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

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

If you’d like to keep up with future projects and my day to day woodworking activities then please give my Facebook page a like and hopefully I’ll see you soon!

 

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

 

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tool tote and Bookshelf, his and hers wedding gifts

My friend of 25+ years recently got married and I was fortunate enough to be one of the best men. I didn’t have a speech to do however and so this got me thinking that I’d love to make something for him and his wife to be. Instead on focusing on them as a couple which is often the way with wedding gifts I decided to make them their own individual presents, here’s a little look at what I made.

 

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Tool tote for the groom

I had some floorboards taken out of the house about 10 years ago just waiting to be made into something, these made up the sides and bottom. My brother who helped me make these presents is a builder and regularly gets wood that people throw away. This was the case with a lump of sapele, an African hardwood, that a carpenter no longer wanted. With its dark brown colour not too dissimilar to mahogany, it set off a nice contrast being used as dowels. The final piece was a hazel branch harvested at a friends farm, luckily we found a piece with a lovely natural curve, perfect for a handle.

 

A tool tote was chosen for the groom because he wants to get into woodwork, so I also made him a mallet from ash, sapele and a piece of what I think is oak from an old cot.

The bride is an avid reader, often talking of her love of Harry Potter amongst many others so it only seemed natural to make her a quirky little bookshelf.

 

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Bookshelf with bookmark

An old pine shelf was made into the shelf part, the hazel once again used as the bookends and for the feet and sapele dowels securing it together. I have a lot of ash logs from a local woodland and so used one for the base. A little hazel bookmark with a toggle finished it off.

 

All in all they were two really interesting builds with some challenging features and I can only hope that the married couple enjoy their gifts as much as I enjoyed dreaming them up and making them. I absolutely love recycling wood and knowing that it’s going to have a lengthened life in someone else’s home makes this all worthwhile.

If you’d like to check out the tool tote build and soon the bookshelf build, please head over to my YouTube channel – Timber Anew YouTube

One piece of pallet wood, one little box

Sometimes we do what we can to push the boundaries of our imagination and our materials, sometimes we just want to create a quick and easy project. This was the latter! (please be aware this post contains affiliate links)

You can see the YouTube tutorial here – YouTube tutorial – Pallet Wood Box

I wondered what I could make from a single piece of pallet wood and also what would be easy, quick and solid. Figuring that everyone needs boxes at some time in their lives I opted to make a little box, with a little lid.

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It all started with a single piece of pallet wood, which scrubbed up nicely after planing

So I found a nice piece of pallet wood with as few knots in as possible, I planed it down to get all the grime and roughness off. You could almost mistake some pieces of pallet wood for shop bought lumber when they’re cleaned up. I then marked up the lengths I wanted for the sides and cut them, 2 long sides at 15 cm (5 15/16″), the top and bottom of the box at 15cm and the 2 small sides at 5.5cm (2 3/16″). You can of course make the box as big or as small as you like.

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The 2 long sides, 2 short sides, the bottom and lid cut and ready

After these were all cut I clamped the 4 sides together without gluing them. I got the pieces in the right position and drilled the holes for the dowels. Having the sides all clamped together helped me to get the accuracy I needed for when the dowels go in.

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I used a hand powered drill but an electric drill would work just as well, I just enjoy the quiet

4 holes were drilled on each of the long sides into the short sides and 4 holes from the bottom into the long sides. Creating the dowels is fairly simple, I just took a small piece of the pallet wood and split down it with a chisel to make smaller pieces. Using a carving knife I whittled them down and finally tapped them through a dowel plate to make them exactly the right size. If you don’t have a dowel plate you can just carve them down with a knife and keep testing the thickness until they’re the right size.

Dowel plate – Dowel Plate

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Before and after being cut down to size

I always make more dowels than I need in case they break, especially at this size because they’re only 3mm (1/8″) in diameter and so are prone to breaking when being tapped in. Set all your pieces out on your work surface and start to glue them together.

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All sides drilled and ready to be glued

I started by gluing the two short sides and making sure to really rub the glue in as I was gluing onto end grain. End grain soaks up a lot more glue and so its good practice to give it a helping hand. After that I put a tiny bit of glue on a dowel at a time and slowly tap them in. It’s important to be careful at this stage, start with very light taps to get the dowel started, going at the dowel gung-ho is likely to result in breakage.

