Category Archives: furniture

Ramp for Rover

SkillLevel2

I am constantly amazed to discover new subcultures on planet Earth that I had no idea existed. Such was the case when someone asked me if I could build a dog ramp for a woman who had had a stroke. I had never heard of a dog ramp. Was it like an exit ramp on the highway but for dogs to get off a walking trail after a long hike? Boat ramps let you back a trailer down into the water so that you can slide the boat into the lake. Maybe a dog ramp makes it easier for Fido to go for a swim without having to take a flying leap off the dock.

Google enlightened me that a dog ramp lets “athletically challenged” dogs get up onto a bed. Why that would be a desirable thing is not clear to me. I thought the idea was to keep animals off the furniture but I’m not a pet owner so what do I know. Anyway my job was not to ask questions but to build the ramp.

Your basic dog ramp
Your basic dog ramp

A doggie ramp has two main parts: the platform, which should be about even with the top of the bed mattress, and the ramp up to the platform. In this case, the mattress was 27” off the floor. The ramp itself needed to have a gradual slope so that the aforementioned athletically challenged dog could climb it. I thought it would be very entertaining to wax the ramp and put the dog on it like a Slip ‘N Slide but my ever-loving wife, “Gertrude” (not her real name), put her hands on her hips and said, “Zat is not funny.” Although I might have detected a little snicker, I decided to play it safe and make it a non-slip surface with some leftover carpet. Continue reading Ramp for Rover

Drop Down Desk Drawer Delight

SkillLevel4

With my ever-loving wife, “Anne” (not her real name), on sabbatical, I get to see her working on her laptop at home. Not many people actually put their laptop on their lap and Anne is no exception. She had been complaining about royal pains in her back and neck and arm. One look at her sitting at the desk explained everything.

Her laptop was resting on top of her Queen Anne (no relation) cherry desk, which meant that her arms were angled upward against the edge of the desk so her hands could reach the keyboard. That’s a fine recipe for pain in all sorts of places right there. I tell you what.

Center drawer of Queen Anne desk
Center drawer of Queen Anne desk

The large center drawer was at just the right height for the laptop so I set about figuring out how to cut off the drawer front so the laptop could sit in the drawer.

We had built that desk from a kit that we bought in a (literal) fire sale many years ago. The insurance company was selling everything from a warehouse that had caught on fire and the prices were pretty good. Putting the desk together ages ago somehow gave me the impression it was OK for me to take a saw to it now.

Drawer front cut off
Drawer front cut off

I used the table saw and the miter saw to cut off the drawer front. I pulled out the little cutoff piece of the bottom from the slot in the drawer front and glued in a new piece of hardwood to fill the slot.

My plan was to use a brass piano hinge to join the front to the bottom so that you could tip the front down and back up. The bottom of the drawer, however, was a thin piece of plywood so I glued Continue reading Drop Down Desk Drawer Delight

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Couch de-sag-ification

SkillLevel3Our new green couch was much more comfortable in the showroom than in our TV room. Of course they delivered one from the warehouse–not the one we sat on in the store–and quality, shall we say, can vary.

When my ever-loving wife, “Spud” (not her real name), and I sat on the couch the middle would sink like the Titanic and tilt us nearly head-to-head, which is all very romantic and everything but hard on the old spinal column. It looked like we were the Stephen Hawking twins slouching in our wheelchairs.

Clearly the springs were shot in this couch, which speaks to the poor quality of furniture construction these days. Continue reading Couch de-sag-ification

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Park bench resurrection

SkillLevel4

The painted wood in the park benches was deteriorating
The painted wood in the park benches was deteriorating

The park benches in our church courtyard were in sad shape. Sad probably isn’t the best word. More like sobbing-your-eyes-out shape. The wood slats were crumbling or missing entirely and only the rusted bolts and layers of black paint were holding them together.

When my ever-loving wife, “Queenie” (not her real name), saw the benches she tipped her head back ever so slightly and pronounced, “We are not amused.” She let it be known that they should be tossed in the rubbish heap, which for park benches is the equivalent of “Off with their heads!”

But one of them had a nameplate reading, “In Memory of Elizabeth” and the deteriorating benches were threatening to take that memory with them.

Since the benches were sitting on an ipe (pronounced “ee-pay“) deck, I decided to rebuild them using ipe slats so they would look like they belonged there. Ipe is a Brazilian walnut hardwood. Very hard. Very dense. Very heavy. This makes it an excellent wood for outdoor furniture and it requires very little maintenance. It is so dense it doesn’t absorb much moisture and most sealers just sit on the surface because they can’t penetrate into the wood grain. A very, very thin layer of hardwood oil is the only thing they will take.

Since you can’t just walk in to your local Lowe’s or Home Depot to buy a few feet of ipe, I found an excellent source for it online at AdvantageLumber.com. They manufacture “sustainably harvested” exotic hardwood, which is important when using wood from Brazil (or anywhere). The salesman was helpful and knowledgeable. Highly recommended.

Most of the bench slats were 2″ wide with another three that were 1″ wide at the top and bottom. AdvantageLumber had 1 x 6 ipe deck boards on sale in 4′ lengths so I ripped them into a pair of 2″ slats and a single 1″ slat. The math worked out pretty well for the number I needed of each size. Ipe sawdust is a very fine yellow powder that looks like pine pollen and gets everywhere. I should have hooked up the Shop Vac for dust collection while I was using the table saw. I also should have worn gloves because unfinished ipe makes for hard, sharp slivers. Don’t ask me how I know.

Routing off the corners of the ipe slats
Routing off the corners of the ipe slats

Then I ran the new slats through the router to round over the sharp corners. (This time I remembered to hook up the vac and wear gloves.)

Three guide pieces screwed to a piece of plywood form a jig for drilling
Three guide pieces screwed to a piece of plywood form a jig for drilling
Drilling holes for carriage bolts
Drilling holes for carriage bolts

I chose type 316 stainless steel carriage bolts to attach the slats to the wrought iron bench sides because I like the look of the round caps and they will last forever. Every slat needed two holes drilled for the bolts so I set up a jig on the drill press to position each slat at the right distance from the end and centered width-wise.

I bought a new cobalt drill bit for this project because the web said ipe can dull ordinary bits.

There is some debate as to whether you should sand ipe because sanding will make the surface even harder and less able to absorb the protective oil finish. Since people were going to be sitting on these benches I decided it would be more important to sand them so as not to snag Grandma’s bloomers. Continue reading Park bench resurrection