Sunday, October 21, 2007

Dust Control

When I do wood working in the living room, I have to minimize any power tool usage. That's why I prefer the hand saw and the chisels. But when there's lots of ply wood to cut for the cabinet carcass, then the circular saw will have to come out. I use the Festool plunge circular saw. You can go the the Festool link and see all their product. They charge a premium for their product but they are incredibly well engineered product. The saw has a 95% dust extraction capability, is designed to be very safe and accurate. I connect this saw to my Eletrolux vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter. The two are linked by an auto switch which turns on the vacuum when the saw turned on and off 7 seconds after the saw is turned off. Festool also makes an incredible Dust extractor, but I can't afford that right now. To make it even safer, I also have a portable HEPA air cleaner in the room when I work and finally I modified the air return on the HVAC system to accept a larger quality air filter. This protects the central air system from any wood dust left.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Cabinet Install Guy

It's comforting to know I can always make money to pay the bills if there's a need. While working as a Lowes' Kitchen designer, I was fortunate enough to meet some pretty nice installers who let me hang out with them to learn their side of the business. One guy in particular, whom every designers described as arrogant, taught me the most about kitchen installation. It turns out he couldn't understand why the other designers never bothered to learn the installation side of the business, he felt it would make them better designers. I took the lesson to heart, learned to build and install cabinets. That continues to pay off to this very day. The need arose one day and I was able to install this kitchen for a a client. It was a one man installation job, so it took me about four days to complete this considering I had never installed Ikea's cabinet before. The product is pretty good, the only bad thing is their independently contracted delivery service is pretty inefficient and damaged a few items. The store is 35 miles away, it slowed things down. I highly suggest a DIY pickup versus a cabinet delivery for those who wants install their own Ikea kitchen. The Ikea system is very well thought out, The core of their system is a BLUM, a German Hardware company that basically standardized the european 35 mm cabinet system. But more on that later. Granite was done by Panda Kitchens.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

In My Toolchest

I realized that my air compressor was too big and noisy for the little amount of time I use it, so I traded it in for a new systems that works very well for the the little work shops. Lowes' came up up with this neat CO2 regulator that powers most pneumatic nailers. This tiny unit can shoot 600 16 gauge brads or 1200 pins. This is the same system that paint ball guns use, so refills and extra tanks are readily available. The kit cost $89 at Lowes and is worth every penny if you don't use the gun that often or if you do cabinet repair jobs. The refills are about $10 each, so it's quite affordable for a gizmo that turns all your nail guns cordless, is very quiet to use and takes up very little room. What's more important is that it there's no water vapor in the system so the nail gun lasts longer. The problem I do have with the unit is that if there is even al little leak anywhere along the line, then you can easily loose the entire canister of CO2 in a matter of minutes and then have to go get a refill. So I try to have a spare refill canister with me, after losing three tanks, I learned to work around these problems. A pretty good trade off to be able to use my 21 gauge pin nailer at night when that urge hits. Attached to the regulator is a EZ Fasten 21 gauge headless pinner. It's actually a generic no name tool from Taiwan and I got it on sale at Wood craft for $85. It shoots 1-3/8" 23 gauge pins which are the perfect size between the 18 gauge and the tiny 23 gauge micropins. This 21 gauge pins actually has enough holding power for by cabinetry needs and a decently small hard to see head.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Art of Making Space

