove material.

The panel is dry fit after all the grooves have been cut and the panel was sanded to 320 grit.
The panel is dry fit after all the grooves have been cut and the panel was sanded to 320 grit.

Now the headboard was glued up and ready for some detail work.  After some thought, I realize I should have pre-finished the bubinga with the oil I used on the rest of the bed just in case contraction and expansion revealed a bare streak on the edges.

The headboard all glued up and the panel sanded to 320 grit.
The headboard all glued up and the panel sanded to 320 grit.

Now that the entire perimeter of the bed was made, the mattress supports could be attached.  I set the rails and headboard in position, measured, and cut the mattress supports.  They referenced off the short posts of each foot and were 3/4″ thick and 1″ wide.  Glue and screws attached the supports and tapered face grain plugs (using this from leevalley.com) were cut to cover up the screws.

The mattress supports glued and screwed to the inside of the rails and plugged with tapered face grain plugs of the same species.
The mattress supports glued and screwed to the inside of the rails and plugged with tapered face grain plugs of the same species.

I was toying with the idea of adding a curve to the headboard rail and stiles but I had a thought.  If I were to cut a long subtle curve in the parts, then the whole thing may look odd because of the rectangular raised panel.  The curves and straight lines would conflict.  So I decided to employ a trick I learned from my buddy Marc Spagnuolo, The Wood Whisperer.  That was to use light to bend the wood.  I started by marking out where the curve would have been and then using a spokeshave I cut a long tapering bevel such that the widest point was in the middle of the rail and stiles.  I was thoroughly pleased with the result.  Incidentally, the Hock Spokeshave was a prize from the “Shop Stool Build-Off” in an earlier post.

Hock Low Angle Spokeshave shaping the rail and stiles of the headboard.
Hock Low Angle Spokeshave shaping the rail and stiles of the headboard.

The Details (15 hours of work)

Once the foot and side rails were ready for the trim piece to be glued on I needed to add the curve on the bottom.  I made a template that had just a slight peaking at 3/8″ to 1/2″ on the foot and side rails, respectively.  I removed the waste at the band saw close to the line and template routed flush to the line.  I then clamped the piece to the table and gave it the same treatment as the headboard rail and stiles.

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Shaping the bottom of the rail.

Now it was time to work on the trim pieces to tie the feet into the rails.  I milled four pieces to 7//8″ thick and 1-5/8″ wide then measured each length individually relative to its location.  Glue and clamps attached these pieces to the rails.  When the glue was dry, I scrapped it clean and planed it all flush with my Bailey 606 foreplane.

Flushing the trim on the foot and side rails.
Flushing the trim on the foot and side rails.

The last thing I added to the bed were two pieces of alder that would keep the headboard from leaning back and possibly splitting either the feet or the headboard itself.  They rest against the wall and act like stops.  These were cut about 2-1/8″ wide and tapered to the same width as the trim pieces at the bottom and glued and screwed to the back of the headboard stiles.  They were attached in the same fashion as the mattress supports then sanded by hand to 220 grit.

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Headboard back support and trim.

To blend all the lines together I chamfered all the edges that met at the feet.  This was done with file and block plane.

All the chamfers at the feet and rails.
All the chamfers at the feet and rails.

I also made a taper on all 4 sides of each foot set 1/2″ in from the bottom to give a little more clearance when walking around the bed.  This was done at the band saw and cleaned up with a block plane.  The ends of the rails were not sanded but were planed with a newly sharpened block plane.  I found this to be the easiest way to smooth out all the end grain on this project including the tops of the feet.

The foot detail.
The foot detail.

One thing I did not capture an image of was the mattress cross supports and the cross support spacers that were glued into place on the side rails, however, they may be visible in the photos during assembly.  The cross supports were made from poplar and milled to 5/8″ thick and cut to length.  All edges were chamfered at the router table and got one coat of spray lacquer and sanded lightly with 220 grit.

