Digital Chum - Virtual fish guts and other nonsense


A “quick” table…

Lori needed a table to go beside the utility sink in the basement so that she’d have a place to put her drying paintbrushes (and related stuff). The current precarious locations (balanced on the back of the sink or on the narrow edge of the furnace) weren’t cutting it anymore. There was just enough space to fit something between the furnace and the sink, so I gathered up some scraps and cutoffs and knocked out this little rolling Frankenstein table in the hour between having dinner and playing Overwatch with friends.

It has a lot more stuff on it now than it does in the picture… and there’s not as much junk on the back of the sink. Problem solved!

Utility sink side table

The Library

(tl;dr… the finished library pics are at the end)


When we had our house remodel done back in 2015, there was a room added that was specifically designated as a library… my room. Until January of 2020, that room was basically a big storage room while we finished other rooms and got organized from the chaos of a huge, full-house remodeling project. Then, finally, I started working on it sporadically as time permitted. I had been drawing various plans for months, waffling between building them from scratch and using Ikea Billy Bookcases and tricking them out to look like custom built-ins. I went for the “build them from scratch” option.

Here’s an idea of what the room has looked like for the past few years. The liquor boxes are full of books, not liquor… and no, I did not drink the liquor that WAS in the boxes!

The goal was to have an “old world traditional” look mixed in with a bit of a “Lord of the Rings” fantasy vibe and maybe just a tiny pinch of Steampunk… so when you walked in, you felt like you were walking into a different world.

So after a lot of measurements and bookcase design and figuring out how wide to make the bookcases on each wall, I got to it with a few sheets of red oak plywood from Home Depot. The bookcases were all 11-1/2 inches deep, but the widths varied a lot. The widest one is 31 inches.

Bookcase sides

I had nineteen bookcases to build, which seemed overwhelming, but I figured “baby steps,” right? I started with enough plywood for the first three bookcases. It was a lot of cutting, an absurd amount of drilling (for the adjustable shelves – 2,052 shelf-pin holes), and a lot of gluing and clamping. I made various jigs to help with streamlining the repetitive process, but I won’t bore you with those here.

Unfinished bookcases

Eventually, I figured I should get them out of the garage and into the library to make sure I’d measured correctly. I put them in more-or-less the correct spots and was mildly surprised that I hadn’t borked that up. Unfortunately, I found the exterior walls were kicked out a bit at the bottom, so the bookcases on those walls wouldn’t be able to get attached flush to the wall, but that was something to deal with later. La! La! La! La!


Table saw under-wing storage

Table saw under-wing storage with pull-out shelf

I’ve been trying to do a lot of organizing and streamlining of my shop the past few weeks. I’m currently using our garage as my workshop, so I need to be able to move everything aside so I can park in there when I’m not working. One issue that I always have is storage, so I decided to use some empty space under the wing of my table saw to hold a storage drawer, pull-out shelf, and a catch-all bin for push blocks and the like.

Sketchy Plans

I took some measurements and sketched a plan… of dubious usefulness. For the record, I stuck with almost none of those original measurements because I was making this unit out of scrap wood I had in my shop and I didn’t have pieces big enough to make it as designed. With some creative shenanigans, I was able to make it work, though.

Panels with dadoes

I cut (most of) the pieces to size and cut some dados to hold the horizontal pieces. I also cut the pieces for the pull-out shelf and the drawer. Everything was assembled using glue… and a mallet… and a bunch of clamps. Time for a clamping montage!


Cell phone amplifier

I’ve been wanting to make a wooden cell phone amplifier for awhile. There are a myriad of plans available, some being really cool and some being mundane (but probably just as effective). I had this plan from Woodsmith and figured I’d try it out with some modifications to simplify it and to account for the fact that I only have a benchtop band saw with a 3.5 inch cut depth.

Here’s what the plan had in mind versus what I ended up creating.

Woodsmith Smartphone Amplifier My Smartphone Amplifier

Same idea and (probably) the same functionality, but I didn’t have any fun wood (just pine) and I don’t have a large enough bandsaw to do the size cuts they call for in the plans. Plus, let’s face it, I knew I was going to butcher the thing, so better to do it with scrap 2x4s instead of maple and mahogany as in the plan.

