Had some steel laying around, but not much. Definitely have lots of barn wood laying around. The end result of a lazy shop Saturday was this end table. She's not especially big or fancy or intricate, but she sure is solid (and heavy)...
There's barn wood everywhere in the shop. Stacks of long, wide boards, and mountains of teeny tiny cut-offs. I can't bring myself to throw anything close to usable away (it DID cost me some money), and while the stacks are organized enough to not bother me, the piles of scraps...lazy shop Saturdays are good for finding homes for everything not fit or big enough to be worthy of table, cabinet or desk construction.
The big cabinet's doors are being CNC'd today, which means I'm off site, which means I'm sitting behind a computer working with our clients @ Urban Matter to fine tune the design for the upcoming renovation work they want done. It's not going to be a crazy big project, but it's definitely going to be a whole lot of custom work. As is usually the case, the challenge is finding a way to get all the functionality and appearance that's wanted without bankrupting anybody in the process. Between these ladies' ability to dress up just about any space, and our ability to get creative in terms of materials and design...I think we're going to pull it off.
The design isn't final...but it's close. The renovated space - which is basically empty at this point (the windows exist, but they're glass blocked in) - is going to get a lot of custom cabinetry, custom (and unique!) countertops, the biggest subway tile backsplash I've ever had a hand in, some kind of under counter built-in wine refrigerator and what will probably be one of the main focal points...some kind of reclaimed farmhouse sink. A bunch of minor stuff - lighting, shelving, etc. - will flesh the place out.
It's a big plywood box. Nothing fancy, right? Yes and no.
The exterior of the cabinet is going to be dressed up a bit, some of which is taking place now, some of which is taking place off site and will be addressed down the road. But the goal was to keep the outside of the cabinet free from any visible mechanical fasteners, or with as few as possible.
We started construction by getting a frame built on the floor, as that was the easiest point from which to begin and gave us the best opportunity to get a solid, square base from which we could build vertically. This didn't come without challenges however, as the floor slopes almost a full inch from one side of the cabinet to the other. As a result, the bottom face board of the cabinet had to have a line scribed relative to the floor and then run freehand through the table saw (nobody felt like dragging a band saw to the job site). Anybody that's ever done it will agree, trying to cut a wavy line with a monster of a saw designed mostly to cut ultra straight lines isn't super simple; it doesn't take much to get off line or have the cut get away from you. A circular saw might have been marginally easier, but with a circular saw you always want to cut on the bad side of the board (the side being cut is where the most tear-out will occur), and we had to scribe our line on the good side of the board which forced us into using the table saw for the cut.
With the bottom platform built, we ran a couple 2xs up the wall vertically. Again, the goal was minimal fasteners but with a wavy plaster wall, you're very much at the mercy of using however many anchors it takes to get the board solidly in place. We ended up using 4" concrete screws, which requires drilling pilot holes, but on more than 1 occasion, for whatever reason (something stupid solid in the masonry wall) we had to make multiple holes and screw-driving attempts to get the screws fully seated without blowing up a drill or impact driver.
With verticals in place, we could attach the side panels. Again, we had to scribe lines so the side panels would sit flush to the wavy plaster wall. Additionally, we had to make sure that not only did the side panel hug the wall, but the front edge of the side panel had to remain perfectly plumb. On top of that, because we had to go almost 11' feet up the wall, we had to make each side panel out of 2 separate pieces of plywood: an 8' piece, and a 3' piece. This all required a LOT of careful measuring and cutting.
Then it was on to the shelves. We had originally thought about simply dadoing the side panels to receive the shelves, but I didn't trust glue alone to hold that joint solid throughout construction, and shooting nails from the outside of the cabinet wasn't an option too many people were thrilled with, so we ended up just attaching cleats to the inside of the vertical pieces and back wall (which again required more hammer drilling and sometimes multiple attempts to find a spot in the wall that didn't hate our 4" Tapcons) and then nailing the shelves to those.
Oh, and each shelf board had to be notched to fit around 2 vertical 2xs, ductwork and a flu.
Long story short, this is nothing more than a big plywood box...that required just about every single board we used to build it to be custom cut.
She doesn't look like a whole lot now...but another day or two, a little stain, a little poly and some CNC work...she's going to be pretty unique...AND provide over 70 sq. ft. of much needed shelf space for Urban Matter's inventory. And then a couple days after that, the **real** fun begins over there...
A week or two ago, a colleague that deals with a lot of wood slabs asked me about making a steel coffee table frame for him. I asked what he was looking for and the response was the dimensions of the slab going on top of the table and that was about it; I had total creative control on the frame.
I didn't have a ton of time to put into this particular frame, but I did happen to have a bunch of 1" square tube leftover from a previous build so I did what I could with what I had on hand. The wood slab (maple) itself is 73" long and 20"-21" wide (it's a live edge slab, so the width varies), and I wanted to build something that sat close to the perimeter of the slab. I also wanted to build something simple yet a little bit unique. Cover bands don't win Grammies, as the saying goes. Or maybe I just made that saying up. Either way, doing real basic shapes gets old pretty quickly, especially when it comes to welding.
The slab that's going on top is shown here, in some stage of detailed sanding:
I drew up a real quick idea, shot that over to the guy with the slab and got the OK to proceed.
