Joe Abbott's Weblog

Letters home to mom

Almost last day of 2013

Posted by joeabbott on December 31, 2013

Well, I don’t believe I’ll have time for a recap of 2013; the best way to see what Suzy and I have been up to is to visit Suzy’s blog out at … she does a nice bit of work keeping a high picture-to-word ratio and both the pictures and words are worth spending time with! Check ‘em out! For more of blathery old me, keep reading!

Yesterday was one of the harder days I’ve had on this project. Just nerve-wracking. It’s hard working on a HEAVY project. It’s hard working on something physically large (12’! What were we thinking!?!). And it’s hard working on aspects that, if I make a mistake, it’ll be patently obvious. Just a lot of hard to handle in one day. Then there were cats running about and working inside the house and working on aspects that I have no real expertise in. Again, a lot of “hard” for one day. I feel great about what I did do, but there’s very little to show for it. Let’s look!

Setting up

imageOne of the harder aspects to yesterday’s work was making space to get to the boards. I’d cleared with Suzy that I’d be making cuts in the house and her response was the usual supportive: “Do what you have to do!” I love that having her 100% buy-in is easy. Incredibly helpful. But, how do I go about making space?

First, I had to move the stereo cabinet; it was on the carpet and I needed the carpet to move. So, I slid that across the room. Then there was the small brown couch in that room: we’d already decided to give that to a family member who had just moved into a new home so it was time to move that to the back of my car/SUV. Another impediment cleared! Finally, I was able to roll up the carpet to give me a bit of “dancing space”!

Once the carpet was out of the way, I moved in some 2×4 spacers so I could slide the panels around, butt them up, and be able to make cuts across the entire ends. I’d need this for when I did things like cut the dadoes for the vertical walls. Very important to have both upper and lower wall dadoes in the same location!

The two cuts I’d end up getting two yesterday was the sliding door grooves and the dadoes for the end walls:


And then it was time to practice!

Practice makes perfect

A big unknown for me was how bamboo plywood work behave under a router blade. I’d never routed it and I had a lot to route! So, I went into the garage, found some scrap, and made test cuts. A lot of test cuts. A lot.

I ran cuts along the grain, across the grain, with both my trim router and my beefy 1.75HP Porter-Cable (PC) router. I used up a lot of scrap but, in the end, felt that I had a limited but reasonable mastery of what I had to do. It took a lot of time, created a lot of sawdust, but ended up being worth it: the cuts in the cabinet came out pretty good.

imageSliding door grooves

While I’d tested a lot of cuts for creating the sliding door grooves, the challenge on the cabinet was the twofold issue of running a clean groove for 12’ instead of 2’ (like the scrap test piece), and doing it inside while sliding on my knees instead of at the workbench. Also, any problems with these cuts would be hard to fix and if the groove didn’t run straight it would compromise the sliding door function.

But, as I like to say, “diver down!” Just get in there and do it!

I used my trim router here because I don’t have a guide rail for my main router. The guide rail allows me to dial in a distance from an edge and then follow that edge: which is what I wanted for the sliding door grooves. The trim router is a 1/4” collet POC (which is shorthand for “piece of <garbage>”) that I got from Harbor Freight. It cost about $30 and while I am derogatory about it, it’s held up reasonably well.

Another feature going for using this tool is that the smaller form-factor made it easier to work with as I slid along the floor between the work piece and the carpet roll. This along with the cheap tool dialed up the pressure.


While the overall groove went well, there are two minor areas that I’ll need to touch-up when I get to the touch-up phase. Toward the end of the cut, the router wobbled slightly and made a very minor divot. And, while cosmetic, there’s another place where I pressed down slightly and created a tiny bit deeper route. Both issues can be sanded clean.

End wall dadoes

I could have used my heavy duty router but, by this time, I had a good feel for the trim router and made the end wall cuts using that. I needed to hog off 3/8” deep by 1.5” wide by the length of ~24”. Then do that on the upper panel. Then head to the far end of the panel and do it again … both upper and lower.

Even on just one part that’s a lot of material to remove so I took four passes per panel end. The first pass was against the lip where I routed out about 3/16” by 1” across the length; then I deepened that to just under 3/8”. After that, I changed the depth back to 3/16” but set the edge guide to 1.5” wide and made that cut; finally I finished the routing by going just under 3/8” deep and made the last pass.

Once I had that put in, I changed to hand-tools. Power tools are great at removing a lot of material but hand tools give you (me!) much better control and finesse. Here I used my shoulder plane to flatten the bottom smooth and set in the final depth.


Lots more to do

imageAt this point I turned my attention to the inner wall cuts and realized that my 1/4” collet trim router wasn’t the right tool to use. While my PC router was the right tool, I didn’t have a pattern bit with a bearing on the shaft side, so I headed to Rockler to see what they had.

My luck was holding as they not only had two options to choose from (a Freud bit and a house brand bit), but the Rockler bit was on sale at 20% off! While the bit was reasonably inexpensive (as router bits go), getting this for about $20 was great.

Back home with my prize and then to the garage for … yes, you guessed it … more test cuts!

And, after routing literally yards of wood with a trim router and 1/4” shank bit, the PC router with 1/2” shank bit was like running a hot knife through butter! It was divine! No vibrations, almost zero effort pushing the router along, and the brand new bit gave wonderfully clean cuts.

Then, however, I made a mistake. While the router was still spinning I picked it up out of the joint. While I cleared the work piece, I gouged the wall of the “pattern” part I was using … which happened to be one of the inner walls! While I wasn’t injured and there was nothing damaged that will be visible, it was a huge rookie mistake and just about melted me. The day of stress from moving heavy stuff, the mental stress of working on sensitive cabinet stuff, and doing something stupid with a power tool that could seriously hurt me all took their toll. I needed to stop.

Before daylight failed I moved around the parts to be cut, found a minor discrepancy in length that I thought I’d already addressed, and then had to walk away. I was fixating on what will be minor details, I was getting frustrated when I need a clear head, and I desperately wanted to talk to Suzy. She’s a great anchor in my life and fully invested in this project, so I needed her to just talk to me about this. Time to hang up the tool belt until she got home.

imageEvening hours

When Suzy did get in, there were other projects that needed attention: the evening meal, grocery shopping, and sitting down to sort out our Thank-you note situation. We’d received many wonderful gifts over the holidays and had yet to send proper acknowledgment. I also got in a bit of time playing Borderlands 2 with my brother-in-law Stevie (great fun!) and then we had to make a late night visit to the chicken coop to apply a bit of medicine to our hens to keep them healthy.

Just for fun and to heckle Stevie, here’s a message he sent to my Xbox account the other day … yup, out of context, it looks mighty strange. In context, he was telling me that he had started playing a “siren” character in BL2 … which happens to be a female role. Still, not often Steve sends me a message like this! <g>

Thanks for dropping in. I hope to have more done tomorrow but it’ll be New Year’s Eve and we have plans to celebrate! We’ll see what we can get done.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: