Saturday, January 25, 2014

House Project - Console Table, Recap

Summary and Learnings
Having gotten to the end of the construction phase of the console table project, it makes sense to summarize some things and remind myself what we learned.

Tallying up the Cost
In terms of cost of materials, this was not an expensive project, but nor was it dirt cheap. We spent about $105 (US) on clear select pine, buying a little more than we needed to make sure a minor cutting error didn't turn into another drive back to the store. Cutting it closer we could have spent no less than $90. The drawer slides were $5 for a simple pair, and the drawer pulls (knobs) cost $10 for the two. This total of $120 in materials does not include basic "perishables" like wood glue, wood screws, brad nails, and pocket screws (most of which we already had on hand). We almost certainly could have bought something like this at IKEA or someplace similar for cheaper, but by doing this ourselves we got a piece custom built to the exact dimensions we wanted, it is made out of excellent materials, and we learned a skill in the process. There is something to be said for the satisfaction of having made something very nice with your own two hands.

As far as tools go (discounting things like a hammer, a tape measure, a screwdriver...), we fundamentally built this with a compound miter saw, a cordless drill, and a Kreg jig for pocket joinery. We clamped the Kreg jig to the corner of a table I use for my wargaming hobby stuff, in the absence of a real workbench, and built the piece on the floor of the basement on a heavy canvas painter's drop cloth.

We did buy one of the more expensive Kreg jig kits in order to do this project, but that is a "capital expense" that we will hopefully be enjoying the use of for years to come. We also invested in a 24 inch bar clamp. Per my observations below, clamps are crucial, and we need a few more of them.

Future adds to the tool arsenal would include a circular saw or a table saw, as well as a router. For this project we didn't require either, as the two pieces of 1/4 plywood we needed were easy enough to cut carefully by hand with a fine finish saw. Projects requiring accurate cutting of larger sheet stock will require something better. Likewise, we did not require a router, as the console table is all straight lines, but a router will enable all sorts of fancier finish work. We can deal with these needs when the time comes. Oh, and maybe a biscuit joiner...

Thoughts and Observations
Some of this will be common sense and/or painfully obvious...
  • Being meticulous to the point of perhaps obsessive was worth it. As we gain more experience, I am sure we will speed up, but there will never be anything wrong with careful and methodical. This project thus far has taken a total of perhaps 5-6 hours (in many small chunks plus a 3 hour block last weekend).
  • Kreg jigs are awesome! There isn't a single bit of joinery visible anywhere on the piece we just made. It really felt like we were making furniture the way furniture makers do. Pretty cool.
  • Four hands are better than two, as is a second set of eyes.
  • Clamps are indispensable. No matter how exact you try to be, that last turn of a screw seems to always want to pull the two boards slightly out of alignment. 
  • Sawdust gets everywhere.
  • Real workspace would be nice. I'm not quite sure how we will manage that, but it is something to think about. Cutting everything on the concrete floor of the unfinished part of the basement, and building the actual piece sitting cross-legged on the floor was not optimal.
Most important of all, I guess, is that we made something together with our own hands, did a pretty good job for a first effort, and had a lot of fun in the process.

The list of future pieces and projects we hope to tackle is growing by the day.

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