The Finish

I fully intended to just do a spray lacquer finish on the bed but after doing a few test pieces I decided to first apply Cherry Danish Oil first (paying close attention to the headboard panel to get into the grooves), then Tung Oil, followed by a week of curing, and finally the lacquer was sprayed on.  I used Sherwin Williams Hi-Build Semi Gloss Lacquer and the initial coat was full strength, followed by a light sanding with 320 grit and vacuumed the dust off.  This was done twice.  The final coat was mostly lacquer thinner with a little bit of lacquer, about 80/20 thinner to lacquer.  This last coat smoothed out the finish nicely.

The Assembly

This is straight forward so I will just caption the montage of photos.

Vinny and I sorting the cross supports.
Vinny and I sorting the cross supports.
Looking for #1, Sabrina Xin is helping now.
Looking for #1, Sabrina Xin is helping now.
Now the whole gang is here when Gianni joins the fun.
Now the whole gang is here when Gianni joins the fun.
First the feet.
First the feet.
Gianni feeling the felt.
Gianni feeling the felt.
Gianni and Sabrina Xin confirming the smooth finish.
Gianni and Sabrina Xin confirming the smooth finish.
Vinny helping with the first side rail.
Vinny helping with the first side rail.
Putting in the second rail.
Putting in the second rail.  Notice the cross support spacers.
Dropping in the headboard.
Dropping in the headboard.
Placing the first cross support.
Placing the first cross support.
The help.
The help.
Getting there.
Getting there.
All together!
All together!
Oooo-ing and ahhhh-ing.
Oooo-ing and ahhhh-ing.
Finished and made.
Finished and made.

Foot Detail

Headboard Detail

This was quite the build for me taking most of the summer in 110 degree heat with an even hotter shop.  I don’t know who is more excited about the build though, myself or my son.

I hope you found this to br an interesting and inspiring post.  Thanks for watching.

Veneering the Easy Way

This is an easy way to veneer a surface without the expensive equipment typically used for such tasks.  While I wouldn’t recommend this as a way to veneer a large surface or surfaces with curves, it is a fast way to cover a small surface with a very decorative veneer.

The first step is to have a thin veneer chosen for your project.  I purchase my veneer from veneersupplies.com as they have a wide selection of quality veneer, supplies (it’s in their name), and a lot of information on veneering.  The veneer is very thin measuring around 1/42″ thick.  This is key to this process.  Thicker shop sawn veneer will probably not work in this instance because of the thicker material.

With the veneer chosen it is time to pick a substrate.  I like to use a stable plywood such as apple ply (made in the U.S. of A.) or baltic birch.  Some people prefer MDF and even particle board as they are typically much more stable and free of voids.  The project you have in mind to make and the final destination should be the key factors in choosing your substrate.  If you are in a humid environment I would suggest plywood over MDF.

With your substrate and veneer chosen it is time to begin.  Cut your veneer and substrate slightly oversized (with the veneer larger than the substrate) to allow for final trimming to dimension.

Now spray the show face of the veneer with water to add some moisture.  Not too much, just enough to cover the surface.  You will notice how the veneer starts to curl.  This is normal so don’t be worried.  Then flip it over and roll on some wood glue.  I used TiteBond 1 wood glue but TiteBond 2 would work as well.  Keep in mind that TiteBond 2 and 3 wood glues dry darker than TiteBond 1.  Then roll the glue to a thin even layer on the surface of the veneer.  The glue will add moisture to this face of the veneer and level it out.  That is why you sprayed the show face with water first, to balance it out.

Now set the veneer aside and roll glue onto the surface of the substrate in the same manner.  Once that is finished set it aside and let both surfaces dry until they are no longer sticky from wet glue.  Don’t freak out, you haven’t ruined your material.

