Monday, February 27, 2017

Office build-along, pt. 10

Okay, we've run into some problems. And by "we" I mean "me." Take a look at the photo of the attached end cabinet below. The right side of the cabinet is about 1/2 an inch from laying flush against the wall. That looks like a pretty insignificant amount, but it's not. Turns out my walls--at least in that corner--are not squared. The upright shelf support is one or two degrees off 90, which means the cabinet attached to it does not line up flush with the next upright shelf support to go in. It also means that the shelves won't fit into the routered dado grooves. They go in about half way and then wedge in there. You'd think you could simply force the cabinet and uprights into position, the deviation being so small, but you'd be wrong.

There are several possible solutions, but the one I went with was to disassemble everything, pull that offending upright away from the wall, then reattach it using shims to make up the difference. How'd it work? Good enough for the pieces to fit the way the should. Mostly. It's not pretty, but that will be covered up by trim when I'm finished.

The process of disassembling the pieces also brought to my attention another problem that would've been far, far more difficult to deal with if I didn't discover it until later. I hadn't laid down a vapor barrier. When one has wood coming into contact with concrete, moisture can migrate up through said concrete and accumulate in the wood, leading to the potential for rot, mold and other unpleasant things. A moisture/vapor barrier prevents this. Now the laminate flooring had a very cheap, thin cushion that is of foamlike plastic origin. I'm pretty sure that did double-duty as a vapor barrier. But it's so bargain basement I'm ripping it out to replace it with one of higher quality. It also didn't reach all the way to the wall, which I'm rectifying now. I'm laying the new vapor barrier down and installing the bookshelves over it. No matter how much I vacuum and sweep, dirt and debris turns out in spades for the black vapor barrier.

I'm also facing another problem. The 2x12 uprights have been stored outside for months as I cut, sand, stain and varnish them. They're sheltered on the back patio, but still exposed to wide temperature swings as well as humidity. What started out as 10 rail-straight boards are now 10 boards that are developing slight warps. Nothing really obvious, but I'm finding little deviations when I move them into position. I need some way to keep them consistently vertical and plum. Also, the back wall doesn't have a convenient joist to attach all the uprights to. The existing studs are not positioned where the uprights can be directly attached. I could just wedge everything in there and depend on gravity to keep it stable, but that's just asking for trouble. How to anchor the uprights and ensure proper positioning?

I'm going to try something I considered for the previous bookshelf build at the old house, but discarded because there were convenient joists for attachment. I set my grandfather's old Rockwell table saw to make a 45 degree cut. Have I mentioned how much I use this table saw and other tools inherited from Grandpa Fritz? Because I do use them. A lot. Above is the dial setting, and below is what the blade actually looks like.

Then I ran a straight 2x4 through, twice at 45 degrees and once at 90 degrees to split the board into four triangular strips. I mis-measured a little, so the triangles aren't all equal in size, but they're still close enough for my needs. I'll cut each of these into lengths to fit between the very tops of the upright 2x12 shelf supports. I'll screw the uprights to the triangle strips, then screw the strips into the wall studs. Plus, it should solve another issue that's a carryover from the old house, but I'm not quite there yet.

Where I am at is the shelf-cutting phase. After calculating how much shelf space I actually needed, I bit the bullet and bought four 4x8 sheets of 23/32" thick radiata pine plywood. That's just a hair thinner than the 3/4" router cuts I made for the shelving, so should fit even with a couple coats of varnish. At the old house, I bought plywood that was the same thickness as the cuts, and none of them would fit, so I had to sand down all the edges. Ugh. The pine plywood is not as nice as oak or Baltic birch or even spruce plywood. It's only sanded on one side, but it was the most affordable plywood available. The shelves will be covered with books, so I can't afford to be too picky.

I use a T square, ruler and measuring tape to mark the cuts. Each shelf is approximately 30" wide and 11" deep.

Measure twice and cut once, as the saying goes. Unfortunately, sometimes that's not even enough. Working late at night I sometimes get a little punchy and the numbers swim around in my head, screwing things up (as you'll soon see). But the shelf measurements were pretty straightforward. The plywood sheets were too big to run through the table saw with any accuracy, so instead I used Grandpa Fritz's circle saw to split the sheets up into 30" sections.

On a table saw, 30" sections of plywood are much more manageable. I set the rip fence to give me an 11" wide cut, and ran those sections through, over and over and over, assembly-line style. I have to pause here a moment to extol the virtues of wearing eye protection whilst using power tools. With saws and sanders, there's a lot of sawdust thrown up, and even occasional splinters. These will invariably fly into your face. One piece of gritty sawdust in the eye is terribly uncomfortable. I'm too old to feel the invulnerability of youth anymore, and I have no desire to go blind in one or both eyes, so I wear safety goggles religiously now. That wasn't always the case, but now it is. I recommend hard plastic goggles that are open to the sides, allowing plenty of air flow. Those that form a seal around the face quickly fog up if you're doing any kind of exertion, despite the fact they have rubber vents. Those things are useless if you can't see out of them. The open plastic ones seem less advanced, but they're more effective in my book.

