Mass Effect Drinks Cabinet from Recycled Wood

A friend asked me to make him a drinks cabinet recently with the ability to hold bottles upside down for use with optics and also have a large logo painted on. This was uncharted and rather scary territory for me but I pushed on and found the solutions that I needed.

If you’d like to see the video of the making of the drinks cabinet you can find it here – Mass Effect Drinks Cabinet


Gluing up the back board

I make all of my items from recycled wood and this cabinet was no different but posed many challenges due to its size. The back board had to be made from 7 pieces of pallet wood glued side by side and then planed flat. This is itself was a challenge and was only the beginning of the build!

Using some construction timber I had in my shed I started to make the frame, this was all held together with screws in a pocket hole jig style. When I had the basic frame I then fitted the shelves and gave the whole cabinet its first coat of black gloss. This colour and type of paint was specified by the customer to give the cabinet an English pub look.

The main frame of the cabinet was together and now it was time to get the front and back on. I screwed some pallet wood pieces to the front, leaving enough room for the door, and nailed some thin plywood to the back. The shelves are also made from plywood from a builders rubbish pile.

I made the door using a Z frame to keep it from sagging too much over time. The hinges were metal fence hinges which were also recycled from my own garden. I then attached the door and gave the whole cabinet another lick of paint.


Handle from an old pipe

The cabinet needed a handle for the door and as I had some old metal conduit in the shed I decided to saw a piece off and set it between two pallet wood pieces. The metal pipe would be nice to hold in the hand and also match the logo I was to paint later.

I needed to come up with a solution for having the bottles upside down and at first I was puzzled but over time I came up with a solution. The shaft of the bottle would be supported in a curved piece of wood with elastic cord holding it tightly against the curve. The neck of the bottle would snap into a pipe clip, the kind that are used to clip pipes and conduit to walls. I used clips that were 25mm wide.



The finished logo

Painting the logo was a rather painstaking and slow process. I couldn’t use masking tape because it would possibly peel away some of the black gloss and I couldn’t make a template for fear of the same happening. So in the end I just drew the design on with a ruler and painted the logo freehand.



The cabinet in its new home

All in all I was pleased with the outcome of the cabinet and so was the customer. All manner of bottles fit inside the holders (even square ones) and the whole cabinet excluding the paint, cord and clips is made from recycled materials. I’m thankful I got to make it and even more thankful that it came together rather nicely.


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Benchtop Spring Pole Lathe – Uses and limitations

The idea and use of the lathe goes back thousands of years to at least the time of the ancient Egyptians. These days of course the lathe is very different to how it was then, replacing a simple machine manually operated by one or two people to the motor powered powerhouses of the modern era. Being a simple tool woodworker however, I decided to try and recreate a bit of a blast from the past.

You can see the YouTube video documenting the build here – Benchtop Spring Pole Lathe



A few of the pieces that make up the lathe

I went for the idea of a spring pole lathe, the spring in this case being an elastic bungee cord to save space in my little shed. Needing a way to make the lathe fit into my shed without it getting in the way I also made it so it could be clamped to my bench when in use and pulled apart easily and stowed away under my bench when not needed. The whole lathe being made from pallet wood also posed the problem of having to glue pieces together to make the stocks, this problem was soon overcome though.


Sharpened bolts to act as the centres

For the lathe centres I just sharpened the ends of a couple of bolts and bolted them firmly to the stocks. These bolts were 8mm in thickness and I think probably that’s the slimmest you’d want them, they maybe could’ve done with being thicker.



Test assembly

When I had inserted a bolt into the moving stock I did a test assembly. This allowed me to move the movable stock towards the fixed stock and push the point of the centre into it. This gave an accurate marking where I could drill the hole for the corresponding bolt to attach. After that was all done I just glued and screwed.


Attaching the posts to hold the bungee cord

I made the two posts that held the bungee cord removable so I could easily pack it away. The bottom of the posts simply slot into holes made with a wooden surround, they can sit in there firmly whilst being used and just slid out when packed away.


The lathe ready for use

After making a very simple pedal and clamping the lathe to my bench it was ready to use. I’m not very good at turning and I also don’t have the correct tools, so you’ll have to forgive my attempts! After failing with a piece of pallet wood I found more success with a small cherry branch, it was however still pretty awful but I would call it progress.


