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Cat Post

Posted by joeabbott on April 14, 2013

imageAt the beginning of the year I posted a picture of a project I wanted to start; you can find it here. It’s a simple cat post: all square corners and straight lines, but I liked the look of it and wanted to build it. Well, this weekend I finally “pulled the trigger” and started construction.

I had to modify my models just a bit: I was using 1/2” bamboo plywood rather than 3/4”. One, 3/4” was super-expensive and, two, I couldn’t find 3/4” in stock anywhere and would have to order it. Well, I thought I didn’t want to wait on the order but, as I’ve had the 1/2” sheet in my garage for weeks now, the price was likely the deciding factor. But, the weekend had been forecast to be rainy, we’d run all our errands, and most of my other projects were either on hold or done. Time to start the cat post.


I plan a bit to the excess but it serves me well. I start with a SketchUp model (a miniature version is top, right) and then “explode” the parts and dimension them so I have a good reference when I’m cutting (below, left).


But, this isn’t good for parts layout or creating an optimized cutting reference. For that, I use good ol’ paper and pencils/pens: I mark off a portion of the paper to represent the wood I have, then I layout the parts (above, right). There’s some discrepancy because I don’t often count for the width of the saw blade, but I’m in the ballpark and it serves me well … as long as I have a couple inches above and below the parts, I figure I’m OK.


imageAll of the parts I was making were 16” in some dimension. Because I was going to make repeated 16” cuts, I built a small spacer/jig. I have a Festool plunge saw that rides a rail; it was an extravagant purchase but I’ve been happy with it since I made my first cut. It’s an outstanding tool. The rail it rides ensures both a straight cut and a clean one: just place the edge of the rail on the line to be cut, the grippy back surface holds it securely on the wood, and you just push the saw along the rail. A perfect cut every time.

To get 16” repeatable cuts, I measured the rail at 7.25” wide, cut a scrap board exactly 8.75” wide, butted the scrap board to the edge of the sheet being cut, snug the rail up next to that, and I’d have a perfect 16” cut after running the saw along the rail!


Unfortunately, after cutting all my parts, I found that the piece of bamboo plywood I’d bought had voids in it!

Fixing the voids


In the pictures to the right and left, you can see the separation of one ply of wood from the other. It was pretty disappointing and it had me I eyeballing the portion of the panel that I hadn’t yet sawed. It would be easy to just cut new parts and throw away the ruined boards, but I had to try and salvage them … just too expensive to waste lumber.

So, I pulled out my Tightbond III glue, squeezed it into the cracks, used an old credit card to stick into the cracks and spread the glue all around, and then added 4-5 clamps to each board to close the gap.

I had some misgivings about that process.

First, when I applied the clamps, I heard a definite *snap* here and there as I squeezed them down. It was the stiff lumber “complaining” about being squeezed together. Bamboo has lots of fibers running in the same direction and it’s quite easy to snap the two fibers if you bend them lengthwise.

Lots of clamps will help, especially if you start at the smallest part of the crack/gap and work toward the widest part.

In the end, the process worked reasonably well. Most of the gaps were completely gone and the glue squeeze-out wasn’t significant. It took a lot longer to setup than I’d thought it would but the end result was acceptable.

Cutting the big panels

This part was fun.

I marked out the lines on the panel indicating where the holes would be … as a reference, I scribble in the “waste” portion of the board. Then I drilled four holes (one in each corner) big enough for a jigsaw blade, and then I cut between the holes!


Once this was done, I inserted a pattern collar onto my router, added an upcut bit, clamped some straight edges to the panel, and routed away the remaining waste that I couldn’t get with the jigsaw.


Once I had one side completed, I swapped out the pattern collar and upcut bit with a “pattern router bit”: it’s a router bit that has a small bearing on the bottom that runs along a “pattern”. I repeated the process for cutting out the main part of the holes in the second side and then I clamped the two sides together and used the first side as the pattern! By doing this, I created identical sides.

Cutting the trays

The cat post is made from four trays situated between two panels with holes cut into it. With the panels created, it was time for the trays.

To do this, I’d built two stand-alone trays (four side and a bottom) that would stick out from the side panels, and two partial trays (two sides and a bottom) that would use the side panels to complete the tray. I decided to use a drawer lock router bit for a secure build. I’d never used one before so that made for a bunch of test cuts to ensure I could make the cuts without screwing up the joint. They came out OK.

Here’s my router table setup, the test pieces, and one of the completed trays:


More to come

With several key parts being glued up, I’ll need another post to complete this project. I will note there’s a bit of subterfuge here: the picture of the “completed tray” isn’t really the final tray! I just set the sides (before gluing) on top of a sheet of plywood to see how it would look. Not bad!

In the next post I’ll show building the final trays, attaching them to the post, and finishing the project. I suspect it’ll be a little “tippy”, so I expect I’ll need to add some weights to the bottom. Until then … thanks for dropping in!


2 Responses to “Cat Post”

  1. Momma said

    Well joe, with all the shopping for materials, planning, documenting, photographing, etc. you do with your projects, I’m amazed you manage to do so many of them! I loved the Bar-B-Q class entry – great idea! Also enjoyed the new word entry, which I’ll use by saying that once again, my offiice is in entopy – can I say it’s in an advamced state of entropy? Anyhow, a big mess, which I am now addressing. The 3 hour Cat Coop – I’m astounded that you got a whole project done in just 3 hours! The XBox games – well, I’m sure there are many people who share your passion for them – but another reason I can’t see how you accomjplish all you do! Of course I like planning things too – on paper. It’s pushing past that good start that seems to present the problem for me. Anyhow, glad you are now getting that cat perch thing under way. Good Luck! Momma

  2. I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great.
    I do not know who you are but definitely you’re going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already 😉 Cheers!

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