2009 Corner Desk Build Update

Words to be ignored.
I made a post about the desk I built for myself with the ability to raise/lower my monitors. I think it was a pretty sweet idea, but I ended up hating it. The design wasn’t reliable, and most of all, it wasn’t portable. Also, painting the top of a desk, despite using the highest quality paint and putting on 5 layers of polyurethane, IS A TERRIBLE IDEA. Within a few months the top of my desk was – how should I put it – totally fucked. When I got home this spring, my first priority was to fix my desk and remove the monitor lift thingy-ma-jig entirely.

I ended up buying solid black laminate (who knew solid colors were almost twice as expensive as that pattern b.s.)

Well, here is the picture of my completed desk (click for much larger picture)!

2009 Corner Desk Build

I’ve made a new desk, and man was it a lot of work (2-3 weeks). I want to point out some things…

  1. The monitors raise and lower both manually and through a motorized system. My dad was a big help with the motor system.
  2. I wanted it to be easily portable, so everything is “pinned” together with 1/4″ stainless rods (including the compartments).
  3. The shelves are adjustable.
  4. Four 40mm fans run along the right compartment for cooling the electronics. Also, a 120mm fan cools the PS3 from the back.
  5. The keyboard tray can go up and down, swivel left and right, tilt up and down, and move in and out.
  6. The black paint finish isn’t quite complete. Eventually I will need to sand it, wax it, and buff it up to a mirror finish.
  7. Everything is made of 3/4″ and 1/2″ mdf, and the trim is solid oak. The front curve was a crap load of work for a noob like me (see worklog).

Continue reading 2009 Corner Desk Build

The Garage

[I wrote the following descriptive essay for English 199 and received a decent grade, so I’m going to share it with whoever (aka no one)  wants to read it. Please criticize it in the comments if you do read it!]

The Garage

It’s a regular occurrence; I’m sitting at my desk when an idea pops into my head.  It’s something I can make, I’m sure of it. The idea could be anything: a picture frame for a photo nestled under some loose papers, a TV wall-mount to free up some precious desk space, or perhaps just a larger desk. Once the idea comes, I must attempt to create it. Without a second thought I head outside towards the garage.

Made of white cinder block and protected with steel bars on all of the windows, from the outside peering in, some may think the garage is a small prison. Even with a key, getting inside isn’t entirely effortless. Considerable force must be applied to the key in a full rotation, almost requiring a full-body effort. Sometimes I contemplate whether the key will finally snap as I hear the pins inside the lock reluctantly screech into position.  Surprisingly, after being unlocked, the heavy steel door gracefully opens to reveal the treasures inside. Tools, lots of tools, running wall to wall and rising ten feet high. The inside is still a bit dark until I flip the fluorescent lights on; they flicker quickly for a few seconds before going fully bright to expose dust particles glistening down from the ceiling. Usually there are tools scattered across the workbench alongside a project waiting to be finished. On the floor, sawdust, a seemingly useless scrap that is now absorbing a spill from the last oil change. At the far end of the garage where the lighting is dim lies the excess wood and steel from past projects. They are more scraps which will be given a purpose, eventually.

With a blueprint in mind, I head towards the scrap materials. I can usually find something that fits the build when I quickly scan through the pile. The roughly cut mahogany contrasts sharply against the black, slender lengths of steel. Occasionally what I need from the pile is simple, like a small block of walnut I used to make a pen holder, or a piece of oak I found to make a cane for my grandfather. Eagerly, I push and pull the material around. The cold metal shrills loudly against the bare concrete; meanwhile, dreary thuds from the large pieces of wood echo throughout the rest of the garage. When I have the material I am looking for in my hand, I have my next project. After a quick sketch in a curled notepad on the workbench, and jotting down some rough measurements along the way, it’s time to start building.

