"I love my cats because I love my home, and little by little they become its visible soul." Jean Couteau

Sunday, September 27, 2015

another birthday, another carpentry project for the movie room

With Zach's birthday coming up, he made a request this year -- he asked that I build him a triangular end table for the basement. There's a little nook between a couch and two other tables where he wants it. He currently has some weird, hacked cardboard contraption that I have no idea how it doesn't collapse under the weight of all the Captain America men he has standing on it. He wanted it to look just like the Ikea tables he has, which are very simple. Although the triangle part had me a little nervous, it didn't sound too super difficult, and I was pleased with his confidence in me, so I said I'd do it.

The first thing was measuring the area. I measured the depth as 23" and the width as 17 3/8". I pulled out some long un-used geometry and trigonometry to figure out the angles and other side (which turned out to be not quite 53 deg, just over 37 deg, and about 28.825"). I didn't really need to know these ahead of time, as I measured them later, but I like having big-picture knowledge like that when I'm starting out.

I went to Home Depot and bought what I thought was an 18"x48" piece of pine. I swear that's what the sign said. I should have measured it. I should have read the little sticker on the board. It was actually 17.5"x48". For this project, it was actually better because it was close enough that I didn't even have to cut that side because that side kind of tucks under the arm of the couch anyway. However, for a different project, I might have had to go buy a new piece of wood.

For the other side, I used a new tool I'd recently purchased. It's the Kreg Rip Cut, and it's supposed to help make a circular saw more like a table saw, as in make straighter cuts. One end attaches to the saw, and the other end has a straight edge to track along the edge of the board you're cutting. There's a slider in between, so the two ends can be different lengths apart, allowing you to make cuts about 1" up to about 24" wide. 

After getting my new tool all out of the packaging and assembled, I got some scrap wood and did some practice cutting to see how everything was lined up and if my measuring was right. I have to say, it's a bit unwieldy. The saw end it so heavy, the end that's supposed to stay lined up with the end of the board doesn't just stay down next to the board on its own, so I had to keep my one hand over there holding it down. However, with a wide, 23" cut, that meant my arms were pretty far apart. Plus, I usually use that other hand to help hold the board more firmly, which helps keep the cut nicer at the end. 

I used my Rip Cut to cut the 23" cut all the way across my board. Then I took the tool off and used my circular saw the normal way to cut diagonally across the board to get my triangle piece. At that point, I took it downstairs and had Zach come give his approval for how it would fit in the space. Even though it was going to be a present, it wasn't a surprise, and I figured that was safest before going to any more effort to make this table.

Next, I needed to make edge pieces to make the table top appear thicker. The Ikea tables are 2" thick, but my pine board was only 0.75" thick. I had some scrap 0.75" thick boards that I used to make the edges. Since I felt only mildly successful with the Rip Cut, I decided to use my friend's table saw to create 1.25" strips (plus I was going to need to use his miter saw, so I had to go over there anyway). I then used the miter saw to make all the necessary angle cuts to fit the strips around the triangle. This was not as simple as the chair rail cuts had been. Even though I measured the angles, the cuts didn't seem to come out right, so I eventually devolved to trial and error with scrap pieces. I also seemed to be right up against the angle limits of the miter saw for one of the angles. But I finally got pieces that mostly fit together, and the parts that still weren't quite all the way, I covered with wood filler, so it looked OK.

Here is my little soapbox about wood filler. When I first started building wood things, I was impatient to get to the end. I thought, 'those little cracks? those little nail holes? surely paint will fill those in and no one will notice them.' But that's just not true. Those cracks and holes aren't really that small. It really is worth it to take the extra time to fill all those cracks and nail holes, wait for the filler to dry, and sand it down, and maybe even do it again for larger areas. Your project will look SO much better. The end.

I attached the top to the edge pieces with wood glue and 1.5" brad nails. After assembling the top, I had to attach the legs. I was initially kind of concerned about how I was going to make these 2" square legs. Then I recalled that we have this crappy Ikea table in our dining room that I've been planning to get rid of. It's exactly the same kind of table as the ones that Zach wants the triangle table to be like. The top is all water-damaged and bubbly, but the legs are just fine :-)

So I took off three of the legs and attached them to the top using glue and 2.5" finish nails. Next came more wood filler for all these nail holes. Lots of nail holes. 

