Cassandra’s Greenhouse

After completing Cassandra’s bench, the next project at her house was a greenhouse. Cassandra is converting her entire backyard, even the blacktop driveway into a urban garden oasis. She had planned to buy a greenhouse, but I pointed out that she could build one cheaper. My 4×8 Lean-to shed only cost approximately $500 in materials, a fourth of what she had planned to pay. She asked if I would help her and I said yes. Since I had successfully built my shed, by myself, I told her to check out the greenhouse plans at Plans Design, where I bought mine. Their greenhouses were similar to my lean-to, so I thought the learning curve would be eliminated.

She didn’t like their plans, but found one she did like.  It called for setting nine 4×4 post in the ground.  That seemed like an odd approach and I knew making nine holes, especially in the location of her yard that she wanted would be difficult, but once past that it seemed like a simple plan.  While weather did play a small part in slowing down progress this project took six weeks to complete, way to long.  I don’t know the final cost of all the material, but I’m sure it was over $1,000.  The plans did not call for a floor, we added one.  The plan didn’t have windows, we added one and another is planned.  This build tested my resolve, stamina, ingenuity, and patience.  

Now that the greenhouse is complete I really question the design choice of using 4×4 post for the structure. The person that designed it lives in Canada, so perhaps this is standard for sheds in that country. It called for pressure treated (PT) wood. Traditional wall framing with regular 2x4s would have cost far less and the project could have been completed much faster. I was ready to throw in the towel after digging the first hole because we hit so many tree roots. For that reason I’m not going to list where she bought the plans as I wouldn’t recommend them. Too much of the build was left for you to figure out; they were not complete or concise and now she has a structure that can never be moved even though its size made it moveable. The plastic sheeting was easy to work with and it does provide a visual airiness. If you have no concerns about security, I could see making my lean-to shed with traditional framing but covering it with this plastic; perhaps even a combination of wood and plastic siding.

Cassandra’s Bench

May be an image of turnoverI met Cassandra in 2019 at a client’s conference. She is a Black Studies professor at UC and as it turns out lives near me. She is also the owner of Sugar Tin Pies (her hand pies featured on a SGwS charcuterie board), the most delicious pies I’ve had. Covid reared its ugly head the very week of that same client’s 2020 conference. I was attending again, but decided about two weeks prior to drive versus fly to Atlanta. I reached out to Cassandra to see if she’d like to share the drive and she did. We had 16 hours roundtrip to fill the air and of course I talked about my house and DIY skills, which led to her asking – Do you think you can build a window bench??? I replied, Maybe???

I told her I couldn’t get to it until I finished my house and a couple of build projects I was working on (i.e. my dining table, desk, headboard, and beverage station). She was not in a hurry. I had everything but the beverage station complete, but when my headboard design changed and I used all my bead board for the foot and side rails that project was nixed. I had already bought and cut the plywood for that project, so I gave Cassandra a call and told her I could start her project and that I might already have most of the wood needed if the size worked out. I went to her house and took some measurements and sketched out my thoughts. With plan in my mind’s eye I went to work.

My design idea was to create two boxes, which would keep the area between her heat register and wall outlet free from blockage. The top would be cut in three sections that would be hinged for lids that would open for storage. The box to the right would be wider than the one on left, so I decided to put a divider in the center of it, just to make sure the lid wouldn’t sag over time. I would also add a support piece to the opening area, so that top would also not sag. First step was taking all my plywood boards to the Manufactory to rip them down to the right lengths and width. I need to either invest in a real table saw with outfeed table or figure out how to build one and attached to my work site table saw. I can’t cut long pieces at home, safely. Even though I have the Kreg jig system at home I used theirs to drill all my pocket holes. I’ve never used a dado blade on a table saw, so I decided to use it to create the channel that the divider would set in. With everything cut and drilled I did a dry fit, everything fit, so I went home for the final assembly. Once the boxes were complete I topped the exposed edges with 3/4″ pine trim.

With the boxes built I turned my attention to the lid, which I decided to make out of 5/4 x 8 x 10′ Select Pine Board I had Cassandra order from Menards and I picked up since it was near the Manufactory. I wanted solid wood for the top and wanted it thicker than the 3/4″ plywood I used for the boxes. It would mean I would need to join 3 boards together in order to get the needed width of 21″. I used the Manufactory’s joiner on the edges, but returned home for the glue up. I have added to my arsenal of tools a Makita Plate Joiner purchased at Rockler. The drive to Manufactory for quick jobs is getting old, although if I had glued it there I could have done the full 10′ at one time. I didn’t have enough clamps for that, so I cut enough for the small box and glued them and then glued up the remaining.

