Wednesday, January 11, 2012


The chair is finally in the house!

Soon after I finished the dining table, I wrote that I'd start building chairs.  That was in mid-November.  By the second week of December, I wrote how the chairs were proving to be difficult.

Tonight, chair #001 came in doors.
The difficulty in making chairs is that you will have at least some angled cuts.  A char that has four straight posts for legs and a flat seat will likely be uncomfortable.  The chair I ended up building was a hybrid of project plans on (here and here).

The back of the chair frame is made of two 2x4s that I cut with some curvature.  This makes the chairs look more professional and more inviting to sit on.  The difficulty I had at first was trying to cut a curved shape with a circular saw.  It just wasn't possible.

After a few wasted 2x4s, Pamela convinced me to buy a jig saw, which ended up being a great buy.  I've used it on holiday crafts and other home projects.  Having the right tools doesn't ensure a great outcome though.

I struggled to free hand the curved parts of the chair frame.  The end result is that this chair I've completed will likely be one-of-a-kind.  I think for the next chair, I'll use a short piece of 2x2 and trace the shape onto the 2x4 by sliding the 2x2 along.  I'm guessing if you were to really get into chair production, you'd produce a model to use over and over.

The next real headache was very unexpected - as I was assembling the frame together, I ran out of room to maneuver while screwing the pieces together.  The Kreg Jig drills angled holes and you are given a 6" square-headed driver for your power drill.  Well, the 6" driver plus the length of my drill meant I couldn't get inside parts of the frame to screw it together.  I ended up using a ratchet and an adapter to connect the driver to the ratchet.  "Screwing" the pieces together with the ratchet was not fun.  Later, I found a 3" driver at Home Depot that worked better.

Now, this all happened in the week or so following Thanksgiving.  The momentum really died after that.  My plan was to take a 2x8 or 2x8 and cut/sand a curve into the face to create a seat back.  I tried and tried, but failed.  There just wasn't a way that I could create what I was picturing and have it look even half decent.  My guess is that better woodworkers steam and bend boards for seat backs, as opposed to the cut/sand method.

So, with my tail between my legs, I didn't go out to the garage much for a while.

One day it really hit me - the chair would never get finished if I wasn't willing to compromise.  Also, Pamela had mentioned a few chairs she saw at stores that she liked, so I knew the clock was ticking.

I decided to attach to 2x2s across the back as supports.  In the end, I'm actually pretty pleased with how they look and feel.  Since the frame angles backwards, it isn't uncomfortable at all.
Getting there
With the frame all together, I gave it a final sanding then stained it to match the table.

Lastly, Pamela and I went to Jo Ann's where I bought some 1" high density foam which is aimed at seating applications.  The cushion size almost exactly fit my frame.  Pamela gave me some fabric she had purchased before, and viola! the chair was done.

Well, I had trouble fixing the seat+cushion to the frame because I didn't drill my pocket holes correctly and I didn't have the right kind of screw.  The screws came in the mail today.

Like I said, Chair #001 may be a one and only.  Depending upon how many chairs I want to build to sit around the table (probably two or four with a long bench on the other side), I'll look to improve my process and make matching chairs the next time around.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Projects Galore

We've been getting a lot done around the house over the past few weeks.  I finished the back of my first chair, and I've also built the seat, but I don't have the right screws to attach the seat to the chair frame.  Therefore, it'll be a few more days until the chair comes indoors for good.

A few projects that have been completed:
Bought and installed a chandelier
Didn't get electrocuted
We've been pretty lucky in our trips to West Elm.  We bought our sectional sofa for a big discount because it was the floor model and was no longer being carried by the store.  We've been looking for a hanging lamp for the kitchen for some time, but hadn't found anything we were in love with or at a reasonable price.

This weekend, we found this chandelier (not sure what constitutes a chandelier, but West Elm called this one) in the store.  It was originally priced at $250, but on sale for $150.  A clerk told us they weren't carrying any more, so they offered to sell the floor model to us for $75.  Done.

While these kinds of savings are hard to come by, I think you can come across opportunities like these, although it takes time and luck.

Unfortunately, installing the chandelier was a gigantic pain, which was all our fault.  I bought a voltage tester for $5 because we weren't sure which breaker controlled the wiring.  We shut down the power, installed the lamp, then turned the power back on.  When that didn't work, we hit the wall switch but to no avail.  We then undid all the connections, took it down, and then re-wired it.  We probably did this three times over the course of an hour.  It was a special kind of torture because it required one person to hold the lamp up to the ceiling while the other twisted the wires together, put on the electric nuts, and screwed the casing back together.

We were ready to quit, but Pamela insisted we give it one more time.  While I was holding the lamp up, I had an epiphany - we kind of assumed the wall switch we were hitting was correct, but we couldn't be sure.  On the other side of the room was another switch with a dimmer which we had never used before.  Lo and behold, that did the trick.

Replaced boiler pilot light
This wasn't a DIY really.  The pilot light on the boiler which supplies heat to the house went out twice in two weeks during the coldest days.  Pamela came home to a cold house and a nearly frozen dog.  We found instructions online to re-light it, which wasn't much of a challenge, although any time you are playing with gas, exciting things can happen.

Unfortunately, since the pilot went out twice in a short period of time, we figured we'd need to have it looked at by a professional.  The thermocouple was shot, which is a pretty standard problem that is expected to happen every few years.  The $200+ bill was a bit of a surprise.  $30 part and $170 for the one hour of service.  Ah, the joys of homeownership.

Built an equipment drying rack
This was a fun project that took all of 30 minutes.  10 feet of 1" PVC costs $3.  Joints and end caps cost up to $1 each.  Now my gear won't sit in my hockey bag for a week fermenting in between sessions.
Hockey scarecrow