Finally, with all the holes and cracks filled and sanded, it was time to start painting. I started with Kilz latex primer. I just did one coat of that. Then I moved on to the black paint. I used the same paint I had leftover from Zach's birthday present two years ago. That took three coats to get nice coverage. I probably could have gotten away with two coats, especially since the table will mostly be covered with collectables, but I went for the third coat anyway. Then I finished it off with three light coats of spray polyurethane in a satin gloss.

When Zach's birthday came, it was a little bit not super exciting, since he knew what he was getting. I gave it to him in the morning, so he's have time to 'play' with it, i.e. get all his people set up on it. He was properly impressed. He said it looked better than he was expecting (I'm still not quite sure what that means), and that it looked exactly like the Ikea tables he has. So I guess I'll take that. Though Dodger was less than impressed.

This picture does not even do justice to the dead, uninterested look in his eyes as I brought the table into the room, covered in a blanket, and as Zach opened and read his card and then unwrapped the table and exclaimed over it.

We took the table down to the basement, took out the cardboard table Zach had made for the spot before, and put in the new table. It fit perfectly and looked great! We were both pretty pleased :-)

Saturday, September 12, 2015

supergirl baby turns one

Remember when I made this blanket for my friends' baby in the NICU? Well, that little lady has been out of the NICU for quite some time now and just turned one year old. In honor of this momentous occasion, I decided to make her a little present. I had actually gotten this idea a long time ago, probably not long after she'd been born, when I was in Joann Fabric for some other reason, waiting around the cutting counter. There was a stack of free project ideas, and I saw this and thought, 'that is so adorable, I want to make it, my friends just had a baby, now I just need to wait for her to have a birthday so I can make it for her.'

I figure since the instructions were free for anyone to take at Joann, it's probably OK if I post them on the Interwebs. The instructions call for felt, but I used grey fleece that I had leftover from this other baby blanket I'd made for another friend's baby (so many babies!). Most of the colored fabric I used were leftover from my pastor friend's stole

I won't really go into details because I really just followed the instructions, and they're pretty simple. However, it did take me much longer than their estimated 3-5 hours. Of course, not being a teacher or having children, I didn't have number stencils, so first I had to find some numbers I liked from the Google, make them the appropriate size on my computer, print and cut them into my own stencils. I spent way more time choosing numbers than was really necessary.

Then, as with my friend's stole, I chose not to just iron on the numbers, but also sew around them. Not only did just doing that add time, but I also practiced on some scrap fabric first, plus I tried out a couple of different types of stitches before choosing what I believe is called a blanket stitch. Initially I was going to go with a really tight zig-zag stitch, like I used on the stole, but after some practicing, it wasn't going well. The numbers had a lot of curves, and I have a new sewing machine from when I did the stole, so I'm not too sure about all the settings, and it didn't seem to be working as well or looking as good as I remembered from the stole. After reading through my manual, trying to get tips for making this work, I discovered this other type of stitch. I tried it, and it worked better, and I thought it looked good, so I went with it. But that all ate up a lot of time.

So finally I got the numbers ironed and sewed on the grey fleece fronts. Then I attached the fusible fleece to the colored fabric, then sewed all of that to the grey fronts, then turned everything right-side out. 

The tricky thing was figuring out how much stuffing and rice to put inside. The instructions don't specify, just saying "equal parts." I think I ended up with about half a cup of each. Obviously, it's kind of hard to measure the stuffing, as it's very fluffy. I put it in the measuring cup and then smushed it down, so it was a smushed-down half cup. That made the bags still pretty floppy, which was what I wanted. Also, you can't really buy a small bag of stuffing, but this project doesn't take a lot, so if you have ideas of other things I can make with all my leftover stuffing, let me know :-) I do have more friends with babies, so maybe I'll just have to make a lot more of these. I do already have my number stencils now!