I am in a couple Facebook groups for HGTV shows I watch and another member posted a dresser she painted with Valspar Cabinet Enamel Semi-Gloss Enamel Interior Paint found at Lowes. Her project looked good, so I told Cassandra to buy that, thinking it would save money. I intentionally did not include a link to the product as I thought it painted on thin and the price difference between that and Sherwin Williams’ All Surface Enamel Oil Base, when on sale at 30% off, was only a few dollars more. I treated the Valspar as the primer and used Sherwin Williams for the final coats, 3 on the boxes and lid bottoms and 4 on the lid tops.

20210117_134714After applying the Valspar to the first side of the box panels I noticed that it really absorbed into the plywood, which was a mix of Birch I bought for my project and Pine left over from Funmi’s project. It was rough and the cracks in the grain was very evident. Luckily I painted the side I had planned to be inside of the box, so I hoped the layers of actual paint would make the surface smooth. Not wanting to take that risk on the outside I sanded the opposite side with 120 and 240 grit paper. Remarkable difference in smoothness and it showed once I applied paint.  Hugh and needed difference.

Before starting with the Sherwin William’s paint I attached 1×4, ripped down to 3 inches, primed pine trim pieces to the face of the boxes to tie-in to the trim around her windows. Since I had the small lid done I decided to take the small box and lid to Cassandra’s for a semi rough fit. Height was perfect, but upon seeing it she asked if the edges could be rounded as to not be so sharp. She lives in a cute 1920s bungalow so she no longer had sharp edges and didn’t want the contrast. It would have been easy to make that happen prior to attaching the trim by running the boards through the router table, which I’ve grown very comfortable using. This would have to be done controlling the router with my hands, I was nervous, and not sure it could be done.

I’ve joined the Cincinnati Woodworking Club and have gotten to know one of the members, Gene Wiggs, who actually came with his wife to tour my house after reading about it and also extended an invite from me to tour their home and his fabulous woodshop. I sent him pics of what I needed to do and he assured me it could be done with my router so I went for it. Fear of using my router free hand is gone. I gave Cassandra a choice of a 5/16″ or 1/2″ round over and also showed her my plans for the top’s edge; a 1/2″ round-over with a drop. She selected 5/16″.

With the edges complete I turned my attention to the lid once again. I bought Flat Tipped Butt Hinges w/Removable Pin, 2-1/2″ L x 2″ W, in Nickel from Rockler. When I was hanging the final door for my office I purchased a hinge jig. I pulled it out for this project and it worked like a charm. I used my clamp guide to cut off the excess length with my circular saw. When I first started using a circular saw I couldn’t cut straight to save my life. I never used a straight edge as a guide, duh! With the lid cut to size I used the 5/16″ round over bit along the edge of the underside and the 1/2″ round over set to step down depth on top. I cleaned out the can of Valspar to prime the lid before starting the final coats of paint.

I started the final painting during the snow and cold days Cincinnati was experiencing. My basement didn’t get warmer than 60 degrees, so each coat needed a full 24-hours to dry. I used a 6″ foam roller to apply the paint. Oil-based paint stinks, but after 2 coats they were pretty, the third made them absolutely beautiful. Since it was so cold I had Cassandra help me transport the pieces to her house so they could cure in a warmer space. I gave it about a week.

Friday I put them all together. It looks like it was always part of her house. All total there was less than $400 in material. She was my guinea pig. I plan to build two more and place them in my dormer windows of my garage project. I may be open to taking orders in the future. I am very pleased with the final results. Not bad for my first window box.

Shoe Box Greeting – My First Box

During the Jim Crow era, trains were segregated and Black people were not allowed to visit the dining cars. Many passengers would pack a meal in shoe boxes when traveling to southern cities. Road trips by automobile also present challenges for blacks looking for places to eat along the way. Planning a head with boxed lunches became a tradition. My friend Carolyn Wallace, owner of Perfect Brew Catering, resurrected this tradition as part of her business offerings. She krafted her own moveable feast box, adorned with artwork by Artistry T. Design, for her clients looking for boxed meals vs. a traditional catering setup. A friend of hers, Kashara, wanted to immortalize Carolyn’s paper box in wood and asked, given my newfound skill set, if I could make one. I took the challenge.

