January 2006

This workbench cabinet project was one in which I intended to use up all the random scraps of wood that had accumulated because I can’t bear to throw away wood that might one day be used.  So I had a number of short pieces of oak with which to front my drawers.  Unfortunately, they were all of slightly different thicknesses since they all dated from different projects and most of them were too thick.  So off I went to my good friend’s house – he has a surface planer and a thickness sander.

These two power tools make possible a job that would be pretty much impossible with hand tools but even so, it took us a hour and maybe a bit more to reduce all this hardwood to the proper thickness.  It’s loud work so you can’t talk, you can only stand on opposite sides of the tool and pass pieces of wood back and forth; one feeding it in, the other pulling it out.

In the end, I had a bunch of oak of the proper thickness and a bunch of walnut that was also properly dimensioned for my next project.  I tried to dimension a piece of this with a handplane but it was extremely difficult and I got nowhere with it. 

I’m coming down the home stretch now.


Well, I almost finished this one up this weekend.  I only lack the false fronts on the drawers and a bit of polyurethane.  It was a learning experience.

I’m annoyed by several things.  First, even though I bought full-extension drawer slides, due to a design issue, they don’t actually extend any further than conventional drawers.  But at least they roll smoothly and that’s worth something.

Second, something is not quite square.  I measure carefully but even so, the drawers are not quite flush with the surface of the cabinet.  I can’t figure this out.  Perhaps the drawers are not quite square which is possible even though I used clamps that are supposed to hold things square.  They aren’t perfect and I only had two and each drawer has four corners so there may be something there.  Still, the drawers look like they’re in there crooked even though each side is parallel with the cabinet side.

But, this is typical woodworker nitpicking.  It works well and I intend to populate it with tools immediately.  Photos to come later after I get the drawer fronts on.

Lessons learned: 

  1. dovetails are not meant for plywood.  I must either use real wood drawer sides or find another joint type. 
  2. keeping a cabinet and all drawers square is more work than I thought it would be. 
  3. Using a dovetail jig is faster than doing it by hand but when you time it from the moment you decide to start until the moment you install the drawer, it isn’t as much of a time savings as you think.  It’s probably not even half.
  4. And even though you’d think that a machine-cut joint would be much superior, in this case, my hand-cut ones actually look better.  This is due to the plywood veneer splitting off when the router bit hits it.
  5. Hardware like full-extension drawer slides and drawer-pulls are the biggest part of the expense. 

My workbench is a wonderful thing but I built it with a big gaping void underneath the top.  It is after all simply a bench.  But this void tends to be a place where I pile junk and the junk gets thickly encrusted with sawdust.  So I decided to clean it up.

I designed a small cabinet underneath it with six drawers in it.  That cabinet carcasse is done and I’m building the drawers now to populate it.  I am continually surprised at how much wood it takes to complete a project of any sophistication.  This think is weighing in at about a ton (or so it seems) and I’m not done yet.  And these drawers have no tools in them yet.

I’m using plywood for the drawer sides and using dovetailed joints to stick them all together but those two things are apparently making for some difficulties.  When you try to dovetail two pieces of plywood together, you wind up with many of the little layers trying to split apart from one another.  Maybe next time I’ll do something else but for now, I’ll just call it a learning experience and go on.

Last November, I went in for my annual arm and leg count with the doctor during which he tested my cholesterol.  The number came back astronomical at 266.  So I changed my diet and took the medication he prescribed.

Monday, I had them take blood for a followup test and the total cholesterol is now…

(a drumroll please)


How’s that for a reduction?

A friend of mine just uttered one of those witticisms worthy of repeating.

I was discussing my project in which I am building six drawers.  When making dovetailed joints, it’s very rewarding to be able to produce them with simple hand tools but that’s very slow.  A router jig is much faster but very expensive.  I had asked him if I could borrow his jig since I was more interested in getting the job done than in simply enjoying the journey.  He summarized it thusly:

“It’s a labor of love, not a love of labor!”


I got the summons last week. Dang it, I served jury duty five years ago – Mel has never been calledeven once! It's her turn to endure the paralyzing boredom in the basement of the courthouse! Why can't they call her for once?

How attorneys can hang around there all day doing what they do in the courtroom is beyond me. My only contact with an attorney was to get our wills drawn up and that was pretty pleasant since he was taking care of a lot of stuff that I didn't know needed to be taken care of. But it was a little boring though.

OK, check out this to-do list from maybe the most productive weekend ever!

  • Paint window sills in kitchen
  • Hang and rig hose reel for air compressor in garage
  • patch and re-weld bandsaw blade
  • install bandsaw blade and test it (see later post for details)
  • build wall hanger for my articulating desk lamp over my workbench
  • Start on my drawer cabinet for under the workbench
  • Finish Evan’s video project – burn DVDs and free the hard drive of all those video files
  • Replace blades in tablesaw and circular saw
  • Solve all the world’s hunger problems

I guess I can be forgiven for not managing that last one.

I imagine that I didn’t score any points with the wife or kids from my being out in the garage all weekend long but I love building stuff!  I had more fun out there than I’ve had in a long time.   

Regarding the drawer cabinet, I bought a sheet of plywood and cut
out the large pieces.  I also covered the edges with some oak strips
and cut the rabbets for the main structure to fit together.  Two more
dadoes and I can assemble the basic box and it’ll be ready for drawers.

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