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Glued and doweled

After you’ve glued and doweled the sides and bottom its a good idea to leave it for 24 hours before doing anything else to it. When the time passed I trimmed off the tops of all the dowels.

The lid was the next thing to turn my attention to. I wanted it to lock in place when I put it on and so decided to cut a recessed area around the edge. Starting by making a cross going through the centre of the lid, I then marked out the inside lengths of the top of the box using the lines to centre those measurements.

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The lid marked out and ready for cutting

I found using a small tenon saw is ideal to cut out the recessed area, a Japanese ryoba saw would be just as good though. Coming in with a chisel afterwards helps to really clean up the edges and make it nice and crisp.

Tenon Saw – Tenon Saw

Japanese Ryoba – Japanese Ryoba

 

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Paring material away with a chisel can be incredibly satisfying

A file can then be used to smooth down all the corners and edges of the box. This step once again isn’t necessary but I like to be able to run my hands over the wood without feeling any sharp edges. After this is done you can smooth it even further with 120 grit sandpaper.

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Filing down the edges and corners

The next step, whilst also not essential, is to make a simple handle for the lid. Now this handle could be square, cylindrical, triangular, cone shaped whatever you like. I opted for a simple semi circle cut out from the pallet wood with a coping saw.

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You can use something round to make the semi circle shape, like a small tin

I smoothed the edges of the handle down and glued it onto the box. Later I gave it a good sanding all over with 240 grit sandpaper. I made sure to get around all the edges and into the box as well. I figured my hands would be entering the box at some point and so didn’t want the risk of splinters.

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The box sanded down all over and ready for finish

At this point you could leave the box as is, I prefer to have a light coating of Danish oil on mine. It provides a low lustre, smooth finish.

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After a couple of coats of Danish oil

The great thing about a finish is that it shows the real beauty of the wood. Even humble pallet wood can be brought to life with a finish.

All in all it was a very simple build but also quite satisfying to see a nice little box at the end of it. It certainly isn’t complicated joinery and I can’t imagine it looking like it belongs on any fine furniture but it serves a purpose, it’s sturdy, it’s recycled and it made me smile to see it completed. I think once you get all the other stuff out of the way, it’s the fulfilment that counts.

If you’d like to support my work here and on YouTube then feel free to check out my Patreon page – Timber Anew Patreon . Patreon is a site with which you can support creators for $1 a month. For me, these contributions will help in buying better camera equipment, tools, wood, books and all in all producing better quality content. Thank you for your consideration.

 

 

 

 

Sturdy garden plant shelving from pallets and firewood.

I’m an avid gardener as well as woodworker and luckily the two seem to go hand in hand. Want a planter for your herbs? make it from wood. A bench to sit on and enjoy your flowers? use that wood. A shelf to store all your plants on in the garden? Yep, wood again!

With a collection of plants and no particular way to store or present them, I came up with a simple shelving solution which is as strong today as when I made it a few years ago. I had a load of pallet wood and a cedar log I had saved from a firewood pile as my materials. (please be aware this post contains affiliate links)

I knew I wanted to have three shelves, each shelf becoming less wide as they went up to allow as much sunlight as possible to each shelf. Starting with a triangular frame seemed like the most obvious idea, so I took some wood from a pallet and made a simple triangular frame using lap joints.

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The horizontal length was to be the bottom shelf, with this simple framing I just had to add two more horizontal lengths to accommodate the two higher shelves. I spaced each shelf around 40cm (15 3/4″) above the shelf below it, I figured this would give the plants room to grow for as long as I wanted them on there. The next step was to stain the wood and drill the holes for the cedar pegs to go through.

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It’s rather satisfying to drill holes with a brace and bit and a lot quieter than using a power drill. If you want to hear the birds singing and the leaves rustling in the wind as you work, this is the way to do it.

Brace – Stanley Bit Brace

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After duplicating the triangular frame twice more I had to move on to making the cedar pegs. I had just recently acquired a section of cedar which was set aside for firewood and had heard of the durability of said wood in an outdoor environment. So I took my sledgehammer and wedge and went about cleaving off a section to use for the pegs. At this point I learned that it’s a good idea to buy a decent sledgehammer, or at least one with a decent handle.