This does not look promisingTo accommodate the diminutive cut depth of my bandsaw, I milled down some 2×4 pieces using the table saw and the planer so they were 3" x 1.25". Then I cut out the patterns individually on each piece and glued them together. The picture on the left is what I ended up with after the glue-up. It’s a bit messy, but I spent some time with the belt sander and spindle sander (and some vigorous hand sanding) to get each piece cleaned up and to get rid of the glue that squeezed out. The sides were some glued-up 1x4s that I cut on the table saw. Super fancy, I know.

If you’ve ever seen any of the other woodworking I’ve posted about (other than shop carts and shop storage), you may have noticed that I always do the woodworking and Lori always does the finishing. I think I’ve stained one piece myself (the top of my couch table), but she’s stained and painted everything else. She’s got a lot of experience with that and, well, I don’t… not since high school.

Glued and stained (for the first time)Since this was, more or less, an experimental piece, I figured I would do the finishing myself… good practice and no risk! I wanted the center dark and the sides light (as indicated by my first picture), so after I sanded all the pieces, I stained the center pieces and glued it all together, leaving me with this beautiful chunk of wood. Looks pretty good, right?

But wait! I forgot that I have to cut this block on the bandsaw to turn it (roughly) circular, which means I’ll have to re-stain all the newly exposed edges that will appear after cutting. Oops. Not that big of a deal. So I made the cut on the band saw and re-stained those edge, staying mostly inside the appropriate lines thanks to some painter’s tape.

It's round and stained (for the next-to-last time)Okay. That’s fine. Everything is re-stained. The edges all look good. The stain is almost all where I intended it to go.

Except I forgot I had to router the edges to round them over, which means that I’m going to have to re-stain the edges yet again!

It all worked out in the end, though. There was just some extra staining due to my not planning ahead. The shellac went on just fine and the final product looks pretty good for a bunch of scrap 2x4s that were lying around the shop.

Plus it works absurdly well. The amplification that it provides is almost shocking, and there’s no need to keep it charged!

Overall, it was a win!

Evidently, I need another one

I filled up the cutoff bin and I still have more to store. Ha!

Full Cutoff Bin

Mobile Cutoff Bin

In an effort to tame all the piles and buckets of "scrap" wood that I have after each project, I made this mobile cutoff bin using a Woodsmith plan that I saw online. It used a sheet and a half of plywood and I happened to have some construction grade plywood on hand.

The front bins allow me to store long and short scraps that are good enough for future use, while the back section can hold plywood cutoffs and related sheet goods.

I figured it was a good use of my time off, especially since it will help declutter my garage shop, which will then allow me to do more fun projects… or at least continue the ones I’m working on without having to navigate through woodworking chaos.

Mobile Cutoff Bin - Woodcraft Plan

Mobile Cutoff Bin - Woodcraft Plan

Aerial shots of the big catio

I got an inexpensive little drone a couple months ago (Holy Stone HS165) just for fun and this weekend was my first chance to fly it, so I figured I’d try to get a few aerial shots of the big catio. It was a success, though the photo quality is mediocre (only 1920×1080 resolution and the lens is questionable). It’s super fun to fly, at any rate!

I got fairly close while Melody was in the catio and she was unfazed. She was curious about the weird, buzzing thing, but wasn’t hesitant at all until I got too close, and even then she just backed off a little bit. She’s kind of fearless!

Melody in the catio

Big CatioBig Catio

Big CatioBig Catio

The Dining Room Chairs

Back in August, I finished building our new dining room table. It fit quite nicely in the new dining room, but seemed to lack a certain something… like chairs. We had four chairs from our old dining room table, but that seemed wholly inadequate for a twelve foot long table. Most of the dining table chairs that we found in stores and on websites were at least $100 each, which isn’t all that bad if you only need a couple, but needing twelve chairs… not gonna happen.