Once the glue is dry, place the two glue surfaces together and arrange the veneer so it overhangs the substrate on all sides.  With an iron on the medium heat setting place it in the middle of the veneer and work it out to the edges and toward one end at a time.  Keep the iron moving as not to burn the veneer.  If you didn’t let the glue dry long enough you may see some steam and that can cause the veneer to ripple.  If that happens, just take a sanding block with a hard flat surface and rub the veneer down to the surface.  The glue will be reactivated and it will bond again.  It doesn’t hurt to rub the surface with the sanding block after ironing while it is still warm anyhow.

Now repeat that process to the other side of the substrate to balance it out.  If you don’t the substrate will warp as you are stacking veneer in favor of one face.  When you are finished you should have two nice looking faces of your substrate ready for your next project.

Tools I used in this project (Affiliate Links):
Ink Brayer (glue roller) – http://amzn.to/2ejHUsQ
Iron – http://amzn.to/2fYvuXV
TiteBond Wood Glue – http://amzn.to/2eBEih3
TiteBond II Wood Glue – http://amzn.to/2fCiK4W
Sanding Block: http://amzn.to/2eBNq5b

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DIY Clamp Handle Improvement

I have had a bunch of Bessey clamps in the shop for a while and I’ll admit I hate using them.  When I have to glue some wood together I can’t get enough clamping force on the work pieces because my hands slip on the slick handles.  Until now.

I was walking through the local big box store and found a can of Plasti Dip.  I figured for a few dollars it would be worth the time to coat the wood handles in a rubber coating to make them more “grippy.”  And it sure did work nicely.

I bought both the spray can and the dip can.  Each application has its advantages and uses.  The dip can is great for small parts like handles of tools and such and the spray can is good for larger surfaces like shelves.

The application is simple.  Just stir or shake the can depending on which application method you choose.  Then slowly dip the piece into the can to coat the part or spray several light coats to build the surface up for the final few coats.  It really doesn’t get much more difficult than that.  Once the parts are coated allow them to dry for 4 hours and then they are ready to use.

Enjoy your new clamps and the better grip!

Concrete Dovetail Bench

I enjoy making benches and playing with mixed materials from time to time.  When the opportunity came up to make something using one bag of cement I had an idea.  Incorporate a traditional woodworking joint into cement and make a modern bench at the same time.  Thus the design of a cement formed dovetail leg and a single board bench seat.

For this project I used exactly one 80lb bag of Quikrete 5000 cement.  The form I made measures 10.5″ x 18″x 1.5″.  It was constructed of melamine and screwed together.  Making forms is a simple process, you just need your design in mind and remember that the form is an outline of the end result.  Also remember you will need to remove the form easily when the cement cures.  If you are making holes inside the form use plastic that can be cut away or pulled apart for easy removal.

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I mixed the cement in a bucket with a grout mixer in a drill.  This made mixing very fast and easy.  The cement was then poured into the form and vibrated to relieve the bubbles from the bottom and sides.  Note that it helps to have the form vibrating as the cement is being poured to ensure the air bubbles come off the surfaces quickly.  Also keep in mind to use some sort of reinforcement for the structural integrity of the cement.  I used mason ladder wire in the middle of the form.  Pour half the cement, place the ladder wire, and pour the rest.

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When the cement is all in the form you will need to vibrate/tap on the form for 60 minutes, no less.  Otherwise you will have holes in the surfaces.  Allow the cement to cure per the instructions from the manufacturer.

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With the cement curing for a few days I worked on milling the wood bench.  I used a custom milled and air dried white oak board that was 11″ wide.  I cut it to 36″ long and milled it to thickness.  I would have liked it to be 1″ thick but the warping in the board brought it to 3/4″ after milling.  Any knots were filled and stabilized with tinted epoxy and the final milling was completed.

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Once the cement was cured I removed it from the form and cleaned it up with some sand paper to tidy the edges.  I placed the form upside down on the ends of the wood seat and traced out the pin locations.  Use your preferred method for cutting dovetails here.  I like using my hand saw and chisels but you can use a bandsaw as well.