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With that small setback out of the way I continued with the peg making, using a chisel to split the wood into small sections I gradually carved down each one with a knife. Another very satisfying and quiet process, best enjoyed in the garden I found.

A nice little whittling kit – Whittling kit

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I had a small block of scrap wood with the same size hole drilled through it to test each peg for thickness. A dowel plate would have been easier, which I now have but at the time did not. All in all I had to make 18 pegs, 6 for each frame, a little time consuming but very enjoyable.

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With all the pegs made I could get out the glue and start to build each of the three frames. For me this was one of the most satisfying parts of the build, the assembly, seeing all your work finally come together and slot in perfectly. Putting a thin layer of glue on the lap joints I slotted them together and then dabbed a little glue on each peg as I gently tapped them home. This is where the peg size is important, not to loose so as to not fall out but not too tight so as to not blow your joint apart.

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With all three frames assembled I could stand them altogether and work out the spacing. Looking at the pallet wood I had for the shelves I figured out the optimal length for the least wastage of wood. Each length seemed to be around 120cm (47 1/4″) long with some lengths a little longer. I clamped a longer piece of wood along the frames to keep them steady whilst I started nailing in the pallet wood.

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After I had nailed all the pieces on I had to paint the whole thing with stain, this was probably the most tedious part of the process but vital to the longevity of the build. I used general garden stain, used for fences and sheds. I noticed that the shelving swayed from side to side, as you would expect, so I nailed a long diagonal beam across the back of the shelves which made it very sturdy indeed.

Highly rated book on outdoor woodwork – Great book of Woodworking Projects

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All in all it was a very simple design but a rather rewarding build. It didn’t take long at all and has served its purpose for (from the publishing of this post) almost 4 years. We’ve many plants growing on it and hopefully more to come. The great thing about pallet wood is that you can experiment with it, if a piece breaks its ok, you’ve learnt something about wood and can move on to another piece. It is, for the most part, free after all. As long as there’s wood to be recycled there’s all kinds of things to be made with it.

 

 

Workbench from recycled wood; sturdy, satisfying but sometimes substandard?

Almost everything I’ve made since taking up woodwork has been with material I’ve been given or dismantled from previous projects. There’s an enormous satisfaction rewarded with bringing old and discarded wood to life. Whether it be breaking a pallet apart to make a jewellery box, cleaving a piece of cedar previously destined for the fire into shingles or ripping out some old shelves to create a planter for the garden; it’s always gratifying to repurpose timber.

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Showing the scars of use.

Making a workbench out of recycled timber though? maybe not always the best idea.

I didn’t really have much of a choice at the time; I was low on funds so I used what I already had. I would’ve killed for some maple but instead had to go with some old trusses from a shed and some half rotten fence posts, all pine. I’m grateful that I had any wood at all to be honest and I knew I could make a bench from it, it was just a question of how long it would last.

Gathering all the pieces of various lengths and thicknesses I realised that I wouldn’t be able to determine the length, width or thickness of my bench top. That alone would be down to the material I had. “Luckily” I have a pretty small shed as my workspace, so a small bench would be perfect, and a small bench it would be.

So I went about planing down the old trusses and cutting the rotten parts off the fence posts. The more I cut away at the wood, the better it looked and the more confident I was that this bench may not turn out too bad after all. I glued the bench top up, made from the old shed trusses, planed it down and stood back with a smidge of a smile. It was the middle of the British winter so this was a welcome pick me up!

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Thick with paint and residue I wasn’t going to chance using my handplanes on the old trusses before they were cleaned up.

The bench still wasn’t wide enough for my liking, all I had left was fence posts. They became a robust frame around the old trusses, connected at the corners by finger joints and joined to the old trusses by breadboard ends; this would ensure to decrease the amount of curvature in the bench top as the wood acclimatised and moved throughout the seasons.

