Friday, July 5, 2013

From Concept to Completion: Bottlecapped Sidebar, Part 1

A and I were talking through a need for a space by the window for some herbs and maybe a tomato plant. By the end of the night, we'd decided to build a sidebar with liquor and wine storage, a resin and bottlecap top, and a wine glass rack. You know how it goes.

It started on paper, a few quick sketches of a rectangular unit with slices of black PVC pipe to hold wine bottles. Once that got transferred to my CAD setup, though, it became clear we didn't need wine storage for 30-something bottles. We're lucky if two bottles makes it a week in our house, so less would be better. So that got broken into a few smaller areas, though we were still designing it with the PVC in mind.
This is how we spend a lazy night in.
Two versions are on display above: The model to the right is more in keeping with our initial sketches: Lots of wine storage, little corner drop downs for liquor and utensil storage. That eventually evolved into the version on the left. 13 bottles, stored in PVC, with two shelves for liquor, a space for wine glasses, and a basket full of implements (wine key, knife, jigger, etc.) The little slot above is for a cutting board.

The original idea was bottle caps and PVC pipe, very shabby chic. As we worked up plans and a cut list, it got somewhat more complicated. A trip to the lumber yard provided everything we needed out of poplar (nice hardish wood with minimal grain and readily available) and we headed over to my shop at work to cut all our pieces. There are some tricks to all of it: Most everything is obvious rectangles, but there's a subtle curve at the bottom of either side (because units like these usually go against walls, and floors are rarely flat across 8" along a wall) and there's a small lip around the top edge that's only 3/8" high and an inch wide. That's a problem.

[Follow along: Most wood is sold in what is called "One By", as in 1x6 ("one-by-six"). Now, to keep things fun, a 1x6 is actually 3/4" x 5-1/2". You'll notice I wrote 1x6, not 1" x 6" which indicates a different dimension of board entirely. (Something 1" thick in a lumberyard is called "five-quarter", just to keep you on your toes.) I say all that not to muddy the waters of this discussion, but to let you know before you come down this road that there's some work you have to do in advance.]

This 1x issue means that something 3/8" thick and 1" wide is difficult. Lacking a planer (the machine that makes boards thinner) and the board stretcher still being mythical, it means you have to cut those pieces the hard way... It's a series of difficult cuts with a table saw that unnerve laymen and mid-level carpenters alike. My advice? Find someone with a planer. Rent it, pay them in beer, whatever. The things we had to do to get our cuts are the first half of a "So, funny story about my missing fingers" sort of tale. As always, safety first. Work at your skill level. And plan ahead. Once all those cuts were done, it was still a question of gluing it all up to make the top for our bottle caps:

However many clamps you have, you don't have enough.
Let me take this moment to sing you the glories of one of my favorite tools in the modern wood shop: the Kreg jig. (Friends may have expected "router" just then, but we're not there yet.) This thing literally changed how I think about building. Knowing which pieces butt into others, I was able to drill all the holes in advance for the Kreg joints and make all my messes in advance in someone else's shop. No other fastener has the flexibility and strength that I've found with the Kreg line of products. I've built whole professional shows where nearly every board has a pocket hole drilled out. This bar is no exception: All horizontal members were pocketed in, meaning no hardware is visible from the usual angles one sees furniture. No corner brackets or screws from the outside.

Not that it's all cut lists and numbers and dry and boring! Not by a long shot. We had gotten everything cut and sanded when we went to the hardware store for our screws and stain and everything else and found out that the PVC pipe was going to be $30 just in pipe. For what was now one of our least favorite elements of the design. But we'd already cut our shelves, so the amount of space we left ourselves was pretty well fixed. And we'd bought our "drawer", so that dimension was set as well.

Always dry fit. If something's an inch off, find out now.
Luckily, that is enough information to design from. So I drew up some new X-shaped wine racks out of crossing wooden plates with slots cut in them and got those cut out as well. Everything gets a good sanding, and then it's time to think about stain and paint and resin and... Other things we'll discuss next time.

Stay tuned for the final shots, downloadable build plans, and all the tips you might need to get building your own sidebars, bookshelves, media racks... Pro tip: Basically all of these rectangular storage deals are the same thing.

1 comment:

  1. Very cool - I also have been working on some new projects - if only in my mind (babysitting comes first this week) I have a new Garden flag that i am giving to Kris over the weekend - I'll post it on the blog after is is received. Sure hate to spoil the surprise. And the on to some other items clogging my brain = thanks for the creative company!!