I have a boat load of oak wood from the failed first version of my headboard.  It’s coloring was close to the brown kraft paper of Carolyn’s paper box, so I decided to use it for the project.  Since I had never made a box my first step was to study the box Kendall Glover made for me.  I could clearly see he mitered the corners.  I knew the top was an inlay, but wasn’t 100% sure how he made that happen. Whatever the process I would need to do similar to attach her logo. My lid will come completely off, like a shoebox, so I didn’t have to worry about hinges although the lip (for lack of the proper term) he created that his lid fit around reminded me that my lid needed to fit over the entire bottom. Time to dive in.

No pics, but my first step was using a ban saw to cut the thickness of my almost 1″ thick board in half. My target finish thickness would be 1/4″. I could have ran the board through the planer until it was the desired thickness, but what a waste of wood, time and blade that would have been. I was a bit nervous since I had not cut anything that thin or tall. I didn’t hit the half way mark, my two sides weren’t the same thickness, so now I used the planer. With two equally sized boards of 1/4″ I headed home as I have all the tools for my next steps, building the bottom box.

I ripped one of the boards to the proper shoebox height and cut out the bottom of the box. I learned well after I completed the box that the next step I did was create a rabbit joint for the sides to rest in. I knew to do it, but only after watching Ben Napier’s new show Home Town: Ben’s Workshop did I learn the name of the action. With the cut made on my router table I was able to get the measurements for my side miter cuts. I was spot on with both the short and long sides on the first cut. I used my table saw instead of miter. I find my sides meet up tighter. With all cuts made I was ready to glue up the the bottom. I clamped the hell out of it, perhaps overkill, but I thought better too much than too little.

With the bottom complete I could measure the outer dimensions to obtain the size of the top. At this point I could have made a deeper rabbit joint to recess the lid enough to accommodate the logo, but my mind was fixated on using the CNC router at the Manufactory, so I returned to the shop. No pics of the process because the 2″ spoiler bit I used finished the process in seconds. I was poised to hit the kill button in case I made the cut depth setting too deep, but I did not. The 2″ bit made large curved corners which I had to use a chisel to clean out. I clamped my lid down. The first chisel I used was super dull, so I asked Ben (owner of Manufactory) if they had sharper or could he sharpen the one I had. He gave me another set. Clearly I’ve never used super sharp chisels (mine at home aren’t either) because I promptly managed to slice down the side of my index finger on my right hand, major blood flow, but not deep enough for stiches. Another reason for no pics. I did finish cleaning up the corners and returned home to glue up the top.

With lid complete it was time to test the fit……too tight, so what to do? I needed to shave wood from either the outside of bottom or inside of the top. I did both. I had a set of hand scrapers that I was able to use. I scraped and scraped until I had the perfect fit. There were a few subtle gaps in my glue up on the bottom, so I was able to use the scrapings and wood glue to fill them in. It was beautiful, I pulled it off, except for one issue. The lid slid on perfectly but only in one direction. If I flipped it around it would catch on one end. Not sure what was not in alignment, but I’d just have to give it to Karshara with instructions. I decided to add natural Danish oil as my finish. Once it dried I added the SGw/S brand. As long as the logo and brand were both upside right the fit was perfect.

The final step was adhering the logo in the recessed area I created in the lid. To protect and seal it in place it was recommended to me to use ArtResin, Epoxy Resin. After watching their video many times, I psyched myself out. The project sat for days as I feared messing the lid up and needing to start over. Kashara called concerned I’d miss the Christmas eve deadline and talked me off the edge. I had to buy a mini torch for the bubbles the mixing would produce. I decided to practice by making myself a couple of coasters for my office desk. I rinsed out a plastic cup, dried it, but not thoroughly enough as when I mixed the two parts it almost looked like foam it had so many bubbles. With torching I still couldn’t thoroughly remove all the bubbles. I returned to the ArtResin website and found in the FAQ section a response that said mix container must be completely dry. Even a small drop of water will cause excessive bubbles. Armed with that knowledge I went for broke. The pour and bubble removal went flawless. My first box was now complete.

I was invited to Carolyn’s to be there for the reveal. She was on a Zoom with all her family, so they were able to see it too. I grinned all the way back home. I amazed myself again. I truly have found a new skill set that I absolutely love, woodworking. I’ve joined the Cincinnati Woodworking Club in hopes of meeting people that can help me grow in my new craft and now dream of buying a warehouse to have a proper woodshop of my own.

