Monday, 22 April 2013

Building a French country style laundry bench and cabinet

Here is the finished laundry bench. It took me about 3 weeks to build this (in between doing other DIY jobs) so by the end of it I really just wanted to have it done so I could move onto something new :). This was my first attempt at building cabinets, drawers or a large table (except for the work bench that I built for the garage) so I'm really pleased with the finished product, and it will look so much better once I've finished the wall behind it and added white washed timber flooring over the cold concrete.

I built it 1.8m long (6 feet) because I wanted to have enough space to fit a cupboard and drawers while still having room under the bench for a clothes drier (if we buy one in the future) and/or laundry baskets. You can't see it in this photo, but the window looks out onto our vegetable garden and behind the garden fence is trees and hills. Its quite a beautiful view to look out to while folding the laundry so it was important to me to keep that in mind when I drew up rough plans to make this laundry bench.

I didn't follow any plans when I made this, I just scribbled out the dimensions (90cm tall, 1.8m long etc) and worked out (roughly) how much timber I needed. For its legs I just used boric gauge (borer treated) 2x3s (50x75mm) pine. I wanted completely untreated 2x3's since I don't like treated timber inside the house but the timber place only stocked it treated, and boric gauge is the lowest treatment level they had (its about H1). Due to the pink colour of the treatment, I had to paint the laundry table with primer before I painted on my final French cream colour to ensure the cream colour didn't turn pink over time.

Here are the 2x3's cut and ready to go to make the frame. I used my mitre saw to cut angles into the bottom of the legs pieces to make it look French country style.

For the framing piece that runs along the back of the table connecting the leg sections together, I used the notch technique. This is fairly simple to do. I just measured the width of the table leg and then marked it onto the timber. I set the circular saw blade depth to 2cm and then cut about a dozen cuts across the timber. I used a hammer and chisel to break off the "fingers" that are formed from all the cuts. The result is a notch like this (this is the middle notch):

I repeated the notching to create notches on each end also (for the end legs). Here is the frame screwed and glued together:
I used Selley's exterior PVA woodworking glue for this laundry table because it is waterproof. I thought it would be better safe than sorry for the laundry area.
For the table top, I glued three pieces of 180x19mm x1.8m long knotted pine together. I used knotted pine because it is exactly half the price of clear grade pine and I love the natural look of the knots anyway. I used four long clamps to hold the pieces tightly together, but the more the better. Once the glue was dry I thoroughly sanded it before staining it with two coats of walnut coloured stain. When this was dry, I applied four coats of oil-based satin polyurethane using a roller (a roller gets a smoother finish than a brush on large table tops). I sanded lightly between coats and waited a day between each so this part took quite awhile. It would be a lot quicker to just paint the table top in cream like the rest of the table, but I love the classy look of a walnut stain. The hardest part with poly is to keep any pet hairs and small insects off it while it dries.
For the back board of the cabinet and on the sides, I wanted a grooved plywood to create that French tongue and groove panelling look. Unfortunately no one in my area seems to stock grooved plywood and was too expensive to get it sent from the larger cities, so I just set my circular saw to a depth of 2mm and cut "fake" rip cuts into my 7mm (1/4 inch) ply. The result looked pretty good:
I made the draws using the 7mm ply on the bottom and 18mm thick (3/4 inch) ply on the sides. The sides are glued and screwed, and the bottom is glued and brad nailed on.

For the cabinet carcass, door and drawer faces I used the same pine that I used for the table top (19mm thick pine - approx 3/4 inch). I used 40x10mm pine on the door and drawer faces to create the decorative framed look, and then used pine moulding glued onto the inside edge.
To paint it all I used a Wagner paint spraying machine. I prefer the finish on a spray job and it would have taken me all day to paint all this with a brush. The paint sprayers are annoying to clean and use up more paint, but they save so much time and I like the professional looking sprayed finish. I added about 20% water to my water-based paint to get the runny thickness required for spray machines. The colour I have used is Resene Eighth Sisal and the paint type is a hard wearing Bathroom/Kitchen paint for wet areas.