Attempt at turning

This build was so much fun and to do it all with recycled wood was incredibly satisfying. There are some limitations to this build however. I think to turn anything like a bowl would be very difficult as the side rails are quite high on the stocks, so if a bowl was to be turned it would be a rather small bowl. With it being made from pallet wood it will perhaps not be as sturdy or as long lived as its more robust, hardwood counterparts. It did however only take a few days to build and so far it seems to perform very well. I would encourage anyone at all to give it a go, nothing quite like seeing a machine you’ve made come to life.









The A – Z of Trees : African Mahogany (Khaya genus) [Series]

Above photo By Andrew massyn – Own work, Public Domain,

Not to be confused with Sapele and Utile trees, the African Mahogany I’m focusing on in this article are from the Khaya Genus of trees, specifically:

  • Khaya Madagascariensis
  • Khaya Ivorensis
  • Khaya Grandifoliola
  • Khaya Anthotheca
  • Khaya Senegalensis

Colours of these woods vary greatly from a dark reddish brown to a rather pale pink.



The leaves of the Khaya Madagascarensis.


Above photo By Axel Strauß (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Khaya Madagascarensis

The Khaya Madagascarensis is found, no surprise, in Northern and Eastern Madagascar. An evergreen tree  it produces valuable timber and is known for its local medicinal use. It is reddish brown in colour and its timber uses include fine furniture, carving and its trunk is traditionally used for canoes. Unfortunately, it has been overexploited for its timber and has lost its natural habitat due to human activity, this has led to it being classified as endangered by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature).


Khaya Ivorensis

The Khaya Ivorensis grows in Gabon, Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Angola; the tropical areas of Western Africa. The heartwood is a pale reddish brown and its timber is used for fine furniture and also for boat and ship construction. Its medicinal uses include being used in the treatment of whooping cough, diarrhoea, dysentery, back pain and rheumatism. Much like the Madagascarensis, Khaya Ivorensis is also under threat and is classified as vulnerable by the IUCN.


Khaya Grandifoliola

The Khaya Grandifoliola grows in Guinea-Bissau, Sudan and the Congo and is mainly a deciduous species in the dry season. The heartwood which darkens to a reddish brown after exposure is pinkish brown when first cut. The timber is used for fine furniture, veneer, ship building, toys, musical instruments and is traditionally used for furniture, canoes and household items. Medicinally the bark can be used as a washing cloth, as a treatment for the fever caused by malaria and also the treatment of gastric ulcers. A gum from the bark is used in the pharmaceutical industry as a slow release for tablets. Once again due to the high exploitation of this highly desired tree the IUCN list it as vulnerable.


Khaya Anthotheca

Also known as White Mahogany the Khaya Anthotheca is a semi deciduous tree found in Sierra Leone, Uganda, Angola and Mozambique. The heartwood can be a pinkish brown to copper red and is used for veneer and furniture making, traditionally the logs are carved out to form canoes. It can also be used to make charcoal. The bark is used traditionally to treat abdominal pain, gonorrhoea, colds and fevers. Lice can also be treated when oil from the seeds is rubbed into the hair. The bark is also sometimes used to treat ulcers and wounds and when pulverised is even used to combat male impotence and as an aphrodisiac. The IUCN rates the Khaya Anthotheca as vulnerable due to its heavy exploitation.



The flower of the Khaya Senegalensis

Above photo By Forestowlet – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Khaya Senegalensis

Found in Senegal, Sudan and Uganda, the evergreen tree Khaya Senegalensis has a dark red brown colour heartwood, sometimes with a hint of purple. The timber is used for fine furniture and boat building. Locally the wood is used for turning and railroad ties among other things. Once again the bitter bark is reported to be successful in the treating of fever but also syphilis. Bark extract is used as a disinfectant for various ailments. Unfortunately I have to once again type that this tree is also listed as vulnerable by the IUCN due to poor control of logging practices.

In Darwin, Australia there have been cases of falling branches of the African Mahogany killing people below when poorly maintained, as reported by NT News among others (African Mahogany in Darwin). One man was killed by a falling branch whilst on a golf course and a school boy was killed in the school playground in similar circumstances. It is theorised that planting African Mahogany trees in a wetter climate than their natural dry habitat causes them to grow larger faster, making them unstable.

What have I learnt about African Mahogany whilst writing this article? Well, mostly that its cultivation is poorly managed and this has unfortunately, though perhaps not unexpectedly, lead to it becoming a currently vulnerable species and perhaps soon to be endangered. I’ve also learnt that the Khaya genus produces great quality wood which is also stunningly gorgeous whilst also at the same time producing bark, oils and gum used in many kinds of medicines. Hopefully these trees will be around for many generations to come and I would think its our responsibility to make sure this is the case.

Thank you for checking out this blog post, please head on over to my Facebook Page to check out all the various things I get up to in the woodworking world.

Previous article in this series can be found here The A – Z of Trees : Acacia [Series]





Salvaged Wood Wood Store that Stores Salvaged Wood

When you first start woodworking you spend your time scrounging around for any kind of wood you can find, when people are kind enough to keep donating to you however you have to find a way to store it! I wanted to keep my wood store near to my shed and so couldn’t have anything that took up too much space. I came up with a simple design which allows air flow to drift through the wood piles. It’s not the most ideal storage seeing as its outside but its better than just laying the wood on the dirt.


Making grooves for the pallet wood slats.

Since I already had the shed and wanted the storage close to the shed, a simple lean to seemed like the perfect solution. I started with some old roofing batten, glued a few lengths together to make posts and then sawed and chiselled out some angled sections. These rebates would have pallet wood lengths screwed into them, acting as a barrier against the rain but also allowing air flow through the gaps.



All the slats screwed on.

Once this part was finished it was just a case of making a simple frame to attach to the side of the shed and an angled roof to help it shed water easily.


The frame taking shape.

In the small area below the wood storage I laid some slabs down just to stop too much moisture coming from the dirt below. I also fully cladded the back of the shelves to stop the wood hitting the less than sturdy fence behind it!

My experience in drying wood is still rather minimal but I did buy a book recently which I shall be studying soon. It has good reviews and if you want to check it out you can find it here:

Wood and How to Dry It – Fine Woodworking – Amazon

All I knew at the time of building my wood store was that it was a good idea to keep rain off the wood but also create air flow. This is why you see big piles of wood with little spacers in between each plank called “stickers”. This creates air flow between the planks to allow for more surface area to be dried.

Since I mostly store pallet wood in this area I didn’t feel the need to get too technical with it. Of course when it comes to the time of actually using the wood I have to let it acclimatise in a temperature similar to its final environment. So for example if I was making a little pallet wood box to go in a home, I would have to have the pallet wood planks sit in an environment similar to that home. So I could keep them in a warmed shed or garage for a few weeks and then make the box. This makes for minimal movement of the wood after the piece is finished.



The lean to complete with shelving.

I wanted to give myself enough space in the shelves but also lots of options for different kinds of wood. This led to me making the top section open wide. I also made the lowest shelf come a little off the ground to help air flow under it. After all the shelving was complete I concentrated on the roof. This was simply some marine ply or exterior ply from a rubbish pile and some felt leftover from the building of another shed.



The first load of wood in storage.

When it was all done I painted it with some fence paint we had left over, waited for it to dry and placed all the wood inside (except for my good stuff, that goes in the shed). It’s not the prettiest structure in the world nor it is the most ideal for drying wood but for my little shed it works. I’ve built many things from the wood stored here and I hope to build many more. It’s a salvaged wood wood store that stores salvaged wood. Say that fast three times.






The A – Z of Trees : Acacia [Series]


Acacia Koa – Found most commonly in Hawaii

Above photo by Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY 3.0,

Seeing as I’m constantly fascinated with different trees, not just from a woodworking perspective but with the amazing abilities they have and what they provide to the world, I thought I would start a series to improve my knowledge on them and write what I find. The A-Z of Trees will be about trees from all over the world, starting with the Acacia tree.

The Acacia is a genus of trees with over a 1,000 different species world wide spread over sub tropical regions. Over half of the species grow in Australia, they also grow in Africa, Central America, Hawaii, South Western US and Mexico.

The flowers of the Acacia are usually yellow though they are sometimes white, they’re shaped like little pom poms. Most species of the Acacia tree have fern like leaves, opposite each other along a thing stem.



Yellow flowers of the Acacia Tetragonophylla – Found in Australia

Above photo by Melburnian – Own work, CC BY 2.5,

One of the more usable trees, the Acacia Senegal, is found in the Northern Sahara and is the main source of Gum Arabic. Sweets, medicines, paints and watercolours are all made with Gum Arabic and it is also used in the production of paper, silk and cosmetics.

There is some controversy over this substance however, the troubled nation of Sudan supplies around 70-80% of the worlds Gum Arabic. It is used as a stabiliser in soft drinks to bind the sugar to the drink, preventing it from crystallising. When The Sudan had sanctions brought upon it by the US government in 1997 for the former giving refuge to Islamic terrorists, the only product exempt from an export band was Gum Arabic, such is its value to the US economy. According to an article on, Coca Cola and Pepsi are still vague as to its usage within their beverages.

Now what we really want to know, what are the properties of Acacia wood and what can it be used for?

Acacia wood is strong and solid, hard to scratch and is also water resistant. These properties make it ideal for:

  • Outdoor furniture
  • Hard wearing furniture and items
  • Ideal for shelving, can take a lot of weight
  • Flooring
  • Cutting boards

Of course these are just a few examples, I’m sure your mind can come up with all kinds of ideas for this rugged and durable wood. Many species of Acacia have a deep brown colour when cut, the Acacia Koa pictured above being one of those.



Acacia Melanoxylon – Found in Australia


Above photo by Júlio Reis (User:Tintazul) – Original File, CC BY-SA 2.5,

A fast growing species called Acacia Melanoxylon (also known as Australian Blackwood, pictured above) is sought after for furniture building due to its rapid growth and strength. Its said to be able to easily gain 90cm (3ft) in height per year. It is also used for inlays, bent work and it has good acoustic qualities which make it ideal for guitar building.

I hope you enjoyed the first entry into the A – Z of trees, next in the series can be found here The A – Z of Trees : African Mahogany (Khaya genus) [Series].



Camera arm from recycled materials – mistakes and successes

Getting increasingly annoyed with constantly adjusting and readjusting the legs of my flimsy tripod whilst making videos, I had to try and make a camera arm for increased ease and efficiency of recording in my tiny shed. Armed with the knowledge of a few camera arm building tutorials on YouTube and using only materials I already had, I set about building something that would do for the moment until more complex plans could be formulated.


Piece of conduit within a bucket.

Many of the tutorials call for a bucket filled with concrete, a heavy base to keep the arm steady. I did have a bucket but no cement. So I grabbed the plastic bucket I had and found a piece of conduit about head height. The conduit had to be held upright in the bucket, making a cross piece from old construction lumber I drilled a hole through it for the conduit to fit into. I threw a load of sand on top left over from a building project and then placed a circle of plywood on top to hold it all inside and compact it further.


The plywood circle was screwed to the bucket.

I made a corresponding plywood circle to go on the bottom of the bucket and screwed straight through it into the wooden supports inside the bucket. After that all I had to do was add a few castors so I could wheel it easily around the shed.


Adding 3 casters only means it wouldn’t rock on uneven surfaces.

The principle from then on was fairly simple; I needed an arm that would slide freely up and down the conduit with some kind of fixing ability to keep it in position when recording. The arm would be made from left over construction grade lumber and some pallet wood chunks, a pretty simple design.



A hole drilled through the pallet wood chunks made for easy positioning.

I had some unused bolts, nuts and washers which were perfect for the fixing mechanism to keep the arm from sliding down. The procedure is fairly simple:

  • Place the nut over the area where you wish to embed it.
  • Trace and knife an outline around the nut and cut out the material to a depth as deep or deeper than the depth of the nut.
  • Drill a hole through the centre of the nut hole and out at the side where the end of the bolt will make contact.
  • Insert the nut into the hole and give a few firm taps with a hammer.
  • Trace a line around a washer to cover over the nut and take away material.
  • Place the washer over the nut and then screw a piece of wood (or metal/plastic) over the top of the washer to keep it in place.

    Using a nut and bolt as a fixing system.

    I repeated this method twice, once for the adjustment of the camera arm and the other for the adjustment of the camera pole itself. For each adjuster I made a handle for the bolt that screws into the nut to make it easier to turn, especially on these cold winter days when your hands feel like they’re going to shatter.


    The finished stand.

    Over all I’m pleased that recording is now easier in my shed but after using it there are a few things I will change when I do it again.

    Firstly I will used better quality castors, the ones I bought here are from a hardware store and were the cheapest I could find. They struggle to swivel and so half the time I’m actually dragging the stand rather than wheeling it.

    Secondly I’d use concrete to set the pipe in the place and as the counterweight. As you can see the sand alone wasn’t enough and I had to add extra weights, also the conduit was slightly on the slant which I feel could have been avoided if I set it level in concrete.


    Lastly and perhaps most importantly I don’t know if I’d use this design at all but rather go with one that could clasp onto the wall perhaps. For those of you who haven’t seen my videos you might not realise but my shed is indeed very small, I have around 2m X 3m (78 3/4″ X 118 1/8″) of floor space. With shelves and my workbench and wood pile taking up some of this space it makes it rather clumsy and lumbering to move a camera arm around also.



I’m glad I made it and it does make recording faster but really, for my tiny little shed its not a long term solution and I think when the weather is better I’ll give it a re think and post my future solution on here. First ideas are often not the best.