Salvation Army ChairsA few months before, I’d seen a picture on (which I can’t seem to find again) that had a long table with chairs of various styles but the same color scheme. Lori and I both thought that would work, so  that began our search. She first found these six chairs at the Salvation Army store for $5.00. Not $5.00 each. $5.00 for all six. They were ugly, but were in not-too-terrible shape structurally.

The Under-CushionI set about fixing any wobbles and Lori ripped out the rest of the broken cane in the backs and un-upholstered the horribly-stained blue cushions. Underneath the blue fabric, she found… plastic-wrapped, mustard-yellow-striped fabric. Classic. No… what’s the opposite of classic?

We decided to go with a black and purple’ish theme for the chairs. The kitchen has some purple in it along with the coffee-colored cabinets and the base of the table is black, so those colors would tie everything in and should work fine.

We got some additional chairs from a friend who was getting rid of them (free!) and Lori set about getting them all painted black.

Painted Chairs Painted Chairs

She found some tie-on cushions for the spindle-back chairs and decided on two different fabrics for the Salvation Army chairs… one purple and cream for the regular chairs and one darker fabric with a mix of the proper colors for the chairs with arms. Like this…

Upholstered Chairs

So when all the painting, upholstering, and cushion-tying was done, this is what we ended up with… an eclectic style with the capacity to seat twelve people at the table with plenty of elbow room.

Dining Room Table with Chairs

Weekend shop work

Scroll saw on standIn my continuing effort to get my big tools organized and mobile, I worked on a rolling stand for my scroll saw. The scroll saw is a 1930’s Craftsman saw that belonged to my grandfather. The frame is made of cast iron and the entire thing weighs about 9,247 metric tons… so the stand needed to be pretty solid, especially if it was going to be mobile. I based it off these plans from Donald on his Fun With Woodworking YouTube channel, modifying it a bit to make it fit my scroll saw and adding casters to one end so I can move it around like a wheelbarrow. I still need to add a bottom shelf and some retractable handles to it it’s easier to manage, but it works pretty well.

Router TableThe other project that I’m working on is a router table. I got the table top finished and have almost gotten the clamping fence done. It’s currently designed to be portable so I can clamp it onto a workbench or sawhorses when I need to use it, but eventually, I’d like to mount the top onto a dedicated cabinet to give it a bit more functionality.

The top is a 3-layer laminate of 1/2″ plywood, 1/2″ MDF, and a 1/8″ layer of hardboard on top to give it a nice slippery surface. The fence is made of MDF with a hardboard face on it. I have some enhancements I plan on making to it eventually, but this gives me enough functionality for now, so after a few more “finishing touches,” I’ll be done with it for a bit.

Getting organized…

After building the dining room table and the headboard for Megan’s bed, I realized that I was accumulating a bunch of tools that were getting more and more scattered about the garage. We still have a lot of stuff in the garage from our remodeling and we’re trying to get it all organized and moved to proper locations so we can actually park in the garage again before it gets cold out… so my tool and supply accumulation wasn’t moving us in the right direction.

I was also tired of building things on a couple sawhorses and a piece of plywood.

So I thought it was time to build an actual workbench for the garage. I based my design mostly off this plan on Instructables but used a different table top and put it on casters so I could move it around, since I plan to leave this one in the garage and build another woodworking bench for my wood shop when that gets completed.

So here’s the final product…

Rolling Garage Workbench

In addition to the workbench, I needed a place to store all the clamps I’d accumulated, too. I had more than a dozen long clamps that I’d used for the dining room table glue-up and I think at least 457,336 assorted other clamps… most of which were on the floor or on assorted horizontal surfaces. So… time to build a clamp rack. This design came from a Google image search and was a mish-mash of various ideas. The whole thing is on casters so I can easily move it around as needed.

Rolling Clamp Rack

I also added a shelf in the middle and put a “towel bar” of sorts for hanging spring clamps and smaller clamps. I’m going to put a couple hooks on it for hanging miscellaneous stuff.

Rolling Clamp Rack Shelf

I still have a bit more organizing to do, but I’m on the way. We’re running through the last of our “get it done before winter” projects, too, so we’ll be able to move things out of the way soon and free up a couple parking bays.