Shop Renovation – Tables and More Cabinets

My shop needed some organization.  I didn’t realize until now how hastily put together everything was.  I didn’t have any time to spend on the shop because I needed to get the house put together.  Now that the house is habitable and, dare I say, finished, it’s time to make some storage and organization out there.  I have so many homeless, orphan tools in boxes and I don’t even know where they are.  Several times I’ve bought a duplicate tool because I forgot I had it.  Well, now, maybe some places to put things so that they’re accessible, it’ll help.

As part of all this, I’m raising the heights of my side tables a bit, and to do that I’ll build some drawers to go on top of them.  I’ll get more storage space, and I’ll be able to use all the tables to support large pieces of wood when I’m cutting them.

It’s easy to install the drawer hardware if you do it before everything’s assembled.

Not sure if lasers make anything any easier, but it is more fun.

The drawers are pretty solid, and I made some partitions in front to help sort things out.  It’s a pain to do, but worth it in the end.

Now I’ve got a little Festool work station going on.  And when I put a piece of wood on that saw, it’s the same height as the tables over to the right, so I can cut large pieces and they’re fully supported.

A little paint along this wall made a big difference.

Every once in a while, I open an old cardboard box and find some torn up cardboard and a small pile of cat food.  A mouse was nesting in this box.  I think he was gathering cat food to have enough to survive a zombie apocalypse.

More cabinets went up over the router table.

Even more cabinets.  And no, I’m not done.  I still have about 22 square feet of wall space I can cover with more cabinets.

Yeah, I know, I get more excited about shop cabinets than most people do, or should.

Shop Renovation – Drawers and Cabinets

I’ve been badly in need of a new clamp rack.  Of course, I make the biggest, heaviest monster clamp rack that I can.  The top is 1″ thick solid oak and because I didn’t think that was strong enough I put some 1.5″ thick brackets underneath to reinforce them.

Unfortunately, no room for expansion. But that’s okay, there’s no room for another clamp rack in the shop.  Well, I’ll have a separate rack for small clamps.

So, I have this little side table along that back wall, you can see it here with the brackets underneath.  I’m reworking some storage and work surfaces in the shop and I wanted to raise that side table to the same height as the main bench.  I figured the best way to do that was to built some boxes on top of it.  And then I can make drawers!

So yeah, double plywood sheets for added strength, well bolted into the wall and reinforced by those brackets.  The drawers should be a nice size.

This will really help de-clutter the corner.  Of course, I’m just going to re-clutter it…

The drawers fit great.  I’ll put some oak drawer fronts on them at some point.

I partitioned one of the drawers, and now I’m wishing I did it to all of them.  It was a pain, but having little boxes to organize things is really nice.

Up next:  cabinets.

Big cabinets.  They’re going to go where that awful brown pegboard is now.  There will be under-cabinet lighting and doors that close and all sorts of fun stuff.  I like using pegboard for cabinet backs, especially for utility cabinets, as you can hang crap on that back wall if you need to.  Maximize your space.

No help whatsoever.


Shoes, Shelves and Pegboard

This has been a cluttered corner for a long time.  Things go here when they have no place else to go.  Gardening tools, bags of mortar, sawhorses, bicycle pumps, camping chairs, floor steam cleaners.  Hey, it’s what a garage is for, right?

Well, this winter I’m going to be spending a lot of time introducing better storage solutions, cabinetry, drawers, better layout, doing all sorts of things to make the garage work better for us.  In this corner, I’m going to put up some pegboard to help hold the little stuff and keep it easy to access and out of the way.

Yeah, okay, it’s still totally cluttered.  But it’s an organized clutter!  A big part of any organization effort is just getting rid of the crap you don’t use anymore.  That always helps.

Okay, this is a problem that we’ve been tripping over for years.  This little corner by the rusty fridge has stored our shoes, but I’ve always thought this was a wasted space.  So much more can be done with this area.

Yeah, now we’re talking.  A little plywood, some lumber, a few pieces of hardware, and suddenly we have a space to store a dozen pairs of shoes, with a place to sit to put shoes on, and a storage trunk to store whatever you want!

I’m not fond of plywood for making furniture, but this is my garage, not the Earl Gray Tea Room in Buckingham Palace.  Function beats out aesthetics.  All it has to do is work.

