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I know this is an RV blog, but it’s also my RV blog. And if I’m going to blog about what I’ve been up to, well, this week, that’s woodworking. I seem to get the bug each fall, as the weather turns colder and there’s less to do outside. I had a big project in mind, and this weekend was the perfect opportunity to get started, since I certainly wasn’t going to landscape around the RV pad.
So, about this project.
Stef and I don’t watch a lot of TV. One of the big reasons for this is that our TV stopped working four years ago. No, really. One day, it just didn’t turn on, and neither one of us has done anything about it. It still sits there, in all its 4×3 glory, nestled inside an entertainment center that’s straight out of 1995.
Now, I’m not necessarily anxious to start wasting hour after hour in front of the TV, but lately, the 20 year old entertainment setup is getting a little embarrassing. No one really has those any more, and televisions from this century are generally too wide to fit inside furniture. So, the plan is for me to make a low console table which will sit underneath a wall-mounted television (A television which, I guess, I’ll finally have to buy. I kept telling myself I was going to wait to buy a new TV until they got that whole digital conversion thing figured out. But that was five years ago, so maybe it’s time…)
I have a couple pieces I’ve already made for the family room, and so we want the new piece to be in the same vein. Here’s a side table for reference.
The top has a zinc inlay, which I treated chemically to age it. The wood is a maple that had been heat treated to turn it dark brown. The drawer is very traditional, is fully inset, and doesn’t run on any metal hardware. (No full-extension drawer glides here!) There are a couple other details scratched into the piece with a beading tool. And once the piece was put together and perfect, I beat the heck out of it so it would look “old”. All of these are elements I plan to keep in whatever I come up with.
You call that a plan?
So the first step in coming up with the design was to head to the local furniture store and see what other people have come up with. This trip was not completely helpful. We left the store with a $200 mattress topper* and this very crude sketch:
*This mattress topper, by the way, is made of natural latex foam. We got it to replace the “memory foam” mattress topper that escaped from a Chinese poison factory and tried to kill us with corrosive vapors while we slept. Long story…
Eventually, I refined the sketch a bit, came up with this, and figured this was a good enough excuse to start making sawdust.
OK, so I only drew this one elevation. And, uh, this sketch is only approximately to scale. I have very vague ideas on how I’m going to construct the thing. And the sizes of the pieces aren’t even finalized Yep. That’s the full extent of my plan.
Anyone who knows me would tell you that it’s completely out of character for me to start a project like this without having planned everything out to the last detail. I know that starting a project with only this much of a plan is a terrible idea. It will lead to all sorts of errors, mis-cut pieces, and wasting perfectly good (and expensive) wood.
Awesome. So when do we start?
First step was to locate raw materials. Unfortunately, when I bought the wood for the other tables, I didn’t buy any extra. The place I got it from has since quit carrying it. Oh, it’s still available, but they were unwilling to order it for me in quantities of less than a thousand board-feet. Since I wasn’t building, you know, an ARK, I had to give up on that wood. And I’ve also given up on that supplier, because frankly, they were kind of rude about it. (I won’t mention them by name, but their name sounds exactly like “High Mountain Forest Products”.)
With the original wood out of consideration, the closest thing I could find is something called “Peruvian Walnut”. It was in stock and available locally (and somewhat affordably) at MacBeath Hardwood in Salt Lake City. I drug Stef along, and we headed down to pick some out.
This place is really kind of fun. It’s like a candy store for wood nerds, but with the very real possibility of getting hurt. Thirty board feet and three hundred dollars later, we were headed home with most of our future entertainment center.
Step 1 – building up the legs
So, with my super-lame plan, I don’t really have much information to know what to cut. But I DO know I need some legs. Eight of them, in fact. And I know that they’re no more than thirty inches high, and probably about two inches square. The wood I got was only an inch or so thick (4/4), so the first step – and about the only one I can execute with any confidence – is to glue up some leg blanks.
I’m going to make nine of them, because I guarantee that I will screw up and ruin one at some point. I’ll make them two and a quarter inches square or so, and will trim them to final dimensions once I’ve got them all made.
Gluing up leg blanks is actually pretty uneventful. I cut the raw lumber into strips at the band-saw; jointed one face and edge; and then sent them through the thickness planer so I would have nice flat faces to glue together.
After that, it was a lot of glue, and a lot of clamps, and let them sit overnight.
And after day one, I’ve got three leg blanks.
So, now I just have to repeat the whole process two more times, and I’ll have my nine legs for my eight-legged table. I should get that done this week.
And hopefully, that will give me time to work out the rest of the plan… Or maybe not…
Goodbye from the woodshop!
An old woodworker once told me you should always make a detailed sketch of your project before starting and then put the sketch in a drawer and forget about it. After you are finished your project pull the sketch out of the drawer and if it looks anything like your original sketch that’s a bonus, if it doesn’t, no big deal, no one but you will ever know!
Love it! I knew I couldn’t be the only one.
The funny thing is, if you believe Fine Woodworking, most of the pros will go as far as making a full size mockup before finalizing their design.
If I took the time to make a full size mockup out of 2x4s and cardboard, I’d probably just wind up using that instead!