Tags: woodworking

Level up! Making IKEA-compatible shelves

| life

2014-10-05 Routing shelves

We’ve been decluttering, moving things around and getting rid of things that no longer fit our life. W- decided to reorganize the downstairs cabinets, shuffling the supplies around so that the paper was closer to the printer. It made sense to add another shelf there. The cabinets had been discontinued, and W- couldn’t find shelves matching the dimensions we needed. Time to make our own!

W- picked up a long piece of pine from the hardware store and he cut it into three pieces. We went to IKEA to ask for more shelf pins, which they rustled up after lots of digging. Then we used the router (the woodworking one, not the networking one =) ) to carve out small indentations that would accommodate the pins. While I lined up the existing shelf as a guide, W- adjusted the piece of scrap wood that we were using as a fence and then clamped it into place. He rehearsed the cut, then routed the three boards. We repeated the process for the other indentations. Then we tested the boards – and they fit nicely. Now we’re varnishing them. We probably don’t need to varnish them, but we might as well. =) If we do another set — which we probably will — I’m looking forward to practising routing again.

Making shelves and varnishing them might be pretty small things, but it’s great to be able to do this. I like how W- is helping me learn all these practical skills. I’d love to learn more about building small and medium-sized things around the house: an open box for my cubby at Hacklab, some support for the kitchen shelf, a headboard, maybe even a study table. Someday!

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Redoing things

| family, life

SCHEDULED: 2010-09-07 Tue 08:00

It took me an extra weekend, but I repainted the chair I’ve been working on. This chair was my very first paint job. When we were working on this last weekend, W- was painting his chair too, and I made the mistake of not asking him for help. It turns out I’d loaded the brush too heavily, and the resulting runs marred the finish. So we sanded and scraped some of the excess paint down, and I repainted the pieces.

I thanked W- for helping me learn. He thanked me for caring. =)

There are a lot of things I’m doing for the first time. Whether it’s figuring out painting or my career, I try things out, make the occasional mistake, and get better.

Lessons learned from painting: Don’t rush. Go light – paint with an almost-dry brush. Ask questions. Watch other people. And don’t be afraid to do it again, even if doing again might make things worse. (I sometimes gouged wood out while trying to scrape paint off.) It’s just a chair, so don’t worry too much about it, but it’s a good story too.

In other news: W- has finished painting his chair Bibbidi Bobbidi Blue, and J- is painting hers with One Enchanted Evening. Mine is Pooh Bear Yellow. Attack of the Disney pastels! =) When we finish the chairs, I’ll post a picture of the three of us.

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Two days of awesome

Posted: - Modified: | cooking, sketches

image I spent Saturday at Lee Valley’s Women and Power Tools seminar. In the process of building a toolbox, we got to use a circular saw, a mitre saw, a table saw, a jigsaw, a band saw, a drill press, routers (both fixed and hand-held), a belt sander, a palm sander, and a portable drill. W- and I used a circular saw, a jigsaw, and a portable drill to build our Muskoka chairs, but I wanted to try out the stationary power tools like the table saw and the drill press. We haven’t set up a permanent workshop, so all of our tools have to be portable enough to set up on the deck.

The class was lots of fun. I enjoyed meeting other women who were interested in woodworking. Our two instructors were both great role models: passionate, experienced, and engaged. I’m looking forward to seeing the list of autumn classes at Lee Valley’s and learning more.

I’m happy with the toolbox I built. The sides aren’t perfectly matched and the wood has knots, but the toolbox holds together, and the little buttons that cover the sunken screws are so cute. =)

I really liked the drill press, the belt/orbital sander, and the table saw. I think our next major tool investment might be a portable table saw, if W- and I find one that we’re happy with. But we’ll buy that only if we get into serious carpentry, like building cabinets. The folding table I’ve got on my to-build list should be doable with the tools that we have.

One of my classmates is into sewing, gardening, and woodworking too. Yay! =) Maybe she’ll come to one of my tea parties? I’d love to connect with other crafters.

imageOn Sunday, I invited Maira to come over and try batch-cooking. The kitchen at her sublet apartment is small and sparsely equipped. W- and I both enjoy cooking, and we have a decently-stocked kitchen. So Maira and I spent three hours cooking up a storm: lemon refrigerator cookies, baked chicken, and chicken with mushroom sauce. There was a lot of food. Maira took home a week or two of meals, and we stashed the rest in the chest freezer.

I’m glad I invited her to come and cook with me. It’s great to try new recipes and realize they’re not so scary, and company turns cooking into a conversation. If cooking batches works for her, then she can repeat the recipes or try new ones and manage her time more efficiently. (I spent many student days living off pans of lasagna I made for myself!) I also repotted some of my parsley for her. The large bunches of parsley in the supermarket made Maira feel bad about the potential waste, but growing parsley will let her harvest a little bit at a time.

After we dropped Maira off, we passed by Walmart to see if they had any sergers in stock. I’d like to get a serger to finish my edges more cleanly and do better rolled hems, but it’s hard to decide which one to buy. The Walmart at Dufferin Mall had two Singer 14CG74 sergers in stock. The Brother 1034D is highly recommended, but I haven’t found out where to buy it in Toronto. W- volunteered to help me do research and check out Craigslist, which is terrific because he’s really good at doing that kind of comparison shopping.


I offered to make him a green monster (vegetable smoothie), but I dropped the blender and the plastic shattered. It was the low-end blender I’d bought during my student days, so I wasn’t troubled by it. After some research, W- and I bought a KitchenAid blender from Home Outfitters. It turned out to be $50 cheaper to order the blender from FutureShop, so I’ll call Home Outfitters after the long weekend to find out if they’ll match the lower price.