And here they are, 25 nearly-identical shelves. I also did the narrow end shelves as well. The table saw's a great time-saver. I can't begin to imagine how long it'd take using only hand saws.

And fitting one into a random shelf slot proves to be a success! Not only did it fit, sliding in with little effort, it was level! I can assure you this wasn't a given, despite my efforts.

Now things get tricky. The corner cabinet is essentially diamond-shaped. Because of the way it's built, it can't actually sit flush against the back corner, because it won't line up with the 2x12 uprights. Trust me on this. There's slightly less than a 1/4 inch discrepancy here, so to make up the difference, I glued shims along the back to make up the difference. I used Loctite II glue, which is pretty darn strong, and clamped the shims down for and hour to ensure the bond set.

To cut the shelves, which look a whole lot like Superman's "S" shield, I first cut a template out using poster board. This ensures consistency in each shelf--no small consideration when working with an odd shape.

Using the template as a guide, I first cut out 5 squares on the table saw (one's slightly different, but we'll get to that). Then, because one corner has to come off at a 45 degree angle and I don't have a jig for the table saw that can accommodate that, I clamp the shelf to a convenient plywood surface and use the circle saw to hand-cut along the pencil line. It's a short cut, and the circle saw inherently doesn't let you deviate too much, so this freehand approach went pretty successfully.

Here's where things go FUBAR. Remember I mentioned that one square was a little different? That's because it's the bottom, base shelf, which will attach directly onto the corner cabinet's top. I did something stupid early on that I didn't realize until now. Back at the old house, I simply cut the base shelves to fit and laid them on top of the cabinets when the time came. I think I used paneling nails to secure them in place, I can't exactly remember. Well, this time around, I routered dado grooves for the base shelves. Big mistake. If you look back to my earlier installments of this build-along, you'll remember I had difficulty lining the routered cuts up consistently. For the upper shelves, this didn't make much difference, but for the base shelf, it does. One of the grooves lined up slightly below the top of the cabinet, and the opposite groove floated a little above. This meant there was no way the shelf could physically fit as-is.

So how did your resident genius think to remedy this situation? Why, by using the tool that got him into this mess in the first place! This is otherwise known as throwing good money after bad. I pencil-marked the area that needed to be stripped to make the board fit into the routered slot, then freehanded the cut. It wasn't pretty, but it was late and I was tired. Not the best of decision-making conditions. Then, because I'm a can-do person, I repeated the action on the other side. Except... one shelf support was lower, and one higher, remember? I cut both of these on the top, which meant the shelf still didn't fit! Argh!

So I went back and routered the underside to make it fit. And yes, it did finally fit. Except... remember how this is the base shelf? It is cut larger than the others, so that 2" protrudes forward over the cabinet. A lip, as it were, rather than coming out flush. And now I had three raggedy-ass router cuts extending all the way out to the edge of the shelf. The front edge will be covered by trim, but those ugly cuts will be painfully visible where only smooth shelf should be. Is there any wonder why I've never been invited to join MENSA?

So help me, in my addled state I still thought I could fix it. In my defense, my plywood supply was running low and I wasn't sure I could cut a new shelf and not have to go buy another sheet to finish out my other needs. So, in order to save me from having to cut a new shelf, how could I fix those wayward cuts? Wood putty! Honestly, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Never mind the fact that I've never gotten wood putty to take stain enough to blend in with the surrounding wood. So, yeah. I measured and puttied and scraped and sculpted. This is the best I could come up with. Guess what? It did not get any prettier once dried.

In the harsh light of day, I finally admitted defeat and accepted this was one sow's ear that I could not make into a silk purse. I did some measuring and calculating and came up with the realization I could cut a new shelf and have enough wood to finish the job if I cannibalized this messed-up shelf and cut smaller end shelves out of it. So that's what I did. Below is the newly-cut square shelf ready to be turned into Superman's "S" shield.

Why did I use the jig saw this time rather than the circle saw? Honestly, I have no answer. I think maybe the freehand router work had me a bit spooked, and I wanted a hard guide to ensure a straight cut. Because of the size of the cut and the physical shape of the circle saw, that would've been challenging with the circle saw, whereas the smaller jig saw was much easier to line up and get the guide properly anchored.

And here's the corner cabinet, of which cutting the shelves for it has consumed parts of two days now. I'm not a terribly efficient wood worker, you'll notice. This is without the base shelf...

And this is with the new-cut base shelf! Perfect fit! You'll notice I learned from my previous mistake and did not attempt to make the shelf compatible with the misbegotten routered dado slots. Instead, I went back to what I did more than a decade ago and cut the shelf to rest atop the cabinet. The shelf itself and additional trim pieces will hide the now-vestigial slots, and we shall never speak of them again. *sigh*

Now Playing: Martin Denny Eight Classic Albums
Chicken Ranch Central

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