The welding on this was pretty straightforward, and a lot easier to deal with than the last project, which had a bunch of super tight angles that made weld cleanup pretty tricky. I got both of the outside squares welded together using simple butt joints, and laid out and welded the cross brace, which sits at some random angles. The peak of the cross brace is skewed way over towards one end of the table; the thing needed a cross brace of some sort, and I thought a straight shot would be too boring. Granted, the maple slab should be the focal point of the table, but I wanted the frame to have a subtle little oddity to kind of keep pace with the lack of uniformity in the live edge of the slab. In short, in my book, if one part of a project is gonna have some major funk, the other parts need to have at least a little funk as well.
You might notice the little change I made from the original design; instead of 2 flat-bottomed squares as "legs", I opted to elevate the bottom horizontal pieces in each "leg" about 2 inches off the ground. I thought it would look a little better this way, and make leveling the whole table a lot easier. Grinding one leg a little bit if the thing has any wobble is a LOT easier than trying to grind down an entire horizontal stick of steel.
Once everything was welded, I had to clean up the welds. The welder I use makes decent enough looking welds on thinner material, but this 1" tube was pretty thick and the welds weren't real pretty. Plus, there were a LOT of welds....48 in total, and probably just that many, if not more, tack welds that preceded the full-blown regular welds. There wasn't any way I was going to make 48 welds and have them all look magical, so I made the call early on to grind them all flat. I think grinding the welds flat looks a whole lot cleaner anyhow, and with this style of table, clean was the way to go.
Cleaning up the welds took more time than doing the actual welding. The above picture shows what the clean-up process looks like about halfway through; I think at that point I'd ground every weld relatively smooth but still needed to hit everything with the flap disk (it's sandpaper for an angle grinder) to round over corners and reduce the marks left by the grinder's cut-off disc.
If you've ever seen steel at a steel yard, you know that it's usually black and filthy. When you hit the steel with a grinder you get through all that stuff pretty quickly and are left with shiny bare metal. Some people, in certain applications, dig the look of black steel with shiny bare metal where any work was done but for this table...that wasn't gonna happen. I decided to cover all of it with paint, using my sounds-fancier-than-it-really-is approach of a hand-rubbed finish. And the irony is that my goal is usually to make the end result look just like the steel did when it left the steel yard (uniform-ish black), minus the filth.
What I do to achieve that look, in short, is hit the everything with grey primer, let that dry, then hit everything with flat black spray paint and before the black has completely dried...wipe everything down with a dry rag. Sometimes it takes a coat or two, and sometimes I have to play around with how long to wait between spraying the paint and wiping everything down, but the end result is kind of the metal equivalent of lightly distressing wood.
Another coat or two, and maybe some clear just for good measure, and this thing'll be ready to hand off to the guy with the maple slab. I'm anxious to see what the final product looks like...but maybe a little more anxious to see the wood slab or two he's giving me in return.
We got the pallet wood shelf completed very, very early Thursday morning. Like, stupid early Thursday morning. It turned out pretty well, although I could have done with discovering a couple nails that had decided to - unbeknown to me on Wednesday when I shot them - poke through boards they weren't supposed to poke through. It was an easy enough repair...but not something anybody wants to have to do at the absolute last minute.
As as soon as we wrapped up the work for GetSomeGreek, we bounced over to Urban Matter to start a series of custom projects, the first of which is constructing a cabinet over 10' tall and 6' wide using. Normally, cabinet construction isn't super complicated, but when you're dealing with something where each piece requires at least 2 people to run it through saws, carry it, assemble things...it becomes a pretty slow process. Once we're done with the big cabinet, the subsequent work will involve more cabinets, some window replacement, a backsplash of some sort, a custom counter top and probably a few surprises (it's a really, really old building).
Today I got out the welder and tried knocking out 2 different coffee table frame projects.
I didn't even come close to accomplishing that goal.
But I learned a couple lessons.
The first lesson is that when you burn a hole through a piece of metal while welding, it really sucks, and patching the hole back up sucks even more. The moral of this story is that you definitely, definitely, definitely don't want to burn holes through anything. They're fixable, but sometimes the repair work takes a ridiculous amount of time; patching up big holes requires a series of small tack welds - one next to or on top of the other - because trying a full blown weld, or applying heat for any prolonged period of time just burns the hole even bigger.
The second lesson, which wasn't so much a lesson as the verification of what I've known since I started welding, is that having a good setup for welding leads to exponentially better welds. When I got started, I did the best I could with what I had to work with, which meant using a wheelbarrow as a welding table. Nothing about that was sturdy (or intelligent), it was tough to hold the pieces of metal in place, there wasn't anything to clamp anything to and as a result, I had to basically freehand the welds (using 1 hand instead of 2), and while the end results were fine, it took a really long time to achieve them. I still don't have a great setup, but now that I at least have a table to weld on and understand that a few minutes spent figuring out a way - ANY way - to clamp things together is well worth the time spent doing so, the welding goes soooooo much faster and requires waaaaaaay less cleanup with a grinder or flap disk.
Hopefully I'll have some pics of the welded frames tomorrow. If not...you can safely assume that I either reverted to welding on a wheelbarrow or burnt the garage to the ground.
Have an ugly post to hide (the giant wood post isn't ugly, but the drywall box around it...different story)? Need some shelving? Problem solved: