Thursday, May 2, 2013

Finishing the cuts: bench top gets a workout

Hello again! I realize now that these posts are getting more sparse lately. Unfortunately, I've been a bit busy with life, but even so, I have managed to get quite a bit of work done despite all that. It just happens that a lot of the work I've done has been a bit repetitive  thus I have decided not to post all of it (I think you have all seen enough of me simply cutting plywood sheets apart). So yes, I will admit that my project has progressed significantly past where I am with the blog, but that's par for the course with these types of things.

Anyways, it's time to get down to business. Since last time, I have a few more finishing cuts to do. I especially want to cut out the smaller pieces (e.g. shelves and supports) and square everything up, and make sure the pieces all have consistent dimensions. Since I am now working with much smaller pieces, I get to use my workbench!

There was still one issue that I was concerned about. If I were to simply clamp my piece to the edge of my bench, and cut it, then one piece would fall to the floor. This creates two problems. The first is that the piece which falls to the floor might get damaged (in many cases I want to use both pieces from the cut). The second, when the cut is nearly done, and only a tiny amount of wood is left supporting the piece, it is likely to break apart, creating an unclean cut. I could try holding the off-cut piece, but this is awkward and potentially dangerous, and I don't have any other stands or supports I can use, so I developed another idea to fix this.

I clamped two strips of wood under the edges of the piece, perpendicular to the cut. I clamped the plywood to these strips on both sides of the cut. I then made sure the entire assembly was clamped to the bench. I adjusted the depth of cut of my circular saw such that it would not cut all the way through the strips. Thus, once the cut is completed, the strips will continue to support the off-cut piece. This process is shown in the photos below.
Here I am preparing to cut this piece of plywood. I have wooden strips clamped on both sides of the cut.
Here is a closer look at the clamping and set-up.
With the depth of cut set fairly shallow, I don't have to worry about cutting through the support strips.
The result: a nice clean cut and no damaged pieces.
This method worked very well. I was left with very clean cuts. I also remembered to keep the good side facing downward, such that the cleanest part of the cut was on the good side. This method even worked for a larger piece, as shown below. In the future, I may try something similar to this even with a full 4x8 sheet of plywood.
This also works well with the large 2x8 piece shown in this photo.
For smaller pieces, such as the 2-1/2" wide supports, I had to place an extra piece of plywood against the piece being cut in order to be able to use my cutting guide. In the photos below, you can see how I did this. I cut three strips from the one small piece.
In order to use the saw guide on smaller pieces, I need to clamp it to a spare piece as shown in the above left. The cut goes just as smoothly as shown to the right.
Always be mindful of where the blade will travel. This was a minor issue in this case, but could have just as easily been very serious.
Oh no! As you can see in that last picture, I lost track of where the saw blade was travelling and accidentally cut a slot in the end of my bench. It's okay, no harm done, this bench was designed to take some abuse. I don't believe work benches should be made such that you feel incredibly bad when you mar the surface.

Finally, after all the cuts where made, I squared and evened up the shelf dimensions. In the photo below, you can see on the left that they don't line up very well when placed atop one another. After ganging them up and cutting them once more, you can see the alignment is much better on the right.
One quick cut and all the shelves are even (on one edge anyways).
In continuing with these methods, I managed to get all of the pieces cut and sized for one of the closet organizers (the one with the large shelf in the middle). I don't really have any more pictures to show for this, since I really wanted to just get it done. But I will say a few words about it. To make the curves for the larger shelves, I simply used a jigsaw and the sanded the edges until they were smooth. I used a new toy of mine to help a bit, but I will introduce THAT another time. I also used the jigsaw and some sandpaper to shape the large shelf supports. Again, these didn't seem that interesting so I don't have any pictures to show.

Next time, I will show my progress in banding the plywood edges and preparing the pieces for their protective coating. I anticipate the coating process will take a while sine multiple coats will be required, and drying time adds up!

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