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A Tale of Two Tables, part 2

Originally published Mar. 5, 2012

I know, you’ve been waiting with bated breath to see how the other table turned out. Or perhaps not, but I’ve been eager to tell you in any case.

The first table was to support my awesome (in the old-fashioned sense of the word, the thing is rather intimidating) hydraulic press, and it will do the job beautifully. The second table is to support my lovely Hollander beater, known as The Critter. It’s from New Zealand, it’s collapsable, it’s green, and I love it. But it’s an odd shape.

I learned my lesson from the smaller table, and made an effort to keep things a bit more on the square this time around. Hooray for using tools in the proper manner!

So rather than putting all four legs together in a haphazard fashion, I put the two sides together first, like so:

side of table with stretchers

This is where having only two C-clamps began to cramp (or clamp?) my style. They only opened far enough to clamp a single two-by-four to the workbench, so I had to muscle a few things into place. But even so, I got two of these in short order:

table side standing up

And neither one fell over! Or wobbled! I was getting the hang of this carpentry business. Or so I thought. But I soon realized that keeping a flat piece square is much easier than keeping a boxy piece square. And it’s even harder when the thing you’re building is heavy, as my table was turning out to be. So I got distracted from taking pictures until it looked like this:

table with lower shelf and stretchers added

Oops. You’ll just have to imagine me, standing inside the thing before the shelf was added, madly tapping and rapping on the corners, desperate to get things perfectly level, perfectly square. And then I added the shelf. Now that it’s done, I wonder if thinner boards might have been better, but part of me likes the big hefty two-by-four shelving. It’s so solid.

The only part of building this table that truly annoyed me was putting the top on. One of the stretchers across the top was a bit (a teeeeeeeny bit) wonky, and stuck up above everything else by about an eighth of an inch. Argh!

putting the top on

I had to sand it down, or risk the top flexing too much and splitting. Sadly, that meant sanding it down by hand. Not so sad, though, was my clever (if I may say so) technique. I have no idea if this is something real carpenters know and do, but this is what I came up with. I had a scrap of two-by-four that was about eight inches long, so I wrapped a big piece of sandpaper around it, and stapled it in place on one of the two-inch sides of the scrap. That left me with two big level surfaces that were covered in sandpaper. Voila! No tears in my sandpaper, no splinters in my hands.

After much sanding (and a little swearing), I finally got the top on. It was even level! Mostly.

the finished table

The top is made from two shelves that were sitting in Dad’s woodscrap pile. I didn’t even have to trim them! And somehow the dark finish adds a little somethin-somethin.

But wait until you see what I did next! Coming up … adventures in varnishing.

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A Tale of Two Tables, part 1

Originally published Feb 28, 2012

It’s been a while! I’ve been in the garage, building stuff. What stuff, you ask? Tables! I decided that it would be cheaper (and certainly more fun) to build my own tables to spec than it would be to hunt around at Ikea and various secondhand shops for tables of not-quite-the-right-size. All you DIY people know what I mean.

Of course, the last time I did any woodwork was … never. So never let it be said that I lack ambition when it comes to building stuff.

But I found an amazing site full of furniture plans. Thank you, Ana White! Armed with a plan (yes, carpentry puns!) I headed off to Lowe’s. And then it snowed. Remember my lumber, languishing in the back of my car? Yes, that lumber. Anyway, after the great thaw, I went to work. With some pretty retro tools:

It may be old, but it still has a lot of life (and sparks) in it.

old school black and decker drill

Who could resist such a pretty saw?

retro handsaw with floral detail on the handle

These are my dad’s. I suspect they are older than I am. But they sure do work. And although I was handicapped by only having two C-clamps (oh, the humanity!), I made quick progress on Day 1:

Table legs!

table legs

Legs, meet stretchers:

table legs with stretchers

“Measuring” boards for the top:

putting on the tabletop

And by the end of the day, I had this sexy little thing:

a finished small table

It only wobbles a tiny bit (I forgot that the square only works when you actually pick it up and use it), but since this table will live outside on a gravel surface, a bit of rocking really doesn’t matter.

Stay tuned for the saga of the big beater table!

Categories: business, DIY, papermaking, update | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Snow Day!

Originally published Jan. 19, 2012

I finally got my rear in gear and went to Lowe’s to get my lumber and assorted other necessaries for table making, and then … it snowed. So the back of my car looks like this:

fresh cut 2x4s

It’s too cold to be out in the garage all day without warm gloves, and gloves + powertools = nasty accident in my mind. But in the meantime, I’m knitting like mad (snow and ice is perfect knitting weather, truly) and getting inspired by all the winter scenery. Behold:

icy trellis

iron sunflower

icy rose

frozen rosemary

swirly grass


frozen grass

icy olive tree

Categories: business, DIY, papermaking, update | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

What do 40 pink flamingoes and a kangaroo hide have in common?

Originally published Jan. 11, 2011

They were both hiding in my parents’ garage!

We spent a festive New Year’s weekend hauling boxes around and shoving stuff aside so that I’d be able to get The Critter down from the rafters and actually set it up in the proper place to begin pulping. The poor thing has been neglected for over three years, so here’s hoping it still works …

I can’t decide what I’m most excited about – getting set up in general, or the fact that the Critter is a weird size, so I have to get to build a table for it. Power tools! Hammering! The smell of sawdust! The possibility for mayhem and frustration …

Anyway, I figure some of you might be wondering why on earth my parents have 40 pink plastic flamingoes stashed in their attic. Well, they’re left over from ambushing family members on their 50th birthdays. Wake up, have your coffee, walk outside – GAH! There’s a flock of bright pink birds all over my lawn! Very amusing. Ten of the birds found a permanent home after my ornithologist uncle turned 50 and decided he liked a little color in his yard.

The kangaroo hide has an equally weird little story behind it. I was in Adelaide, SA, on spring break with my parents after my study abroad term. Dad needed a new belt, so we found a little leather and shoe shop – the kind that you can’t find in the US anymore. The owner was a bit frazzled – he was about to close, and he was late for a big dinner party, but he didn’t want to turn us away. So he handed my mom and me $50 and asked if we would please go buy him a bunch of fresh oysters while he helped Dad find the right belt. We did, and when we got back, I found a beautifully tanned and pared kangaroo skin, dyed with walnut and then crumpled. I had to buy it. Wouldn’t you?

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