I bought 2×8 lumber for the top and the bench, and I dug up the most beaten, moldy and weathered pieces I could find out of the wood pile.  Old wood like that can polish up pretty good.  I like the color, and it’s sturdy as hell.

I went cheap for hardware, but made sure to use solid brass.  It can get a little humid out in the garage.

I’ve had this little clasp for ages, finally found a use for it.  I think it probably wanted to go in a window or something, but here it works great, holding up the lid to the trunk so it doesn’t break your arm.

That’s like 10 cubic feet of storage in there!

Happy shoes.  They all have a home and there’s room to grow.


Paths and Rocks and Things

For years, we lived with this thing:

You know, I’m not going to make fun of a beginner woodworker’s work, but this thing was ugly as hell.  We kept it, because as you can see, it served a purpose, and despite being out in the elements for several years it did not fall apart.  In all fairness, it did fall apart when I removed it because the wood was rotted so badly.  But up until then, it did fine.

Here we go.  New shelving made out of 4×4’s and 2×6’s.  New deck for it to sit on, and the garbage bins are tucked back out of sight.  New pavers and beach rocks for a path that is significantly less muddy than the previous path behind the house.  Note the lighting, it’s so nice to be able to see back there.  Any idea how much of a pain it is to carry a flashlight while taking out the trash?   Yeah, enough of that.

I’ve even made a little bit of outdoor storage under the deck there.  It’s not dry, but it’s a spot for empty pots and plastic bins and rocks and stuff.

These stairs are definitely not code.  They’re dangerous even by my standards.  Keeps you alert to have stairs like that.

A good piece of driftwood makes a nice handhold while climbing those stairs.

When digging out the ground for those pavers, I came across quite a few rocks that had to be dug out.  It’s like pulling teeth out of the Earth.  It’s bad enough that they weigh 100 pounds and they’re wet and slippery and you can’t get any grip on them, but they are rooted down there and you have to dig quite a ways under them to get them out.

This rock was right in the way of my path, in the way of progress.  I dug about 18 inches down on both sides and I still couldn’t get under it.  It’s just going to have to stay there.  I’ll pour some concrete around it in the shape of a rectangle.  Maybe no one will notice.

Considering the Before Picture, I think we’ve done well.

2017 Garden Tour

We’ve been busy little beavers out there.  Deer fence is up, pergola is up, planting beds are in, patio pavers are down, it’s like we added on to the house with this big outdoor space.

The pavers replace what was once this kind of muddy, weed covered pit.  Gardening tools would accumulate in this area until they were needed elsewhere.

And that pergola filled the void left by the old hot tub.

The planting areas are coming along nicely.  We put sedum down in the rocks so they can spread out a bit and fill the openings.

I’m going to put a nice gardening bench here at some point.

This ground cover is really thriving.  Never seen it get so big and green before.  It likes wet, cool conditions.

Birds are liking that bird bath.  And so are the wasps, hornets, bees, and a myriad of other stinging creatures.

Stone stairs, definitely not code.

So, the back deck is one of the few places without a view of the sea, which means it generally gets put to the bottom of the list of places you’d want to hang out.  But I don’t know, now it’s kind of nice back there.  A private little nook.  At some point, I’d like to get an awning of sorts just to keep it dry, or part of it dry, then we could sit out there year round.  That big thing wrapped in canvas?  That’s an outdoor propane heater!

And here’s the fancy pants access door I made for the crawlspace.  What did it look like before?

Yeah, lovely.

And, as requested, here is Sissy, our newest little family member.

Scrap Wood Project No. 217

I’m really starting to enjoy projects where I just throw something together.  No planning, nothing’s perfect, no fancy pants joinery, just some boards and fasteners.  I made those sawhorses some 15 years ago.  They’ve been dismantled and remantled at least twice, and have been outside in the elements for about five years. Still holding up well.  Today I put some boards on top of it and made a little outdoor work table.

It’ll come in handy when I’m breaking down logs into firewood.  I know I can just buy firewood, but it’s a lot more fun when I get to make it myself.

It’s not all hammocks and sailboats out here

People hear that I live on an island and they automatically assume that it’s paradise.  That all we do all day long is lay around in a hammock and watch the sailboats go by.

Well, I gotta tell you, it’s not for everybody.  There’s no Home Depot, no Bed Bath and Beyond, no fast food, no dry cleaner, no pizza delivery.  If you want food, you cook it.  If you need a tool, you make do with what you have.  If something goes wrong, it’s pretty much up to you to fix it.