Grandchildren Abuse Correction

For months, after reading how I restored the doors in my house, my aunt has asked me if I could restore her living coffee and end tables. She’s had them over 40 years. They have weathered her youngest daughter (who just turned 40) and 3 grandchildren (ages 23, 10, and 4). The furniture is solidly made; real wood, not MDF or particle. The top is a wood veneer finish. This holiday season she treated herself to a new sofa, so now was the time to see if I could bring life back to these tables and I went back to my tried and true product Howard’s Restore a Finish. The color of her furniture is close to the moulding in my master and the kitchen built-in, so I had the product on hand.

I used the same process I used in restoring all the moulding and doors of my house. Step one I washed the surface with water and Murphy Oil soap just to remove grim and sticky stuff and then followed with denatured alcohol applied with 000 steal wool.

I used a new piece of 000 steal wool to apply Restor-A-Finish, Maple-Pine color. It’s amazing how well that product evens out the discolored areas. In that light spot I did apply a bit of Dark Ebony color, Restor-A-Finish that I used on my doors. I let it sit overnight because the furniture was very dry, especially on the edges where the protective finish had worn off.. That product has an oil consistency, so I didn’t think it would hurt.

After applying Restor-A-Finish

The next day the more worn areas definitely looked more dry than other areas, so with a soft cloth I applied a generous amount of Howard Feed-N-Wax, which I also let sit overnight. Before returning to my aunt I wiped off the excess.

The end tables turned out equally as well. These are pics of the one in worst shape.

Warning Restor-A-Finish does not rebuild layers of polyurethane or another top coat that may be applied to your furniture. Up close you will see the raised differences. I believe the only way that can be fixed is complete sanding. I opted to not do that because there were several raised areas in the veneer, most likely due to water damage, and I did not know what sanding would do to those areas.

My aunt was please, not a bad outcome for 40+ year old furniture.

Sit to Stand DIY Desk

I needed to prove to myself I could make a table. I’ve shared many times that I had planned to make my own dining room table and office desk from the wood of trees that were once in my backyard. My dinning room table turned out absolutely gorgeous, but it was not done by my hands alone. At the makerspace I joined I got a lot of help from one of the members, Kendall. He showed me the ropes on running my wood through the joiner and planer. Unfortunately Covid-19 hit and the shop was forced to close. I used my stimulus check to pay a professional shop to finish what I started. My desk was an opportunity to do what I said I would.

My mulberry wood slabs had been in storage for almost two. The first step was cutting the crouch ends off. If they stayed whole I thought I could make some nice live edge end tables. All but one cracked in two pieces, so I’ll make more charcuterie trays.  Since the live edge is on both sides I decided to split the boards down the middle on the ban saw. Since I knew my cut was not straight I ran the cut side of the board through the joiner until it was even/flat. Once flat I could use the straight edge run the board through the table saw to cut the bark off the opposite. Some of the boards, even cut in half, were cupped so in those instances I ran the flat side through the joiner. Ultimately the goal was to get boards that I could start running through the planer to clean up and smooth out the surface. I also needed to get all the boards to the same thickness. My target size overall was 60″x30″x1.25″. The boards were just under 2″ thick when I started.

I never got all my boards the same thickness, but I was afraid I was getting them too thin (I was was already under 1.5″ and I knew more planning and sanding would be needed), so I decided to stop and and start filling the cracks and holes with epoxy. At this stage I could already tell I was going to have some gorgeous boards.

My dining table project had already taught me what to look for. Because of that my original design idea changed. I had boards between 3″ and 6″ in width and some had sap wood showing. I didn’t want to loose that, so instead of having uniform boards for my center panels I decided to have staggered sizes; 6″ in the center, 4″ on each side of it, and then 3″ on each side of the 4″. I’d have two, 20″ x 20″ panels running horizontally separated by a 6″ board running vertically. With the boards arranged it was time to glue up the two 20″ x 20″ panels.

The glue up went well. I decided to make another design change. I had a scrape piece of walnut from my table, just enough to create some 1/2″ strips for accents. Adding the strips would take me over my 60″ finished width, so I had to run my 20x20s through the table saw. I totally ignored the “measure twice cut once rule” as on the first board I cut off too much. The end result is my final table top ended up only 58″ long. With the walnut strips cut it was time glue up the full center panel with the walnut accents. Once that was done I was ready to glue up the outer boards.

The finished table was very uneven, which I knew would be the case since my boards weren’t the same thickness. To correct the unevenness problem I decided to take the CNC router class and use the CNC machine to smooth out the table. In the class you learn how to make a sign while get the basics for running the machine.