There's valuable storage space under the staircase and I finally felt it was time to take advantage of it. I had cut away the sheet rock last week and spent the next seven days looking at it, trying to see what I can do to maximize the storage capacity, make it look great and pay as little as possible. Luckily I had saved 5 sets of Blum Tandem drawer glides from a previous cabinet job, this saved me $100. Today's cost was $25 for a sheet of cabinet grade birch plywood. The Depot got some shipped in from China. From what I understand at Panda Kitchen, the Chinese manufacturers import wood from Russia and Canada and then export the plywood to the U.S. The quality isn't bad considering I can get 3/4" plywood with two smooth side for this price. This sheet good is used for drawers and shelves, so the look is not as important. I would spend more money on the visible or primary wood, so you do get what you pay for. There's plenty of challenging obstacles to overcome from this project. The goal was to put shelves and drawers between the studs. The hard part was that the studs were crooked and out of plum, so mounting the drawer glides on the stud took a little more than trial and error. I could build a plywood box between the studs to make them square and plum for the glides, but that cost more money and makes the drawer even more narrow. So I opted for harder way because today, my time is free. So this is all I have to show after five hours of work. At this point, I have no idea how the unit would look like in the end. I might take ideas from the built in fridge I had made out of the pantry in the kitchen. Now, before you start shoving major appliances into the cavities of your house, understand how the unit works. The fit was tight, but I knew the compressor was at the bottom of my fridge and the fan pushes heat from the bottom of the unit. Another precaution I took was to leave a 30" x 6" gap behind the shelf over the Fridge to let the heat escape (heat rises). This is the reason why i never made doors over this unit. This would've been a failure if I this cabinet guy didn't know something about refrigeration. Now, back to the stair case, if I didn't know this was a load bearing wall, then this would also be a total failure. That's why I having so much design issue with this project and the studs will have to be integrated into the design. Actually, the design would have to be integrated into the studs.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Butt Joint

One aspect of woodworking is joining various size wood pieces together to create something of use. This is called joinery. A good woodworker knows many different joints since each ones has it's strength at different application. A profitable woodworker accomplishes this task with the quickest way possible without sacrificing strength or look of the piece. The most basic of all the joints is the butt joint. This is a joint that anyone can accomplish if they are given two planks of wood, nails and a hammer. Because of it's simplicity and relative weakness, it is a disrespected joint among the fine woodworker. With minor modification, I find it the most used way of joining wood in my work. We live in modern time and we should take advantage of modern convenience like gorilla glue and the microwave oven. I'm pretty sure craftsman way back then would've used the lowly butt joint if they had the highly prized nails back then. Nowadays, change the nails for confirmat screws or dowel, biscuit or the new domino, add the proper glue and you have a very strong joint if used in the right application, made in short time with high accuracy. I built this cabinet centerpiece for our display at Panda Kitchen. These butt joints are held together with brads and woodscrews only. There is a chance we would have to move the display, so no glue is used. The miters on the stacked crown molding are modified butt joints cut at exactly 45 degrees angle. Put enough of these together and you will have very nice looking piece of work. Butt joints well works on the carcass of the kitchen cabinetry that are assembled on site because they are permanently screwed to the walls shortly after assembly. The boxes are stationary and each joint is reinforced with an adjacent joint, so there are very little stress to a single joint. Glue a counter top on the entire assembly and it is a solid piece made of many small pieces. Butt joint allows us to install a kitchen quickly with minimum tools on site.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Work In Progress

All the tools I'll need to do a decent job of woodworking is in this picture. They are stored in this giant tool box I had frankensteined together. It's not a pretty visual, but in a two hundred square foot room, it's poetry. Sometimes, I feel I could work with a whole lot less tools, and other times, more would be nice. There are more an than tools in this cabinet, there are the not so glamorous accessories equally important in woodworking. These are assortments of sharpening stones, glue, screws, measuring, marking devices, jigs, clamps, wood finishes, waxes, applicators and reference books. The key to building efficiently is that you should be able to get to these things you quickly, so a loose organization system is very important. By loose, I mean I know where they are and that's pretty much it. I am by no means an organized person. I really don't believe in spending my time cleaning when I could use it to make a mess and build something. When doors to my tool box are closed, the cabinet looks like a bunch of mixed match boxes set on top of each other. As my wood working skills develop, this tool box will change to suit my needs. Right now it is unrefined and a little sloppy looking, but it's okay because it's a work in progress.