Category Archives: Woodworking

Scrap wood into potting bench

As I have worked on various projects over the years, I have accumulated some leftover wood. I made some “floating shelves” for our bedroom and had some pine planks and 2x4s that I had ripped in half (“ripping” wood means you cut along the grain, usually lengthwise; a crosscut goes against the grain). I also had some saw horses I made years ago from 2x4s and I took those apart. (I got tired of storing them. I have plastic saw horses that fold flat.) I also had some 1x6s left over from my bench project. And some 2x6s were left from my benches and raised garden beds. And, finally some plywood from, probably, when I made my work bench. So, yeah.

I didn’t go with a specific plan. I looked at a lot of potting benches on line and used ideas from some of them. Basically, I wanted to get rid of the scrap wood. Some of it has been hanging around and I keep it thinking, “Hey, I might use this for something later…” But, see, whenever I go to make a new project, I’m usually following a plan I got that has a cut list and often a list of wood to get. So, it’s easier to get wood from the store in standard cuts than to see if I have enough in my scrap collection. This means, of course, the scrap collection accrues further.

In this case, I got the scrap out and started trying to see what I could put together based on that. This is why it has taken me three days to build something that should have been done in one day. Instead of the cuts being planned ahead of time and knowing the dimensions of the project, I had to go with the flow.

I started with a left over 2×6 that was over 60″ and then I used the 2x4s to make legs… Then, some of the wood split. The screws I am using are supposed to not need pre-drilling. But, they do because if you get the head of the screw flush with the surface, it splits the wood. I then chose to take it apart and make it smaller. I realized that the space where I was putting the bench was 59″ and that 60″ would be too long. And, then I thought pocket holes would be good for the joints because maybe it wouldn’t split the wood.

But, I don’t have the right screws for pocket holes and the size of the wood I’m using. Ugh. So I made it work but I think it sucks. Whatever. I think it will work.

I used the ripped 2x4s to make rails and stretchers. Those are the parts of the frame that go around the lower parts of the legs to give it stability. It turns out that a lot of this wood had twisted or warped in the time I’ve had it. So, despite cutting it really carefully to exact measurements, it’s not exactly square and the legs aren’t the same length. Or, they are the same length but the piece connecting the two legs is warped so it seems like they are not the same length. And, when I take the shelf boards, that are square and put then into the frame to create the top, they don’t fit exactly because the top frame is warped.

I keep reminding myself that this isn’t fine furniture, it’s a potting bench made from scrap wood. Even though I don’t actually make, um, well, anything perfect, I always feel like it should be perfect. So, it bugs me that it’s not.

I then added a shelf unit above the work surface. Cutting the rabbets for that took a while. I have dado blades. But, I thought the time it would take for me to set them up in my table saw would take almost as long as using a regular blade and  cutting, very slowly, was about the same. I used my table saw to cut slots 3/4″ deep. Then I removed the excess wood. I screwed the supports into the frame and set about making a shelf and shelf supports. I think it worked out okay.

I cut slats and nailed them into the bottom shelf supports. Then I installed supports for the middle shelf. And supports for the work surface. Then I installed the work surface.

The final part is that I want some kind of holes in the work surface that will allow excess soil to fall through into a plastic bin below when I’m doing stuff like that. I saw some benches like that and it seemed pretty cool, so I’m doing that. But, I haven’t been able to decide how to accomplish it. Some benches have that part be removable so you can put in a solid surface. That seems good, too, but I don’t think it will work, ultimately. I was also seeing a couple benches that had another part with a removable surface and recessed bin to hold soil you are using. I want to do that but I might not. Finally, I’ve sanded it where ever I could reach and I put a coat of spar urethane on it last night. With the rainy, cold weather, it will take a long time to dry. But, at least it will protect it and make it less likely to rot and fall apart.

Overall, considering I didn’t pay anything extra for it, that all of the materials used to build it have been left over from previous projects, including the urethane, screws and nails, it turned out satisfactorily. It was interesting to build something with no plans or measurements to rely on. I let the materials dictate what the project turned out to be. I mean, of course, I had the ideas of what it should look like when I’m done. I wanted a work surface and a place to store my “everyday” gardening tools. I wanted a place to work on plants and related outdoor activities that I wouldn’t mind getting dirty. And, in theory, if a part gets damaged, I can replace it.The work top is only screwed in so, if I decide to, I can replace it. Maybe one day I will get some new plywood and make the top a single piece instead of the three pieces there now. I can always replace the lower shelves, too. If I used half-inch plywood it would allow me a bit more room for storage. I wouldn’t mind adding a few extra “cubby holes” in the upper shelf for storing smaller items like seed packets maybe.

If you want any measurements or more details on the construction, leave me a comment. I’ll post an update when I get it finished completely with the slots in the work surface. I’m also going to add in some hooks for hanging tools. But, for today, I’m happy with the build. 