Making the sign did not translate exactly to the steps needed to smooth out my table, but fortunately the staff doesn’t let you go solo on your first solo use. Unfortunately the person that helped had a completely different way of operating the machine from what I learn in class making me even more confused. My biggest fear was that I’d take off too much making the table too thin. I started with the bottom as the boards on that side were most out of alignment. I set the machine to remove 1/16″ with a CNC Spoilboard Surfacing/Slab Flattening Carbide Router Bit 1/2″ Shank I purchased from Amazon. It went great, but was not 100% flat. After the first pass I was on my own, so I decided to flip the table over to smooth out the top. Good thing I did as my second pass did not go as well. I set the z-stop wrong and it took off more than my 1/16″ target. It made the top smooth, but I was at my 1″ minimum finished thickness. I stopped after two passes, leaving the underside as is. It wasn’t terrible, but far from perfect.

The next step was giving my top a finished edge by using a 5/8″ round-over router bit and hand held router along the edge. With that successfully accomplished I decided to do all the sanding at the shop to save my house from the dust. I started with 60 grit and progressed to 80, 120, 240, and ended with 400. I’ve learned that the higher the grit the smoother the surface, but the higher grit also closes the pores and impedes oil absorption. I used the paper I had on hand, but for a future project I may stop at 320 grit because I think oil absorption is key to bringing out grains of the boards.

I took the board home and started the oiling process. I learned about a brand of oil called Walrus Oil from a blog site I follow, April Wilkerson, when she shared a YouTube video about floating shelves she was making. When I went to their site I saw they not only had the cutting board oil, but a Furniture Finish Oil also. I decided to try it and their Furniture Wax Finish and Polish. I put two coats of the oil on the bottom of the table. The wood came alive and I knew then I had created something really special. I was anxious to attach the the top to the Fromann Electric 3 Tier Legs Dual Motor Desk Base – Sit Stand up Standing Height Adjustable Desk Frame I purchased from Amazon.

The first frame I received was defective, the holes were mis-drilled, so it could not be put together. I wrote a negative review on Amazon with pictures and returned it with plans to purchase one from a different manufacturer. Fromann read the review, reached out to me, offered me a full refund and a new frame. Now that is what I call great customer service. At this point my only investment in this project is my time and the cost of the Walrus Oil. The new frame arrived, went together with ease and the screws I needed to attach the top to the frame. It works flawlessly. I programmed three preset heights, sitting normal, sitting high, and standing. I wrote a new review, giving the product 5-stars. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy another one.

I applied three coats of Walrus Oil to the top, but I wasn’t happy with it. After each 24-hr dry period it still looked dry, so I decided to apply a coat of Danish Oil, natural, that I had used on my headboard. It looked better, but dried to the same sheen as the Walrus Oil. Since I had it I used the Walrus Oil Furniture Wax and Polish as my final coat and called the project a wrap. Sanding to the right grit is definitely key to using an oil finish with wood. I like that Walrus Oil is a 100% plant based product. I had always used a satin finish when I used poly products. Walrus Oil dried to a matte finish, so that is also why I thought it looked dry. I’ve purchased their cutting board oil and wax for my charcuterie trays I’ll be selling. I even bought a case of their 2 oz bottles, which will go with each tray purchased.

Sit to stand desks retail from $500 on up for mass produced models. Without the frame refund I would have had approximately $375 in hard cost. I probably spent about 12 total hours working on it over the20201204_112536 course of three weeks. You spend more time waiting for stuff to set or dry. I think Sista Girl with Skills furniture line has been born. I have two more slabs of mulberry left, plus the crouch that didn’t break. I’ll be partnering with Anna Petersen, the young lady that welded the stand for my sink, to hopefully make two live edge console tables and one end table. I need to do a better job with the CNC router if we’ll have a real shot.  Man I wish I had kept more of that mulberry tree.

Charcuterie Trays For Sale

20190619_181337From the crouch of the mulberry slabs left from my desk project and the last slab of walnut from my dining room table project I have created eight mulberry and five walnut charcuterie trays of various lengths, widths, and thicknesses, which I’m selling. Prices vary by size, but range from $50 – $75. This post has the first six ready for purchase via PayPal. All boards will be marked with the SGw/S (Sista Girl with Skills) brand. Free local delivery (within 20 miles of 45225).Shipping available in the US at just the cost of postage.

Each tray is unique, one of a kind, be the first on your block with a Sista Girl w/ Skills original.