While I am woodworking, sawdust may muster bitterly under my breath as I tear through a length of oak. At any rate, when the dust settles, the air is flooded with the scent of an entire forest. The atmosphere is quite different when working with steel. Racing through a piece of flat iron with the angle grinder can leave a magnificent waterfall of sparks scattering off nearby walls like schooling fish in the ocean. Unfortunately, after a few hours of metal fabrication, my throat is dry, as if sandpaper has been rubbed across my larynx. The choking smoke rising from the welding torch is nauseating at best, but propping the door open in the summer months helps. Any amount of construction in the garage will take its toll on me; cuts, scrapes, or burns are inevitable, and yet, I hardly notice them while I work. As I move back and forth between work areas, I fall into a trance. I can fondly remember one of my first experiences in the garage. My father, being the father he is, decided to show me how to weld. I was four years old. I slid  the thick leather gloves on which extended up to my shoulders, and my father placed the loose fitting welding helmet on my head. The next thing I knew, I was poking the rod into a chunk of iron under his guidance. Despite all precautions, a large spark managed to travel down one of the gloves and burned my fingertip. It didn’t hurt. I was fairly impressed with myself, but my mother didn’t share the same feelings.

My thoughts are usually quite clear while I am in the garage. For the most part I am not thinking about the actual project at hand, rather the reaction I will get when it is done. That is what keeps me going, and pushes me to make it just right. Sometimes the project is difficult to make, and if I struggle to figure out a way to do it, my thoughts about anything else collapse. Once I begin to think about the project and nothing else, I get tired and frustrated. It’s time to take a break. Sometimes a few weeks go by before I even want to look at what I was working on, but I eventually do. It needs to be finished. Eventually I figure out what to do. The finishing touches are what takes the longest. I circle the shop floor, staring from different angles, trying to catch a blunder someone else might see. Regularly,  I claim the project to be finished, but then a few hours later my dad will walk in to find me re-sanding down a corner.

After countless hours, I am satisfied with what I have created. I stare upon it for some time. I made it, and the feeling of accomplishment is overwhelming. At last, I flick the lights off and head back towards the house under the moonlight, creation at hand.

Mom’s Kitchen Renovation

About a month ago my mom flew to Vancouver to visit her terminally ill sister who has since passed away.  During this time, it was an opportunity for me to add a new face to her kitchen. It was quite a bit of work, probably about 40-50hours, but I am so glad I did it. I have to give a HUGE thanks to Benson, who on the day before my mom came home, helped me from 9AM to 3:30AM the next day. It was crazy. Here are some pictures before I started.


That receptacle with the yellow cord hanging out was pretty sketchy. Actually, it was very sketchy. The bottom plastic outlet was completely torn off from the refrigerator which has no wiggle room in that corner. It was the bare metal with live power running. I hate going to the basement, so [idiotically] I replaced the plug with the power still on (doin’ it live!).  I managed to avoid a shock.

This tall cupboard was added a few years ago. I filled in that big space so it doesn’t look disjointed from the wall.

I scraped the stippling stuff off the ceiling. In this picture I am about 3/4 done. It was a pain in the bum, by the time I was done I was covered with a solid layer of dust and the entire kitchen was covered with little stipple rocks.

There was mac-tac/wallpaper all over these cupboards. The previous owners were too lazy to take the old stuff off when they put new on, so there was at least 3-4 layers in all the cupboards and drawers. When I finally got it all off, it revealed poor carpentry and some hella bad water damage.

I eventually filled all these little cracks in and sanded off the booger looking glue.

One morning when I went to her house around 7AM I seen these flowers in her yard and thought they were picture worthy.

More water damage in the cupboards.

To cover it up, and seal it off forever, I decided tiling this area would be the easiest and best looking way to fix the issue.

The area below the cupboard (above the counter top) was already tiled. I tiled the area inside the cupboard.

Here is Benson working on the floor after we painted the primer and final coat on the kitchen. The flooring underneath the old linoleum was in very poor condition, so I decided it would be best to leave the lino on and use a belt sander to rough it up before we stuck down the new tiles. In the end it worked out very well.

Here is me working on the final piece of the floor. It was about 3AM at this point. A few days after this I was in severe pain with a sore back. Now I see why.