My Latissimus Dorsi Hurts

I’m lying in bed right now in a mild amount of pain. You know how, in the hospital, they ask you to rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10, ten being the worse ever? My pain at this moment is about a 2 or 3. It’s a dull ache in my back, right side. But, if I move the wrong way, that becomes a 9, easy. Yesterday, as I was about to leave for work in the morning, I did not realize that my lawn sprinklers, having been blown by the wind, had coated my driveway with a thin, imperceptable sheet of ice because of the unusually cold temperatures that morning. So, when I saw my trash can had blown down, I did what I normally do, I went out to pick it up, in a hurry, of course, because I don’t want to be late to work, and I found myself on my back suddenly and harshly.

I felt fine at first. I got back up and actually rode my bike to work in the morning, after picking up the trash can and walking more carefully. Once at work, I felt a little discomfort in my back. Then, over the course of the day, the pain worsened. By 6th period, I had to teach from a chair. I asked my wife to pick me up instead of riding home in the screaming wind. Even in calm conditions, I think riding might have been a bad idea.

My wife took me to urgent care. The doctor their diagnosed me with a strain of my latissimus dorsi muscle which is ending up to be very painful. He prescribed rest, no lifting things, and NSAID along with some heat and ice. I called in sick because sleeping was hard but moving this morning was even more difficult. In fact, this morning, around 4 a.m., I thought I could try sleeping on my side. It seemed like a good idea. But, instead, it caused the most painful and excruciating muscle spasm I have had. Luckily, my wife had a muscle relaxer and she helped me get the heating pad under me while every slight movement send waves of nine-level pain through me.

I can’t classify it as ten-level pain because I just don’t know if I’ve had that yet. I think that is having-a-baby pain or gall-bladder-attack pain. But, this was still pretty bad.

I don’t know but I have a feeling I may be out of commission for a few days. I can walk, carefully, but I don’t know which movements will inspire a spasm. At this point, I have no idea if I can put on or take of a shirt. Lifting the toilet seat is scary and hurts a little. Even lying down, the muscle aches. It’s a bummer. I have a lot to do at school with my students, I have a Site Rep Council meeting tomorrow, I have bike rides I want to be taking, there’s work to do in my garage, and so on. I really hate being injured.

Besides that… oh, I finished my work bench. It came out pretty good. The first picture is the workspace in general. The second is a better picture of just the bench. I’m happy with it.

There’s little things wrong with it, but mostly, it is great. Maybe the wood isn’t the highest quality or something but some stuff didn’t line up the way I thought it would. However, it’s a good bench and looks nice while providing a great place to work on stuff. I really like the drawers even though that added a level of difficulty and I even had to make a new drawer because one of them didn’t fit. The finish came out nice, too.

In the first picture, you can see a cabinet/shelf thing I made, too. It holds all kinds of cans and bottles of stuff like wood, cleaners, WD-40, oil, grease, and so on. The door folds down to make a little shelf. It’s pretty nice and I hung in on the peg board using a French cleat. Also, I hung tools on the peg board. The peg board used to be behind several of those ClosetMaid wire shelves. I moved those to another wall and put the peg board to work holding up my tools. Much better. I really like having the tools on the wall. To me, it both looks cool but it means I am more organized and find the tools I want so much easier.

So, that was a successful project.

In this shot, you can see that I have attached boards to the wall for a French cleat organizing wall. I can make little cleats that hold hooks or other things to attach tools or whatever, to the wall. And, you can move the stuff around if you don’t like its placement. It’s an evolving project. And, on the right of the picture, at the top, you can see where I attached some rails to hold plastic totes for more storage.

I got all of these projects from the Family Handyman magazine website.

That’s how I spent most of my winter break. Since then? I’ve gotten a few bike rides in. Riding a bike in the cold is not a lot fun, unless you have something to warm it up a bit. I do, so that is okay. But, the other morning, I left to join the cycling group I belong to for the regular Saturday ride, and it had to be in the 30’s easy. The air hurt on bare skin wherever it touched. I used a “ninja mask” face cover and that helped quite a bit, actually. I was going to be riding my bike to work starting again this week, but then the back injury happened. So, it’s hard to tell how long I will be off my bike. Back injuries are not to be trifled with.

At work, we are looking at poetry. I used to hate poetry, especially in high school, so I am very sympathetic when students groan at the mention of poetry, or don’t understand this whole meter thing. I don’t get it, sometimes, either. I can usually recognize iambic pentameter when I see it, but I don’t know a trochee from a spondee or a dactyl from an anapest.

The Sophomores will read a little of this and a little of that. I’m a little disappointed that so many of the selections are modern and in free verse. The Juniors will look pretty closely at Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman. Those will be fun, I like those. Aside from teaching them to analyze poetry to find the theme, symbols, imagery, figurative language, and so on, I am hoping at least to help them gain an appreciation for the form and enjoy reading some poems.

Last year, I dove right into the poems and ended up finding that the kids didn’t really understand the things we were talking about, like symbols and metaphors. So, I had to teach that stuff in the middle. This time, I have opted to front-load all of that information via PowerPoint presentation. It’s not a lot of fun for the kids. But, I am able to break it up with some Think/Pair/Share activity and that helps.

Of course, I’m not doing much at all if I’m at home with a screwed up back. So, next time, I am going to remember that water freezes when it’s real cold and try not to fall down in the future.