Saturday, 9 February 2013

How to build a timber bath caddy


I love the relaxed look of bath caddies in a bathroom. They look so inviting with candles and a vase of flowers on them, and they add a touch of luxury to a bathroom. I couldn't find any bath caddy plans on the internet so I just made this design up and thought I'd share it with anyone else who wants to make one. Its a fairly simple woodworking project so its a good one to try if you're new to woodwork or haven't done any woodworking since back in school. This was my first project using a mitre saw. If you don't have a power mitre saw, you can make this project with a hand saw and mitre box.
I chose to stain mine with a dark chocolate stain, so I've used good quality dressed pine with no joins (since any joins will show with stained timber). If you're planning to build a bath caddy and paint it an off-white or cream colour, then instead of buying the more expensive clear timber, you can buy finger jointed timber. A finger joint is when pieces of timber are glued together with zig-zagged edges. Timber that is made up of these little zig-zags is cheaper than timber that has been cut from one piece only. Paint will hide the joins anyway.
The first step before buying the timber is to measure the width of your bath. I wanted my bath caddy to sit just inside the outer rim of the bath, so my measurement was 74cm (30 inches). You can adapt the instructions below to suit the timber sizes that are available in your area. You don't have to use the same widths and gap sizes as mine.
- timber. For the top I used dressed pine that was 3cm wide and 1cm thick (1.2 inches wide and 0.4 inches thick). These were available in 1.8m lengths (72 inches) so I bought three of these to get two cuts from each with a bit left over. For the supports underneath, I bought one 1.2m (48 inches) piece of dressed pine timber that was 2.5cm x 2.5cm (one inch squared).
- a mitre saw or hand saw with mitre box.
- safety equipment such as safety glasses and hearing protection if you are using power tools. Please follow all of the safety instructions that came with your power tools.
- a measuring tape.
- a pencil to mark out your measurements.
- wood glue. I used an exterior PVA wood glue that is designed to withstand rain and sun. It needs to withstand moisture and the humidity of a bathroom.
- 24 screws 28mm long each.
- fine sandpaper. I used 150 grit.
- a drill. I use a Black and Decker cordless drill.
- a clamp or two to hold the timber together while you are cutting and gluing.
- a timber stain of your choice (mine is in the colour "Terra" by Wattyl Colourwood).
- a finish to seal and waterproof it. I've used a spray-on clear lacquer, but you can use polyurethane or even a mineral oil if you prefer. Note that if you're painting it white, polyurethane will give white paint a yellowish finish so choose something else.
1. First I started cutting the pieces for the top. I wanted six pieces that were 74cm each (30 inches). The trouble with mitre saws is that its difficult to cut pieces to an identical length unless you place all six down at once and cut together (otherwise they'll always be a little be out and it looks bad). Since I bought my timber in three lengths, I clamped the three together and cut 74.5cm (allowing a tiny bit extra), and then did this again so that I had six pieces, all 74.5cm long. I then clamped the six of them together and cut them at 74cm. This ensures that all of the top pieces will be exactly the same.
I ended up with three off-cuts left over (shown on the left of the photo). I'll be using these to make a hot pad to protect the table from hot food.
2. Now it was time to cut four of the 2.5cm squared (one inch) pieces for supports. To do this I had to calculate how long they would be, based on the width of the top of the caddy. Since I had chosen to use six pieces for the top that are 3cm wide, then I knew that the combined width would be 18cm (6 pieces x 3cm wide each =18cm). But I also wanted to add a 1cm gap between each of the six pieces, so that is five 1cm gaps (5cm). So the total width of the top would be 5cm + 18cm = 23cm. So 23cm was the length I had to cut each of the four supports.
I used the same method as above - cutting them a bit longer and then cutting the four together at 23cm to ensure the four pieces were the same.
3. Now that everything had been cut, I lightly sanded the edges to get rid of any sharp bits that were created during sawing so that they don't look like this:
4. The reason I chose to do 1cm gaps between each of my top pieces was because its much easier to use off-cuts to place in the gaps during assembly to get even spacing than it is to try to measure and mark the gap width without spacers. My off-cuts were 1cm thick on the sides, so I used these to keep the spacing even and used a clamp to hold it all together when I glued and screwed the supports on. The photo on the right shows how I've clamped the pieces together, but I've left a gap at the bottom for where the support piece will be glued and screwed on.
One other thing that makes this job much easier is to attach two bits of wood onto your work table to create a right angle (if it doesn't have this already). That way you know everything will be square. It also gives your clamp something to hold onto. My wood working table is just an old dining table so unlike many of the bought wood working tables, it didn't come with a timber right angle already fitted.
5. Before gluing, I used the fine grit sandpaper and gently sanded the sides that would be glued to give the glue a rougher edge to adhere to. I only added a bit of glue to my timber and smeared it around with my finger. Any more and it will squeeze out and leave glue globs.
6. I've used 28mm screws on timber supports that are 25mm thick. I have countersunk the screws in by 2mm, so each screw goes in about 5mm into the top slats. Countersinking is when you pre-drill a hole for your screw as usual and then use a wide drill bit (the same size as your screw head) to drill into the top of the hole, allowing the screw head to be buried a bit below the timber surface. You can buy countersinking drill bits, but I've just used a larger drill bit to do this. It means you can fill the hole over with timber filler and make it invisible. It also means that my screws are going into the top slats of timber enough to hold the pieces together while the glue dries but without coming out the other side and damaging the top of my bath caddy.
Adding a drop or two of glue into the pre-drilled hole before putting the screw in will help the screw to hold securely once the glue has dried. You may like to add another clamp to create downward pressure while the glue dries.
Note: be very careful not to pre-drill too far so that you've drilled through the top of the caddy. You shouldn't see any drill holes or screws on the top side.
7. After gluing and screwing the first support in, I placed the next one 10cm (4 inches) from the first. I chose this distance because I had an off-cut of wood lying around that was 10cm wide, so I placed this into the gap to use as my spacer while I glued and screwed the support on.
8. After the glue on these two supports had dried, I turned the caddy around and repeated the same thing on the other end (using the right angle to glue one support piece to the caddy and another support piece 10cm in from that).
9. Now the screw holes will need to be filled in with wood filler. My wood filler came with a handy scraper to scrape the filler into the holes. Once the filler is dry, it needs to be sanded flat so it looks like this:
10. Brush all the sanding dust off and its ready to be painted or stained. I mixed my stain 50/50 with turps in a jar and applied it with an old paint brush.
11. After it had dried, I wanted a bit more of the wood grain to show through rather than having the whole caddy stained in a solid chocolate colour as in the photo above. So I mixed up some mineral oil diluted with turps and rubbed it on in some places to rub back some of the dark stain to show the timber grain underneath.
I finished it off by spraying two coats of clear waterproofing lacquer over the whole bath caddy (including the bottom and sides). This protects it and gives it a good glossy finish. After leaving it for a few hours to dry, I placed it over the bath and added some lovely candles :)

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