I fitted soft-close hinges (also known as Euro hinges) to the door. I love soft close hinges but I would never use them again on pine doors. To fit soft-close hinges, a 35mm wide hole (12mm deep) needs to be drilled into the door and this was surprisingly difficult with the pine. I drilled the holes before painting the doors which was fortunate because the drill bit moved around a lot and I had to fill in some rough parts with wood filler and sand it again. I've since built wall cabinets for the area above the laundry sink and this time I used 18mm ply instead of using pine. The ply was much easier to drill the 35mm hole into. 
The final step was to screw the bench top onto the frame. I've read that when a table top is made from glued together wood (such as glued laminated wood or just gluing pine together like I did) there is a risk that over time the glued joins can start to split due to the pressure of the table base expanding/contracting under it. I live in an area with very mild temperatures (light frosts in mid-winter and mild summers) so fortunately my timber creations don't suffer as much expanding/contracting as places with hotter summers and cold winters. To mitigate the risk anyway, I predrilled the screw hole with a 3.5mm countersinking bit first, then re-drilled the hole only with a thicker 5mm drill bit (only through the base, not the table top). I used smallish 32mm 6ga screws. The purpose of this is that the screw has wiggle room around the shaft to move horizontally but it is still firmly fixed vertically between its head in the countersunk hole and the tail in the table top. If the table base expands a bit, the screws can move with it. If you don't have a countersinking drill bit, an alternative method is to use a screw washer around the head of the screw.
I was also careful not to glue the table top down to the base when I screwed it on. That way, if any splits did start to appear I can easily unscrew the table top to prevent it suffering further damage. 
The final touch was to add the door and drawer handles :)


Sunday, 21 April 2013

Letting the light in (adding a skylight)

I hated the dark staircase area that our front door leads to. It looked so uninviting to come home and look at that dark corner when we walked through the front door. Worst of all, the previous owners had painted the back wall in dark purple so it looked worse than it had to be. I convinced Chris that we needed a skylight above the dark depressing stairs. Skylights are definitely not a job for DIY'ers - this is one for the professionals. There is a lot of climbing up ladders on both the interior side and exterior side of the house to cut the hole in so there is a strong risk of serious injury (especially with ladders balancing on stairs). Also a leaky skylight could ruin your carpet, damage the plasterboard in the ceiling, ruin your ceiling insulation etc.

I got a guy out for a quote and we decided on a 400x400mm square shaped skylight. While I was waiting for him to come back to install it, I painted over the ugly dark purple wall with a light blue paint that is subtly metallic. You can't tell in the photo, but it has a gentle sparkle on the paint surface when light shines on it. You can sort of see it in the last photo. I'll put up some close-ups when we've finished the stairway.

The lower 30cm (one foot) of the blue wall still has the dark purple because I am going to add moulding and paint that part white. We also painted the ceiling and other wall in "buttery white" by Resene for a warmer look. Its much easier to paint the ceiling before adding the skylight rather than painting afterwards and having to tape it up and risk getting paint splatters on it.

Here is the 'before' photo taken with no flash. This photo was taken just before the skylight guy cut the hole in the metal roof. On the top right you can see the dark square where he has cut the 400x400mm hole in the ceiling plasterboard, but hasn't yet cut the roof hole.


The 'after' photo was again taken without the flash on. It was a semi-sunny/cloudy day but the difference is very noticeable. You can clearly see light in the previously dark back corners, and there is light reflecting off the blue wall. Notice the shadow under that hanging ceiling light? I'm very pleased with the final result and I'm really glad that we got this done. I think it adds value to the house because people no longer walk in and look at a dark corner.

Here is a close-up of the skylight itself:

There is a half metre gap between the ceiling and the roof so we had to add a tubular style skylight with reflective silver paper down the half metre shaft and a perspex diffuser is placed over the ceiling hole to hide the reflective paper. The perspex diffuser also prevents some heat loss compared to a regular single-glazed skylight (a double glazed skylight would be better still).

Here is the view looking up from the front after we placed the mirror back on the wall.

The next steps will be pulling up the dark carpet and adding timber flooring to the stairs, replacing the black metal hand rail with timber hand rails, adding the moulding along the bottom of the stairs and finally hanging up our framed wedding photos and other photos on the blue feature wall. :)