As W- reminded me, a blender in hand might beat two in the mail. ;)

I’m starting to like these vegetable smoothies. They took some getting used to when we first made them, but the frozen strawberries and blueberries make them almost a treat, and we go through so much more spinach (and even kale!) than we do if we just have salad.

In other news: you know, this drawing thing is fun. I find it more fun than taking and posting pictures, even. Why haven’t I been doing this more often? Maybe because I’ve been writing about these abstract things that don’t suggest images, but that’s a good exercise for the imagination. Perhaps I can write these slice-of-life posts from time to time. I like playing with colour and ink when I draw on my computer… =)

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The fruits and chairs of our labour

Posted: - Modified: | gardening

W- and I have graduated to making furniture. =)

From Starred Photos

He finished his chair this weekend. It’s awesome! I’m working on a chair of my own (below):

From Starred Photos

In other news, gardening rocks.

From Starred Photos
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Weekly review: Week ending June 13, 2010

Posted: - Modified: | gardening, weekly
From Starred Photos

This weekend, I finished my finger joint jig (my very first!), bought my own workbench (a Black & Decker WorkMate 425), and made my finger-jointed box sides. Whee! It was a lot of fun working on the deck with W- and J-, routing my box while W- sawed the pieces for his chair and J- collected sawdust. Progress! I think we might be getting the hang of this.

I did a lot of gardening, too. I turned the compost twice, and it’s getting close to the right texture. Next weekend, I think I’ll build a sifter and shake out the twigs so that I can use the compost to feed the strawberries, tomatoes, and peas, all of which are doing quite well. I revamped the back planter box and planted some more lettuce, and I planted jalapeno peppers along the path. Gardening is a great way to get more greens into our diet, and I’m looking forward to more harvests. Next time, I’ll be more consistent with succession planting. Just because you’re swimming in lettuce one week doesn’t mean you can skip planting the lettuce you’ll harvest in a few weeks’ time. =)

From last week’s plans:


  • [  ] Update Idea Lab guide
  • [X] Give talk on Idea Labs
  • Added more Smarter Planet experts to my list
  • Gave students advice
  • Worked on Lotus Connections Java library, stuck on multipart/related PUT
  • Helped HR person with mail merge


  • [  ] Check out more photographers
  • [  ] Catch up with Maira Bay de Souza and Leigh Honeywell at hacklab.to
  • [X] Finish box joint jig
  • [X] Make box-jointed box
  • [  ] Finish influence map stories
  • Set up my own work bench
  • Went to science fair, yay!
  • Attended U of T lab potluck
  • Lent J- shoes (she’s growing up so fast!)


  • [X] Set up new webserver
  • [X] Take it easy
  • Made a pair of Thai fisherman’s pants
  • Planted hot peppers

Plans for next week:


  • [  ] Update Idea Lab moderator guide
  • [  ] Import Smarter Planet experts into expertise locator tool
  • [  ] Create expertise locator batch importer tool
  • [  ] Create Activity set-up tool
  • [  ] Lead team enablement call
  • [  ] Plug into other expertise location initiatives


  • [  ] Apply for marriage licence
  • [  ] Check out more photographers
  • [  ] Catch up with Maira Bay de Souza and Leigh Honeywell at hacklab.to
  • [  ] Finish influence map stories
  • [  ] Make box bottom and top


  • [  ] Figure out proper configuration for php-fastcgi
  • [  ] Convert more planting space
  • [  ] Bike during sunny days
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| life

Russian birch plywood love © 2010 Sacha Chua – feel free to use it under the Creative Commons Attribution Licence

After Neko (our cat) joined our household, we discovered that we couldn’t leave bagels and other bread products outside without the risk of nibbles from a cat with the midnight munchies. We’d been looking for a wooden bread box for some time, but the stores we frequent have only plastic and stainless steel bread boxes. So I found a simple bread box plan and borrowed the basic ideas from it.

I modified the plan to use butt joints instead of lap joints because we haven’t figured out how to make proper joints yet. I also changed the plan to use 3/4″ plywood all around, because we might wall-mount the bread box and the back needs to be sturdy. I changed the height, width, and depth of the bread box too, so that it was as long as the microwave but shallow and short enough not to get in the way.

After drafting the plans on graphing paper, I marked the pieces on a sheet of 3/4″ Russian birch plywood, with 1/8″ gaps for the kerf removed by sawing. W- cut the pieces using the circular saw and his straight-cut jig. I glued and nailed the box top, back, bottom, and front rail. The nails gave me a bit of trouble, but I’m getting better at driving them in.

With the center assembled, it was easy to trace the outline on the two pieces of wood for the sides, adding 3/4″ near the top to account for the cover. I refined the lines with a ruler and W- cut them to size. While I attached the sides, he beveled the cover to fit.

All the bread box needs now are two hinges, a knob, and some kind of finish. It’s a substantial bread box with plenty of space for bread and other things we want to keep away from cats.

If I were to do this again, I’d probably make it out of a thinner wood. Russian birch plywood is stronger than regular birch plywood, so 1/2″ or thinner might do the trick. Russian birch is probably overkill for an everyday bread box, but (a) we had it, (b) I enjoyed working with it, and (c) the 13 layers of alternating dark and light wood look rather pretty on the front-facing edges. So maybe it would be regular plywood for the bottom and back (no exposed edges), and Russian birch for the sides, front, and top. =)

Oak bread boxes sell for ~$85 – 120 on Amazon.com. The 3/4″ sheet of Russian birch was around twenty dollars. Sure, it’s not oak, and we spent a lot of time making things, but it was a great way to learn something new, create something useful, and enjoy a holiday with someone I love.

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