Clean up the ends of the board and apply the finish of your choosing.  I went with a few coats of oil varnish.

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It is time to push the seat into the dovetails to set the with of the legs.  I wanted to add steel rope to hold the legs together and I found these Hammock Hangers looked great for this purpose.  I positioned the hangers in the middle of the legs, pre-drilled a 3/16″ hole for the 1/4″ TapCon screws, the steel rope was cut to length, the loops were made with the hoops inside (this has to be done at the same time), and I drove the TapCons in place to anchor the hangers.

To tighten the steel rope I used a turnbuckle similar to those used for gate supports.  Just turn the turnbuckle until the steel rope is stretched and the legs aren’t pulled in too much, do not over tighten.  The seat will tell you when to stop.  You can also hold a square to the seat and legs to be a guide.

Now put the bench in a nice location and enjoy.  Be sure to move this with a friend.  It isn’t rigid enough to pick up alone and the dovetails may be brittle.  Treat this bench with care and it should last for a long time.

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Here is a list of the products I used with exception of the cement (affiliate links):
Hammock Hangers – http://goo.gl/ttR6Di
3/16″ Masonry Bit – http://goo.gl/IK5P85
1/8″ Steel Rope – http://goo.gl/gpuW5C
Steel Rope Thimbles – http://goo.gl/1gIO2p
Cable Clamps (similar) – http://goo.gl/9eT0QP
Turnbuckle – http://goo.gl/1ZHRw5
Varathane Outdoor Varnish – http://goo.gl/kY5JkV

Shop AC Installation, Part 3: The Mini Split

With the garage door insulated I noticed a decent temperature reduction and stabilization throughout the day.  Typically, the shop would reach 101-103 degrees at 4pm when the sun was in full force.  With the door insulated the shop was now about 10-12 degrees cooler at that same time of day.  Still hot inside but 92 degrees is better than 103 degrees.

Here is a chart of indoor and outdoor temps I tracked for a couple of weeks after sealing and insulating the garage door and then installing the AC.  Aside from looking like a penguin lying on it’s back, it helps to show what steps can be taken to most economically reduce the temperature inside your shop.  Not everyone has the luxury of shop AC but weather stripping, insulating the bay door(s), and attic space insulation and an attic fan can significantly help balance the indoor temperature.

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Now lets install the AC.  I installed an 18,000 BTU 17.7 SEER 240V Pioneer Mini Split.  It starts by clearing a space to work locating studs and hanging the indoor unit’s bracket.  The screws provided were so wimpy that I replaced them with longer, 2″, self-tapping screws for added security.  The indoor unit isn’t that heavy to begin with but I would prefer 1.5″ of holding power in a stud vs 5/8″.

With the mounting bracket installed I then chose the location for the outdoor condenser.  It am placing it directly on the opposite side of the wall so there is no need to run long lines.  I made the form, placed some rebar in the middle of the form, then mixed and poured the concrete.  Once the form was filled, I used a 2×4 on edge to screed it and then troweled it smooth.  The concrete was left to cure for a few days according to the manufacturer’s suggestions.

Wiring the indoor fan for power was an interesting process, which I’ll address in a moment.  First you have to flip the unit over and remove the back corner panel for access to run the wire.  Then flip it back over and open the front cover to access the electrical connections.

Run the wire through the opening to bring the wire to the connection bar.  This particular unit was different than others I had seen as they labeled the wires 1, 2, 3 and the instructions made no mention of which was which.  I just looked at the corresponding wires on the other end and attached them accordingly.  Now wiring the unit was interesting because the U-lugs didn’t fit into the connections.  I ended up cutting the connectors off, twisted the wires, inserted them, and clamped them in place.  Now we are ready to proceed.

The hole was drilled in the wall, the lines were connected to the indoor unit, and they were run through the wall.  The hole to be drilled for this unit is 2.5″ in diameter and should be drilled at a slight downward angle.  It is best practice to drill through the wall and when the pilot bit passes through the siding on the outside then you drill from the outside to have a clean hole.  Once the hole was drilled the hole in the attic eave is located for the power line.  When that was being drilled I went into the attic and fished the line through the hole for the installer to save time.  Now here is the difference between doing something yourself and hiring someone to do it for you: Quality of work.  In an effort to not micromanage an AC installer I left him to do the work as he normally would.  Big mistake.  After he drilled the hole (no problem), connected the lines to the indoor unit (no problem), he then pushed all the lines through the wall and hung the unit.  He didn’t bother using the plastic sleeve and bushing to line the hole and seal the insulation from the lines.  It was partially my mistake not to notice this until the installer had hooked everything up and was about to cover the lines with a sheet metal cover.  When I mentioned it he said “well, it’s too late now.  I would have to unhook everything to fix that.”  What an idiot.  Both him (because he was) and me (for not noticing earlier).  So I just filled the hole with spray foam insulation and hoped that would be ok.

The final step was to connect the copper lines and wire the outdoor unit for power.  The copper lines need to be connected with a flaring tool.  This is the main reason I had an AC installer come out to do the hook up for me.  Once the lines were connected the installer then used a vacuum pump and nitrogen to pressurize and test for leaks (the second reason for an installer).

With everything working it was time to turn the power on and start up the unit.  From the chart at the beginning of this entry you can see the temperature difference in the shop to the outside.  It has been a pleasure to be in the shop on the hot days not only to work but to get out of the heat and cool down in my castle.

DIY Pallet Wood Stool with Downloadable Plan

It has been a year since my last pallet project.  For the past 3 years Sterling Davis hosts an event titled the “Pallet Upcycle Challenge” and this is my second time being involved.  For more info on Sterling’s event click here.

Plans are available in the sidebar in exchange for a donation amount of your choice.

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Since that first project, here, I had acquired several pallets and I needed to thin the herd.  I found a few different quick projects that I thought would be a good way to part with some of them.  One of which was this stool.  I liked the simplicity of it and seeing that I needed a better stool for my shop it would make a great temporary addition until I can make my Rush Seat Stool.

To get started with this project I had to break down a pallet.  Because this stool only used smaller parts I was able to cut the thin slats from the pallet supports with a jig saw.  These pieces were just over 19″ long.  The nails were pulled from the three thicker supports to ensure no damage to my power tool blades.

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Each slat then had an edge cleaned up at the table saw with a taper sled.  This allowed me to get a decent cut at the miter saw to cut the pieces to final length.  Then I ripped a taper on each let part.  4 pieces had a 1/2″ foot and a 2-1/2″ top and the other 4 pieces had a 1″ foot and a 3″ top.  This is because the pieces are 1/2″ thick and when they are butt jointed to form a leg they will look symmetric.

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The seat pieces were cleaned in the same fashion and edge glued to make a panel.  The legs were glued at the same time to cut down on the time wasted waiting for glue to dry as these 5 pieces were the only parts that were glued.

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To keep everything as square as possible during assembly (which is nearly impossible to do with non milled pallet wood) I made 2 sub assemblies with the top stretchers, or aprons, and 2 legs.  The aprons were positioned with the legs, pre-drilled, and nailed together with the pallet nails that I sharpened points on to help with the driving in.

When the legs were complete it was time to get a measurement for the other 2 aprons.  I did this by setting the 2 leg assemblies upside down on the seat and positioning them so there was a slight overhang on the seat.  Then I took the measurement and cut the pieces at the miter saw.  There were attached in the same fashion as the other stretchers this time using shorter nails as I was driving them into the sides of the aprons instead of the ends as done prior.

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With the 2 legs now connected I could now cut the lower stretchers.  This is just as simple as the aprons.  Take the measurement, cut to length, pre-drill, nail into place.  The only trick is to place them high enough on the legs so the but joints are hidden behind the legs.  This position is entirely dependent on the severity of the leg taper.  Mine had to be about 6-1/4″ from the bottom.

Not attach the seat.  It is as simple as placing it into position so the overhang is equal around the base, pre-drilling, and driving the nails in 4 corners.  Now you have a functional stool though it is going to be really rough as nothing has been sanded yet.  Do that now using 80-100 paper on a sander of your choice.  I used 100 grit on a random orbit sander and sanded for about 25 minutes.

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The surface could be sanded further if you like the plain wood look, which would have been nice as I had a good looking quarter saw piece of oak on the seat, or do as I did and whitewash, paint, or stain the stool for a different look altogether.  I used General Finishes Whitewash mixed with Vintage Cherry, Orange, and Medium Brown dye stains for added subtle color.  Once the wash was mixed I daubed and brushed it on with a sponge brush.  When mixing these colors on a surface it is best to use long strokes of each color overlapping the next then allowing it to dry.  This makes the colors blend and look like the piece had been painted several times over the years.

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With a 150 sanding disc on the random orbit sander I sanded through the wash to reveal wood beneath and broke the edges of the seat, legs, and stretchers even more.  This gives the stool an old worn appearance.

Finally the stool was given a good coat of Minwax Polycrylic water borne finish.  I like this finish the best for reclaimed wood indoor projects as it retains the natural wood look without darkening over time.  Also, the whitewash is water based and I didn’t want to use a topcoat of an oil based finish.  Just my preference really.

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After it has good time to cure I then lightly wipe the surface with 400 paper to smooth it out and it is ready for it’s photo finish.

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Chinese Inspired Bed with Cherry Blossom Inlay

Upon returning from China after the completion of my daughter’s adoption, I decided to set out to make her a bedroom set.  I was ambitions with my design and chose to integrate cherry blossoms into her furniture pieces.  I started with her bed.  I took inspiration from other furniture we saw on the trip and continued designing until I found a style my wife and I liked.

This video below is a brief over view of the process.

This video is a little longer and shows more of the build in greater detail.  I chose not to narrate my work in this video as, chances are, very few if any people are going to want to make this same bed.

Due to popular demand I will quickly talk about the main construction of the bed starting with the foot board (head board is the same) and then the rails.

In the longer version of the bed build you will see that it starts with the lamination of the feet.  I started with an oversized laminated blank for each foot.  When the glue had cured I then milled the feet to the final thickness, width, and length then set them aside.

The next step was to create the cross pieces that would connect the feet for the foot and head boards.  These could be done in two different ways: 1) you could edge glue the top and bottom pieces from the three different thicknesses of strips to form the stepped profile or 2) mill the bottom piece to max thickness (about 5/8″) and cut a rabbet on each side about half way up to make a 3/8″ stepped double sided moulding (for lack of a better term).  I liked option 2 best as it would allow for grain continuity and the thinner piece would be centered easily.

With the lower rail shaped it was time to use the 5/8″ thickness to dictate the top rail.  I then milled a piece of material to 7/8″ thickness and repeated the double sided rabbet to form a lower step of 5/8″ to match the lower rail.  This is imperative that the thickness match as there is a middle stile that connects the upper and lower rail.  Which I will address in a moment.

Be sure to sand now because if you sand after you cut the mortises the rails will be loose.  Now that both the upper and lower rails are profiled it is time to cut them to length.  This is entirely dependent on the size of your mattress and the thickness of the feet (to account for the protrusion of the rail on the outer side of each foot).  All you need to know know though is that you need to keep an off cut from each rail to trace the shape onto the sides of each corresponding foot.  I started with the lower rail, tracing the outline of the rail with a marking knife, then drilling halfway through on opposite sides at the drill press to remove the bulk.  If you were to make these in a production shop I would make a template that could be clamped to the foot and then rout the material followed by some chiseling.  Or just use a hollow chisel mortiser.  If you go the drill press rout as I did, then you will have a fair amount of chiseling to do.  Just be careful to keep your chisels perpendicular to the faces of the feet.  When the lower through mortises are finished repeat the process for the top rails only this material can be removed at the band saw as seen in the video.

Now it is time to mill the middle stile to 5/8″ thick and how ever wide and long you want it to be.  I chose to use a version of a birdsmouth joint as seen in a lot of chinese furniture but a simple butt joint with a biscuit, dowel, or domino to reinforce it would be perfectly fine as well.  Mark the center of each rail and the stile make your joinery but don’t attach yet.

Now do a test fit of all the pieces, the feet, rails, and stile to see if everything comes together as desired.  The width needed to accommodate your bed should be addressed now.  Keep in mind the hardware placement in the feet and how far that is from the inside corners of the feet and the length of the rails between the feet.  A standard twin size mattress is around 35-1/2″ inches wide and the feet I made were 3″ square with 5/8″ wide hardware on center.  So 35.5 (overall inner width) – (2)1.1875 (the distance from the inner edge of the foot to the edge of the hardware*) = 33.125 or 33-1/8″  that was the distance between the two feet for a twin size mattress (don’t hold me to that, measure for your own application).

If everything fits well, glue it up.  Start by gluing the bottom rail through the feet checking for the proper width between the feet as you progress.  Now the middle stile needs to be glued in place if you are using dowels, biscuits, mortise and tenons, or domino joinery.  Just glue the bottom of the stile into place though.  Now place the top rail between the feet and glue the middle stile at the same time.  Clamp the middle stile and wait for the whole thing to dry.

Once dry, clean the tops of the feet and rail up with a block plane and prepare that surface for the cap rail.  I milled that piece to about 3-1/4″ wide but in hind sight I should have made it 3-1/8″ with the 1/8″ overhang on the outside of the foot board and not equally on the outside and inside.  That overhang made the rail assembly difficult without shaping the top corners of the rails which allowed them to drop into place, which I though of at the time but wanted it to work.  Goes to show you can’t beat physics.  The length of the cap rail is also dependent on the length of the foot board and the protrusion of the rails BUT I would suggest to keep the extension past the feet minimal.  Otherwise you will have sore shins, don’t ask me how I know this.

Glue that cap rail in place after some shaping and sanding and you are set to move onto the rails.  Again, a process that is entirely dependent on your design.  So here is a video on how to install that hardware.

Now you are armed with enough information on how I made the foot and head boards.  Watch the video (Ep. 52) to see how I assembled everything and feel free to ask questions either in the comments of this article, the video, or email me at sean@seanrubino.com.

*Note:  There has to be some material on the sides of the hardware at the ends of the rails.  This material allows for a space between the mattress and the rail so that making the bed is a little easier.  Though it is entirely dependent on the thickness of your rails.  See, lots of variables, plan accordingly.

Turning a Hollow Form and Vase

My father bought a few burls while on a trip to Oregon and brought them to my shop about 2 months ago.  One of the burls was an odd “L” shaped piece of madrone.  I cut the ends off to get a rectangular block leaving 2 burl caps to play with.  Once I made the first slice at the bandsaw I noticed there were worm tracks throughout the block.  Initially I was disappointed and apprehensive as I didn’t want a potential outbreak of bugs eating my lumber stash so moved the burls outside to monitor the worm activity.

A c0uple weeks later, I took the small burl caps and decided to turn one into a small 5″ vase and the other into a small spherical hollow form.  I mounted a blank to a waste block in the chuck with hot melt glue and pressed it into place with the tail stock.  Once the glue was cool and set I began the initial shaping of the outside form.  The video shows my process for shaping the outside.

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When I reached the desired shape of the form, I sanded through the grits starting with 150 grit and finishing with 600.  Then I drilled a hole in the center to establish the depth of the form.  I drew an image, seen below, though not the actual shape of the form I made, that shows the series of cuts to hollow the small vessel.