Here is the kitchen in its completed form. I took all the cupboard doors and drawers home so I could router a new edge on them. The old edge was was a bumpy and square, so I rounded it off with a table router. I also put new handles on. I used all the old hinges, but I painted them black to match the handles.

I thought it would look nice if I used black receptacles and light switches to match the black and white theme, you can see one of them here. It’s crooked in this picture but I fixed that.

I painted the heat register black. It used to be a rusted brown register with some calcium on it for some weird reason. To get the calcium off I let it sit in a container of diluted hydrochloric acid.

This has nothing to do with the renovation but it’s a table I made for my mom last year and I want to show it off =P. Also, she really needs to get some new chairs.

I put new taps on and re-did some of the plumbing under the sink. The old taps were leaky.

I still haven’t put the quarter-round baseboard on to cover the edge of the flooring but I’ll do that some time.

The kitchen doesn’t look like complete garbage anymore so I am happy.

An Awesome Carpentry Tool!

Edit: Turns out I’m the only person ever not to have heard of a biscuit jointer. You should read on and comment on my noobish-ness anyway.

At first this post was supposed to be a short “I love this tool”, but it kind of turned into a tutorial. You may have heard of this tool, and know everything there is to know about it, in which case, I’m wasting your time.

Today I started on my Dad’s kitchen renovation. After ripping off the old arborite, trim and tiling, it was time to make some forward progress.
First on the list was to apply the 3/4″ maple trim to the edge.

My Dad’s friend, who is a professional carpenter, recommended I use a biscuit jointer to attach the trim. I have never in my life heard of it before, but I decided to give it a shot. Turns out it’s absolutely awesome!


(Avoiding all edibility jokes) A biscuit is a small piece of wood about 1/8 ” thick of varying width/length.
Regarding the tool itself, a small (4″) blade is mounted horizontally inside the biscuit jointer. When pressure is applied to the front edge/guide, the blade glides out and is exposed to the material. Before starting, it must be adjusted to the proper depth and height for the material. In this case, the counter top is 3/4″ thick, so the jointer is set up to penetrate at the midpoint; 3/8″. The penetration depth must be set up for slightly more than half the width of the biscuits being used. In this case the depth was set to about 1/2″. Now I know this probably sounds like nonsense, it will make sense in a minute.
A shot of the trim-less counter top:


bisquit5Once the length of maple was cut to shape, it was time to prep for the jointer. There is an easy way of determining where both pieces of wood should be jointed. Holding the maple carefully in place, and drawing a small pencil line (5″ away from the edge) across both pieces gives an exact point where the jointer should be used on both sides. Subsequent pencil marks were made approx. 10″ apart down the length of wood.


I applied the jointer to the counter top. It was convenient that the person who used the tool previously left a red mark at the center, where max. depth of the blade occurs.bisquit6

Using the jointer is actually extremely simple. Holding the tool off the wood, turn it on. Once it gets up to speed in about half a second, slowly and flushly (I don’t think that is a word, but I like it) set the guide onto the table, and then push in a forward motion so the blade enters the material. Then pull it out and do the next joint, or turn it off. Repeat on the other piece of wood.

bisquit7The result is a nice little slit. It will hold half of the biscuit.





I found it easiest to apply the wood glue to the maple, including inside of the slits, then gently tapping the biscuits into their slits with a rubber mallet (doing it on the fixed counter top would cause the glue to run). Apply glue to the rest of the biscuit and quickly apply the entire assembly to the counter.


I was aware of other methods of jointing such as drilling holes and using wooden dowel, but I always find those methods very”finicky”, especially when all I need precision. One screw up and you have to drill an entire series of new holes. With this method, the two materials will ALWAYS be jointed perfectly flush to each other, and there is just the right amount of horizontal play to get things aligned perfectly with a mallet.

And the result is a nail-less, perfectly flush trim that is incredibly solid (much stronger than if it were applied using nails or screws).


And now to take a break and drink a coke before applying the arborite. I wish I could learn how to pour pop correctly.