The Bookshelf

Finally… it’s kind of finished.

After a month of screwing around aside from some trim my bookshelf is completed.  The top, sides, and vertical partitions are made of oak-veneers plywood with stop-dados rounded in for the shelving.  The shelves are oak-veneered plywood with a solid oak nosing that I attached using a reversible glue bit joint created on my router and a bunch of wood glue.  The stain is red oak with a spar urethane finish over everything and it’s glued and brad nailed together.

Overall I’m really pleased considering this is my first major woodworking undertaking.  A couple of things that I learned in the process.

  1. When you’re making a built-in, spend extra time getting everything square and level, and then spend some more time getting everything square and level.  The framework of the bookshelf itself is pretty good, but the backing (which is 1/4″ oak-veneered plywood) is on a wall that angles in about an inch from top to bottom.  So most shelves are not tight against the back of the unit.  Not cool at all.
  2. Reversible glue joint bits are a bitch to setup, but awesome after you have them figured out.
  3. Wear a hag or hankerchief over your head when you’re staining.  The first set of shelves that I stained are “spotted” with areas where I sweated and the stain didn’t take quite the same way that it did on the rest of the material.
  4. Apply wood glue with a small brush, only use as much as you need to, and clean up squeeze out as well as you possibly can! That crap really shows up after you stain!

Playing with my new Dewalt Track Saw

Well it’s official.  I outgrew my portable table saw.  But I lack the space for a serious upgrade right now, so instead of building a new shop I decided to go a different route: I bought a DEWALT DWS520CK 6-1/2-Inch 12-AMP TrackSaw. I also picked up a set of  TrackSaw Track Clamps and a Router Adapter to go with it.

I was sold on the particular model that I bought based on this this video from The Wood Whisperer. As usual he didn’t steer me wrong.  This saw is amazing.  I’m not cutting sheet stock like nobody’s business.  My only complaint is that on the back edge of the cut I did see a little bit of tear-out, but it’s pretty minimal and an be eliminated by making sure that the work piece is stabilized on both sides of the cut.

After I ripped and crosscut a piece for my bookshelf and verified just how damned accurate the cut was (hint: way more accurate than my previous solution using a circular saw and a jointed piece of MDF), I decided I wanted to play with the router guide. It was incredibly easy to attach to my router, though you can see from the silly video below I’m still getting the hang of setting it up for accurate cuts.  It’s difficult for me to see exactly where the router blade will fall, but that problem has more to do with my inexperience with setting up a router than anything to do with the track or router guide.  Enjoy the video below!

Playing with my Dewalt Track Saw

A Reclaimed Slab Bench

These are my confessions…

I’m a hoarder. Okay, not so much a hoarder as just one frugal son of a bitch: I can’t stand to see things get thrown away when they’ve got potential left in them to be awesome or at least functional.  So when my friend Steve showed me this giant slab of oak from his granddad’s basement that he was going to cut up for firewood I intervened.  Let me make a “thing” out of it!

I decided to make it into a bench to sit at my firepit.  My first attempt was pretty terrible.  I decided to let it look rustic. Which in my mind meant let it look like it’s been in a damp basement being consumed by bugs.  I hastily cut two legs out of some similarly rough-looking thick oak I found in my own basement, pegged them into the slap, and BAM! Bench.

Then my dad sat on it. And then he fell.

Cleaning up the Slab

So I set out to take another stab at the bench.  The slap measure about 20 inches across and about three inches thick.  I drug it into the shop, ripped the edges back to solid wood, and four hours of hand planing and sanding later it looked about half decent.

Reinforcing the Legs

The legs were still a problem.  I decided to hell with joinery: I’m just not all that good at it yet. So I enforced the legs by drilling from above them into the bench and installing some long wood screws.  I hid the screws with a few pieces of dowel rod, glued in and sanded flush with the bench.

The Runner

The legs were vertically stable but if the bench was rocked in either direction I felt they might twist and give into the pressure.  So I grabbed a long fir 4×4 off my junk pile that had been ripped out of the house, planed it smooth, then ripped it to the same length as the bench.  I broke out the plunge router and cut matching 4×4 holes in either leg, then cut two 1 1/2″ x 3/4″ holes at either end of the runner that I could use to install legs which locked it tight against the legs. I cut out four pegs out of some other scrapped and rounded them off with the orbital sander.

The Finish

After everything was cleaned up and I ensured a tight fit with all the pieces, I disassembled and stained it.  I stained the bench and legs with Minwax red oak, the runner with Early American, and the pegs with jacobeen. It was a gamble but they ended up looking nice together.

The Ants… Oh God, the Ants!

I knew there were ants in the wood and I tried to remove them with an air hose and the Shop-Vac.  But after I stained everything… my god. They were everywhere.  The next morning I found a colony of them dying in a circle.  And after each coat of polyeurethane I found find a more crawling around.  Luckily none of them made it into the finished product!

The end result ended up looking  just too damned nice to leave outside.  It’s oak.  Even with several coats of polyeurethane I know on account of how irregular I left it water would eventually pool in the crevices and ruin it.  So it resides in my living room now.

The Busy Homeowner Guy, Part 1 Revisited

Pretty much the same lamp I bought.

In my last post I forgot the post important drywall finishing tip of all: use a halogen lamp to locate imperfections! Without a good light source to shine on the subject, you might as well call Hellen Keller General Contracting to finish your drywall for you.  Pick up a halogen lamp, the brighter the better, and shine it at all angles on your walls and ceiling to spot imperfections that you’ll never see what the naked eye.  Well… until there is paint on your wall and they’re significantly more annoying to fix.

The Busy Homeowner Guy, Part 1

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Holy crap have I been busy.

Last we talked I recalled the tale of a vicious beating I took at the hands of a 12 foot sheet of drywall that fell off the lift I neglected to understand prior to use.  Since then I’ve gotten a lot accomplished and I’ll be posting my progress over the next several days as I recover from a pulled muscle in my lower back and get absolutely nothing of a physical nature accomplished.

Hanging the Drywall in my Office

During the remodel of my bedroom I learned a couple of things that I took into account when prepping for the office remodel:

  1. The more you glue the less you screw, and that makes finishing your drywall that much quicker.Use LIQUID NAILS or another construction adhesive on the back of your sheets and then stare in amazement as they hang with excellent stability with three or four screws per row instead of 5 or more.
  2. Plan for the least number of joints, especially butt joints. Think about your room dimensions ahead of time and order drywall lengths and widths that will minimize the number of joints you need to finish and, ideally, will eliminate butt joints completely.
  3. If your house is old or otherwise horribly studded, use 2×4 scabs and furring strips to square up your room and simplify hanging. My house is more than 150 years old and nothing is square so this step is pretty important for good results.

During the hanging and finishing in the office I learned a few more lessons, some the hard way:

  1. I’m not so sure about collared Phillips Bits anymore. Though it worked fine on my first room I ended up having to go over about 50% of the screws in my office and sink them just below the paper. I’m not sure if this was user error or the fault of the bit, so the verdict is still out.
  2. Get a Drywall Pole Sander. A combination of a pole sander with a fine grit paper and a foam sanding block made quick work of the sanding.
  3. Do a level 5 finish (skim coat). After I finished sanding I watered down my remaining compound to the consistency of pancake batter and applied it with a paint roller. After it dried I gave it a very light sanding. I can’t find a single imperfection in my walls or ceiling (here’s a video showing how). Three coats and a sanding are probablygood enough, but a skim coat definitely gives your drywall a professional feel.

Fixing a Broken Chalk Line

The clip from my chalk line fell off and disappeared, so I replaced it with what I had available: a tab from a soda can.

My MacGuyvered Chalk Line

As I gathered my tools to begin working on a built-in bookshelf, I found that the clip on the end of my Irwin Chalk Line was missing and the string itself was receded back into the reel.

