Greengate Ranch Remodel
Remodeling a Daylight Ranch in Oregon

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Reuse: Game Table

I made this game table from our old dining room table a few months ago. The dining table seated six without the leaf, and I modified it to be square and seat four, which is better for playing games. This involved cutting down the top pieces and the side aprons.

It was very similar to this table, except it had a green base.

It has one of those fold out leaves, and I decided to make that into a chess board. I added compartments on the sides of the leaf to hold the chess men, and painted a board.

Here it is folded out.

Even though this was an inexpensive table (cheap!) we used it for a number of years when our kids were young. It took some repairs, but it hung in there and stayed solid. It was nice to re-purpose it to be used for games, puzzles and homework.

Home Theater #29 - Screen Framed

After helping my DW clean up and put away Christmas (the decorations, not the beliefs), I was able to mount the slides to the drawers and get most of of the trim installed. The picture below shows the progress on the cabinets. 

I made the crown molding with two pieces of trim. I think three would have been better, but I was limited by the depth of the soffit. I still like the way it turned out...

I decided to frame the screen in stained wood, rather than flat black. Most screens are done in black - but I have seen a few done in wood, and I liked it. I figure I can always paint it black later if I change my mind. 

Here is the whole thing in it's current state...

Stuff I need to get done:
  • Mill, stain and install the base moldings (I forgot to do these with the crown)
  • Make the drawer fronts
  • Lay the stone - I am going to have my DW and daughter lay up some of it
  • Build a small matching table for the center speakers
  • Crown molding around the ceiling
  • New carpet - I think we are going to go with carpet tiles

Home Theater #28 - Cabinet Drawer Boxes

With the help of my son, I completed the cabinet drawer boxes yesterday. I used pre-finished 1/2" birch plywood, which I bought at Shurway building supply in Portland. I always give these guys a plug: discount prices, friendly people, interesting selection of materials.

I assembled these with polyurethane (Gorilla) glue and 1" staples. I have made a number of drawers this way over the past few years, and none of them have come apart.

These large drawers are really wide at 36". They are sized to hold blankets and pillows.
  • Normally, I use 1/4" or 3/8" plywood for the bottoms - in this case I use 1/2".
  • I also put a strong-back across the top of the drawer back. This and the drawer fronts will keep the boxes rigid. If they are going to fail, it would be from flexing.

    Today I will mount the drawer slides and hopefully get the fronts made. I always use the heavy-duty, full extension slides and stay away from the cheap "euro" ones. I use to use the cheaper ones, but had a number of problems with them, and I think they make a project feel like it's lower quality.
  • Sunday, December 21, 2008

    Home Theater #27 - Setting up Components

    I added spacing feet to the cable box, DVD and receiver to help improve ventilation. Heat is the biggest contributor to component failure, so I want to make sure there is adequate air flow.

    I made these feet out of 2" PVC conduit (left over from the video cable run). They are about 1 1/4" tall. I plan on painting them flat black, so they are not noticeable. More info: Detailed "how to" article on adding spacing feet.

    Here is a picture of the speaker mount...

    It's nice to finally have the speakers spread out to the correct positions. It definately makes a difference in the sound quality.

    Home Theater #26 - Installing Cabinets and Prep for Stone

    We were able to get the cabinets built and installed this weekend. It's amazing what a couple of "vacation" days can do...

    Here is a photo of the foam board installed between the wall battens. There is a concrete wall, a framed stud wall and sheetrock behind this. As I noted in earl er posts, I did not want to tear this wall out, but mount the screen, cabinets and stone to it. To provide some level of insulation, I applied the foam board (there is none behind the sheetrock.

    This foam board is R-Tech EPS. It provides about R4 and allows moisture migration (breathes). There is no evidence that there has been any moisture in the wall cavity, but I don't want to take any chances. At $8 for a 4x8 sheet, it's a very inexpensive improvement. Our practice has been to improve the energy efficiency of the house where ever we can - but not necessarily fully gut the area.

    Here are the cabinet bases I built. They are open backed, since there will only be drawers installed - also this makes it easier to have the cables come in.

    Both sets on cabinets went in fairly easily. These were built to fit the area, so only minor shimming was needed. We needed to pull the Christmas tree out of the way!

    We added another layer of 3/4" foam behind the cabinets. You just need to use longer screws to install the cabinets.

    I pulled the outlet out of the wall, so it could be mounted on top of the concrete board. I also wired in the box for the center and base speakers. The location of the existing outlet worked out well, since I will need it to power the base speaker (still need to buy one).

    I installed the 1/2" concrete board over the battens. I used poly glue and sheetrock screws. This is the base for the stone I will lay (hopefully this week). I need to trim out the screen and do the crown molding first, then lay the stone to it.

    The theater components sit in the bottom shelves of the right-side cabinets. Right now the cabling is a mess, but it's functional. I made the smaller top drawers less deep, there is about 4" in space for cables. I am going to install a small shelf in the back to set the bundles on.

    Here is the whole wall so far...

    I will spend the next few days getting all the trim details done (and going skiing). Once I start the stone, I just want to focus on that, since it makes the most mess.


    We have 18" of wet snow, which makes great raw material for an igloo. We used a recycling bin to make the blocks, and packed in snow around them. Here is a picture of the first two courses being worked on by our younger boys...

    Before we put the third layer on, we put a some short boards on to support the door and tie everything together (too bad we didn't have any rebar). Here is a young apprentice striking the joints:

    Two more layers of blocks finished it out. We covered it with snow and smoothed it both inside and out.

    Home Theater #25 - Upper Cabinets Complete

    I was able to fully complete the upper cabinets this evening. Here are a series of photos showing the progress.