2 books in particular helped me with setting out my joints and figuring out just what those joints had to be:

Firstly there’s “Success With Joints” by Ralph Laughton which you can check out at amazon.co.uk and amazon.com with the following links:

Amazon.co.uk – Success with Joints, Ralph Laughton

Amazon.com – Success with Joints, Ralph Laughton

Secondly, and this is one of my favourite books, “Building the Timber Frame House” by Tedd Benson documents the history and all the facets of timber framing, not essential for bench building but for me it helped a lot with various joints. You can find it at the following links for amazon.co.uk and amazon.com:

Amazon.co.uk – Building the Timber Frame House, Tedd Benson

Amazon.com – Building the Timber Frame House, Tedd Benson

 

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Oversized finger joints gave me plenty of leeway when finishing off the corners. Getting the breadboard ends as straight and crisp as possible was important.

Legs; where to position them, with what joint and how tall? After plenty of research I came to the conclusion that the top of my bench should be around wrist height, I tested this out and found it to be comfortable, so that was my answer. One thing I had to keep in the back of my mind was that I wanted to be able to disassemble my bench, my future is uncertain and there may be a move coming up soon so to make the bench easily transportable would be fantastic (as well as adding more complications; or as some people call it, a challenge).

With that in mind I came to the decision that instead of having 4 removable legs, I would have 2 sets of 2 removable legs to not only improve sturdiness but reduce the amount of pieces. At the time I had recently learnt of a technique called drawboring, an idea so simple and yet so incredibly effective I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard of it previously. It involves making a pegged mortise and tenon joint, but instead of attaching the joint and boring a hole straight through for the peg one would make a hole through the mortise part of the wood and then offset the hole in the tenon part ever so slightly in the direction of the shoulder. The principle is simply detailed at the following website WoodCentral Drawboring Explained

Drawboring gave the 2 sets of legs an incredibly tight and almost immovable joint, bashing that peg through the offset hole and seeing the shoulder tighten so ridiculously close to the legs was one of the most satisfying moments I’ve had in my workshop.

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The fence post legs connected to their stretchers with ash pegs.

The legs were done and I was relieved and filled with a sense of growth, creating a joint I had never previously attempted. The final issue was to connect the 2 sets of legs together but in a way in which they could be disassembled. Once I looked at the bench it didn’t take long to connect the dots and figure out that my answer could be a long stretcher connected to each set of legs with removable pegs and 2 leg braces going from the stretcher to the legs.

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The long stretcher would fit into the lower mortise and be pegged in, the leg braces would come from the centre of the long stretcher to the upper mortise.

In order to work out the angles for the angled braces I had to remember Pythagoras’ theorem from middle school in order to work out the side opposite the right angle (hypotenuse) of the triangle formed by the angle. After I had made my calculations and measured my available wood it became a rather simple procedure. Detailed in this website Carpentry Pro Framer Pythagoras Theorem

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Once the angles were figured out the rest just slotted into place.

Mass is a quality any woodworking bench will benefit from, thankfully mine is rather heavy and so heavy in fact that I needed assistance to place the top onto the legs. The mortises all lined up, I slotted the long stretcher into the sets of legs and inserted the braces with them. Tapping the chunky ash pegs into the stretcher just solidified the structure even more. Then came the time to lift the top onto the legs; with a grunt and a groan we placed it on the mortises but it needed a little persuasion. Rubber mallet in hand I gave the top a few solid strikes over the mortises until it sat tightly in position. I gave the bench a couple of big slaps; it replied by being completely unshakeable, solid and sturdy.

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Am I glad my workbench is made from pine? My brain tells me that maybe it isn’t ideal but then, it is a workbench isn’t it? It’s meant to be bashed up and cut and scraped. I look at the beautiful and finely crafted workbenches so many seem to have today and I am in awe of their skills, but really, I think what I have is more than enough and certainly does the job its supposed to do.

Standing back and looking at it, well it was one of the proudest moments of my life. Perhaps that seems a little overstated but I had created the bench with no plans, little woodworking experience and completely out of recycled timber. Anyone who has worked so hard at something and had to think about it day and night to solve all its problems will tell you that when they actually achieve it, when it’s there in front of them, it’s emotional and memorable.

It’s chunky, it’s tough, it’s heavy and rough and maybe having seen what it can be, pine is fine after all.