Getting the string out is a no-brainer.  On most chalk reels you just remove a few screws from the back (make sure you’re holding it in such a way that the chalk doesn’t fall out), untangle the line, feed it through the mouth of the reel, and re-tighten the screws. But what do you do about a missing clip?

I searched the Internet and couldn’t find replacement clips, so I had to Macguyver a solution. What construction site/remodel doesn’t have a few beer or soda cans sitting around?  I snapped the tab off a can, bent the wider end into an “L” shape, and knotted my chalk line through the hole on the other side.  I’m not going to say it works just as good as the original clip, but it works well enough that I’m not going to replace my chalk line for a while.

Cut the Crap! The Right Way to Cut Just About Everything

If you’re like me, you made it your job as a child to ignore anything useful your parents might have taught you.

My mom is an amazing cook and now I find myself regretting my lack of concern for her cullinary craftsmanship every time that I enter a kitchen. She’s always happy to give me advice when I ask, but I like to do my own thing before I call people begging for help.  Plus, you know, there’s YouTube.

My most recent difficulty involved trying to make a half-decent salad.  The quest actually began when I made a very sad salad for a dinner I was invited to: the vegetables were either to big or too small, and the tomatoes ended in a puddle of more skin and goo than a Saw sequel.

Yes, being 30 years old and not knowing the right way to cut lettuce is pathetic.  So sue me. You’ll be happy to know I’m now slicing and dicing like a pro and my salads no longer look like I tossed them in a wood chipper.

I’m compiling a list of videos on the right way to cut various foods.  Have anything to add? Leave a link in the comments and I’ll throw it on the list!




Cucumber (sushi style)






Hard-Boiled Eggs


When Stupid Attacks: Brian Vs. the Drywall Lift

I now present a product endorsement cleverly disguised as a funny anecdote worthy of America’s Funniest Videos had the events been recorded. The following is a true story.  Names have not been changed to protect the stupid.

Pentagon Tool "Lazy Lifter" Professional 11Ft Drywall Lift Hois

Pentagon Tool "Lazy Lifter" Professional 11Ft Drywall Lift Hois

I bought this Drywall Lift on Amazon just before the holidays.  The product description claims the lift reaches up to 11 feet flat or 15 feet on slanted ceilings, a perfect height for my old house’s 10 foot ceilings.  At the time the lift was priced at $150 with free shipping, a price-point both cheaper than a similar lift from Harbor Freight and a more economical solution than a rental considering I remodel like old people hump: slow and sloppy.

The lift arrived a few days later. It assembled easily and I quickly got to work hanging the ceiling in my soon-to-be office. When I cranked the lift I found the height stuck around 8 feet and, rather than actually reading the manual, I cursed Amazon’s “false advertising” and decided to make the most of the situation.  I constructed some t-braces and lifted the first sheet the additional 2 feet to the ceiling with the first brace, then walked around to the other side with the second.

Before I positioned the second brace the first lost it’s balance and fell along with the 12′ sheet of drywall it held. Fortunately the sheet’s fall was broken by my face, but in my frustration I may have picked up my 2 x 4 brace and smashed it over the drywall lift…

… which stands as a testament to the lift’s sturdiness! Once my tantrum subsided and I sat down and looked at the lift, I realized the it has a clip that needs released in order for the telescoping pole to extend to it’s maximum height. I placed a sheet that wasn’t mangled by my face on the lift and turned the wheel.  Now we’re cooking with freaking gas, people.

The drywall lift is (Pentagon Tool “Lazy Lifter” Professional 11Ft Drywall Lift Hoist) turned out to be an excellent purchase.  Assembly couldn’t be simpler, the lift itself seems quite sturdy and well-balanced, and the only problem I ran into was due to my own rush to use the tool rather than understand it. I highly recommend this lift for anyone doing more than a few sheets of overhead drywall.

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