So, when one of our water pipes magically sprung a leak under our house, it was up to me to crawl down there and get it fixed.  Yeah, I called all the plumbers on the island (all three) and they were all booked until September.  And further, they won’t go under my house if it’s wet.  There’s electrocution risk, union regulations, but most importantly:  they don’t want to.

So here I am, 20′ inside a muddy crawlspace, soaking wet because that leaking pipe drenched everything and it won’t dry out because it’s under a freaking house.  There were electrical wires that rats had chewed through.  I taped them up while lying in a pool of muddy water, live electrical wires.  FYI – don’t do that.

Yeah, it was a tight space.  Moldy, dank, wet.  I had just watched Alien Covenant the night before and in hindsight that was the wrong movie to watch before crawling into a tight, dark spot like that.  I had to use a pipe cutter to cut the corroded pipe out, then cut a new length of pipe to fit, and then secure it with adapters.

All fixed.  I gave it a few days to make sure it didn’t spring any new leaks before crawling under there yet again to wrap it with insulation.  These are old pipes.  I think I can expect to be doing this a few more times before all is said and done.

That’s it.  That’s the hole in the pipe that caused all the trouble.  Just fyi, all those products out there that promise to fix these things, all those tapes and patches and crap, none of them work.  None.

It may seem like an ordeal, but there are people in these islands who get by just fine without things like electricity, hot water, running water, etc.  Some people here are completely off the grid, and live their lives without any of the things that might seem indispensable to modern life.

And I’m not one of them.

The Gated Community

Here is my pergola.  Some assembly required.  I’m not really a pergola guy, and I never envisioned myself making one, but I had an empty space at the end of the deck and some kind of garden structure seemed to be the best fit for it.  The garden area needed something with height, some kind of third dimension, to make it into the kind of outdoor space that we like.

I followed very professional and detailed plans.

And here’s the cedar I’m going to use for the raised beds.  80 cubic feet of wood right there.  As I started carrying them, they didn’t seem all that heavy, and I figured it was nothing I couldn’t handle.  But the pieces on top had been roasting in the sun for a few weeks, and the middle pieces were sopping wet.  Those pieces were easily twice as heavy.  I’m so glad I lift weights.

Biggest nails I could find.

All put together.  The pergola goes very well with the garden space.  It ties into the fence and the gates around it, and (most importantly) keeps the fricking deer out.

Outdoor living space is really important to us.  The pergola and the gates will open up into a small patio area (which is about 1/3 finished right now) and the garden with the raised beds.

It’s all traditional joinery holding this thing together.  I even got to do some wedged tenons, my favorite!

The raised beds make the foundation of a tight little planting area with lots of paths like little streets and avenues.  I might even name them.  Put in a traffic signal, some stop signs, etc.  Most of this area gets full afternoon sun but we have some shaded areas as well, and once we get things planted and growing it should make for a nice place to spend time.  The fence in the back is temporary, I’ll put in a good post and frame fence now that the beds are in place.

It’s still a bit of a war zone.  We probably won’t start planting things until next year.  Need to get gravel, dirt, sand, all sorts of landscaping things.  At least we have rock, as much as we could possibly want.

The view from the deck is nice.  The pergola right now is just a skeleton, a frame of what it’s going to be.  We’ll add pots and plants to it, maybe hang some kind of artwork, put in some patio furniture inside (somewhere to sit and roast marshmallows, maybe).  It’s just going to be another space that we can enjoy.

I’ll probably call it the Garden of Seven Gates when it’s all finished.

NO DEER ALLOWED (no exceptions)

We like to garden.  We like to plant things and watch them grow.  Gardens are not only a fantastic creative outlet, but they are a space of relaxation, meditation and tranquility.  And bees.

We also like wildlife, something fairly abundant here.  Birds, otters, raccoons, wild turkeys, eagles, minks, all sorts of wildlife.  And we have deer.

This is what deer do to your plants.  They defoliate them.  Eat them to the stalks.  Jamie, who loves animals, has been talking about getting a gun to take care of our deer problem.  Yeah, it’s time.  We need to build a deer fence.

This ground is extremely rocky.  You can’t dig 4″ without hitting a rock the size of your head.  I had a rock in one hole that took me two days to excavate.  At another location, I had to move my post over about 16 inches because there was a boulder down there and I didn’t have a stick of dynamite to break it with.  But on the bright side, it’s been raining daily for about a month so the ground was nice and soft.  About eight holes was all I had to dig.

I used pressure treated lumber for posts, which is really awful stuff.  It’s toxic, it’s a skin irritant, possibly carcinogenic, but it’ll last out here without rotting.  That’s kind of what I was going for, fence posts that don’t rot in the first two years.

The shop was open late into the night just getting this done.

These are the 2×2 sticks to frame in the welded wire panels that will go into the fence.  I wanted to saturate them in linseed oil before installation, such that all parts of them are completely protected.  If you treat them after they’re installed, there are bare spots that water will eventually pool up inside and cause them to rot.

And we’re using two kinds of fencing:  traditional wood posts with welded wire (above, left) and deer fence tied to iron T-posts (above, right).  We went with the deer fence over the septic field, not only to save a bit of money but also to not disturb the septic field too much.

The finished portions look great.  We have temporary gates and some temporary fence up right now, just to keep the deer out.

We’re putting raised planter beds in the middle.  This ground digs poorly, very rocky, so we thought raised beds would really help.  Right now, we just get to kill off the grass and get the ground ready for the beds.

The back deck has the biggest improvement so far.  It just looks more finished.  It’s not finished, not by a long shot, but it’s closer to what it’s going to look like

Definitely looking forward to being able to plant things without the risk they’re going to be defoliated by marauding deer in the night.

Strawberry, hens and chicks, sedum, … all deer food.  And it’s all protected now, inside our little compound fence

The Log Conundrum

Is the house finished if we still have these big freaking logs set in the walls as corner posts?  I don’t really feel like it’s my house while these logs are still here, providing living space to more insects than you’d find on the set of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.  But like most islanders, we have to share our space with nature, at least a little bit.

There’s one in the corner in the picture above.  You may not see it, for your eyes are probably drawn to that ridiculous old lamp and whatever gang graffiti was scrawled on its side.  But once you see it, you can’t unsee it.  There are huge logs in the corners of my house.

They roll down stairs, alone or in pairs.  They’re big, they’re heavy, they’re wood.  They’re logs!  (don’t get the reference?  click here…)  And they came with my house.  For better or for worse, I decided to keep them.  Probably more of a pain to rip them out than it would be to just let them stay.  Some people have even said that they like the logs.  I think they’re all just saying that to be nice, though.

Okay, that’s it, that’s really every ‘before’ picture I have of the bedroom.  We had taken the paneling out in the above pic to put in a new electrical box, many years ago.  We did put the paneling back up when we were done.  I don’t know why.  Could have just left it like that.

Now, all the paneling is gone.  New 4×4 beams are in place, partly aesthetic and partly structural – they really help tie this room to the rest of the house which has exposed beams everywhere, and they also help hold up the floor in the loft above.  The logs don’t do a damn thing, except provide housing to wasps nesting for the winter.

To finish this room up, the bed had to come out and get set up in the living room for a few days.  I used our dresser as a work table in the middle of the room.  It’s a pretty solid dresser, made a great work space.

There’s an electric baseboard heater that’s more than a little ugly but puts out good heat, probably because it doesn’t have to be energy star compliant or some crap.  It’s the kind of heater you can cook hot dogs on if you needed to.  I painted it copper, made it a little more passable to look at.

Now we’re all done, logs and all.  New lighting, new paint, new trim, new windowsills, new caulk, new paint, new everything.  Only those logs remain, and at least I slathered them with spar urethane.

I encased the ends of the beams with brackets to conceal the joist hangers.  I think my creativity was kind of running out at this point, but they look okay.  Anyway, best solution I could come up with.

I really like the closet doors on their big barn door hardware.  The space is a little tight and they could still use some adjusting but they look good to me.

The iron weighs more than the doors do.

New copper switchplates, custom made copper finger pulls for the doors.

Drawer No. 2 is obstructed by that big dresser, but you can still access the space through a trap door inside the closet.  I’m hoping that dresser can move to another bedroom someday, if we add on to the house or something.

So, what are you thinking?  “Hey, Joe?  You know those big logs that washed up on the beach?  I think we can use them for corner posts on the next house we build.  Wouldn’t that be great?”  Seriously, how many beers do you need to get to that point?

I guess I’ll call the house finished, logs and all.