    A pile of lumber - stained, finished and ready to go...

    Here I am mounting the tongue-and-groove boards on the back of the cabinet. I used poly glue and 3/4" long staples.

    A note on installing stained wood wainscot: Stain the boards first. Over time, the wood often shrinks a bit as it fully dries. If you stained and finished them after you installed them, you may see the bare wood lines where the boards come together.

    Here is the cabinet with the back finished.

    This is a close-up of the boards - a nice rustic look.

    These cabinets have a "hutch" design, where the lower cabinets are deeper (18") than the uppers (10"). Between the two is a thicker wood counter top. I have learned to attach this first to the uppers, then the lower cabinets. The reason is that you want it to fit very tightly with the upper, were you can see the joint.

    I bought 1" thick (called 5/4") wood for tops. They are made of laminated strips, but still have a slight bow to them. Using my table saw, I ran a few curfs 1/2" deep on the underside give it more flex. I stopped these before they came out the finished end. Once screwed to the cabinets, it they will sit very flat.

    Here are uppers with the wood counters attached:

    I cut and assembled the base frames. These cabinets are going to hold extra blankets and pillows for watching TV, so they are 11" deep and 36" wide. I will make the drawer fronts match the uppers by putting dividers in the middle.

    For any soft wood or span over 24", I glue and nail a support piece across the back of the horizontal members. These also get lapped onto the vertical pieces and nailed.

    My DW came with a great idea... I typically throw the stain rags away once I ma done using them. I let them dry out before putting them in trash. She suggested I put the rag in the old stain can - it should keep just fine in there for the next use.

    Home Theater #24 - Building Cabinets Continued

    With about a foot of snow and freezing rain on the ground, all of our planned activities were cancelled. Sometimes it's nice to have everything slow way down. After a few hours of driving the family around for their final Christmas errands, I spent some time working on the cabinets.

    The upper bookshelf part of the cabinets are most of the work, so started them first. Overall, it went together well, with only a few minor fixes required. Tomorrow, I hope to build the other cabinet and put the backs on both of them.

    The wood planks for the backs and sides turned out well. After staining, I applied a coat of Mixwax polycrylic, did a light sanding (220 grit), wiped off the dust, then put a second coat on. This seems to give a clean, smooth finish on the boards. Below is a picture of them lined up and drying...

    The picture on the right shows my stain sample board. I took all the stain samples and applied about one foot of each. We set this along the wall and looked at it for a couple of days. We finally decided on the third one from the top, and the sample board shows what the color will look like.

    Looks like more snow coming to Portland, so the cabinets may get done sooner than expected.

    Friday, December 19, 2008

    Home Theater #23 - Cabinet Parts

    I finished cutting. milling and sanding all the cabinet parts. Here is where it gets really difficult for me - I want to start building and not continue staining and finishing. I get anxious to see the project come together, and I want to think about finishing later, but it's quite a bit more work that way. So I spent the evening finishing...

    Staining and sealing a whole bunch of parts takes a whole bunch of space on saw horses or stands. I typically put a couple of 2x4's across saw horses, but I came up with a better idea using an extension ladder. This set up gives me 16 feet.

    Below are about 1/2 of the pine wainscot boards I am using for the exposed sides and backs of the cabinets. I stained these with Minwax Ipswitch Pine, and they came out with quite a bit of color variation, which is what I was hoping for.

    The rails and stiles, which came from a less varied pine, needed to have more color added to have them match. After I stained them with the Ipswitch, I stained them again with Cherry.

    This caused a nice amount of variation and provided a good overall color match.

    I am going to try to get two coats of Mixwax Polycrylic on these by tomorrow so I can start assembling this weekend.

    Monday, December 15, 2008

    Home Theater #22 - Started Cabinet Build

    I started building the cabinets for our home theater. We want a fairly rustic look, so I decided to used knotty pine.

    I had 3 sheets of 3/8" plywood left over from our kitchen cabinets, so I used those for the structure. I think 1/2" would have been a bit easier to use (sturdier), but this is what I had. I am going to line the outsides of the cabinets with 3/8" beadboard, so the walls will be 3/4" thick in the end. I started off by cutting the sheets with a circular saw to make ripping them easier:

    I ripped the sides and cut them to length:

    I also cut the shelves:

    I marked the back of the side panels to cut the dadoes to accept the shelves. The "B" indicates the bottom. I always try to mark cabinet parts as much as possible to help avoid errors:

    I used my table saw with a dado blade to cut the dadoes. The piece rides on my panel-cutting sled - they get cut on the marks as shown. This is a very easy way to cut the dadoes, but you need to be careful to keep your hand away from the blade.

    Here are the shelf pieces sanded and stained (first coat). I have gotten into the habit of staining the pieces of my projects before using any glue on them. Glue makes stain look bad - even the "stainable" kind. It takes a lot effort to fully clean the glue up, so it makes way more sense to just stain things up front. I will also put polycrylic finish on these before assembling, again because its much easier.

    I always leave a stir-stick in my stain. I stir it each time I put a rag or brush in it. This may seem excessive, but it keeps the color even. If you have solids in the bottom of the stain can, you can bet you did not get a consistent stain color as you used it up.

    I decided to make the side panels look more like planks than solid pieces of plywood. I ran these in my table saw with a plywood blade set to about 1/16" inch - just enough to give a line that would stain darker. I also distressed these with some nails, a hammer and a scraper.

    Here are the rails and stiles, dadoed out to attach to the plywood parts. I will blind nail these with my 1/4" crown stapler (18 gage).

    The next thing to get these parts stained and sealed.

    See my article library on eHow...