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I start the cuts at the center of the edge of the drilled hole and pull the scraper/gouge toward the outside making single smooth cuts.  As the form is hollowed further I switch to the bent hollowing tool and make push cuts in and toward the center.  Hollowing is much different than bowl turning as you can’t typically see what you are doing and all the cuts are done by feel.  Surprisingly, you can tell if there are ridges and bumps as the scraper will have some resistance as you level them out.  The final cut should be made with a scraper from the opening to the bottom of the form.

The vase was similar only more simply made.

To finish the pieces I used a wipe on Danish Oil.  The first coat was allowed to dry then sanded off completely and reapplied.  This helps to fill the grain for a very smooth surface.  Each subsequent coat was sanded with 600 grit and reapplied for a total of 5 coats.  After the final coat had cured, I buffed the surface with a 5,000 grit automotive sanding pad to achieve a satin shine.

 

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Though I am not finished working on these pieces one could call them done.  I am going to further this project by preparing the insides for metal leaf, either copper or dutch metal (imitation gold).  But that is a topic for another day.

My Polyurethane Varnish Technique

The video below is a guide to follow for any satin oil polyurethane varnish application so I will simply list the items you will need to do what you will see in the video tutorial.  All items are affiliate links.

Oil Finish:

Danish Oil, Tung Oil, Boiled Linseed Oil, or Teak Oil (for outdoor applications)

Gloss Oil Polyurethane (Minwax)

Satin Oil Polyurethane (General Finishes Arm-R-Seal)

Supplies:

Paint Filters

Containers

Cotton Applicators

Gloves

Mineral Oil

Mineral Spirits

Sand Paper/Pads: 320, 400, 600, 1200, 3000, 5000

DIY Hollowing Tool

A few years ago, I bought a router from Harbor Freight (HF) to use in my horizontal mortiser, which I still need to make.  The router came with a fence and the rails were removable.  Ultimately, I discarded the router base and all the accessories except for the two rails for the fence.  I felt there was some sort of purpose for them but didn’t know what at that time.

Smash cut 2 years later, I just finished gluing up my daughter’s headboard panel and had time to kill in the shop as it was still early (10 pm).  I saw one of the bars from the HF router sitting on my counter (yes, 2 years later it was still sitting on my counter) so I picked it up and decided it would make a good hollowing tool.  Yes, I have ADD but have not been clinically tested.

With my metal vice and a MAP/Pro torch I began heating and bending the shape of the hollowing tool.  There are two types to make.  One with a slight bend for initial hollowing and one with a more aggressive bend for final hollowing.  I chose the latter for this one.

After bending the shape I then ground the cutting end and heat treated the steel to harden and temper it.  While the steel was in the oven tempering I made the handle from a scrap piece of maple and a 3/4″ copper cap.  Didn’t want to waste time.

When the steel cooled I inserted it into the handle, spray painted it black, and touched up the top and the bevel at the grinder (15-20 degrees) and with fine sandpaper.  It was then time to see how the tool worked.  Surprisingly it worked well and I was happy with the result.  I will be using this tool to make more small hollow forms in the future.

DIY Kid’s Workbench with Downloadable Plan

My son, Vinny, has been asking me to help him make his own workbench for a while now.  Since Father’s Day was approaching we made an agreement that he could come out in the shop and build his bench with my help on that day.  As an aside, I milled and cut all the parts to final dimension before we began the build.

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There is a plan you can purchase (see sidebar) and a video (below) that you can use as an overview on how the bench goes together.  It will take about a day to complete while you wait for glue to dry and if you decide to mill all the material the same day.

As a side note, I made Vinny’s bench with a split in the top for a planing stop and tool rack.  If you want a solid top be sure to measure the width of the legs and make the top pieces wide enough to span that distance.

The result is a nice bench for your apprentice to use for a few years and when he outgrows it you can use it as either a saw bench or a place to sit on your patio.

Enjoy!