Friday, December 18, 2009

Outdoor Furniture

I've always enjoyed picnic tables - they are very simple yet can handle years of weather and abuse by their users.  As soon as we moved to Dallas I knew that we had to get some outdoor furniture for the back patio and couldn't resist building a picnic table.  I went with cedar not only for the beauty of the wood, but also with the hopes that it would last for many years.  For the design I wanted to to have a different take on the classic design of a picnic table.  To do this I made the table top using slates and a variety of seating options. I finished the outdoor set off with a cedar cooler.

To begin the project I started with the body of the table.  First I cut all the slats out of some 1x6 cedar and made the frame with some 2x4s.  The long edges of the 2x4s are notched to allow the slats to sit inside them.  This allowed the use of just one brace longways under the table and less lumber overall.

After the top I moved on to its footing, working from the top down.  I used the traditional slanted legs, overall a very simple structure.

The top is glued on to the base, completing the table.  For seating, i always hated benches because they just aren't easy to get up from when there are people sitting next to you.  This lead me to use individual benches, using the same design as the top of the table.

In the end I only built the individual seats for one side as I was low on lumber.  For the other side I used the same style for a solid bench.  Below is the finished project.

The cooler was a random build using leftovers from the table.  I built a simple base and surround for the chest, filling the empty space with spray foam and finishing off the top with flat cedar to give it a single unit look.

I cut up the top of the ice chest mounting it to a solid wood top, attached, added some hardware and a brass drain to complete the project.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

End Grain Cutting Board

My latest project is an end grain cutting board made using Maple, Jatoba, and Texas Ebony.  I've only made two cutting boards, my first being a simple maple block that I made in school about 10 years ago (proud to say that it is still in use!), so I wanted to build one with a little more pop this time. I purchased the wood about 10 months or so ago on a pretty tight budget, which is how I ended up with the combo used.  The maple is reasonably priced in large quantities, however it also doesn't offer a lot of character when used on an end grain project (I'm not knocking maple.. i really love the stuff, I just wanted some color).  Knowing I had to be selective on wood types I went down to the local wood store and asked for some help choosing a variety of hardwoods that would achieve my goal of a light wood, a medium brown, then a black wood.  For the black color I wanted Ebony was my first pick, however very out of the question price-wise.  That is until the employee showed me a load of Texas Ebony they just received.  These pieces were already rough cut to the size I needed and darn near Ebony in color. I was sold. And a little poorer.  The Texas Ebony was about half the price of real Ebony, but I'm cheap.  The last wood choice was entirely the store's idea and the color was perfect.  For a medium brown I ended up purchasing a good length of Jatoba, which was surprisingly very reasonable.  The combination worked well together, now I just hope the glue holds and I don't end up with multiple cutting boards. Here is a finished picture, then we'll dive into the process...

So months after I purchased the wood I realized that I grossly underestimated the amount of wood to buy, as I had wanted to build a block a little larger that was about 3" thick with no need for legs. Anyways, to start the process I cut the wood into lengths that provided enough slats and began gluing them up a few at a time. This progressed slowly over a 2 or 3 week period gluing when I could, resulting in these photos (sorry for the blur, some were with the phone):

The end result of the gluing was a large slab of wood in a semi-random order.  This chunk would then get planed before getting cut into slats.

To continue my trend of screw up honesty, I will admit that I often cut twice and measure once, or mis-measure, or I'm bad at math.. whatever. This resulted in two separate slabs needing to be glued up as shown below.

Next up, trimming and crosscutting these bad boys into their final shapes before further gluing.

Next up, gluing the newly trimmed strips together.  I just turned every other piece around so the joints won't match up and to give a little pattern to the what was supposed to be random piece.  Let the glue-fest begin:

After that mess I planed it...

And began the feet.  I had some Texas Ebony left over; sanded a beveled edge, cut, doweled, and glued onto the bottom of the board.

The top got a matching beveled edge with the router, a good sand job, a little oil, and is now ready for some chopping in the kitchen.

I like the look of the block's pattern even though it wasn't intentional and learned a lot on this project.  First, get better at math. Wasting wood sucks and is expensive. Second, use pieces of wood between your clamps and the project.  I cracked a few end joints in the final glue up because the pressure from the clamps wasn't evenly applied.  I think I doctored them back to life, but only time will tell how long this block will last in the kitchen.  My last one is still going strong, but this end grain style has so many joints we will see.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tile Top Desks

With the limited time available often the projects I get to build are those that are for either something I, or something someone else needs. Such is the case with this two project post, both of which are tile topped desks. My mom and Dana's mom were both in need of new desks in the course of the past two years, so it provided me with a new project and solved gift situations.  The task: build desks that would fit each of their houses, while still providing a sturdy and lasting piece of furniture.  The solution: solid wood desks with marble tops.  These would allow enough room for creativity in the legs and shelves to match the houses they would later go in, while using a top that is cheap, easy to install, and sure to last for years to come.  Here are a few pictures of the finished projects. (also included is my attempt at learning photoshop)

The first desk is made of Poplar using an ebony stain. The legs are supported with steel rods bent into curvy shapes(better name for these anyone?). The second is all oak wood frame that was stained with two different shades.  I was hoping for a darker brown but two days before Christmas this color had to work.  It ended up contrasting with the balck and tile well, just not exactly what I had in mind.  The following pictures will look at the construction behind the two.  Starting with the table tops, each has a plywood base that the tile and wood frame sits on. The first two are from the Oak desk, the last from the Poplar desk.

Next, building a base unit for each. Again, the Oak desk first, Poplar second.

Next was putting together leg braces...

And finally putting it all together and staining. The tiles are brought up to the height of the finish wood with some particle board layers, and are glued in with silicone.  I used one broken tile per desk to help finish off the proper heights of the wood by sanding to the trash tile.  This let me ensure proper fit with minimal tile breakage(again.. may not be a word).  The Oak desk also has wicker drawers that are garden ridge style drawers attached to woods bases. The bases are smaller than the baskets allowing them to remain hidden while offering the support needed for office supplies.

And one more time, the finished product: