Brianne’s mother is no stranger to random stores that carry a variety of what both she, and Brianne, call ‘treasures’. These ‘treasures’ usually result with me heading down to the basement to play with my tools for a while, before handing over the project to be finished.
A couple of weeks ago, she came by with a neat old wagon that D fell in love with as soon as he saw it. Overall, it was in pretty good working order. It was solid wood, sturdy, and all the wheels worked without issue. The one problem, was that the bottom of the wagon had fallen out…down to the basement it went.
- Speed Square
- Table Saw
- Board – 1×12
- 6 Finishing nails – 2 1/2″
1 – Prepping the Wagon
There wasn’t a whole lot of prep required for this project. A quick scrub down, removing a few nails, and scraping off the old glue put us in a pretty good spot to get started.
Once the wagon was prepped, it was time to figure out what to do for the bottom. The wagon was made of solid maple, and it was close to 3/4″ thick. I already had some scrap 1 x 12, so I decided to see how that would work.
2 – Using A Speed Square
The trickiest part of this project was getting the angle of the bottom right. The simplest way to measure the angle is with a speed square.
If you don’t have a speed square, I recommend getting one. They’re great for quick measurements under 6″ and scribing 45 and 90 degree marks. It will set you back about $4 at Home Depot. If you really want to go all out, get an aluminum one for $7.
To measure an angle,
- Find the ‘pivot’ corner on the square, it will be clearly labeled on one of the corners (as shown in the picture above)
- Lay the square flat on the surface, and holding the pivot corner in place, slide the square up until you reach the angle you need, (which will be labeled across the opposite side from the pivot)
You can see here, and from the pictures above, we need to cut the ends of the bottom to about 30 degrees.
3 – Cutting the Board
There are 2 tools that I would use to cut an angle like this. The first is a miter saw, but since this requires cutting wider than 6″ (about the limit of my miter saw), I had to make the cuts with my table saw.
Setting up the table saw for an angle is pretty easy. On the front of the table saw, where the wheel to raise and lower the blade is located, is also a list of angle adjustments you can make. Since we know our angle, all we have to do is slide the red needle to the 30 degree mark.
Once the blade is set to the correct angle, you can go ahead and make your cuts, one on each side. I always cut mine a little on the longer side, dry fit the pieces, and recut until I get them just like I want. It takes a little extra time, but I rarely cut a board too short and have to throw it in the scrap pile.
4 – Secure the Bottom
With the bottom cut, and fitting nicely, all that was left was to attach it. For this, I used 2 1/2″ finishing nails, three on each side. Six nails later, the bottom felt solid, and my work was done.
There’s just something about an old wooden toolbox that is kinda cool. I’m not sure if its the rugged sturdiness, or the simple design, but before there were 5 gallon bucket tool sleeves, I’m sure everyone had to have one.
Brianne was given one a while back that now sits in our entry way to hold random stuff that we grab when we leave, and drop off when we come home. She mentioned making D a toolbox like that to help organize some of his tools and toys. Seemed like something that we could put together in an afternoon and we had some pine boards from Home Depot when they were selling them for for less than $2 each a few weeks back.
Here’s the sketchup for the toolbox we built.
I started by cutting one of the boards to 18″ long, and then ripping it to 6″ wide on the table saw.
We repeated the same process for each side, cut to 18″ long, and ripped them to 3 3/4″ wide (could alternatively use a 1×4 cut to size).
Once you have those 3 pieces cut to size, its time to work on the ends.
We started by cutting a couple of new pieces to 6″ x 8″ and then marked the top of the side with 2 marks, each 2″ in on either side, and connect them with a line. This was done using the speed square.
Once we had both ends marked, we used the table saw to cut along the lines.
Next, its time to drill the holes for the handle. We chose a 1″ dowel rod, so we used a 1″ spade bit to make our hole. We drilled our hole about 2″ from the top. When drilling your hole, you only want to go about halfway through. We then drilled our pocket holes to attach the end to the bottom and sides.
Then some more pocket holes on the bottom piece. We put 6 on each of the long sides.
The last piece we cut was the dowel for the handle. This took a little trial and error, but assuming you drilled halfway through on either end, a good starting point would be 17 1/4″ (18″ for the length of toolbox – 3/4″ for the holes). After the initial cut, dry fit everything and make sure the handle fits. If not, trim a little at a time until you’re happy with it.
Everything is cut, and we’re happy with the dry fit…on to assembly.
We attached each side to the bottom with our pocket hole screws. We used clamps to hold the bottom and sides together, along with inserting the end to help hold up the sides.
Sometimes its good to have an extra set of eyes on thing to make sure you’re getting it right.
Once the side are on, you can then turn your attention to the ends. We ran into a tight spot while attaching the ends that required a trip for a new tool, but if I had to do it over again, I’d definitely move the pocket holes to the outside, rather than the inside. (Another alternative would be to use a nail gun) After the first side is attached, insert the handle as you slide the last end in place, and screw in the last of your screws.
That’s it…now you have a new toolbox.
My fascination with tools started out at a really young age. From as far back as I can remember, my grandfather was showing me how to do simple things, like changing the headlight on the car, rewiring a lamp, or even just changing a flat tire on my bicycle. After I’d watch him do something a couple times, I could usually replicate what he had done.
Regardless of what the task at hand was, he always emphasized using the right tool for the job at hand. That basically meant not to use the vice grips to adjust the chain on the bicycle when there was a box wrench sitting in the toolbox that would do the same thing without stripping the nut. It also meant not to use the back end of a socket wrench to hammer in a nail…no matter how small the nail happen to be. It took getting caught a few times to learn my lesson, but to this day, if I don’t have a tool that meets my needs, I can still hear my grandfather in the back of my head, and its not long before D and I are in truck heading to Home Depot for a new toy.
A great example of this happened last weekend as we were building D a toolbox. I sketched it out, made all the cuts and started to assemble it before I realized I overestimated the amount of space I had to attach the sides. I had placed the pocket holes on the inside to hide where we’d have to patch up later. Normally we’d use a drill or impact driver, but in this case, neither would fit.
The answer to most tight spaces would be a stubby screwdriver and painfully driving in the screw by hand, but with the angles that pocket holes require, that option was out as well. It was time to go find a better tool for the job.
That afternoon, after a great lunch at Stoneybrook Farm Market, we made our way to the local Home Depot. I looked at a few different alternatives, but most were variations of some type of screwdriver I already had, just in a different size. Eventually, I stumbled across a right angle drill adaptor.
Its an attachment that fits in a drill or impact driver and allows you to use your hex screw bits like you normally would, but at a 90 degree angle. Seemed like it may do the trick, so $18 later, it was mine and we were headed back home.
Once we got home, we grabbed our impact driver and gave it a try. The first lesson we learned is that you MUST have your hand on the adaptor when you squeeze the trigger. If you don’t, it WILL become an unpredictable screw bit thrower, as it starts to turn and the magnet holding the bit gives way. Luckily there were no injuries…just bewildered looks by the innocent bystanders.
After playing with our new toy for a few minutes and some trial and error, we were able to get the adaptor positioned correctly, and reach the pocket holes without any issues. By the last screw, we wondering why it had taken us so long to add one to our collection.
Next time you’re caught in a situation requiring you to drive screws in a tight spot consider a right angle drill adaptor. I know after using it for just one project, our stubby screwdrivers will be collecting more dust in the coming months.
As we mentioned before, the shelves we decided to go with in the living room are similar to Pottery Barn’s picture ledge shelves. After taking a quick look at these, we decided that it wouldn’t take much to pull them together and after making several of them, I’m convinced anyone with some lumber and a few tools can do the same.
We chose to make 4 shelves, hanging them in pairs on either side of the television. All of our shelves needed to be 4′ wide, and about 4″ deep. Based on that, we were able to piece them together using 1×4’s (back and bottom) and 1×2’s (front lip).
1 – Plan Your Project
With any project, it’s always a good idea to do some up front planning before doing any of the actual cutting and building. Some projects can be sketched out with pencil and paper, but even better than that is SketchUp. SketchUp is a free modeling tool that is great for architectural diagrams and woodworking. Here are the quick models we created in less than 10 minutes using SketchUp.
Once we had our plans drawn up, we created our list of what we needed, and then it was off to Home Depot before heading down to the workshop to knock these out.
- 4 – 1×4, 8ft
- 2 – 1×2, 8ft
- 1 1/4″ pocket hole screws (used for attaching back to bottom)
- 1″ Finishing Nails (used for attaching lip)
- Wood Glue
- Kreg Jig
- Miter Saw
2 – Selecting Good Lumber
Projects go much smoother if you start with good lumber. Not all boards are created equal, so taking the time to carefully examine each one is important. Before we load any lumber onto our cart, we hold it up, look down the the length of the board and ask ourselves:
- Is this board bowed? A bowed board will rock from end to end when placed on its face.
- Is the board cupped? A cupped board will rock from edge to edge when placed on its face.
- Is the board crooked? A crooked board will rock from end to tend when placed on its edge.
Check out this article for more on dealing with wood defects.
Other things to consider when picking through the lumber are the number of knots (especially if using a lot of pine) and the color and/or grain of the wood (if you’re planning to stain it).
3 – Cutting the Boards
Once we made it home with our materials, the next step was making the cuts. For this project, all of our cuts were made with a miter saw. If you do not have a miter saw or another saw handy, Home Depot does a great job cutting your wood for you.
To make our four 4′ shelves, we took the 8′ 1×4’s and cut them in half. Then we did the same thing with the 1×2’s. At the end, you should have 12 pieces of material:
- 4 back panels (48″ 1×4)
- 4 bottom panels (48″ 1×4)
- 4 front lips (48″ 1×2)
I always double check at this point to make sure every piece is the same length. If there are any variations, trim the longer pieces to match the shorter one, otherwise, you’ll spend a lot of time sanding the edges later, or the edges won’t be as clean as you’d like.
4 – Preparing for Assembly
There are numerous ways you can assemble your shelves, but I’ve come to prefer using Kreg Jig more often than not. Its quick, easy, and holds stuff together pretty well.
I chose to put the pocket holes in the back panel pieces so that any imperfections with the shelves would be against the wall and hidden. I drilled 4 pairs of pocket holes in each 48″ back panel.
Now, to attach the front lip, I could have drilled more pocket holes in the bottom panel, but that would have meant filling and sanding 8 more holes. Instead, I opted for attaching the front lip with the nail gun and finishing nails. Seeing as how the lip of the shelf isn’t going to be under any pressure, the nail gun seemed to be the easiest option.
5 – Putting It All Together
With all the panels cut and pocket holes drilled, the hardest part of this project is complete. You can choose to attach the panels in any order, it shouldn’t really matter. Whichever you decide, be sure to apply wood glue to each panel before joining. I am a big fan of using clamps, and the more you have available, the easier these types of projects will be.
I use my corner clamps all the time, and it made nailing the front lip to the bottom panel a cinch.
The other clamps that I don’t go too many days without using are my Irwin Quick Grips. You can usually find these, or sets of clamps similar to these on sale pretty regularly. Considering you can use them for just about everything, there’s no reason not to have a few. I used them here, in addition to the corner clamps, for ensuring a tight fit between the back and bottom panels.
You can check out Brianne’s post in you’re interested in how we finished our shelves.
Regardless of the day of week, I typically start my day well before 5am. It seems pretty early, but by the time you wake up, grab a cup of coffee, walk the dog, and then grab some breakfast, its just about time to start the commute to work.
Waking up on Saturday is a bit different…a cup of coffee still starts the day, and the dog still needs to be walked, but the commute in not in the direction of work. My Saturday commute is a leisurely ride through western Loudoun county with stops at the dump and Home Depot. The best part of the ride is unlike during the week, I have a co-pilot to keep me company, and enjoy every second of catching up with D as we spend the morning together.
By the time we get the trash loaded up to take to the dump, and finish the supply list for the weekend projects, I’m ready for some more caffeine and D enjoys snacking on the muffins from Market Street, our local coffee shop, so our journey starts with a quick stop to say hi to the baristas.
Next stop, the county dump. We usually make a weekly run just to unload the trash that’s accumulated for the week. When we initially moved, we were looking into a few trash service providers, but after a few weeks, and making lists of all the projects we wanted to accomplish over the coming years, it was pretty clear we’d be hitting up the dump on the regular, so taking the household trash with our construction and yard debris, seemed like a no-brainer. Three years later, its turned into an enjoyable morning ride.
Before D was on the scene, my Saturdays were usually me and the dog making the Saturday morning trip, but it took all of 3 weeks before we introduced D to the Home Depot. The first trip was somewhat uneventful for him, but Brianne was ready to get out of the house for a few minutes, and its a good place to wander aimlessly for a bit while you dream up something to build.
Since his first trip at 3 weeks old, D has been a regular on Saturday mornings. For the first year, I’d carry him in one arm, while gather anything else I could in the other. After about a year, when he started to walk, we’d make sure to arrive earlier in the morning so he could walk up and down the aisle without interfering with any of the other customers. Even when we didn’t need anything, I’d still take him after a trip to the dump to get some energy out. 30 minutes walking around Home Depot for a 12 month old makes for a good nap on the ride home.
More recently, and especially after receiving his new tool set for Christmas, he’s become more interested in what we’re actually purchasing. Whenever I go to start grabbing stuff, I hear “I help”, which basically means “Move over Dad, I got this”. He’s officially graduated to helping me select the lumber and other supplies, counting each as we load it onto the cart, excellent quality control.
One of our more recent projects has been building some shelves for the living room. I’ve had some proud parent moments, but D insisting he put the screws in each hole and then being the only one that could run the drill to screw them in, has to be about the best for me. Its the first of many projects we’ll do together, and I’m looking forward to each one.
More of my perspectives coming to FarmhouseSimplicity.com every Wednesday…